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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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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