A brilliant book, likely to be for some time the last word on how the American map evolved.




A Pulitzer Prize–winner comprehensively documents America’s expansion—one audacious land swindle, one gunpoint accession, one bloody conquest after another.

Not until the 1840s did a journalist memorably codify the grandiose notion, traceable to the most illustrious among our Founders, of “manifest destiny.” By then, of course, fighting off threats from at least four European powers, the great American land-grab was well underway, with the “backlands” of the 13 original colonies already carved up by the Northwest Ordinance, Louisiana purchased and Florida seized. Still to come was the annexation of the Texas Republic and the Mexican War, which pushed our boundaries still farther south and west, and the muscling of Britain out of the Oregon Territory; there followed Seward’s Folly, the purchase of Alaska from Russia, the eventual annexation of Hawaii and the high-water mark of American imperialism, the Spanish-American War, resulting in the acquisition of Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines. Covering all this and more, Kluger’s deeply researched, smoothly erudite narrative sickens even as it informs. Look away if you cannot bear the sight of America repeatedly betraying its professed ideals, building a nation on the backs of slaves, exterminating a native population. As his slyly sardonic subtitle suggests, Kluger (Ashes to Ashes: America's Hundred-Year Cigarette War, the Public Health, and the Unabashed Triumph of Philip Morris, 1996, etc.) identifies few heroes in a story where even our greatest leaders (all cloaking their acts in the most high-flown rhetoric) succumbed to land-fever, safeguarding and enriching the republic by their unconstitutional acts, manufactured wars, repeatedly broken treaties and sometimes deceptive, other times arm-twisting diplomacy. Indeed, by the terms of Kluger’s relentlessly moralistic discussion, our greatest presidents were Cleveland, for his staunch refusal to sign off on a U.S.-led coup in Hawaii, and Carter, for his give-back of the Panama Canal. Still, by dint of his impeccable scholarship, Kluger has earned his virtuous tone.

A brilliant book, likely to be for some time the last word on how the American map evolved.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-375-41341-4

Page Count: 672

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2007

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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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