Literate and occasionally engaging, but those earlier books should be the reader’s first choices.

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THE JAMESTOWN EXPERIMENT

THE REMARKABLE STORY OF THE ENTERPRISING COLONY AND THE UNEXPECTED RESULTS THAT SHAPED AMERICA

A serviceable account of the entrepreneurial experiment that was England’s first permanent North American colony.

Williams (The Pox and the Covenant: Mather, Franklin, and the Epidemic that Changed America’s Destiny, 2010, etc.) sets a useful context for his study by addressing the processes and patterns of European colonization in the New World. As he notes, the Spanish, who were far ahead of the English, gave their overseas enterprises state backing, while the British crown preferred to privatize the ventures but still take a cut of the proceeds. So it was with the Jamestown Colony, whose backers “were daring and adventurous and willing to risk their lives in search of their personal fortunes and glory.” Very true, and few figures in the history of the time are quite so daring and swashbuckling as John Smith, who, Williams reminds us, had quite a career dashing about the Mediterranean, fighting Turks and seizing booty before heading off to the swamps of Virginia. His wealth-seeking fellow colonists had Smith’s knack for selling the place. Though they came in search of gold, they were content with sassafras roots, which they shipped back to the motherland by the ton, as well as other “valuable minerals and commodities that could be exploited for a return to the investors in England.” Ultimately, Jamestown went bust, but the colony inspired thousands of Britons to leave their home and journey to Virginia and the New World. Williams tells the tale competently enough, but he does not adequately address the complex back story of the colony and its relations with the native peoples of the Chesapeake Bay, which hinge on matters anthropological, economic and geopolitical. For that, we have other recent, superior books such as David A. Price’s Love and Hate in Jamestown (2003) and Camilla Townsend’s Pocahontas and the Powhatan Dilemma (2004), which fill in the considerable blanks here.

Literate and occasionally engaging, but those earlier books should be the reader’s first choices.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4022-4353-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Sourcebooks

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...

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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