In the Eternal City, where monuments from three millennia jostle in the streets, history is often rewritten to bolster arguments about the present and future.

So states Bosworth (History/Reading Univ., U.K.; Mussolini’s Italy, 2005, etc.) in a scholarly survey focusing on the centuries since the French Revolution. The French conquerors of Italy, unsurprisingly, claimed to be reviving the republican values of classical Rome, a claim that would be taken up in the 19th century by Italian nationalists fighting against the restored French monarchy and other foreign occupiers. This link to ancient, pagan Rome earned Garibaldi, Mazzini and even King Victor Emmanuel the implacable hostility of Rome’s popes, who saw any secular order in the city as a threat and proposed their own version of history, rooted in man’s sinfulness and the pope’s eternal authority. The unified Italian nation created in 1861 had to wait nine years before it included Rome—by military force. In the years before World War I, liberal national governments celebrated their links to the classical Roman past with edifices like the hideous Victor Emmanuel monument, looming over the Forum since its completion in 1911. But liberal nationalism had begun to give way to imperialism even before Mussolini seized power and trumpeted his vision of a Roman past based on military might. Post–World War II contention over the meaning of Rome’s history (treated rather briefly here) included those on the far left, like the members of the Red Brigade that assassinated Christian Democratic politician Aldo Moro, who claimed themselves heirs to the anti-fascist Resistance. Through it all, the common people of Rome, whether devoutly Catholic or eternally cynical, tended to ignore “the most recent reading of history, composed by their betters,” rooting their lives instead in family and neighborhood. Bosworth’s main point seems blindingly obvious, and the more interesting material giving specific instances of Rome’s History Wars through the centuries is developed with a density of detail that makes this a book for academics rather than general readers.


Pub Date: April 26, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-300-11471-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2011

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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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