An ambitious, scholarly study of the societal complications of energy extraction.



An exploration of the effects of intensive coal mining on the evolution of East Asian energy systems.

In his debut book, Seow, a historian and assistant professor at Harvard University, examines the effects of fossil fuel energy on global Chinese and Japanese markets in the early to mid-20th century. His analysis of Japan’s modern industrialization centers specifically on a “colossal open pit” in Fushun, China—a locale the author repeatedly visited—which was the former site of East Asia’s largest coal-mining operation. His extensive research probes the rise of fossil fuel use in East Asia and globally, showing how it was used to realize industrialization goals; he also argues that it was used as a means to strengthen socialist states. Seow sees the steep increase in coal-mining operations as related to a trio of modern industrialization objectives: the technological taming of nature, the mechanization of labor, and the voracious pursuit of production. He also assesses why the fossil fuel transition occurred and how our increasing dependency on this type of energy comes with numerous societal and environmental ramifications, including regional ecological deterioration and terrible labor conditions. Seow builds his thesis with extensive source materials, including illustrations, travelogues, coal miners’ oral histories, mining engineers’ testimonials, and company records. Impressive in scope, the book begins in 1927 and concludes with Seow’s analysis in the 1960s at the height of Communist China’s Great Leap Forward, in which industrial and economic stimulation came at the expense of the health, safety, and longevity of citizens. Overall, Seow’s prose is accessible and his research soundly delivered. However, the book is not a casual read; although it’s immensely informative and comprehensive, it’s essentially an academic text, dense with statistical data, cultural and geopolitical analysis, historical examination, and industry analysis. Still, the book is not only an erudite history, but also—perhaps most critically—an urgent call for environmental intervention, as when Seow laments that “unless radical transformations take place,” his offspring’s generation will inherit the “world that carbon made, so deeply despoiled and unjust.”  

An ambitious, scholarly study of the societal complications of energy extraction.

Pub Date: April 8, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-226-72199-6

Page Count: 376

Publisher: Univ. of Chicago

Review Posted Online: April 19, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2022

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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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