The Longstreet episode is one of the best in the book, which covers ground well discussed elsewhere in the historical...

THE BLOODY SHIRT

TERROR AFTER APPOMATTOX

Serviceable overview of vigilante violence in the Reconstruction-era South and its victims.

Historians have long observed that emancipation was a half-gesture: Scarcely any provision was made for the freed slaves, and it was all too easy for former owners to proclaim—as one of those who people military historian Budiansky’s pages does—that freed slaves would not be paid wages for doing the same work as they did while in bondage. “You shall work for me as you have heretofore,” the owner told the manumitted slaves, “and I will give you the same treatment you have always had, the same quantity and quality of food, and the same amount of clothing.” The victorious federal government set to work with 40-acres-and-a-mule schemes, instituting Reconstruction and appointing military and civilian governors throughout the South, some of them black. Defeated Southerners mounted resistance through groups such as, most famously, the KKK. Other groups operated at the local level, as with one self-described “committee” that warned that an Englishman who rented Louisiana land to freedmen would be punished by being burned out: the gin house first, the rest of the place next. “If that don’t break it up, we will break your neck,” the committee warned. How the Englishman responded we do not know, but Budiansky (Her Majesty’s Spymaster: Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Walsingham, and the Birth of Modern Espionage, 2005, etc.) tracks the fortunes of several Reconstruction appointees, as well as those of the renowned Confederate general James Longstreet, who took time to remind the guerrillas that their cause had, in fact, been defeated, adding, “These issues expired upon the fields last occupied by the Confederate armies. There they should have been buried.” Longstreet’s intercession did not make Reconstruction any easier—and, writes Budiansky, the general suffered terribly for having voiced such views.

The Longstreet episode is one of the best in the book, which covers ground well discussed elsewhere in the historical literature.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-670-01840-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2007

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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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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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