Readers may question whether the 1619 election deeply influenced our institutions, but it was the first, and Horn has...

1619

JAMESTOWN AND THE FORGING OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY

The president of the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation weighs in on a significant year in American history.

Two events in Virginia in 1619 laid the foundations of our democracy, writes Horn (A Kingdom Strange: The Brief and Tragic History of the Lost Colony of Roanoke, 2010, etc.) in a well-researched, insightful history that will persuade some readers that he is on to something. Jamestown was a business venture of London’s Virginia Company, which sent men in 1607 to find riches as the Spanish had in Mexico and Peru. None turned up, and, unprepared to work, most of the explorers died of starvation and disease. Giving up the search, the company sent those willing to settle in the region. Farms and towns spread, but local officials handled this with much favoritism and corruption, and company shareholders saw no profits. After years of frustration, the company issued reforms aimed at “nothing less than the founding of a new type of society…built on good government, just laws, Protestant morality, and rewards for everyone who invested or settled in the colony….In Virginia, commonwealth theory guided the leadership’s approach to every facet of the emerging colony.” This included a General Assembly consisting of two members elected from each borough. The assembly met in 1619, transacted business for a few weeks, and then dissolved. Almost simultaneously, two privateers docked with a load of Africans who were set to work as slaves, the first to arrive. These events were soon obscured by the chaos of an Indian war; the Virginia Company was abolished in 1624, and Virginia itself was governed by a small (but elected) oligarchy until the 20th century.

Readers may question whether the 1619 election deeply influenced our institutions, but it was the first, and Horn has expertly illuminated a little-known era following Jamestown’s settlement.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-465-06469-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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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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Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

1776

A master storyteller’s character-driven account of a storied year in the American Revolution.

Against world systems, economic determinist and other external-cause schools of historical thought, McCullough (John Adams, 2001, etc.) has an old-fashioned fondness for the great- (and not-so-great) man tradition, which may not have much explanatory power but almost always yields better-written books. McCullough opens with a courteous nod to the customary villain in the story of American independence, George III, who turns out to be a pleasant and artistically inclined fellow who relied on poor advice; his Westmoreland, for instance, was a British general named Grant who boasted that with 5,000 soldiers he “could march from one end of the American continent to the other.” Other British officers agitated for peace, even as George wondered why Americans would not understand that to be a British subject was to be free by definition. Against these men stood arrayed a rebel army that was, at the least, unimpressive; McCullough observes that New Englanders, for instance, considered washing clothes to be women’s work and so wore filthy clothes until they rotted, with the result that Burgoyne and company had a point in thinking the Continentals a bunch of ragamuffins. The Americans’ military fortunes were none too good for much of 1776, the year of the Declaration; at the slowly unfolding battle for control over New York, George Washington was moved to despair at the sight of sometimes drunk soldiers running from the enemy and of their officers “who, instead of attending to their duty, had stood gazing like bumpkins” at the spectacle. For a man such as Washington, to be a laughingstock was the supreme insult, but the British were driven by other motives than to irritate the general—not least of them reluctance to give up a rich, fertile and beautiful land that, McCullough notes, was providing the world’s highest standard of living in 1776.

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-2671-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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