A fresh, lucid distillation of Wood’s vast learning about the origins of American government.

POWER AND LIBERTY

CONSTITUTIONALISM IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION

The Pulitzer and Bancroft winner delivers another masterful book of Revolutionary War–era history.

No historian knows more about the founding years of the U.S. than Wood. In his latest, he once again demonstrates his characteristic clarity in an examination of the origins and growth of American constitutional principles from the Stamp Act crisis of 1765 into the 19th century, “the most creative period of consti­tutionalism in American history and one of the most creative in modern Western history.” This introduction to the formative half-century of American history maintains a taut focus on the nation’s early constitutional development. While that emphasis comes at the cost of attention to social realities, the author sharply clarifies the stages that the founding generation went through to create their governments and the struggles to understand what they were doing. To Wood, American’s growing realization during and after the Revolution that they had to discard the Articles of Confederation for a new frame of government constituted “a momen­tous change, and one not at all anticipated in 1776.” As the author notes, it created “a radically new government altogether—one that utterly transformed the structure of central authority.” In what’s likely to be the most controversial aspect of the book, Wood finds the origins of this transformation not in an economic and social crisis prior to 1787 but rather in the maturation of American constitutional thought. The author shows that the Constitution didn’t arise out of social and economic turmoil; instead, it emerged from constitutional, legal, and structural realities as well as innovative thought. Wood’s argument is the most potent in the brilliant two chapters on the judiciary and the distinction between public and private spheres of life. While he may receive criticism for overlooking much of the social and cultural history produced by other historians, no one will be able to ignore the power of his arguments.

A fresh, lucid distillation of Wood’s vast learning about the origins of American government.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-19-754691-8

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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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 cogent overview of the court’s crucial role, the application of which is sure to be discussed among scholars.

THE AUTHORITY OF THE COURT AND THE PERIL OF POLITICS

Why the Supreme Court deserves the public’s trust.

Based on his 2021 lecture at Harvard Law School, Supreme Court Justice Breyer offers a selected history of court cases, a defense of judicial impartiality, and recommendations for promoting the public’s respect for and acceptance of the role of the judiciary in the future. The author regrets that many Americans see the justices as “unelected political officials or ‘junior varsity’ politicians themselves, rather than jurists,” asserting that “nearly all” justices apply “the basic same interpretive tools” to decide a case: “They will consider the statute’s text, its history, relevant legal tradition, precedents, the statute’s purposes (or the values that underlie it), and the relevant consequences.” Although Breyer maintains that all try to avoid the influence of ideology or political philosophy, he acknowledges that suggesting “a total and clean divorce between the Court and politics is not quite right either,” since a justice’s background, education, and experiences surely affect their views, especially when considering the consequences of a decision. The judicial process, Breyer explains, begins as a conference held once or twice each week where substantive discussion leads to preliminary conclusions. Sometimes, in order to find a majority, the court will take a minimalist perspective, allowing those who differ “on the broader legal questions to come together in answering narrower ones.” Noting that, in 2016, only 1 in 4 Americans could name the three branches of federal government, Breyer suggests a revival of civics education in schools so that students can learn how government works and what the rule of law is. He believes that confidence in government will result from citizens’ participation in public life: by voting, taking part in local governance such as school boards, and resolving their differences through argument, debate, cooperation, and compromise, all of which are “the embodiment of the democratic ideal.”

A cogent overview of the court’s crucial role, the application of which is sure to be discussed among scholars.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-674-26936-1

Page Count: 104

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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