First-rate research, first-rate synthesis. (28 b&w illustrations, 1 map; not seen)



A journalist and Revolutionary War historian examines in abundant and authoritative detail the reluctant city of New York as the colonies reeled toward revolution.

Ketchum (Saratoga: Turning Point of America’s Revolutionary War, 1997) begins with an account of the beauty of Manhattan and with the small city forming there (population 25,000 in 1774). When troubles began (taxes, taxes, taxes), the merchants, importers, shipping magnates, sailors, laborers—virtually all of them—were loyal to George III. No one wanted political independence. Ketchum notes that Robert Walpole’s policy of “salutary neglect” was one early factor in the emergence of a spirit of independence in New York (and elsewhere). The author examines the competitive political forces in the city (the Livingston and DeLancey factions) and shows how an increasing number and variety of taxes (molasses and sugar were among the first) created frustration and then rage among the city’s commercial men. But it was the Stamp Act (1765) that fomented the first open, pervasive opposition. Ketchum does a splendid job of explaining this act—its origins, its terms, its consequences—and of showing the myriad responses in the colonies, including meetings, demonstrations, resistances, and publications. Following hard upon it were the odious Quartering and Townshend Acts, which occasioned opposition that Ketchum correctly characterizes as “vociferous” and “immediate and widespread.” Ketchum’s focus is on New York, so we catch only glimpses of the Boston Massacre, of Concord (whose “shot heard round the world” we often hear, but not much else), and of Bunker Hill. But one of his principal accomplishments is to remind us that the origins of the revolution were economic, not political, and that the ultimate losers, the American Tories, were treated harshly before, during, and after the conflict. (Tarring and feathering and hanging were common.)

First-rate research, first-rate synthesis. (28 b&w illustrations, 1 map; not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2002

ISBN: 0-8050-6119-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2002

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


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?

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet