A groundbreaking work: The hammer of Ozment’s silvery prose and sturdy logic shatters the surprisingly fragile theories of...



Ozment (Flesh and Spirit, 1999, etc.) argues persuasively that medieval and early Renaissance families displayed in abundance many of the characteristics of modern ones.

The author begins this brief but never superficial analysis by exposing the inadequacies and inaccuracies of the earlier theories of family and childhood—such as those advanced by Philippe Ariès and his successors (primarily Michael Mitterauer and Reinhard Sieder, Edward Shorter, Jean-Louis Flandrin, and Lawrence Stone). Ozment believes that the truth about family structure and dynamics cannot be inferred from statistics but is to be found instead in the archives of actual families—in surviving letters, diaries, financial records, wills, and other documents. He employs archival research (“microhistorical studies,” he calls them) to drive home his principal points—that women at the end of the Middle Ages were not terribly dissatisfied with their lot (they viewed themselves as co-workers and co-earners), that medieval parents did not consider their children “little adults” and in fact recognized that childhood consisted of various stages with varying requirements, that parents loved their children fiercely and mourned deeply their often premature deaths. He shows that infanticide, swaddling, and wet-nursing were not nearly so common as once thought—and in fact believes the killing of children is probably more common today. He has assembled some powerful documentary evidence to support his theses, all of it convincing, some of it amusing. A 17th-century mother advises her daughter: “At parties . . . accept drinks only from other girls.” And: “When boys happen to come into your bedroom, hide behind the bed and hit them in the face.” Ozment argues that the family has not evolved slowly over the last five centuries into the sentimental, nuclear unit it appears to be today; rather, it has always been both the bedrock and the fault line of humankind.

A groundbreaking work: The hammer of Ozment’s silvery prose and sturdy logic shatters the surprisingly fragile theories of some of the trendiest historians of the human family. (6 halftones, 4 line illustrations)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-674-00483-3

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2001

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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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