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THINKING THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

For readers who like to be challenged, this searching look at our recent history provides a firm intellectual and moral...

Two brilliant scholars parse the politics and economics of the past 100 years.

That could be a dry task, but for the quiet passion of Judt (The Memory Chalet, 2010, etc.) and Snyder (History/Yale Univ.; Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, 2010, etc.), who spent most of 2009 talking about, in Snyder’s summary, “the limitations (and capacity for renewal) of political ideas, and the moral failures (and duties) of intellectuals in politics.” The authors consider these questions within the framework of 20th-century history and the biography of Judt, who died in 2010. Born in London in 1948, the son of immigrant Jews, Judt grew up with the modern welfare state, benefiting from its meritocratic educational system to attend Cambridge and pursue academic studies focused first on French history, then Eastern Europe after World War II. He was an ardent youthful Zionist who later severely criticized Israeli policies, creating a furor in 2003 with an essay arguing for a one-state solution to the Palestinian problem. Judt reluctantly took on the role of public intellectual because of a sense—clearly shared by Snyder, their conversations reveal—that the problems currently plaguing America in particular and the advanced industrial economies in general cannot be meaningfully addressed without understanding their deep roots in a history that stretches back to World War I. This history includes the ravages inflicted by unrestrained capitalism, the appeal and very similar failings of communism and fascism, the misguided uses to which the Holocaust has been put and the post-WWII social bargain that unraveled in the ’70s. Judt and Snyder analyze these and many other historical issues with lofty erudition matched by unabashed polemicism—Judt skewers David Brooks as a know-nothing and characterizes Thomas Friedman’s support of the Iraq war as “contemptible”). Social democracy has rarely had better-informed, more ethically rigorous advocates than these two distinguished men.

For readers who like to be challenged, this searching look at our recent history provides a firm intellectual and moral foundation for understanding the dilemmas of our time.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59420-323-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2011

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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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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