Gimlet-eyed, ethically poised history: readers will have plenty to think about the next time they visit one of those...




Former CBS News producer Moran examines the broken promises that led to abysmal conditions in the New England textile mills and then to sharp retaliatory responses by their workers.

Thanks to the industrial spying of Francis Cabot Lowell and the mechanical inventiveness of Paul Moody, New England became the textile center of the world in the early 19th century. At first, mill towns like Moodus, Connecticut, Manchester, New Hampshire, and Lowell, Massachusetts, displayed a measure of social enlightenment, offering their workers adequate if hardly sumptuous boardinghouses, libraries, evening lectures (Emerson and Thoreau might be on the ticket), and music. But as Moran explains, soon the “aging mill owners in Boston grasped at the steady dividends they awarded themselves and their stockholders and let slip away the credo of social responsibility.” You needn't be a radical (and the author isn't; he plays on a level field) to find reprehensible the resulting cuts in wages, failure to keep technology current, decline in housing stock, and insidious introduction of child labor, all of which made mill work increasingly dangerous both physically and emotionally. Moran traces the demographic evolution of mill workers, from young New England women when the mills started in the 1820s to Irish on the run from the 1845–49 potato famine, French Canadians whose land gave out after that, and Eastern and Southern European laborers by the end of the 19th century. He charts their ethnic warfare and moments of solidarity, the growth of labor unions (and the vital importance of women in this development), and the great Lawrence strike of 1912. He also follows the mill owners’ subsequent flight to the South, cheap labor, and a union-free environment, a process all but complete by 1950.

Gimlet-eyed, ethically poised history: readers will have plenty to think about the next time they visit one of those prettily restored mill museums. (8-page photo insert)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-312-30183-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2002

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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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