A well-written, thoroughly interesting addition to the social history of the American Colonies.



The British army was not just a man’s profession 250 years ago but instead “a social world of families, friends, and children.”

A popular British song at the time of the Revolutionary War was called “The Girl I Left Behind Me.” As it turns out, writes Zabin (History and American Studies/Carleton Coll.; Dangerous Economies: Status and Commerce in Imperial New York, 2009, etc.), the British army was in the habit of bringing women along with it, or intermarrying with local populations, so that life in a bivouac was a family affair. For four years, writes the author, one unit lived in Boston “on a peninsula hardly bigger than a square mile.” Zabin observes that the old term “camp followers” denigrates the contributions of women to these units who contributed work that was useful and necessary. They were also prolific; as the author notes, “in the years 1768 to 1772, more than a hundred soldiers brought their babies into Boston’s churches to be baptized.” When the British unit quartered in Boston, late of campaigns in Portugal and elsewhere during the Seven Years’ War, was caught up in the chain of rebellious events that culminated in the Boston Massacre, a local defended the soldiers who were on trial for murder. That local was John Adams, who was, at the same time, involved in the first stirrings of the revolution. One witness, Zabin writes, was a Massachusetts woman who knew the soldiers well enough to know their first names—and, indeed, married a member of the regiment less than a month later. By that time, such marriages were no longer points of pride, though, and neither defense nor prosecution raised what might have been interpreted as witness bias because “to do so would have cracked open the pretense to which both sides had tacitly agreed: that an enormous gulf separated soldiers and civilians.”

A well-written, thoroughly interesting addition to the social history of the American Colonies.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-544-91115-4

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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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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