The Irish grew up with tales of the Great Hunger, but the full story is just now unfolding. This book is a great start.

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THE FAMINE PLOT

ENGLAND'S ROLE IN IRELAND'S GREATEST TRAGEDY

Acclaimed Irish historian Coogan (Ireland in the Twentieth Century, 2004, etc.) opens up the truth about the Irish potato famine, and it’s uglier than you thought.

The potato was not just the staple of the poor Irish diet; it was all they had. For seven years beginning in 1845, Phytophthora infestans wreaked havoc on the potato crop in Ireland. Prime Minister Robert Peel made some effort to assuage the problem, however misguided, allowing the purchase of Indian maize from America, which the Irish couldn’t properly grind and which made them sick. Coogan points out the many other problems to English aid—e.g., to obtain relief, you had to sign over your land, many soup kitchens would only give soup to those who converted to Protestantism, and no relief could be given outside the workhouse. Evictions, emigration and a policy of laissez faire were the British answers to the crisis. The author is hellbent on setting the record straight. He boldly condemns Irish historians, most educated by the English, who downplayed the horror and evaded the issue of British decision-makers’ responsibility. They completely ignored the hate creation of the English press and the landlords who despised the human misery along the roadsides and in the filthy workhouses. The admission by Prime Minister Tony Blair of the failure of the English government to support a country that was part of the richest and most powerful nation in the world has set a good beginning to get at the truth.

The Irish grew up with tales of the Great Hunger, but the full story is just now unfolding. This book is a great start.

Pub Date: Nov. 27, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-230-10952-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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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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