PATRIOTS AND LIBERATORS

The Netherlands was more than a pawn of the French during this period, argues an Oxford and Cambridge student of J. H. Plumb in this broad, profuse, yet tightly organized work; the Dutch strove mightily for independence until finally crushed by Napoleonic designs. Holland's Batavian Republic of 1797, born when the French revolutionary army drove the British, Austrians, and Prussians out of Holland, gave new life to the "Patriot" faction that had been crushed a decade earlier, after which—as Schama documents—the country suffered economic collapse to the point of gruesome epidemics. The spokesmen of a national renaissance had looked toward the American Revolution as the "holy sun" of progress; when the French liberated them, however, there developed "the classic irreconcilability within a revolution of its two primary constituents—freedom and power." Political and intellectual ferment mounted in the Free Corps and reading societies, but disputes multipled over taxation, religion, and minority aspirations. And leadership was thin, except for a few men like Pieter Paulus, who died tragically in 1796 at the age of 42. Finally Napoleon forced a Directorate on the divided country and installed his brother Louis as regent, exacting hundreds of millions of guilders for the empire. Above all, Schama blames French developments for the failure of Dutch nationalism, while limiting his discussion of the British role. But the book gives a powerful sense of civil freedom, educational and legal reforms, and sweeping excitement in the Netherlands between the French grant of "liberty on the points of bayonets" and the Napoleonic clampdown, itself cast in an acute light through Schama's material on the strain of simultaneously promoting modernization and financing continental wars. It is always good news when a traditional subject of footnotes is made into a major, rewarding study; Schama's final judgments will draw challenge, while his demonstration that the spirit of the 17th-century Dutch Golden Age survived in revolutionary form is an important (and delightfully written) contribution.

Pub Date: April 1, 1977

ISBN: 0006861563

Page Count: 745

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1977

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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