CONQUESTS AND CULTURES

MILITARY EXPANSION AND THE MAKING OF CIVILIZATION

Hoover Institution scholar-in-residence Sowell concludes a trilogy that began with Race and Culture (1994) and Migrations and Cultures (1996) by considering—in sometimes stimulating, sometimes muddled fashion—the momentous consequences of long-term military occupation on subject peoples. The history of conquests, Sowell writes, applies not just to the past; it’s also “about how we came to be where we are economically, intellectually, and morally.” Beginning with the British (who were subjugated by the Romans, only to create their own empire more than a millennium later), Sowell goes on to analyze the complex interaction between conquering and subject peoples in the case of the Africans, the Slavs of eastern Europe, and Western Hemisphere Indians. Sowell acutely details ways that geography can spur or stall industry (e.g., the lack of mineral deposits and navigable waterways retarded commerce in the Balkans while western Europe began to pull ahead). Even more important than geographic assets, however, is what Sowell calls “human capital” the combination of skills, experience, and orientation. The Scots, for instance, following their absorption into England, achieved a renaissance of science and medicine. Sowell aims to be hard-headed, challenging notions that all cultures are equally worthy. Often, however, his conclusions are simplistic. He criticizes postcolonial African leaders, for instance, for studying “soft” subjects rather than “hard” ones such as math, science, engineering, and medicine, but he doesn—t say that in the West, business growth has frequently been created by marketers who have studied English, psychology, law, and even politics. Moreover, except in the case of the Soviet Union, many of his sources are more than a decade old. This lack of recent specialized studies leads to omissions that call into question some of his conclusions (e.g., while noting that Ireland’s economy sputtered into the late 1980s, he doesn—t mention that country’s more recent boom). Fascinating analysis vitiated, over the course of this trilogy, by repetition, insulting national comparisons, and superficial history.

Pub Date: May 27, 1998

ISBN: 0-465-01399-6

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1998

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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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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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