A lively, expert resource for historical minutiae.



Corsets, child labor and a mortal fear of masturbation: a wonderfully detailed romp through the “day-to-day reality of life” for Victorian men and women.

Having spent a year on a “Victorian” farm, among other antiquated kinds, and written about it (co-author: Victorian Farm: Rediscovering Forgotten Skills, 2008, etc.), English social historian Goodman proves an amiable companion in sharing the intimate daily routine of the Victorian, including all social classes and ranging over more than 60 years, from Queen Victoria’s early reign to her twilight. Goodman begins the day with the knocker-upper, wandering the streets at all hours with a long cane and lantern to knock on windows and wake up his working-class clients for their factory jobs (since few then could afford clocks and watches). The author then continues through the chilly morning ablutions at the washstand, elaborate dressing rituals, long workday, bland meals and, finally, “a few snatched hours of leisure.” The author dispels many myths about these buttoned-up souls (that they were unclean, prudish or unfun) and shows how many notions of personal hygiene, kitchen science and sexuality were revolutionized during this era—e.g., the insistence on extensive circulation of air in rooms, the preference for breathable fabrics like wool and cotton, the adoption of baths and public bathing, the switch from privy to water closet and the use of contraceptives. Goodman claims to have made condoms from sheep’s guts, which were used before the vulcanization of rubber in 1843. In 1862, officials set standards for schools, including written examinations, imparting a national focus on formal education (even for girls). Throughout, Goodman relates her own experiences immersed in the Victorian world, such as her surprisingly pleasant time wearing a corset.

A lively, expert resource for historical minutiae.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-87140-485-5

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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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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