An excellent teaching tool, perfect for libraries.

Noted academics, scholars, editors, and historians contribute to a collection of fresh, provocative essays on the Civil War, first published in digital form by the New York Times.

Times’ editors Risen (American Whiskey, Bourbon & Rye: A Guide to the Nation's Favorite Spirit, 2015, etc.) and Kalogerakis team up with Widmer (Director, John Carter Brown Library/Brown Univ.; Brown: The History of an Idea, 2015, etc.) for a beautifully laid-out and organized version of their online Disunion blog, which ran until 2015. Featuring a foreword by Ken Burns, who speaks to the persistent relevance of the Civil War as an initial but never satisfactory way of atoning for our original sin, the book elicits contemporary voices wrestling with internal conflicts that still haunt Americans today: as Widmer writes, “anger at the federal government, unresolved racial tensions, simple helplessness before the constant onslaught of a 24-7 communications grid that matured during the war.” Each of the 10 chapters contains around 10 essays, from the first chapter, “Secession” (e.g., “The Strange Victory of the Palmetto State” by Manisha Sinha), to “The Battlefield” (e.g., “Humanity and Hope in a Southern Prison” by Peter Cozzens) to “Abraham Lincoln and the Federal Government” (e.g., “The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of Salmon P. Chase” by Rick Beard) to the final chapter, “Consequences” (e.g., “Remembering the Gettysburg Address” by Joshua Zeitz). Widmer writes of the “liberating” form (for academics) of these punchy, original essays written for a “digital commons,” and indeed they spread the net widely for some surprising moments of erudition, such as Melinda Miller and Rachel Smith Purvis’ essay about the Cherokee leaders producing their own emancipation acts in the wake of Lincoln’s in February 1863 (“The Cherokees Free Their Slaves”). Also notable are Crystal N. Feimster’s “Rape and Justice in the Civil War” and contributions by scholars Adam Goodheart, Jon Grinspan, Paul Finkelman, and Harold Holzer.

An excellent teaching tool, perfect for libraries.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-19-062183-4

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016



Two veteran Washington journalists offer a vigorous and resonant portrait of the 30-year decline and polarization of our capital. Jaffe (of Washingtonian magazine) and Sherwood (of WRC-TV, formerly of the Washington Post) tell their story in episodic sketches, covering the city's historic caste system among blacks, the rise of community organizer (and, later, mayor) Marion Barry during the War on Poverty, and the shift of power to blacks after the traumatic 1968 riots. The authors criticize the long-standing federal stranglehold on the district, as well as the Post's ignorance of black Washington, but their major culprit is ``Boss Barry,'' who emerged in his second mayoral term (1982-6) as a betrayer of the biracial coalition that first elected him. Barry's failures were legion: political spoils for a narrow group of adventurers such as profiteer-from-the-homeless Cornelius Pitts; a top aide turned embezzler; a police department in disarray; a downtown that boomed as other neighborhoods crumbled. His defiance of the black bourgeoisie and the white power structure preserved his popularity among blacks, and when he was arrested on drug charges in 1990—an episode recounted in telling detail—his lawyer successfully argued that the government was out to get him. After serving a six-month jail term for one misdemeanor, Barry began a comeback as council member from the city's poorest ward. The authors criticize the current mayor, reformer Sharon Pratt Kelly, as out of touch, and warn that federal receivership for Washington is as likely as full home rule and statehood. Reliance on dialogue-rich scenes sometimes sacrifices depth for drama, but this is a memorable and disturbing reminder of much unfinished urban business.

Pub Date: May 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-671-76846-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1994




In a splendid retelling of a great story, Ambrose chronicles Lewis and Clark's epic 1803-06 journey across the continent and back. Thomas Jefferson, more than anyone else, helped to effect the dream of a transcontinental US. As noted historian Ambrose (Univ. of New Orleans; D-Day, 1994, etc.) recounts, Jefferson's first great accomplishment in this regard was the Louisiana Purchase. His second was the dispatching of a US Army "Corps of Discovery" under his neighbor and friend, Captain Meriwether Lewis, to travel by land to the Pacific Ocean in search of a waterway to the West. Lewis, partner William Clark, and their 30-man expeditionary force recorded hundreds of species of birds, plants, and animals not previously known to Western science; mapped the interiors of the country; established ties with Indian tribes of the Northern Plains and the Northwest; and set the stage for the exploitation of the western country, particularly in the fur trade. Also, by Ambrose's account, Lewis and Clark's well-meaning ignorance and diplomatic maladroitness set the tone for early American relationships with Native Americans. Despite their close relationships with some Indians, Lewis and Clark persisted in absurd beliefs about them, some of which were subscribed to by Jefferson, as well (e.g., that Indians were descendants of a long-lost tribe of Welshmen). Although the expedition was a great success and fame and fortune followed, Lewis, now drinking heavily and suffering setbacks in love and politics, fell into a deep depression and committed suicide in 1809. The author speculates that he might have considered his great expedition a failure because the land remained unexploited by Americans. A fascinating glimpse of a pristine, vanished America and the beginning of the great and tragic conquest of the West.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 1996

ISBN: 0-684-81107-3

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1995

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