Every student of English history will enjoy this story, which is delightfully easy to read and remarkable for what it leaves...



For those who missed his first edition in 1996, Strong (Scenes and Apparitions: The Roy Strong Diaries, 1987-2003, 2017, etc.) is back with an updated popular history of Britain, whose people “cherish their island as a domain separate and inviolate from the rest of the world.”

Throughout this highly readable history, which the author admits “is built with gratitude on the work of others,” Strong carefully plucks out not just the most memorable, but the most momentous events in each era. Moving from Roman times and the arrival of Christianity, the author asserts the well-known fact that it was the monasteries that preserved the writings of the ancient world of Greece and Rome. In Northumbria, the scholarly civilization reached its apex in the seventh and eighth centuries. As Strong demonstrates, the Norman invasion was one of the most significant pieces of British history, with the coming of feudalism and a new ruling class that showed the importance of a strong king to the maintenance of government structures. Richard II is an instructive example of a ruler who made peace with France, Ireland, and Scotland but fought with his noblemen. The author is excellent at uncovering goodness and noteworthy effects on history by even the least likable kings. The Tudor crises—with religion and thus with Europe in general—postponed the coming of the Renaissance to England until the reign of Charles I, who eased travel abroad and encouraged Renaissance architecture and art, exemplified by Inigo Jones, Peter Paul Rubens, and Anthony van Dyck. Later, the Great Reform Act of 1832, which was passed to prevent peasant revolts, led to government social programs but ensured the middle class was kept in its place. It actually perpetuated elite control of government, but that power slowly collapsed under the unloved George IV, William IV, and the young Victoria.

Every student of English history will enjoy this story, which is delightfully easy to read and remarkable for what it leaves to the side as well as for its insights into the deepest consequences of individual actions.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64313-013-2

Page Count: 624

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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