European history buffs and readers undaunted by a 1,000-page history will find a lucid, engaging, and pleasantly nondidactic...


A massive yet accessible study of the historical and linguistic continuity that make up the English people.

In a wonderfully reasoned and tidily structured book presented in one surprisingly approachable doorstop, English scholar of Anglo-French relations Tombs (History/Univ. of Cambridge; The Paris Commune, 1871, 1999, etc.) finds much to (quietly) celebrate in English history since ancient times, especially compared to the more violent convolutions that have plagued neighboring European and Asian states—France, Russia, China, and others. The author embarks on his narrative with an eye toward how the English have regarded and valued themselves, a “collective memory” as recorded in Latin as early as the eighth century by Northumbrian monk Bede. He noted the English people’s significance as deriving from their early Christian conversion, allowing them early access to power and allies and a “much better chance of survival.” Thus, Tombs sees English identity as coalescing around Christian ministries, centers of political, economic, and even military power. A “customary law” emerged, a strong administrative system based on the “scir” (shire), governed for the king and involving, most important, a widespread system of participation in government. The “community of the realm,” as reinforced by the Magna Carta (1215) and incipient Parliament of 1258, allowed the political continuity to prevail even after the cataclysmic upheavals of the Norman Conquest (1066). Moreover, as Tombs emphasizes, the English language displayed extraordinary durability in the wake of the French invasion, moving from vernacular to officialese to law and poetry, becoming a “language for a nation.” While England’s history is enormously complex, Tombs sharply organizes it by galvanizing themes, from the devastating religious wars (1500-1700) and the Enlightenment, Industrial Revolution, and Victorian era to the two world wars and the debate over “an age of decline.” What the author calls a “national nonchalance” is perhaps surprising in light of this unique continuity of political structure and cultural treasures.

European history buffs and readers undaunted by a 1,000-page history will find a lucid, engaging, and pleasantly nondidactic book, with helpful maps.

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-101-87476-9

Page Count: 1024

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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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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