Outstanding revisionist history demonstrating what could have been a far more peaceful 20th century.




An expert but disturbing account of a noble diplomatic failure.

Zelikow, who served as a diplomat for every presidential administration from Reagan to Obama, shines fresh light on a major historical crossroads. He shows how, had the war ended in 1916, it was possible that the 20th century would have proceeded without communist Russia or Nazi Germany. A mostly successful politician, Woodrow Wilson’s efforts were hobbled by an incompetent State Department and ignorance of diplomacy. His foreign policy advice came mostly from his friend Edward “Colonel” House, a wealthy Texan who traveled widely and, unlike Wilson, got along with everyone. With the fighting stalemated, Wilson sent House to Europe to propose peace. Neither side wanted to offend the U.S., and while most sought to end the fighting, no one dared commit publicly. Wilson was encouraged to schedule a conference, but he never demanded it. Zelikow is convincing in his disagreement with numerous historians who maintain that negotiations were impossible because neither side would compromise. In reality, powerful British leaders and the German chancellor took the idea seriously. Zelikow’s skillful account of the following year makes for frustrating reading: Wilson could have forced a conference but didn’t. In November 1916, when a financially exhausted Britain proposed selling bonds without collateral in America, Wilson vetoed it, producing panic. One British official, remarked, “If Wilson desired to put a stop to the war…such an achievement is in his power.” On Jan. 22, 1917, Wilson delivered his famous “peace without victory” speech. Though the reaction from the press was “overwhelmingly positive,” it consisted of high-sounding platitudes lacking action items. Readers may be surprised to learn that Germany’s Jan. 31 note announcing unrestricted submarine warfare also included a summary of peace terms, urging Wilson’s action. Offended by the first note, Wilson broke off relations, a decision the author believes was ill-advised. In the two months before America declared war, Wilson continued to muse about achieving peace, but the chance for negotiation with Germany had passed.

Outstanding revisionist history demonstrating what could have been a far more peaceful 20th century.

Pub Date: March 16, 2021


Page Count: 352

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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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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