Somewhat less accessible than Herman Arthur’s recent To Rule the Waves (p. 848), but a narrative of interest to fans of...



Of fighting ships and their persuasive power.

The title of British naval historian Padfield’s latest, companion to his 2001 study, Maritime Supremacy and the Opening of the Western Mind, promises wide-ranging inquiry. In fact, this volume is of considerably narrower scope, focusing closely on the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars, with some attention given to the later period between Waterloo and the rise of the transatlantic steamer trade. Though England’s loss of its southern American colonies weakened it militarily, Padfield writes, victory against France at the 1782 Battle of the Saints “reestablished British naval ascendancy in the vital struggle against the Bourbons; even more significantly, although financially much exhausted, Britain ended the [colonial] war in far better shape than France or Spain.” That ascendancy was instrumental in containing and eventually defeating Napoleon, who inherited some of Louis XVI’s view that France’s future would be built on the high seas but then devoted himself largely to dry-land conquests. Before contending with Napoleon full on, however, the Admiralty had to grapple with the financial problems of building and funding a modern navy, as well as with the occasional outbreak of mutiny (even if that of the Channel Fleet in 1797 was “conducted with exemplary restraint and respect.” The author covers all these things well. He is particularly strong on naval tactics, as we see in his analysis of Admiral Duncan’s conduct at Camperdown and Lord Nelson’s at Trafalgar, “not the culminating achievement of the sailing era, but an anomaly induced by their enemy’s decline. They were tactics of disdain.” Disdain, of course, that won the world, if only for a few generations.

Somewhat less accessible than Herman Arthur’s recent To Rule the Waves (p. 848), but a narrative of interest to fans of Aubrey, Hornblower, and other heroes of the tall masts, as well as of naval history.

Pub Date: March 7, 2005

ISBN: 1-58567-589-X

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2004

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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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