THE GREAT DEMOCRACIES

A HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH-SPEAKING PEOPLES, VOLUME IV

A tremendous achievement, this four volume history of the countries that comprise the English speaking peoples of the globe. And this, the final volume, must in many ways have been the most difficult of all to write, for here, compressed into less than 400 pages, is a century which saw the British Empire come to fulfillment; the United States emerge from colonialism into a nation forged by fire; India, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand round out a pattern, two through successive uprisings, "minor" wars, seething unrest, the other two from raw frontiers, dumps for the scum of streets and prisons, into self- sufficient areas with vast undeveloped wealth and progress before them. And Canada-from the Maritime Provinces whence came lumber for the mother country's navy, to British Columbia, with immense untouched wilderness in between - begins to take shape as an entity capable of expansion and cohesion and a pride of identity. The scope of the volume precludes its providing the sense of intimate drama and human interest to the extent of the earlier books. But the grasp of the sense of history in the building, of the English speaking peoples encompassing the globe, of the warp and woof in the texture of drive, imagination, persistence, dogged courage that went into this achievement have enormous drama of their own. One on the outside, racing through these vivid pages, may well find critical judgment in abeyance. For here indeed is the man who did not become the king's first minister to preside over the dismemberment of the empire, telling in his inimitable way the story of that empire. That politics and man's venality, that violence and inhumanity and greed, all went into that building is implicit, not glossed over. But that a great conception of a goal, an ideal was a part of the plan- this too comes through and gives any English speaking reader a sense of shared achievement in the record. This rounds out a great work, but stands firmly on its own.

Pub Date: March 17, 1958

ISBN: 0760768609

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Dodd, Mead

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1958

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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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