An infectious, satisfying exercise in intellectual doggedness.




A work of exuberant scholarship radiates from a map of China bequeathed to Oxford’s Bodleian Library in 1659.

Brook’s (History/Univ. of British Columbia; The Troubled Empire: China in the Yuan and Ming Dynasties, 2010, etc.) mentor was the legendary “English historian of Chinese science” Joseph Needham, and Brook creates an intriguing intellectual detective story around a map that the author was summoned to examine several years ago. Evidently the work of a Chinese cartographer, it was an enormous and beautifully wrought map that just didn’t fit with the usual work of the Ming period and thus puzzled scholars. It centered on the South China Sea, rather than the landmass of China, and it was strikingly accurate in terms of modern proportions and coordinates. Tracking down the English lawyer John Selden, who had left the map to the library upon his death as part of an enormous donation of books and manuscripts, yielded the writings of this brilliant 17th-century scholar who was embroiled in the raging debates of the day over free trade and the rights of citizens versus sovereignty of the king. Brook works backward in uncovering the provenance of the map, from the first Chinese scholar at Oxford, Michael Shen, encouraged as part of the passion generated for Oriental languages by Selden and others; to the East India Company commander John Saris, who traded in Asian goods and probably brought the map to England as payment of a debt; to the strange and wonderful Chinese characters and symbols on the map itself, which reveal it to be a sophisticated charting of sea routes by a canny cartographer with some acquaintance of European maps and of Southeast maritime trading.

An infectious, satisfying exercise in intellectual doggedness.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-62040-143-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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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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