Splendid storytelling that effectively captures and humanizes the tumult of the Revolutionary Era.




Popular historian Raphael (Founding Myths, 2004, etc.) expands the traditional cast of America’s founders and examines “the collective work of the Revolutionary Generation.”

“Great men get great praise; little men, nothing.” So said Continental Army veteran Joseph Plumb Martin, one of the “little men” Raphael highlights in this highly readable history about the messy work of revolution and nation-building. The author reminds us that this was not merely the business of a few talented geniuses, but rather a collective enterprise that also engaged such people as Dr. Thomas Young, the political firebrand who gave Vermont its name, and Timothy Bigelow, a Worcester blacksmith whose armed resistance to the British preceded Lexington and Concord. The narrative features three other primary characters: Robert Morris, the financier whose personal credit sustained the Army; Henry Laurens, the South Carolina aristocrat and reluctant revolutionary; and Mercy Warren, Plymouth’s poet and historian, who looked on disapprovingly as her countrymen betrayed the Revolution’s ideals. Raphael orders their stories around well-known career markers of the founder, George Washington. As the author charts Washington’s familiar progress, he checks in periodically with each of his six principals, updating us on their activities, their contributions to and sacrifices for their country, which included imprisonment, destitution and death. Even as he credits them, though, Raphael doesn’t shy away from noting their vanity, contradictions and self-promotion. Cameos by “second-tier” founders—including James Otis, Ethan Allen, John Laurens (Henry’s son), Thomas Paine and George Mason—and numerous others add color and context to a narrative that covers more than 30 years and touches each section of the colonies. Mercifully free of any political agenda—there’s no attempt to diminish the likes of Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton or Franklin—Raphael’s scholarship and scrupulously fair treatment deepens our understanding and appreciation, of what our ancestors wrought.

Splendid storytelling that effectively captures and humanizes the tumult of the Revolutionary Era.

Pub Date: May 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-59558-327-7

Page Count: 608

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2009

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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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