Erudite and fascinating but occasionally too dense and difficult to follow.

INDEPENDENCE

THE TANGLED ROOTS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION

There was a lot more to gaining independence from Britain than the Boston Tea Party.

Tangled is the operative word in Slaughter’s (History/Univ. of Rochester; The Beautiful Soul of John Woolman, Apostle of Abolition, 2008 etc.) finely researched, arduously plotted study, a tortuous progression of arrogant strictures by an out-of-touch motherland that only led to increasing colonial disgruntlement. The first immigrants to Cape Cod were an oppositional, authoritarian lot: middlebrow, family-oriented, forming “closed, corporate communities of believers, who accepted the covenant that bound them to each other and collectively to God.” As long as they were allowed to worship freely and practice their “acetic work ethic” and trade, they prospered, yet tensions grew into the early 18th century. These included a fear of Native Americans and outside influences, an opening up of a trans-Atlantic market economy, the French expansion to the north, sectarian fissures within New England forms of worship and even “a democratization of information” in the form of the proliferation of newspapers. Slaughter looks carefully at the influence on the colonies of Britain’s empire-making across the globe, from India to the Ohio Valley, Nova Scotia to the Caribbean. The defeat of the French at Plassey (Bengal) in 1757 and Quebec in 1759 allowed the British crown to turn its administrative attention to the colonies, especially in terms of much-needed revenue, yet checks in legal and economic policy (the nuances of which Slaughter draws in stultifying detail) only heightened the colonists’ paranoia and sensitivity. The author underscores the vastly different views about “independence” versus “separation” held by the British and the colonists. The British were bewildered by the colonists’ pursuit of “anarchy and confusion,” while the colonists were first and foremost deeply rooted in a sense of personal liberty of conscience above any act of government.

Erudite and fascinating but occasionally too dense and difficult to follow.

Pub Date: June 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8090-5834-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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