A low-carb alternative for those hooked on high-fat history. (51 b&w illustrations)




More history-as-channel-surfing from Lacey (Great Tales from English History, Volume I, 2004).

Compressed here are nearly 300 years of English history in a slim, highly readable rocket-trip from The Canterbury Tales to Principia Mathematica. Each of Lacey’s chapters generally deals with a single issue or event, sometimes of great historical consequence (the beheading of Charles I), sometimes of substantial cultural significance (publication of the King James Bible), sometimes of interest to those who like to nibble the edges of time’s cracker (did Dick Whittington have a cat?). In the chapters about the English kings who also fascinated Shakespeare (Richards II and III, Henrys IV, V, VI), Lacey is careful to point out the historical inaccuracies in the Bard’s work—though neglecting to do so with Henry VIII. Readers on this side of the Atlantic will find little cheer in this Brit’s view of American history: “The modern United States of America has been built upon the systematic destruction and dispossession of its native population.” And, Lacey notes, we didn’t seem to care about celebrating Thanksgiving at all until Lincoln read William Bradford, more than 200 years after the first Turkey Day. Despite his mild anti-Yank populism, Lacey both educates and entertains. Richard III, not a glowering hunchback, was slim and athletic; gunpowder concealed in a little bag mercifully blew off the head of Bishop Latimer during his burning as a heretic; 2,000 gold nails held together Henry VIII’s toilet; the King James Bible uses a spare 8,000-word vocabulary. These and other goodies are strewn along the path. The diction here isn’t always fresh (the Catholicism of Mary Queen of Scots was “another black mark against her”), Lacey sometimes prefers the odd moment to the significant one, and he occasionally fails to mention fundamental things (not telling us, for example, that Guy Fawkes took the name “Guido” and signed his name that way).

A low-carb alternative for those hooked on high-fat history. (51 b&w illustrations)

Pub Date: June 2, 2005

ISBN: 0-316-10924-X

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2005

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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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