A lively, well-researched history of lust for wealth and power.

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KOH-I-NOOR

THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD'S MOST FAMOUS DIAMOND

The tale of a diamond that became a coveted prize during centuries of political turmoil.

The history of the Koh-i-Noor diamond is a narrative of greed, war, and barbaric cruelty. Dalrymple (Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, 1839-42, 2013, etc.) and Anand (Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary, 2015) divide their chronology, with Dalrymple covering the gem’s history from its mysterious origins in antiquity, when it was apparently removed from the eye of an idol in southern India, through medieval times, devastating conflicts in the 17th and 18th centuries, and ending in 1839, when India’s ruler, and the gem’s owner, Ranjit Singh, died. Anand picks up the story with Britain’s increasing domination of India, the handing over of the diamond by Singh’s son to the East India Company, its perilous transit to Queen Victoria, and its fate up to the present. The diamond was large but not the largest in the coffers of Asian rulers: an inch and a half long, nearly an inch wide, and shaped like an egg. It became a symbol of power, worn on ceremonial occasions, strapped to the bicep of whoever possessed it; the gem was coveted despite its reputation of having “dark powers.” As Dalrymple writes, “few possessors of the Koh-i-Noor have led happy lives”—surely an understatement. “Its owners,” he acknowledges, “have variously been blinded, slow-poisoned, tortured to death, burned in oil, threatened with drowning, crowned with molten lead, assassinated by their own family and bodyguards, or have lost their kingdoms and died in penury.” The ship transporting the diamond to England was beset by cholera and a vicious storm. Although many who saw it described its amazing shine, viewers in England were disappointed when it was displayed at the Great Exhibition of 1851. Prince Albert contrived a new display case but eventually decided to have it cut. The result was a brilliant diamond half its original size. Currently, India, Pakistan, and the Taliban are zealously pressing for its return, which England staunchly refuses.

A lively, well-researched history of lust for wealth and power.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63557-076-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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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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