A reminder, for general readers, of the high stakes at risk in the Revolution, and of the chance turns that changed the...



19 OCTOBER 1781

For anyone betting on the outcome of the American Revolution in October 1780, the smart money would have been on King George. A year later, against all the odds, Britain was vanquished—a turnabout that forms the lively subject here.

Historian Hallahan bookends his The Day the Revolution Began: 19 April 1775 (2000) with this popular study of tides turned and heroes made and unmade. He begins in November 1780 with the turncoat Benedict Arnold’s revelation of a “master plan for personally finishing the revolution”—namely, by seizing Philadelphia with a force of redcoats and American loyalists, burning the Continental Army’s supplies and ships, and hauling the Revolution’s leaders in chains across the ocean to stand tall before the king. For whatever reason, Sir Henry Clinton, Arnold’s commanding officer, chose not to accept Arnold’s offer, instead committing him, and the forces of Cornwallis and other British commanders, to a safer course of warfare that entailed comparatively little risk. That strategy, Hallahan suggests, was a mistake. (Certainly Cornwallis thought so; after the war was over, he wrote a scornful memoir blaming Clinton for the loss of the colonies.) Clinton’s failure to seize the initiative against a weakened rebel army roughly coincided with the reversal of fortunes in the South, where revolutionary forces were now crushing loyalist guerrillas and regular British troops. The emboldened rebels eventually broke Cornwallis’s southern flank, and the British general found himself cooped up on the heights of Yorktown, where he, too, failed to break out when the opportunity presented itself. Cornwallis’s surrender on October 19, 1781, effectively brought the Revolutionary War to an end. Hallahan defuses the drama a little by ending not with British officers weeping in shame at their defeat, but instead with an appendix reporting the postwar fortunes of the principal players—material that might have been better woven into the main narrative.

A reminder, for general readers, of the high stakes at risk in the Revolution, and of the chance turns that changed the course of the game.

Pub Date: Dec. 17, 2003

ISBN: 0-471-26240-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Wiley

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2003

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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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