An impressive history of a year’s political tensions, necessarily limited in focus but still sweeping and in-depth.



A year of dramatic changes around the world.

Taking an ambitious, panoramic view of a single year, Hall (American History/Univ. of Leeds; Rethinking the American Anti-War Movement, 2011, etc.) examines major events in postwar Europe, America, Africa, the Soviet Union, and the Middle East. Although the choice of 1956 is necessarily arbitrary, the author makes a strong case for its significance in capturing “the contradictions of the decade” that played out as liberation movements in some areas and repression in others. In Poland and Hungary, populations rose up against communist oppression; in the U.S., racial violence erupted over efforts to desegregate buses and integrate the University of Alabama. Escorted by police officers and a college dean, the first black student was pelted with “rocks, eggs, mud balls and curses,” leaving her “overcome with terror.” Also during this time, major colonial powers faced the ends of their empires: France tried to suppress uprisings in Algeria, while Britain cracked down on Cyprus but granted independence to Ghana. Flexing their muscles, France and Britain signed an agreement with Israel to launch a war to overthrow Egyptian president Gamel Abdal Nasser, undermining Eisenhower’s efforts to find a peaceful resolution to the Suez Canal crisis. A surprising speech by Nikita Khrushchev, denouncing Stalin, softened the rhetoric of the Cold War. Hall’s focus is almost exclusively political: he devotes only one chapter to cultural eruptions such as rock ’n’ roll, which was condemned as “cannibalistic and tribalistic” and stoked public fears about “errant sexual behavior.” Elvis Presley appeared on TV, evoking “a storm” of criticism; the city of Santa Cruz banned rock ’n’ roll at public gatherings. Hall sees the music as “one manifestation of a wider cultural and generational revolt” that included poet Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” and playwright John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger. Contemporary newspaper reports give the author’s month-by-month narrative a vivid, you-are-there quality.

An impressive history of a year’s political tensions, necessarily limited in focus but still sweeping and in-depth.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68177-205-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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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

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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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