This real-life action will delight fans of fictional heroes from the same war—Horatio Hornblower (C.S. Forester) and Richard...

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THE WAR FOR ALL THE OCEANS

FROM NELSON AT THE NILE TO NAPOLEON AT WATERLOO

Sumptuous storytelling recreates the first worldwide war.

Known as “The Great War” until World War I, the Napoleonic Wars embroiled Britain and other nations in conflict with France for a decade (1804–15), as Napoleon Bonaparte sought to create an empire in Europe. In this vivid history, husband-and-wife historians Roy (Nelson’s Trafalgar, 2005) and Lesley (Empires of the Plain, 2004) take us from the audacious, supposedly invincible Napoleon’s disastrous effort to conquer Egypt to his complete military defeat at Waterloo and England’s rise as supreme naval power. Besides recounting major sea battles (involving Spain, Denmark, Russia, Turkey and other nations), the authors illuminate aspects of life at war and on the home fronts, quoting from diaries, letters and journals. We see Britain wild over Horatio Nelson after his defeat of the French at Trafalgar (“Joy, joy, joy to you, brave, gallant, immortalized Nelson!” wrote Countess Spencer in London); sailors suffering from lack of food and water and the scourges of smallpox and yellow fever; the brutal recruiting (impressments) of seamen to build the British navy; and the imprisonment of more than 100,000 captured Frenchmen in cramped British hulks that became tourist attractions. In that low-tech era, information about the enemy was hard to come by, communication difficult (even within one’s own fleet) and hysteria rampant: Many British wondered whether the relentless Napoleon (seen only in drawings) was a creature from hell. American inventor Robert Fulton figures in the story, working for the British under the code name “Mr. Francis” to devise torpedo bombs used against anchored French ships. While charting the bitter rivalry between Britain and France, the Adkins also show how British trade restrictions plunged the young United States into the War of 1812, which destroyed Washington, D.C., but ranked as a mere sideshow for England.

This real-life action will delight fans of fictional heroes from the same war—Horatio Hornblower (C.S. Forester) and Richard Sharpe (Bernard Cornwell).

Pub Date: Aug. 20, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-670-03864-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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An admirable, warts-and-all history of a milestone in environmental preservation.

EMPIRE OF SHADOWS

THE EPIC STORY OF YELLOWSTONE

The story of a national park might seem a niche subject, but OnEarth magazine editor Black (Casting a Spell: The Bamboo Fly Rod and the American Pursuit of Perfection, 2006, etc.) surrounds it with a colorful, stormy, often-distressing history of our northern mountain states.

The author begins with Lewis and Clark, whose 1804–06 expedition passed nearby but brought back only rumors of odd geological events. The northern Rockies remained a backwater for another half-century. Almost no one but fur traders took an interest for the first 30 years; wagon trains pouring west after 1840 passed well to the south. By the 1850s gold mining and ranching produced settlers, quickly followed by the Army, both anxious to eliminate the Indians. Black provides painful details of 20 years of conflict that accomplished this goal. Lacking gold or good grazing, the Yellowstone area attracted few settlers, but visitors brought back tales of wondrous geysers, boiling springs and breathtaking scenery. In 1869 the small, privately funded Cook-Folsom-Peterson Expedition produced such a tantalizing report that Montana residents organized a large expedition. That expedition spent a month exploring, resulting in a torrent of publicity that led to the federally funded Hayden Geological Survey of 1871. Its enthusiastic report included historical photographs by William Henry Jackson and paintings by Thomas Moran, and the resulting publicity persuaded Congress to create the world’s first national park in 1872. Congress did not, however, provide money, so vandalism, poaching and commercial exploitation flourished until 1886 when the Army moved in. It did not leave until the new National Park Service took over in 1918.

An admirable, warts-and-all history of a milestone in environmental preservation.

Pub Date: March 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-38319-0

Page Count: 576

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

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THE HORSE THAT LEAPS THROUGH CLOUDS

A TALE OF ESPIONAGE, THE SILK ROAD, AND THE RISE OF MODERN CHINA

A complicated, ambitious travel adventure through modern Inner Asia, tracing the 1906–08 trek by a Russian spy commissioned by Tsar Nicholas II.

The account of the secretive two-year journey undertaken by Baron Gustaf Mannerheim was not published until 1940, when it was highly admired by Hitler. Journalist Tamm (Beyond the Outer Shores: The Untold Odyssey of Ed Ricketts, the Pioneering Ecologist Who Inspired John Steinbeck and Joseph Campbell, 2004, etc.) only discovered Mannerheim’s Across Asia from West to East recently, and embarked on his trip in 2006 to retrace the baron’s arduous ethnographic journey through the last years of the Qing Dynasty, when modern currents were eradicating the old order—not unlike the cataclysmic changes shaking China to this day. In 1906, Russia was reeling from its humiliating defeat by Japan in the Russo-Japanese War, and enlisted Mannerheim, an officer in the Imperial Army, to undertake the mission through the Asian provinces to gather information on all aspects of Chinese reforms, defensive preparations, politics, colonization and the role of the Dalai Lama (whom Mannerheim got to meet), all in preparation for a possible Russian military incursion. Like Mannerheim, Tamm is intensely curious about the role of China on the world stage, and pursues similar questions about what kind of China will emerge from these wrenching attempts at modernization. Tramping from St. Petersburg to Peking proved a mind-boggling trajectory, penetrating myriad ethnic pockets, Mannerheim by caravan, Tamm by airplane, train, bus and car. Each man encountered all manner of suspicious or friendly people, mishaps and illness. Along the way, Tamm read Mannerheim’s diary—“aloof, impersonal and even churlish at times”—to gain a deeper understanding of this singular character. A well-edited work chronicling a truly inspired journey, leaving readers hopeful about Chinese progress as well as full of questions.

 

Pub Date: May 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-58243-734-7

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2011

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