An intelligent debunking of end-of-the-millennium hype from historian Stearns (Carnegie-Mellon Univ.) What is the end of the 20th century going to bring—especially when it is also the end of the second millennium? Probably not very much, according to Stearns, except that the Big Date (he opts for 2001, rather than 2000) could provide an opportunity for us to take a long look at our society and where we are going. Stearns begins by reminding us that the whole idea of the calendar as we know it is very relative: Not only is our calendar Christian and just one among other ancient systems of reckoning time, but even its adoption in Christendom came relatively late—the French court was still using Constantine's system of 15-year cycles in the 13th century. Stearns describes how the stories of mass hysteria at the end of the first millennium have long been exposed as an anti-Catholic myth concocted by Enlightenment writers, such as Jules Michelet. Stearns gives us a brief tour through Christian millenarianism, including Nostradamus and 14th-century Joachim of Flora's vision of a coming era of the Holy Spirit. But the author notes that this outlook only really flourished among fringe groups during the Reformation; some found their way to the New World and still constitute a vocal minority here. We are given a review of recent turn-of-the-century attitudes: How Americans in 1900 celebrated a coming era of progress, whereas fin-de-siäcle Europeans were not so sure. Stearns offers a savvy commentary on our curious, contradictory society, with its emphasis on ``impersonal friendliness'' and lack of historical awareness, and makes his own guarded prognostications. A welcome dose of sense as we begin to leave the decade, the century, the millennium.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-8133-2870-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1996

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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