EUROPE

A CULTURAL HISTORY

paper 0-415-17230-6 By Rietbergen (Modem History/Univ. of Nijmegen, Netherlands), a magisterial review of Europe’s cultural history from the Roman Empire to the post-WWII era. Rietbergen denies that Europe is a strictly geographical expression: instead for him, Europe is “a series of world-views, of peoples’ perspectives on their reality, sometimes only dreamt or desired, sometimes experienced and realized as well.” Despite the cultural diversity of Europe, the author perceives several unifying themes: one is Catholicism and its offshoots, which for centuries after the collapse of Rome defined the civilization of Europe. A modern unifying trend is the gradual evolution of many European countries toward constitutional and democratic government, which emphasizes the political and economic freedom of the individual. To present these themes historically, Rietbergen divides European history into four distinct cultural phases: the gradual emergence of a pan-European entity in the Roman Empire, which gave political unity to far-flung lands formerly dominated by Celtic and Germanic barbarians; the coalescence of a Christian Europe with a Roman character, which resulted in a uniquely European civilization in contrast to the eastern Christian and Islamic civilizations around the Mediterranean; the development of new ways of looking at man and the world with the emergence of humanism, the Renaissance, the great world explorations, and the Enlightenment; and the modem age, with its emphasis on consumption and communication, material culture and progress. The author concludes that Europe is evolving toward a future in which classical tradition, Christianity, and ethnic identity will have less cultural significance for Europe than in the past, but in which distinctive humane European values will continue to have an impact on the world. A thoughtful though ponderous meditation on the development of the “European idea” and its significance for the world.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 1999

ISBN: 0-415-17229-2

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Routledge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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

NIGHT

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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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