Expanded from the tenth-anniversary issue of Military History Quarterly, this anthology gathers an all-star cast of 34 historians to answer the question “what if?” about a variety of events in world history that could have gone differently. Among the gems of —counterfactual history— (to use the currently trendy academic term) assembled by MHQ editor Cowley are: Josiah Ober’s speculation on the results of an even more premature death for Alexander the Great (the ideals of the Greek city-state lost to a greater Persian influence on world civilization, as well as different lines of historical development for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam); Thomas Fleming’s outstanding essay on 13 ways the colonies might have lost the American Revolution; Alastair Horne on Napoleon’s missed opportunities (including the speculation that a Europe unified by Napoleon might have forestalled German unification and, by extension, WWI and the rise of Hitler); and James McPherson’s startling piece on a lost Confederate order discovered by a Union officer that resulted in the narrow Union victory at Antietam. (Had the South won there, evidence suggests that both Britain and France would have openly supported and even backed the Confederacy.) Best of all is Theodore Rabb’s speculation that if a heavy summer of rain hadn’t kept the sultan of the Ottoman empire from bringing cannon, his siege of Vienna would have succeeded, in which case Martin Luther would have had a different life, Henry VIII would have been permitted to divorce his Hapsburg wife, and Europe would be a very different place. Other contributors include John Keegan, Stephen Ambrose, David McCullough, and David Clay Large. A superb introduction by Cowley prefaces each essay. Taken individually, all are small gems of history; brought together in a single book, they offer an oustanding overview of the fragile happenstances on which history turns. The book of the year for any history lover.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-14576-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1999

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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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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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