A solid overview of a decidedly difficult time and place, and a lucid introduction for those unfamiliar with Mexican history.

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THE MEXICAN WARS FOR INDEPENDENCE

Henderson (History/Auburn Univ., Montgomery; A Glorious Defeat: Mexico and Its War with the United States, 2007, etc.) argues that Mexico’s struggle for liberation from Spain that raged from 1810 to 1821 was not a single conflict but many.

The author notes that the wars for independence created some of the bloodiest episodes in Mexico’s history. The main conflict was between rebel creoles (American-born whites) and the Spanish. But this conflict’s extreme brutality caused dissension among creoles, many of whom became pro-Spain royalists—which led in turn to a civil war. Minorities in the rebel movement, including the native Indian population, fought in smaller skirmishes during the same period. Henderson effectively untangles the independence struggle’s complicated, intertwining strands by focusing on the major figures involved. An early leader of the revolt, 57-year-old parish priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, was a fascinating and complex man who advocated an end to slavery and societal reforms to help the poor. At the same time, the insurgents he led were particularly brutal and violent; they ransacked and looted villages and executed prisoners of war. Hidalgo was later betrayed by one of his men and executed in 1811. Another of the war’s complex figures, Agustín de Iturbide, was originally a royalist but switched sides late in the conflict. He was able to unite many quarreling factions against Spain and finally helped lead Mexico to independence in 1821. Henderson fashions an accessible narrative with a canny blend of military and political storytelling.

A solid overview of a decidedly difficult time and place, and a lucid introduction for those unfamiliar with Mexican history.

Pub Date: April 22, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-8090-9509-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2009

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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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