Accessible and of interest to students of international relations but mostly intended for military historians and Asia...



A vigorous military history of China, linking technological changes to political events over time.

There is a push and pull in trade and innovation. As Andrade (History/Emory Univ.; Lost Colony: The Untold Story of China's First Great Victory over the West, 2011, etc.) notes, Chinese gunpowder inspired the development of a range of Western arms that then returned to China, only to be further developed there and radiated outward—far from the static model found in many histories, which hold that China copied but did not innovate, fearful of violating Confucian values of stability and hierarchy. It was Confucian scholars, Andrade writes, who “studied gunpowder weapons, tested them, experimented with their manufacture, developed tactics and strategies for deploying them, and wrote about all of this in detail.” Stimuli for development came from trade and contact with far-flung nations, including Japan and Vietnam, as well as the European powers that came calling. The weakness of the Chinese state when those powers divided China in the 19th century has been attributed to a long period of resource-wasting internal wars, but Andrade holds that conflict was but one cause among many, including ethnic tensions and poor governance. Moreover, warfare has proven a spur for innovation and political concentration, yielding dynasties and such tools as the “thunderclap bomb.” In initial contact with Europeans, the Chinese were outgunned, but they adjusted, incorporating Western-style arms against the invading Portuguese, for instance. The Sino-Portuguese wars, writes the author, “mark a watershed in military history, inaugurating a period of deep military innovation in China.” Today, Andrade writes, China is similarly innovative, and the pattern of history suggests that its long period of consolidation may herald a time of “huge wars of expansion.” If this signals a “new warring states period,” then the world may be condemned to live in interesting times indeed.

Accessible and of interest to students of international relations but mostly intended for military historians and Asia specialists.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-691-13597-7

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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