Exciting, provocative, instructive: popular history at its finest. (3 maps, 24 halftones and line illustrations)


Tackett (History/Univ. of California, Irvine) describes the failed attempt by Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette to escape revolutionary France in June 1791, astutely assessing the consequences.

Beginning with the climax—the capture of the French king and his party in Varennes (“not a particularly distinctive town”)—the author then flashes back two years and leads us forward once again to that astonishing moment. Tackett cogently sketches the two principals and displays a fine historian’s eye for engaging detail: e.g., Louis killed nearly 200,000 animals in his active career as a hunter (he kept meticulous records in a hunting diary), and as many as 40,000 of 700,000 Paris inhabitants were prostitutes. The author sketches as well the revolution’s early days, the removal of the royal family from Versailles to virtual house-arrest at the Tuileries, and the dilatory king’s dawdling in planning his escape. Count Axel von Fersen and Marquis François-Claude-Amour Bouillé, who organized the escape from Tuileries and the journey toward the Austrian border, get fuller treatment than usual. Tackett outlines such royal errors and miscalculations as the decision to flee in an ostentatious coach and relates in suspenseful fashion the actual hours of escape and the ensuing chase. (Lafayette’s unannounced arrival for a late-evening chat with the king nearly forestalled it all.) When the news of the king’s disappearance began to spread throughout Paris, loud waves of shocked conversation washed through the city’s neighborhoods. Even more compelling than his account of the escape, however, is Tackett’s analysis of its myriad effects. It turned the average citizen against the still-popular king and created surges of paranoia and hysteria: mail was opened, strangers were imprisoned without due process, hard-won rights were suspended.

Exciting, provocative, instructive: popular history at its finest. (3 maps, 24 halftones and line illustrations)

Pub Date: March 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-674-01054-X

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2002

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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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