For both scholar and lay reader, a historical study that makes us wish for more like it on subjects too often only glanced...

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HER MAJESTY’S SPYMASTER

ELIZABETH I, SIR FRANCIS WALSINGHAM, AND THE BIRTH OF MODERN ESPIONAGE

Versatile nonfiction author Budiansky (Air Power, 2004, etc.) takes on the career of Elizabeth I’s wily Puritan ambassador, in an occasionally clotted but ultimately riveting study.

Walsingham was one of the new generation of university-educated laymen from the gentry (rather than nobility), men of the Renaissance Enlightenment whom Queen Elizabeth I sagely kept around her, the other two being William Cecil (Lord Burghley) and the Earl of Leicester. Promoted by Cecil as Elizabeth’s ambassador to France, where he nearly lost his life during the ghastly Bartholomew Massacre of 1572, Walsingham quickly ascended to the position of Principal Secretary, a job he largely created himself. A polyglot and master of discretion, Mr. Secretary, as he was known, had to “understand the state of the whole realm” as well as take the blame from his irascible queen when something went wrong. Walsingham, whose motto was “Hear all reports but trust not all,” built up a network of “paid scoundrels” to infiltrate Catholic circles, being faced continually with crisis after crisis involving the conniving Mary Queen of Scots and her sympathetic Catholic followers. Walsingham finally engineered a conspiratorial web around Mary that caused her to betray herself in correspondence, and the Babington plotters were caught. A hard-liner, Walsingham pushed for Mary’s execution, and, despite Elizabeth’s vacillation, the warrant was signed and Mary executed in 1587. Further, Walsingham warned of Spain’s recalcitrance and, overcoming Elizabeth’s “perfected art of tactical delay,” saw the triumph of the English fleet over the Spanish Armada. Budiansky gets bogged down in detail at the start, as he opens his story in Paris with the first attempted murder of the Huguenot leader Coligny just prior to Bartholomew Day, then stepping back to fill in the picture. The result is a satisfying and shrewd portrait of a key historical and very human figure.

For both scholar and lay reader, a historical study that makes us wish for more like it on subjects too often only glanced at.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 2005

ISBN: 0-670-03426-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2005

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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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