This is a story Overy has told in earlier, much longer histories, but this is a fine introduction.




A skillful pocket history of the founding of the Royal Air Force in 1918 and its fate after the armistice.

This is well-traveled ground for veteran military historian Overy (History/Univ. of Exeter; WWII Remembered: From Blitzkrieg Through to the Allied Victory, 2015, etc.), who emphasizes that in 1917, after three years of war, Britain’s army employed a large air force and its navy a modest one, and no airman yearned for an independent service. That was a decision made by politicians in London and provoked by German bombing raids. Although trivial by World War II standards, the 1,400 Britons killed provoked panic and desire for revenge as well as a more effective air force. “The politicians wanted a force to defend the home front against the novel menace of bombing,” writes the author, “amidst fears that the staying power of the population might be strained to the breaking point by the raids.” Naval and army commanders opposed the decision, and one of the detractors was Hugh Trenchard, the commander of the Royal Flying Corps who felt that a major reorganization would distract from support of ground forces in France. After consolidation became inevitable, Trenchard reluctantly agreed to become Chief of Air Staff but quarreled so badly with his civilian superior that he resigned after three months. Despite fierce, almost comic-opera disputes over uniforms, ensigns, and titles, ably recounted by Overy, the RAF was up and running by summer 1918. It performed well supporting ground forces against the final German offensive, but this change also encouraged the fantasy, still going strong, that air power alone—strategic bombing then, drones now—will win wars. Shared by civilian leaders, it kept the RAF alive during disastrous cutbacks after 1918 but meant that it got off on the wrong foot in WWII.

This is a story Overy has told in earlier, much longer histories, but this is a fine introduction.

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-393-65229-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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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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