Jenkins says it best: “This short book is aimed at those without the time and inclination for a longer one.” An accomplished...




A concise and somewhat quirky treatment of European history from ancient times to the present.

In a natural follow-up to A Short History of England (2011), Guardian and Evening Standard columnist Jenkins (Britain's Hundred Best Railway Stations, 2017, etc.) begins and ends with classical metaphors. He opens by noting how Europe was named for the place on the island of Crete where Zeus, after seducing the Phoenician princess Europa, swam with her to engender a new civilization. The author ends with the story of the magnificent Piraeus lion, carved in Greece in the fourth century B.C.E. and removed to Venice, where it stands outside the Arsenal in Venice, revealing what Jenkins sees as a metaphor “to free ourselves from our own place in history and see the past as a distant land.” Indeed, the cultural currents forming Europe and shaping its destiny have been staggering. From the ascendancy of Rome to its overrun by barbarian invaders to the establishment of a Frankish kingdom by Charlemagne to the invasions of the Vikings, Europe experienced a violent founding characterized by many forced migrations of diverse peoples. Yet it has also been the crucible of enlightened civilizations, from the enterprising Scandinavian tribes to the Norman builders to the rise of powerful nation-states to the galvanizing ideas of the Renaissance and Reformation. Throughout this chronological work, Jenkins touches on many usual suspects—e.g., Julius Caesar, Constantine, Catherine de’ Medici, Louis XIV, Napoleon, Hitler, and Putin—yet he deals with schisms and wars of dynasty with admirable restraint, distilling the research to the bare essentials. He organizes his work by themes such as “The Old Order’s Last Cry: 1840-1850,” and he manages to capture the dwindling “strains” of a disunited present-day Europe. The 20 pages of maps at the beginning, as well as the timeline, are endlessly helpful in navigating this vast history.

Jenkins says it best: “This short book is aimed at those without the time and inclination for a longer one.” An accomplished introduction for any nonscholar interested in European history.

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5417-8855-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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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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