Superb—and timely, for Mussolinian ghosts celebrate “when they hear of the current approval of pre-emptive strikes and the...



A breathtakingly ambitious history that defies its author’s own warning: “Aspiring to write the total history of a totalitarian society is a delusion.”

Pride of place for fascism’s great leader is usually reserved for Adolf Hitler. Yet, as Australian historian Bosworth (Mussolini, not reviewed) notes, Hitler learned much from the fascist rulers of Italy; he was inspired by the Blackshirts’ march on Rome in 1922 to make his own putsch. Though Mussolini sometimes came off as a buffoon, and though the Italian state was a generally feckless enterprise, it was no joke; as Bosworth notes, the fascists were quite efficient at exterminating or silencing their political opponents, and in all events “it is frequently forgotten that the word ‘totalitarian’ originated in Italy” and was first extensively applied there, just as “ethnic cleansing” became an Italian specialty in the Italian-occupied Balkans before Hitler’s forces ever arrived. Still, as Bosworth writes, many Italians found plenty of ways to resist fascism, and even the true believers were very often in the fascism business to advance private agendas. Mussolini himself warned that “thousands of individuals had interpreted Fascism as no more than a defense of their own personal interests and as an organizer of violence for the sake of violence,” but by the time Italy made the grievous error of declaring war first on the USSR and then on the U.S., Mussolini himself was surrounded by a cult of personality as thorough as any in history, removed from such daily worries. He even earned uppercase status, so that, as a fascist journalist put it, “Rome is where the Duce is, it is in Him, with Him, in His divinations, in His struggles, in His torments, in His will, in His many creations.”

Superb—and timely, for Mussolinian ghosts celebrate “when they hear of the current approval of pre-emptive strikes and the cheerful acceptance that vast collateral damage may accompany them.”

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2006

ISBN: 1-59420-078-5

Page Count: 668

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2005

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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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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

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