Despite organizational issues, Christensen provides interesting anecdotes and a unique reading experience. The book comes...




A well-researched and entertaining but somewhat scattershot look at a single watershed year in history and how its upheaval changed the world.

The year 1616 experienced numerous small transformations, writes Christensen (Worse Than a Monolith: Alliance Politics and Problems of Coercive Diplomacy in Asia, 2011, etc.). Because the author doesn’t focus on just one country or individual, he is able to look at world events more broadly than other history books that tackle the same period. Addressing economics, the role of women, art, science and more, Christensen discusses disparate geographic areas jointly, connecting Europe with the Mughal Empire in India and beyond. However, this structure also has a significant drawback: the lack of an overarching narrative. Each chapter is a set of stories illustrating Christensen’s central thesis of “a world in motion,” but even with his commentary these accounts don’t always coalesce into an ordered history. As a result, the narrative tends to meander and lose momentum. The challenge of writing a book of such broad scope is that the organization must be meticulous, and Christensen doesn’t fully succeed. However, he was clearly scrupulous about the research, and he discusses the material with the authority of an expert. The illustrations, photos, timeline and selected reading section also enhance reader understanding of the issues at play. “I hope that in the book…readers will find some fraction of the enthusiasm that I felt in reliving the year 1616,” he writes. In that he succeeds.

Despite organizational issues, Christensen provides interesting anecdotes and a unique reading experience. The book comes together more as a series of historical vignettes than as a comprehensive history.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-58243-774-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 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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