A lucid, muscular, and often sly reflection on the nature of historical knowledge by an experienced practicing historian. It is difficult to imagine a stronger or more convincing case than Evans’s for the distinctiveness of historical knowledge as a mode of human thought. For in reading him, one joins company with someone who finds history a matter, as Allan Nevins long ago put it, of “free and joyous pursuit.” Amid agonies of doubt about the future of history in a postmodern world, Evans, a historian of Germany (Cambridge University), confidently defends the autonomy of historical knowledge. Amid an outpouring of dire warnings about the crisis in historical studies, he bracingly champions history’s enduring value even as its intellectual underpinnings undergo great change. He resolutely avoids ideology. In fact, contrary to its title, his book is more an explanation of what historians seek to accomplish than it is a defense of what’s written in Clio’s name; he takes the offensive against the worst excesses of postmodernism. Some may tire of Evans’s steadfast centrism, but common sense may be scorned at some cost. The author doesn—t confuse a piety for history with a piety for individual historians. Rather, he brings colleagues, quick or dead, left or right, north or south, into the ring and merrily wrestles many to the ground. He does so always with respect, never with the moralistic or ideological animus of so many works in the same vein. His chapters about the history of history, historical facts, causation, and objectivity, and about issues of historical “science,” morality, evidence, and power are models of their kind. A highly useful bibliographical essay tops it all off. A deft, accessible work for anyone who wishes to learn what historians do, how they think, and where they fail.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-393-04687-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1998

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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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