An essential work of Egyptian scholarship with lessons for our time.



Illuminating history of ancient Egypt, focused on the establishment of the first nation-state and the autocratic rulers who both glorified and abused power.

Egyptologist Wilkinson (Lives of the Ancient Egyptians, 2007, etc.) does a tremendous job of condensing a wealth of material into a tidy volume for the armchair historian and general reader. His thesis is that ancient Egypt set the model relationship between ruler and subject based on “coercion and fear” that would be repeated down to our own times. More than 1,000 years before the great flowering of pharaonic power as evidenced by the pyramids at Giza, the cattle herders had migrated to the fertile Nile Valley and the farmers of the valley had organized into three kingdoms, over which the conquering ruler Narmer first united the regions of Upper and Lower Egypt (lower meaning North, upper signifying South, because of the way the Nile rose). The first leaders of the Egyptian nation-state enlisted an effective use of iconography to assert power, in depictions of godlike leaders in headdress and mace smiting enemies and slaves. This creation of absolute power, the clever manipulation of a written record (hieroglyphics), the exploitation of natural resources, the use of forced labor and the disregard for human life were all hallmarks of the great pharaonic age, and gradually sapped its strength and stability. But not before 3,000 years, which Wilkinson groups into the three traditional kingdoms: Old Kingdom, which consolidated the ideal of divine kingship and closed with civil war; the Middle Kingdom, which saw a flowering of literary texts and craftsmanship, international trade and conquest; and the New Kingdom, eclipsed by invasions and the eventual conquest by Persia and Macedonia. Wilkinson’s impressive depth of knowledge allows him to sift the historical and archaeological records of a staggering 30-plus dynasties, producing a vigorous survey of this unparalleled civilization.

An essential work of Egyptian scholarship with lessons for our time.

Pub Date: March 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-553-80553-6

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2010

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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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