A well-delineated, exciting history of a particularly contentious period of international trade, which persisted for...




Spanish-Portuguese quarrels, the voyages of discovery and an obscure 1494 treaty led to centuries of worldwide conflict, events all rousingly recounted here by Canada-based historian Bown (Merchant Kings: When Companies Ruled the World, 1600–1900, 2010, etc.).

In the 15th century, Spain and Portugal were backwaters until their ships hit the jackpot by reaching America and the Indies. The author begins his history of the bloody competition that followed by pointing out that by 1480 Portugal dominated the prosperous West African trade, a monopoly granted earlier by Papal bulls. In 1493, Portugal’s king insisted that Columbus’ discoveries belonged to him under the same authority. Spain’s rulers appealed to Spanish-born Pope Alexander VI, who obligingly decreed that new lands west of a north-south line down the Atlantic belonged to Spain, those east of it to Portugal. Popes still exerted immense authority, so the immediate result was the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas, in which Spain and Portugal agreed on specifics. In the second half of the book, Bown describes the subsequent vast expansion of European settlement, commerce and violence. No one believed in free trade. Spain and Portugal forbade unauthorized commerce throughout their empires, seizing foreign ships and often executing crews. In response, Holland, Britain and France fought their way into foreign ports (whose citizens, once defenders surrendered, were happy to trade) and seized Spanish and Portuguese ships. Piracy flourished, and governments authorized privateering even during peacetime to allow merchants to recover losses.

A well-delineated, exciting history of a particularly contentious period of international trade, which persisted for centuries until Spain and Portugal grew too weak to resist and did not disappear until nations decided that oceans should be open to all.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-61612-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2011

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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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