A wide-ranging account of the battle that sets it in the larger context of the Punic Wars and the rise of the Roman Empire.

THE GHOSTS OF CANNAE

HANNIBAL AND THE DARKEST HOUR OF THE ROMAN REPUBLIC

Readable study of a 2,000-year-old battle that still reverberates today.

On Aug. 2, 216 BCE, in southeastern Italy, a massive Roman army faced down a smaller, apparently weaker Carthaginian force led by Hannibal. Two years earlier, Hannibal had famously led that force, war elephants and all, over the Alps into Italy, devastating the armies of the Roman Republic. At Cannae, he nearly finished the job, using a pincer movement to surround the Romans and nearly annihilating them. Contemporary accounts of the battle, such as those by Livy, aren't really contemporary at all, following it by a century and more. O'Connell (Soul of the Sword: An Illustrated History of Weaponry and Warfare from Prehistory to the Present, 2002, etc.), a former analyst with the U.S. Army Intelligence Agency, has his work cut out for him in sorting out what is reliable from what is fabulous or moralizing in the records of the past. Perhaps surprisingly, he gives fairly solid marks to Polybius of Megalopolis, who came nearly 75 years after and had access to now-lost Carthaginian accounts of the battle. The "ghosts" of the title are the Roman survivors of the battle, who crossed the sea with Scipio Africanus and sowed Carthage's fields with salt, erasing it from the map in an act that can only be considered genocide. O'Connell pointedly contrasts Carthaginian and Roman society, the one commercial and the other bellicose, and at several points he likens the Punic Wars to the transcontinental slaughter of the two world wars. He also notes that modern generals continue to study Cannae as a textbook example of smart, fluid strategizing. “[F]or the Allied invasion of Germany,” writes the author, “Eisenhower envisioned a huge Cannae-like maneuver, employing a double envelopment of the Ruhr,” and George Patton likened the Polish army in 1939 to the unfortunate Roman consular army at Cannae.

A wide-ranging account of the battle that sets it in the larger context of the Punic Wars and the rise of the Roman Empire.

Pub Date: July 13, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6702-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2010

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics,...

HOW DEMOCRACIES DIE

A provocative analysis of the parallels between Donald Trump’s ascent and the fall of other democracies.

Following the last presidential election, Levitsky (Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America, 2003, etc.) and Ziblatt (Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, 2017, etc.), both professors of government at Harvard, wrote an op-ed column titled, “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?” The answer here is a resounding yes, though, as in that column, the authors underscore their belief that the crisis extends well beyond the power won by an outsider whom they consider a demagogue and a liar. “Donald Trump may have accelerated the process, but he didn’t cause it,” they write of the politics-as-warfare mentality. “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in extreme partisan polarization—one that extends beyond policy differences into an existential conflict over race and culture.” The authors fault the Republican establishment for failing to stand up to Trump, even if that meant electing his opponent, and they seem almost wistfully nostalgic for the days when power brokers in smoke-filled rooms kept candidacies restricted to a club whose members knew how to play by the rules. Those supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders might take as much issue with their prescriptions as Trump followers will. However, the comparisons they draw to how democratic populism paved the way toward tyranny in Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and elsewhere are chilling. Among the warning signs they highlight are the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee as well as Trump’s demonization of political opponents, minorities, and the media. As disturbing as they find the dismantling of Democratic safeguards, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest that “a broad opposition coalition would have important benefits,” though such a coalition would strike some as a move to the center, a return to politics as usual, and even a pragmatic betrayal of principles.

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics, rather than in the consensus it is not likely to build.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6293-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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