A book that can rest on the coffee tables of military history buffs, serious readers should look elsewhere.


An attractively illustrated (if rather shallow) history of the major events of WWI, Prior and Wilson’s (Command on the Western Front,1992; Passchendaele: The Untold Story,1996) book is part of a multi-volume series on the history of war from ancient to modern times.

Packed with striking photographs of battles and prominent individuals, the real surprises in this book are the maps that detail specific military maneuvers through unfamiliar geographies. For example, maps of the complex troop and naval movements around the Dardanelles bring to life the hard choices faced by British and French war planners. Focusing on the great battles in France and Russia, Prior and Wilson also detail significant actions in the Middle East and Africa. Even though important naval engagements are excluded, they will be profiled in a separate volume on the history of warfare at sea. Graphic and editorial details aside, the book is filled with historical and moral judgments that range from the outrageous to the banal. How can any genuine student of military and diplomatic history accept the authors’ tired conclusion that primary responsibility for the war rested with German militarists? We would expect that explanation from French and British diplomats in 1919, not from contemporary historians. Moreover, Prior and Wilson seem to share the French high command’s view of the mutinies that disrupted more than 70 divisions in 1917. They congratulate the generals on their response to the revolt: allowing more leave, bettering living conditions, and only ordering a token number of executions (from 50 to 70). More executions, the authors point out, might have had “dangerous” consequences for military order, as if that value had any legitimacy for anyone but generals after three years of butchery. Prior and Wilson fail to describe the feelings of worn-out soldiers about such lofty values as military order. For that matter, they fail to describe the feelings of any of the millions who faced each other in the mud, citing only the statistics of their deaths.

A book that can rest on the coffee tables of military history buffs, serious readers should look elsewhere.

Pub Date: April 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-304-35256-X

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2000

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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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