A cool and unbiased effort to hack through the undergrowth of myth, ignorance, and political correctness that continues to obscure accounts of the relationship between African kingdoms and colonial powers during the 19th century. It's also an exciting story. Edgerton (Anthropology and Psychology/UCLA; Sick Societies, 1992) uses mostly secondary sources to describe the conflict between the British and the Asante Empire that occupied modern-day Ghana. At the beginning of the 19th century, the Asante Empire was the most powerful state in West Africa, ruling over more than three million people (more than half as many as there were in the United States at the time, Edgerton points out). Its wealth was based on its gold resources, derived from some 40,000 gold mines. This enabled the kingdom to buy guns and to establish its dominion over 40 other kingdoms. It also developed a highly disciplined army and an effective bureaucracy. It was, however, dependent on slaves (both lower-born Asantes and captives from other tribes) for mining and agriculture, and its civilization was characterized by frequent public executions that amounted, in the eyes of European visitors, to human sacrifices. The British view of the Asante was heavily influenced by British traders and by some of the tribes opposed to the Asante. So, while for much of the period the Asante genuinely wished to live at peace with the British, the latter saw the Africans as bloodthirsty, untrustworthy, and an obstacle to their own imperial ambitions. Much of the book is about the British efforts to conquer the Asante, during which the British sustained several defeats and gained several narrow victories. By the 1900s, the Asante power was broken, and trade once again began to flow freely. An intelligent and compassionate account of mutual incomprehension, one-sided hostility, and a kingdom that, despite its considerable attainments, was doomed once the British had decided to bring it under control.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 1995

ISBN: 0-02-908926-3

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1995

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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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