Historian Davis (A Government of Our Own, 1994, etc.) uses the story of an old Indian trail as an opportunity to take a leisurely, pleasurable look at the social and cultural history of the Mississippi/Alabama frontier. Davis takes as his theme the Natchez Trace, an Indian trail that traversed present-day Mississippi and Alabama, and that settlers developed into a frontier highway in the 50 years following the American Revolution. The trace went south from Nashville, Tenn., to the town of Natchez on the Mississippi River. In the early part of the 19th century, the trace was extensively traveled by a colorful race of fiercely proud, endlessly opportunistic, and often violent frontiersmen. Telling the story of the trace, Davis also uses it as a metaphor to sketch different aspects of frontier society. For instance, in ``The Road to Travel,'' he discusses how rapidly frontier transport developed from crude wagons over rugged trails to more comfortable travel over a sophisticated network of roads, before the trace was made obsolete by newly developed steamboats and barges; in ``The Road to Knowledge,'' he discusses the utilitarian attitude of frontiersmen toward education and the gradual development of respectable institutions of higher learning as civilization made its inroads; and in ``The Road to the Indian Nations,'' he considers the surprisingly cordial relations between frontiersmen and the Choctaws and Chickasaw Indians (until the federal government intervened, deporting the Indians in the 1830s). Davis sketches vivid portraits of individual pioneers (including Davy Crockett) to illustrate his account of the daily life on the frontier. An intimate picture of a vanished world. (Book-of-the-Month Club/History Book Club alternate selections)

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 1995

ISBN: 0-06-016921-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1994

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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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