A brief, useful history of the conquerors who came from East and West to build a series of states that continue the fight to...

The author of The Real History Behind the Templars (2007) chronicles how the first two crusades helped establish the face of the Middle East.

Pope Urban II’s First Crusade brought a minor lord of France, Baldwin of le Bourq, to the Holy Land, and he married an Armenian noblewoman. It was their daughters, Melisende and Alice, who ended up ruling Jerusalem and Antioch—but it was far from a foregone conclusion. As Newman (Death Before Compline: Short Stories, 2012, etc.) writes, “[i]t would have been a brave prophet who would have dared to predict that Melisende would become queen of anything.” The author provides solid insight into the violent history of an area alternately claimed by Turks, Armenians, Jews, Franks (as the crusaders were called), and Shia and Sunni Muslims. Newman builds her story on the few sources available—e.g., the writings of Fulcher of Chartres and Ibn al-Qalanisi, both of which are decidedly skewed—and that difficulty impedes the flow of the narrative as it necessarily jumps from kingdom to kingdom. The author follows the daughters of Baldwin as their husbands are chosen: Melisende’s husband, Fulk of Anjou, was grandfather to Henry II of England, and he was to be a co-ruler and defender of her kingdom. Alice’s husband, Bohemond, died in battle, leaving her to defend and eventually rule Antioch. Raymond of Poitiers was brought in to be husband to Alice’s daughter, Constance, and he became uncle to Eleanor of Aquitaine, soon to arrive as part of the disastrous Second Crusade. “The damage done by the failed Second Crusade,” writes the author, “led to the rise of the emir Saladin and the fall of the city of Jerusalem to him twenty years after Melisende’s death.”

A brief, useful history of the conquerors who came from East and West to build a series of states that continue the fight to this day.

Pub Date: April 29, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-137-27865-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014


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


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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