Readable and provocative. Students of contemporary Irish history have few better guides than the sometimes-dyspeptic but...



A bracing study of the rebels who secured Ireland’s freedom from Britain nearly a century ago.

When it comes to people who once lived and breathed, Foster (The Irish Story: Telling Tales and Making It Up in Ireland, 2002, etc.), perhaps the pre-eminent student of Irish history working today, is no hagiographer. Moreover, he does not subscribe to the great man theory of history. As he writes here, by way of prelude, one of his interests is to show “how a revolutionary generation comes to be made, rather than born.” Although Irish politics has been definitively sectarian, especially in its nationalist (or unionist) dimensions, the author observes that many of the first-generation rebels against British rule were Protestant; one, Alice Milligan, described herself as an “internal prisoner” of her family. In passing, Foster fruitfully compares the generation of rebels that brought on the Easter Uprising of 1916 to the Bolsheviks who overthrew the czar a year and a half later. While he notes that “this comparison should not be pushed too far,” it is useful to remember that the Irish, whether the comparatively conservative W.B. Yeats or the socialist Éamon de Valera, were not operating in a vacuum. As Foster charts the growth of the nationalist and revolutionary movements, the violence mounts. What had begun as a war of words and ideas soon took on armed force, so that, by the time of the first Republic, “ ‘soldiers’ and ‘politicians’ were already regarding each other suspiciously, and the implicit tension between moderate and extremist elements stretched to other issues besides that of separation from British rule.” By the end of Foster’s illuminating account, it is clear that the factionalism could only grow, to often tragic ends.

Readable and provocative. Students of contemporary Irish history have few better guides than the sometimes-dyspeptic but refreshingly agenda-less Foster.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-0393082791

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?


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

Did you like this book?