The style is traditional, even stodgy, while the discoveries may be revolutionary in World War I historiography.



A doctoral candidate and senior paralegal debuts with a sharp look at the so-called “Christmas truce” of 1914, discovering that distortion has colored many accounts of it—and of World War I itself.

In a text adapted from her master’s thesis, Crocker displays some things clearly. First, she did an enormous amount of work for that degree, reading countless books, newspaper accounts, diaries, and letters of those involved (almost entirely those of the English military) and watching films (documentary and otherwise) that involve the celebrated truce. Second, she did sufficiently transform the organization and tone from a graduate school exercise. She retains the well-used format of introduction-body-conclusion; she provides far more examples for each of her points than is necessary; she repeats and summarizes too much; her attitude remains generally detached and scholarly. Still, Crocker has created a work perhaps powerful enough to alter the conventional narrative of the incident. She destroys a number of misconceptions. Discovering considerable newspaper coverage from late 1914 and even into 1915, she demonstrates with great clarity that the soldiers involved were generally not dissuaded from socializing with the enemy by their commanding officers (and there were no punishments in the aftermath), proving with ample evidence that the combatants involved (on the English side) were not using the informal truces up and down the trenches to engage in some sort of anti-war protest. The author also expands her scope to show that the current dominant story of World War I—that incompetent commanders sent waves of young men to the slaughterhouse and that the entire war was not only ill-fought, but was a principal cause of World War II—is based more on tradition and myth than on fact. A storm of debate will no doubt ensue.

The style is traditional, even stodgy, while the discoveries may be revolutionary in World War I historiography.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8131-6615-5

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Univ. Press of Kentucky

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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