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John D. Cofield
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Childhood at Court 1819-1914
Childhood at Court 1819-1914
by John Van der Kiste
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.56
17 used & new from CDN$ 5.77

5.0 out of 5 stars An Uncommon View of Royalty, July 13 2004
Childhood at Court is an entertaining look at the lives of royal children at the British Court from 1819 to 1914, roughly the lifespan of Queen Victoria and her son Edward VII. There have been innumerable biographies of Queen Victoria and her children, but none that have focussed only on their childhoods. This book therefore fills a gap, and does so with an interesting, fresh style which makes use of plenty of anecdotes, some well known, others more obscure. I was interested to come across some of these stories, because I have read many histories and biographies of the period, and many of Van der Kiste's anecdotes were brand new. Both Queen Victoria and her son Edward VII had childhoods best described as dysfunctional, but its interesting to see how the future king seems to have learned from his parents' mistakes and given his own children a happier upbringing. Queen Victoria also seems to have mellowed as she grew older, and its nice to read about the antics her younger grandchildren and great-grandchildren were allowed to get away with, like slapping the Queen's hand and saying "Naughty Grandmamma!!"
This is a nice addition to anyone's library of books about royals or books about children.

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World
by Jack Weatherford
Edition: Hardcover
12 used & new from CDN$ 5.48

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It All Started With the Mongols, July 7 2004
This is a dual biography, of Genghis Khan the man and of the empire he created. Born Temujin in an obscure branch of an obscure group of nomads in Central Asia, Genghis Khan first gained supreme power over the Mongols, whom he unified and turned into a superb fighting machine, then proceeded to conquer much of Eurasia. Weatherford occasionally has to refute some romantic legends that have grown up around Genghis Khan and his family, but the truth is dynamic enough.
Of especial interest is Weatherford's coverage of the after effects of Genghis Khan's empire. The Mongol Empire lasted for only about a century, but its influence lingers on. Cross regional trade tied Europe, Asia, and the Middle East motightly together than ever before. An efficient communications system enabled information to spread at an unprecedented pace. So much of what we regard as essential accoutrements of our modern world can be traced back to the Mongols.
Yes, the stories of Mongol cruelty and ruthlessness are accurate and Weatherford fully covers them, but this book makes clear that without the Mongol influence, our world today might be much poorer.

The Lost King of France: A True Story of Revolution, Revenge, and DNA
The Lost King of France: A True Story of Revolution, Revenge, and DNA
by Deborah Cadbury
Edition: Hardcover
21 used & new from CDN$ 1.67

5.0 out of 5 stars DNA and History: Providing Long Lost Answers, July 5 2004
Deborah Cadbury has reopened an old mystery: what happened to King Louis XVII, the child of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, who was born to luxury in Versailles Palace, then became a victim of the French Revolution, moving from palace to prison and losing his parents, sister, aunt, and finally his own life.
The book begins with a summary of the main events of the Revolution as they affected young Louis-Charles, the Dauphin, who was only four when the Bastille was stormed. Over the next four years Louis-Charles lost his possessions and his family. He was kept in prison, brutalized by the guards and deprived of the companionship of his older sister. He remembered his mother and brought flowers to her cell door months after her execution. His death at the age of about ten must have been a merciful release.
The next part of the book deals with the odyssey of the Dauphin's heart, which was spirited out of the prison by one of the doctors who examined the boy's body. We also learn of the many pretenders who claimed to be the Dauphin and of the pain they caused Marie-Therese, the only surviving child of Louis XVI.
Finally, we learn how the process of determining the real identity of the heart through DNA analysis developed in the 1990s. After reading of the travails little Louis-Charles endured in prison, it is comforting to know that at long last we know his ultimate fate, thanks to learning and technology undreamed of in his own time.

Hating America: The New World Sport
Hating America: The New World Sport
by John Gibson
Edition: Hardcover
21 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1.0 out of 5 stars Bustling Ignorance, June 22 2004
I have to start my review with a paraphrased quote from Goethe "A bustling ignorance is truly frightening" because it is truly applicable to this work. Mr. Gibson begins his diatribe with a description of the experiences of a friend of his in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. After such a beginning, one would expect the next chapters to deal with Al Qaeda, or Sadaam Hussein, or the Taliban. Actually the next chapter deals with . . . France! Mr. Gibson then goes on to blast Germany, Britain, Arabs and Muslims in general without discrimination, the cunningly nicknamed Axis of Envy (Canada, South Korea, and Belgium, well known rogue terrorist states), before finally moving on to his real target, the Democratic Party.
Make no mistake, this is not a study of anti-American feelings in the world, but a political work designed to rally the troops around an increasingly beleaguered Administration by using that well known McCarthyite tactic of demonizing its enemies.
Mr. Gibson ignores or mitigates the Bush Administration's missteps, blunders, and lies. He sneers at those who have honest differences of opinion with the Administration's policies, here and abroad, and characterizes debate as treason. These are sentiments one would expect to be aired by propagandists for dictatorships, not by journalists in a democracy.
Here in the US we have unfortunately come to recognize this sort of name calling and distortion as the norm in our politics. It is to be hoped that European and Asian readers of Mr. Gibson's diatribe will realize that not all Americans have forgotten the blanket of flowers in front of the US Embassy in Paris on September 12, 2001, or the throngs of weeping people waving US flags in Asian and European cities, or the sound of "The Star Spangled Banner" being played in front of Buckingham Palace, or the activation of NATO's mutual defense agreements for the first time that dark September.
Mr. Gibson wants the US to forget that outpouring of good will and love, and also the widespread international support we had in the invasion of Afghanistan that fall. He wants us to forget all that, because if we remember it, the obvious question to ask is "Why does the Administration of the most powerful nation on earth have so little international credibility?" The answer to that question cannot be found by making snide attacks on other nations or by smearing the political opposition at home, but through the recognition that the Administration in question is badly flawed and deserves to be replaced.

Gunpowder: Alchemy, Bombards, And Pyrotechnics: The History Of The Explosive That Changed The World
Gunpowder: Alchemy, Bombards, And Pyrotechnics: The History Of The Explosive That Changed The World
by Jack Kelly
Edition: Hardcover
17 used & new from CDN$ 10.70

5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating History, June 13 2004
Gunpowder is the sort of history book that should be written more often: it shows the larger history of the world through the story of one small, but highly important, component. In this case that component is, of course, gunpowder. Jack Kelly traces the history of this material from China through the Middle East into Europe and the rest of the world. Kelly explains the different ways in which gunpowder changed the course of events. He gives vignettes of battles like Crecy and the Siege of Petersburg to illustrate the important role gunpowder weapons played. Along the way he drops fascinating little nuggets of material, like the real reason Joan of Arc was a success, that are intriguing enough to encourage further study.
Kelly is not a professional historian but a novelist, and his writing flows smoothly. He does not bother with footnotes, but he does provide a good summary of his sources (which are excellent) at the end. This is a book which will be well worth the reading and many subsequent rereadings.

Colossus: The Price of America's Empire
Colossus: The Price of America's Empire
by Niall Ferguson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 23.83
56 used & new from CDN$ 1.01

4.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting View Of Imperialism, June 9 2004
Niall Ferguson has made quite a name for himself by taking a counterfactual view of subjects like World War I and the British Empire. In Colossus he maintains that the US is imperialistic, should not be ashamed of being imperialistic, and in fact should be encouraged to be even more imperialistic, both now in Iraq and in the future as well.
As in Empire, his history of the British Empire, Ferguson believes that imperialism, particularly what he calls liberal imperialism, is highly desirable in that it provides stable governments and institutions. There seem to be some blind spots n his view, however. Ferguson claims that imperialism is needed to overcome the multitudinous problems of the Third World. But weren't many of those problems caused by imperialism in the first place? Ferguson also claims that earlier imperialists went out and imperialized in order to do good, citing a quote from Toynbee as evidence. Of course its always nice to claim that you are doing something for someone else's own good, but most of the time people see through it pretty quickly. Ferguson also dismisses the original governments and societies of areas that were imperialized as being ineffective and impractical, but surely the people living under them would not necessarily agree.
There are many other holes that can be poked in Ferguson's arguments, but even so the book is well written and highly thought provoking. It ought to be read at this moment, when the question of American involvement in Iraq and elsewhere is in many people's minds.

To Serve Them All My Days Complete Set
To Serve Them All My Days Complete Set
DVD ~ John Duttine
Price: CDN$ 62.99
20 used & new from CDN$ 55.46

5.0 out of 5 stars Heartwarming And Inspiring, June 9 2004
To Serve Them All My Days is a BBC production originally shown on Masterpiece Theater in the early 1980s. I saw it then and admired the wonderful acting, the lovely settings, and the excellent story. I am so glad it is finally available on DVD.
The story revolves around young David Powlett-Jones, a shell shocked and wounded veteran of World War I who is hired to teach history at Bamfylde School in the last days of the war. David is from a Welsh coal mining family, and he has strong socialist convictions as well as a large chip on his shoulder about the priviledged youths and men he now finds himself among. This is a subtext that runs throughout the series, but the primary story deals with David's growing self confidence and abilities. There is also a romantic subtext, with David being involved with three women, a wife who dies tragically, a brief fling with another woman, and finally a second wife who is both upper class and a Labour politician, thus combining the two disparate elements in David's life.
John Duttine is wonderful as the star of the series, but there is an excellent supporting cast led hy Frank Middlemass and Alan MacNaughton. Another nice aspect is the depiction of Bamfylde School itself, giving us Americans a pretty good idea of life in a British public school.

Sleeping with the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude
Sleeping with the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude
by Robert Baer
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.16
63 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Bluntly Informative, June 6 2004
Robert Baer does not mince words. In Sleeping With the Devil he forcefully describes the United States' long tangled relationship with what must be one of the most dysfunctional states in the world: Saudi Arabia. A former CIA agent, Baer served for many years and was well positioned to observe the nation long touted as our best friend in the Middle East. He describes in chilling detail the corruption surrounding the House of Saud and the growing unrest and poverty that afflicts a kingdom whose citizens would be among the best off in the world if they had a decent government.
There's plenty of blame to go around, and Baer shovels it out left and right, starting with Franklin Roosevelt and the Americans who made the original oil deals with the Saudis in the 1930s and 1940s, through Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II.
When you finish reading this book, you are left with the uncomfortable realization that the Western economy rests in large part in the hands of a group of playboys who govern a country which is growing increasingly restless. This book will help you understand why so many of the 9-11 hijackers were Saudis, and why Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda have such wide appeal. You will also realize that even if we do manage to pull out of Iraq without much more bloodloss, we are most likely only at the beginning of what promises to be an extraordinarily violent period of heavy involvement in the Middle East. Thanks to Baer, those who read his book will at least have the comfort of being able to say "I saw it coming!"

The Republican Noise Machine: Right-Wing Media and How It Corrupts Democracy
The Republican Noise Machine: Right-Wing Media and How It Corrupts Democracy
by David Brock
Edition: Hardcover
38 used & new from CDN$ 0.28

5.0 out of 5 stars An Insider's View Of The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, June 5 2004
David Brock knows whereof he speaks, having been a highly paid member of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. Fortunately for the country, he has changed his ways and is now seeking to make amends for the damage he and his former cohorts have done. The Republican Noise Machine, like its predecessor Blinded By The Right, gives names, dates, and places in stunning detail of the ways in which the Right Wing has seized control of a significant portion of the media resources of our nation. Using their access to the airwaves to spew propaganda, the Right Wing has sought to set the political agenda of this country as effectively as Goebbels managed the Third Reich's news organs. To a frightening extent, they have succeeded so well that truly "fair and balanced" reporting is threatened. Brock gives example after example of how dissenting points of view are drowned out or squeezed to the sidelines, how the party line is set by the powerful and transmitted verbatim to the faithful, and how ruthlessly opposition is squelched. The true victims,besides the truth itself, are the honest, honorable citizens who are misled and manipulated.
Fortunately, Brock and a few other brave souls have taken on the job of exposing this power hungry, hypocritical media machine. With daylight, it is to be hoped, the shadows threatening us will withdraw.

Rewriting History
Rewriting History
by Dick Morris
Edition: Hardcover
46 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1.0 out of 5 stars Same Song, Seventy Seventh Verse, June 5 2004
This review is from: Rewriting History (Hardcover)
Contributing to the hate Clinton oeuvre must be considerably simpler now than it was just a few years ag. There have been so many publications (one hesitates to call them books) dedicated to the proposition that Bill and Hillary Clinton are devil's spawn or worse that it is now a simple matter to create another. Just comb through the others, rearrange the charges, insinuations, and generalizations, add a few more if you are so inclined and voila, Regnery or Newsmax or some similar publishing company will be lining up to print it.
All this is by way of saying that Rewriting History is yet another hatchet job on Senator Hillary Clinton. She can't do right, every thing she does do has a political motive, she is treacherous, etc, etc. Most of Rewriting History is devoted to categorizing the numerous times Senator Clinton has not told the truth. Now it seems to me that being a politician more or less precludes honesty, I'm sorry to say, but having said that I also need to point out that nothing Hillary Clinton has said that is supposedly untrue is all that important anyway. Who cares if she played soccer in high school or not? Yes, it would be wonderful if she always told the truth, but I don't see anything too unusual in these supposed misstatements. In fact, I would be willing to bet that any other politician (even the sainted W himself) would be found to have a pretty long record of untruthful statements if he were subjected to the same sort of sanctimonious, self-righteous scrutiny the Senator and her husband have been under for the last quarter century or so.
This brings up another charge made against the Senator, that she is paranoid and highly suspicious of The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. Well, pardon me, but isn't there a pretty large amount of evidence to substantiate a certain feeling of "they're out to get us" on the part of the Clinton family? And if paranoia disqualifies one from public office, then a large portion of the Extreme Right Wing in this country is therefore unelectable (would that it were so!)
Another aspect of this work worthy of mention is the cleverness with which Morris makes dark insinuations against the Senator. For example, he mentions that she worked in the law offices of Robert Treuhaft for a time in the 1970s, and Treuhaft and his wife Jessica Mitford were (gasp) COMMUNISTS back in the 1950s. This is no big secret, Mitford having written a couple of books about her political activities, but mentioning it in this book is a tactic worthy of old Tailgunner Joe McCarthy himself. This Mitford connection, by the way, could also be used to claim that Senator Clinton wants to be in with the British aristocracy or with Fascists (Mitford was daughter of a Lord and sister-in-law of a Duke and of the former leader of the British Fascists.) Mr. Morris overlooked these insinuations, but perhaps he can work them in to a second edition, if there is one.
Personally, I have no strong feelings about Senator Clinton's fitness to be President. If she ever runs for that office, I intend to spend a lot of time examining her record and evaluating her campaign. But one thing that inclines me to be sympathetic to her is the volume and odiousness of the campaign against her as exemplified by works like Rewriting History. There is an old saying that you are known by your enemies. Senator Clinton is undoubtedly proud to have enemies like Mr. Morris and his ilk.

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