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Last update: 2013-06-28

Daniel Kilbride, “Being American in Europe: 1750-1860″

2013-06-28 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

When Americans go overseas, they know just who they are–Americans. But what was it like for a citizen of the United States to go abroad before there was a clear idea of what an “American” was? This is one (among many) of the fascinating questions Daniel Kilbride addresses in his equally fascinating book Being American in Europe: 1750-1860 [...] …

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Elizabeth Foster, “Faith in Empire: Religion, Politics, and Colonial Rule in French Senegal, 1880–1940″

2013-06-26 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

[Cross-posted from New Books in French Studies] How did French colonial administrators, missionaries, and different groups of Africans interact with one another in colonial Senegal? In her new book, Faith in Empire: Religion, Politics, and Colonial Rule in French Senegal, 1880–1940 (Stanford University Press, 2013), historian Elizabeth Foster draws on a wealth of archival material to reveal the interests and negotiations [...] …

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Lawrence R. Samuel, “Shrink: A Cultural History of Psychoanalysis in America”

2013-06-20 :: New Books Network

Before the Second World War, very few Americans visited psychologists or psychiatrists. Today, millions and millions of Americans do. How did seeing a “shrink” become, quite suddenly, a typical part of the “American Experience?” In his fascinating book Shrink: A Cultural History of Psychoanalysis in America (Nebraska University Press, 2013), Lawrence R. Samuel examines the arrival, remarkable growth, and [...] …

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Christopher Browning, “Remembering Survival: Inside a Nazi Slave Labor Camp”

2013-06-18 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

[Cross-posted from New Books in Genocide Studies] Christopher Browning is one of the giants in the field of Holocaust Studies.  He has contributed vitally to at least two of the basic debates in the field:  the intentionalist/functionalist discussion about when, why and how the Germans decided to annihilate the Jews of Europe, and the question of why individual [...] …

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Logan Beirne, “Blood of Tyrants: George Washington & the Forging of the Presidency”

2013-06-14 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

You sometimes see bumper stickers that say “What would Jesus do?”  It’s a good question, at least for Christians. You don’t see bumper stickers that say “What would Washington do?”  But that, Logan Beirne says, is a question Americans should be asking. In Blood of Tyrants: George Washington & the Forging of the Presidency (Encounter Books, [...] …

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Michael Burlingame, “Abraham Lincoln: A Life”

2013-06-12 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

[Cross-posted from New Books in American Studies] What can be gained from another biography of Abraham Lincoln? A lot, it turns out. Michael Burlingame has been researching the life and times of Abraham Lincoln during his entire career as a historian. As he explains in this interview, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Paperback; Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013) is based on decades [...] …

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Prasannan Parthasarathi, “Why Europe Grew Rich and Asia Did Not: Global Economic Divergence, 1600-1850″

2013-06-07 :: New Books Network

It’s a classic historical question: Why the West and not the Rest? Answers abound. So is there anything new to say about it? According to Prasannan Parthasarathi, there certainly is. He doesn’t go so far as to say that other proposed explanations are flat out wrong, it’s just that they don’t really focus on the narrow forces that, [...] …

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Martin A. Miller, “The Foundations of Modern Terrorism: State, Society, and the Dynamics of Political Violence”

2013-05-31 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

Terrorism seems like the kind of thing that has existed since the beginning of states some 5,000 years ago. Understood in one, narrow way–as what we call “insurgency”–it probably has. But modern terrorism is, well, modern as Martin A. Miller explains in The Foundations of Modern Terrorism: State, Society, and the Dynamics of Political Violence (Cambridge University Press, [...] …

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Fabio Lanza, “Behind the Gate: Inventing Students in Beijing”

2013-05-30 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

[Cross-posted from New Books in East Asian Studies] The history of modern China is bound up with that of student politics. In Behind the Gate: Inventing Students in Beijing (Columbia University Press, 2010), Fabio Lanza offers a masterfully researched, elegantly written, and thoughtful consideration of the emergence of “students” as a category in twentieth-century China. Urging us to move away from [...] …

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Mary Louise Roberts, “What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American GI in World War II France”

2013-05-24 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

[Cross-posted from New Books in French Studies] Tracking soldiers from the villages and towns of Northern France, to the “Silver Foxhole” of Paris, to tribunals that convicted a disproportionate number of African-American soldiers of rape, Mary Louise Roberts’ latest book reveals a side of the Liberation of 1944-45 that is typically obscured in histories of [...] …

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Christian Caryl, “Strange Rebels: 1979 and the Birth of the 21st Century”

2013-05-20 :: New Books Network

What do Margaret Thatcher, Ayatollah Khomeini, Deng Xiaoping, and Pope John Paul II have in common? At first thought, you wouldn’t think much. But according to Christian Caryl, they were all radicals who began to change the world in 1979. In Strange Rebels:1979 and the Birth of the 21st Century (Basic Books, 2013), Caryl argues that these very [...] …

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Kathleen J. Frydl, “The War on Drugs in America, 1940-1973″

2013-05-09 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

In 1971, President Richard Nixon declared a “War on Drugs.” We are still fighting that war today. According to many people, we’ve lost but don’t know it. Rates of drug use in the US remain, by historical standards, high and our prisons are full of people–many of whom are hardly drug kingpins–who have violated drug [...] …

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Lance R. Blyth, “Chiricahua and Janos: Communities of Violence in the Southwestern Borderlands, 1680-1880″

2013-05-02 :: New Books Network

Most people today think of war–or really violence of any sort–as for the most part useless. It’s better, we say, just to talk things out or perhaps buy our enemies off. And that usually works. But what if you lived in a culture where fighting was an important part of social status and earning a [...] …

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Joshua Bloom and Waldo Martin, “Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party”

2013-04-26 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

[Cross-posted from New Books in African American Studies] German military theorist Carl Von Clausewitz observed that many of the important variables in war exist in ‘clouds of great uncertainty’ which create disconnects and confusion that persist even after the fighting has ended. The conflict between the Black Panther Party and the United States government is [...] …

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Richard Rashke, “Useful Enemies: John Demjanjuk and America’s Open-Door Policy for Nazi War Criminals”

2013-04-19 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

You may have heard of a fellow named Ivan or John Demjanuik. He made the news–repeatedly over a 30 year period– because he was, as many people probably remember, a Nazi war criminal nick-named “Ivan the Terrible” for his brutal treatment of Jews (and others) in the Sobibor death camp. The trouble is, as Richard Rashke points [...] …

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Azar Gat, “Nations: The Long History and Deep Roots of Political Ethnicity and Nationalism”

2013-04-09 :: New Books Network

When I went to college long ago, everyone had to read Marx and Engels’ Communist Manifesto (1848). I think I read it in half-a-dozen classes. Today Marx is out.  Benedict Anderson, however, is in. You’d be hard-pressed to get a college degree without reading or at least hearing about his book Imagined Communities: Reflections on the [...] …

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Nicholas Popper, “Walter Ralegh’s History of the World and the Historical Culture of the Late Renaissance”

2013-04-01 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

Nicholas Popper’s new book is a thoughtfully crafted and rich contribution to early modern studies, to the history of history, and to the history of science. Walter Ralegh’s History of the World and the Historical Culture of the Late Renaissance (University of Chicago Press, 2012) takes readers into the texture of Walter Ralegh’s masterwork and [...] …

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Mary Heimann, “Czechoslovakia: The State That Failed”

2013-03-27 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

Americans love Prague. They visit and have even moved there in considerable numbers. They like the place for a lot of reasons. One is that Prague is a very beautiful city. But another is that the Czech Republic has a widespread repuation in the U.S. (and more generally, I think) as a very liberal, democratic [...] …

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Melissa R. Klapper, “Ballots, Babies, and Banners of Peace: American Jewish Women’s Activism, 1890-1940″

2013-03-18 :: New Books Network

Many people have probably heard of Betty Friedan, Bela Abzug, Gloria Steinem, and Andrea Dworkin, all stars of Second Wave Feminism. They were also all Jewish (by heritage if not faith). As Melissa R. Klapper shows in her new book Ballots, Babies, and Banners of Peace: American Jewish Women’s Activism, 1890-1940 (New York University Press, 2013), this was no accident. Freidan et [...] …

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Joy Wiltenburg, “Crime & Culture in Early Modern Germany”

2013-03-11 :: New Books Network

Many people complain about sensationalism in the press. If a man slaughters his entire family, a jilted lover kills her erstwhile boyfriend, or a high school student murders several of his classmates, it’s going to be “all over the news.” But it’s hard to blame the press, exclusively at least. Joy Wiltenburg‘s Crime & Culture in [...] …

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Eric Lohr, “Russian Citizenship: From Empire to Soviet Union”

2013-03-05 :: New Books Network

Russians have a reputation for xenophobia, that is, it’s said they don’t much like foreigners. According to Eric Lohr‘s new book, Russian Citizenship: From Empire to Soviet Union (Harvard University Press, 2012), this reputation is at once deserved and undeserved.  It’s true that at various moments in Russian history, foreigners have not been permitted to enter [...] …

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John E. Murray, “The Charleston Orphan House: Children’s Lives in the First Public Orphanage in America”

2013-02-26 :: New Books Network

There were always and will always be orphans. The question is what to do with them. In his terrific new book The Charleston Orphan House: Children’s Lives in the First Public Orphanage in America (University of Chicago Press, 2013), economic historian John E. Murray tells us how one Southern American city did it in the 18th and 19th centuries. [...] …

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Bernard Kelly, “Returning Home: Irish Ex-Servicemen and the Second World War”

2013-02-21 :: New Books Network

The Republic of Ireland (aka The Irish Free State, Éire) declared neutrality during the Second World War. That wasn’t particularly unusual: Portugal  Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland did too. Yet around 60,000 “neutral” Irish volunteered to fight on one side (with the Allies, in this case). That was unusual.  After the war, most of the Irish volunteers remained in the [...] …

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R. M. Douglas, “Orderly and Humane: The Expulsion of the Germans after the Second World War”

2013-02-14 :: New Books Network

I imagine everyone who listens to this podcast knows about the Nazi effort to remake Central and Eastern Europe by expelling and murdering massive numbers of Slavs, Jews, and Gypsies. The results, of course, were catastrophic. Fewer listeners are probably well informed about the Allied effort after the War to remake Central and Eastern Europe [...] …

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Landon Storrs, “The Second Red Scare and the Unmaking of the New Deal Left”

2013-02-04 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

Most people who listen to this podcast will have heard of Joseph McCarthy and HUAC (The House Committee on Un-American Activities). His activities and those of HUAC were, however, only the tip of a very large iceberg. In the 1940s and 1950s, the U.S. government conducted something like a “purge” of federal employees with leftist pasts. Thousands [...] …

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Preston Lauterbach, “The Chitlin’ Circuit and the Road to Rock ‘n’ Roll”

2013-01-15 :: New Books Network

[Cross-posted from New Books in Pop Music] Where does rock ‘n’ roll begin? In The Chitlin’ Circuit and the Road to Rock ‘n’ Roll (W. W. Norton, 2011), Preston Lauterbach makes a strong case for its beginnings in the backwoods and small-town juke joints, fed by big-city racketeering, of the black American South. It begins, [...] …

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Mary Fulbrook, “A Small Town Near Auschwitz: Ordinary Nazis and the Holocaust”

2012-12-19 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

The question of how “ordinary Germans” managed to commit genocide is a classic (and troubling) one in modern historiography. It’s been well studied and so it’s hard to say anything new about it. But Mary Fulbrook has done precisely that in A Small Town Near Auschwitz: Ordinary Nazis and the Holocaust (Oxford University Press, 2012). In the book [...] …

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Ilan Stavans and Steve Sheinkin, “El Iluminado: A Graphic Novel”

2012-12-14 :: New Books Network

Are you looking for a good Hanukkah gift? A good Christmas gift? Heck, any gift? Or maybe you just want to read a terrific book? Well I’ve got just the ticket: Ilan Stavans and Steve Sheinkin‘s, El Iluminado: A Graphic Novel (Basic Books, 2012). Stavans and Scheinkin team up to perform a minor miracle: they not only tell the [...] …

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Sanjay Subrahmanyam, “Courtly Encounters: Translating Courtliness and Violence in Early Modern Eurasia”

2012-12-05 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

Sanjay Subrahmanyam’s new book explores translations across texts, images, and cultural practices in the early modern world. Courtly Encounters: Translating Courtliness and Violence in Early Modern Eurasia (Harvard University Press, 2012) uses three key themes in early modern history – diplomacy, warfare, and visual representation – to show how commensurability across cultures, rather than existing [...] …

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Russell Martin, “A Bride for the Tsar: Bride-Shows and Marriage in Early Modern Russia”

2012-11-29 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

You probably know the story about the king who issues a call for the most beautiful girls in the land to be presented to him as potential brides in a kind of “bride-show.” And you might think this is just a myth. But actually it’s not. As Russell Martin shows in his wonderful A Bride for the Tsar: [...] …

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Catherine Higgs, “Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa”

2012-11-14 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

With elegant and accessible prose, Catherine Higgs takes us on a journey in Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa (Ohio University Press, 2012). It is a fascinating voyage fueled by the correspondence of Joseph Burtt, a man who had helped found a utopian commune before being sent by the chocolate magnate William Cadbury in [...] …

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Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, “The Massacre in Jedwabne, July 10, 1941: Before, During, After”

2012-11-08 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

On July 10, 1941, Poles in the town of Jedwabne together with some number of German functionaries herded nearly 500 Jews into a barn and burnt them alive. In 2000, the sociologist Jan Gross published a book about the subject that, very shortly thereafter, started a huge controversy about Polish participation in the Holocaust. In [...] …

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Anthony Bale, trans., “Sir John Mandeville’s The Book of Marvels and Travels”

2012-11-02 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

Anthony Bale’s new translation of Sir John Mandeville’s classic account is an exciting and engaging text that’s accessible to a wide range of readers. The Book of Marvels and Travels (Oxford University Press, 2012) recounts a fourteenth-century journey across the medieval world, albeit one that was likely written as the result of a voyage through [...] …

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Astrid M. Eckert, “The Struggle for the Files: The Western Allies and the Return of German Archives after the Second World War”

2012-10-23 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

At the end of World War II, the Western Allies seized pretty much every official German document they could find and moved the lot out of Germany and often overseas. They had, effectively, taken the German past. And they kept it for the better part of a decade. Why did they take the records and [...] …

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Jennifer Hall-Witt, “Fashionable Acts: Opera and Elite Culture in London, 1780-1880″

2012-10-16 :: New Books Network

When I was young I liked to go to bars, especially bars where bands were playing. But when I got there, I often didn’t listen very carefully. And in truth, I wasn’t there to see the band; I was there to “make the scene,” which is to say see and be seen by my peers. [...] …

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Jennifer Guglielmo, “Living the Revolution: Italian Women’s Resistance and Radicalism in New York City”

2012-10-10 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

There is exactly one strong woman in the movie “The Godfather,” and she’s not Italian. (It’s “Kay Adams,” played by the least Italian-looking actress alive, Diane Keaton.) Such is the stereotype about Italian women, at least in the U.S. They are always in the background, sometimes cooking for la famiglia, sometimes counting rosary beads, sometimes [...] …

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David Brandenberger, “Propaganda State in Crisis: Soviet Ideology, Indoctrination, and Terror under Stalin”

2012-10-03 :: New Books Network

Though most people would rightly consider capitalists to be the founders and masters of the science of “marketing,” communists had to try their hands at it as well. In the Soviet Union, they had a particularly “hard sell.” The Party promised freedom, peace, and prosperity; it delivered oppression, war, and poverty. So how do make people believe [...] …

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Samuel Morris Brown, “In Heaven as it is on Earth: Joseph Smith and the Early Mormon Conquest of Death”

2012-09-26 :: New Books Network

Every person must confront death; the only question is how that person will do it. In our culture (I speak as an American here), we don’t really do a very good job of it. We face death by fighting it by any and every means at our disposal. Why we do this is hard to [...] …

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Stuart Henderson, “Making the Scene: Yorkville and Hip Toronto in the 1960s”

2012-09-19 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

You’ve probably heard of the Berkeley, The Village, and Haight-Ashbury. That’s where “the scene” was in the late 1960s, right? But have you heard of Yorkville? I hadn’t until I’d read Stuart Henderson‘s terrific social history Making the Scene: Yorkville and Hip Toronto in the 1960s (University of Toronto Press, 2011). Turns out (and, Canadians, pardon my ignorance) [...] …

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James M. Banner, Jr., “Being a Historian: An Introduction to the Professional World of History”

2012-09-07 :: New Books Network

What is a historian? How are they trained? What do they do? What should they do? Are they doing it well? These important questions addressed in James M. Banner, Jr.‘s excellent Being a Historian: An Introduction to the Professional World of History (Cambridge University Press, 2012). Banner knows whereof he speaks: he’s been working historical trade [...] …

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Amino Yoshihiko, “Rethinking Japanese History: (Translated by Alan Christy)”

2012-09-05 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

[Cross-posted from New Books in East Asian Studies] We don’t often make the chance to properly acknowledge the importance of translation to the understanding of history, let alone to talk about it at any length. Alan Christy has done a wonderful service in his careful, elegant, and accessible translation of Amino Yoshihiko’s Rethinking Japanese History [...] …

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Gregory Crouch, “China’s Wings: War, Intrigue, Romance, and Adventure in the Middle Kingdom during the Golden Age of Flight”

2012-08-30 :: New Books Network

When I was a kid I loved the movie “The Flying Tigers.” You know, the one with John Wayne about the intrepid American volunteers sent to China to fight the Japanese before the United States really could fight the Japanese. I recall building a model of one of their P-40 Warhawks with their distinctive “shark’s [...] …

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Marnie Anderson, “A Place in Public: Women’s Rights in Meiji Japan”

2012-08-24 :: New Books Network

In the late nineteenth century the Japanese elite embarked on an aggressive, ambitious program of modernization known in the West as the “Meiji Restoration.” In a remarkably short period of time, they transformed Japan: what was a thoroughly traditional, quasi-feudal welter of agricultural estates became a modern industrial nation-state. Since the inspiration for these reforms [...] …

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Robert Bucholz and Joseph Ward, “London: A Social and Cultural History, 1550-1750″

2012-08-17 :: New Books Network

[Cross-posted from New Books in European Studies] Not long ago I had a discussion (prompted, I think, by a poll in The Economist) with my colleague about which city on earth could boast that it was the true ‘World City’. We threw around a couple of ideas – it seems obligatory to mention something connected to [...] …

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Isaac Campos, “Home Grown: Marijuana and the Origins of Mexico’s War on Drugs”

2012-07-31 :: New Books Network

[Cross-posted from New Books in Political Science] Isaac Campos is the author of Home Grown: Marijuana and the Origins of Mexico’s War on Drugs (University of North Carolina Press, 2012). Campos is an assistant professor of history at the University of Cincinnati. His book traces the intellectual history of marijuana from Europe to Mexico and the ways in which [...] …

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Paul Friedland, “Seeing Justice Done: The Age of Spectacular Capital Punishment in France”

2012-07-16 :: New Books Network

[Cross-posted from New Books in Human Rights] It seems safe to say that the guillotine occupies a macabre place in the popular imagination among the icons of France’s transition to modernity—perhaps stashed somewhere in between idealized barricades or lurking on one chronological flank of the Eiffel Tower. The guillotine’s mechanization of official killing was instrumental in [...] …

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Brian Ingrassia, “The Rise of Gridiron University: Higher Education’s Uneasy Alliance with Big-Time Football”

2012-07-08 :: New Books Network

[Cross-posted from New Books in Sports] During this week of the 4th of July, it’s appropriate to mark America’s national holiday with a podcast about that most American of sports: college football.  As past guests on the podcast have explained, widely followed, revenue-generating sports teams affiliated with universities are a distinctive feature of American sports culture, and [...] …

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Richard Bessel, “Germany 1945: From War to Peace”

2012-07-02 :: New Books Network

[Cross-posted from New Books in European Studies] One chilling statistic relating to 1945 is that more German soldiers died in that January than in any other month of the war: 450,000. It was not just the military that suffered: refugees poured west to escape the brutality of the Red Army’s advance through the historic German lands [...] …

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Rob Fitts, “Banzai Babe Ruth: Baseball, Espionage, and Assassination during the 1934 Tour of Japan”

2012-06-23 :: New Books Network

[Cross-posted from New Books in Sports] There are three Americans in the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame.  One is Horace Wilson, the professor of English who brought his students outside for a game in 1872, thus introducing baseball to Japan.  Another is Wally Yonamine, the Hawaii-born Nisei who played professional baseball in Japan in the 1950s [...] …

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Allen Fromherz, “Qatar: A Modern History”

2012-06-11 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

[Cross-posted from New Books in Middle Eastern Studies] In his new book Qatar: A Modern History (Georgetown University Press, 2012), Dr. Allen Fromherz, a professor at Georgia State University, analyzes the cultural and political forces that have shaped Qatar’s history.  Going beyond the common focus on Qatar’s oil economy, Dr. Fromherz discusses Qatar’s formation as an independent state, the [...] …

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Kimberly Zarecor, “Manufacturing a Socialist Modernity: Housing in Czechoslovakia, 1945-1960″

2012-05-31 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

When I first went to the Soviet Union (in all my ignorance), I was amazed that everyone in Moscow lived in what I called “housing projects.” The Russians called them “houses” (doma), but they weren’t houses as I understood them at all. They were huge, multi-story, cookie-cutter apartment blocks, one standing right next to the [...] …

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Taylor Atkins, “Primitive Selves: Koreana in the Japanese Colonial Gaze, 1910-1945″

2012-05-17 :: New Books Network

[Cross-posted from New Books in East Asian Studies] Taylor Atkins‘ recent book is both an important contribution to East Asian Studies and an absolute delight to read. Primitive Selves: Koreana in the Japanese Colonial Gaze, 1910-1945 (University of California Press, 2010) opens with a movie theater commercial in 2004 and closes with a metaphorical decapitation. In the intervening [...] …

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Matthew Dennis, “Seneca Possessed: Indians, Witchcraft, and Power in the Early American Republic”

2012-05-04 :: New Books Network

[Cross-posted from New Books in Native American Studies] The birth of the American republic produced immense and existential challenges to Native people in proximity to the fledgling nation. Perhaps none faced a greater predicament than the Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (popularly known as the Iroquois). Divided by the U.S.-English conflict, their landbase ransacked by [...] …

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Monica Black, “Death in Berlin: From Weimar to Divided Germany”

2012-04-27 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

Over 2.5 million Germans died as a result of World War I, or about 4% of the German population at the time. Somewhere between 7 and 9 million Germans died as a result of World War II, or between 8% to 11% of the German population at the time.* It’s hardly any wonder, then, that [...] …

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Jen Huntley, “The Making of Yosemite: James Mason Hutchings and the Origins of America’s Most Popular National Park”

2012-04-20 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

I used to hike in and around Yosemite National Park. To me (and I imagine thousands of other visitors), Yosemite was the embodiment of “nature,” something grand, pristine, and, well “natural.” Of course there is a sense in which that is true: Yosemite was not made by the hand of man. But in another sense that understanding [...] …

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Carolina Armenteros, “The French Idea of History: Joseph de Maistre and his Heirs, 1794-1854″

2012-04-06 :: New Books Network

When I was an undergraduate, I took a class called “The Enlightenment” in which we read all the thinkers of, well, “The Enlightenment.” I came to understand that they were the “good guys” of Western history, at least for most folks. We also read, as a kind of coda, a bit about the “Counter-Enlightenment,” of which [...] …

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Francis Spufford, “Red Plenty: Industry! Progress! Abundance! Inside the Fifties Soviet Dream”

2012-03-30 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

Historians are not supposed to make stuff up. If it happened, and can be proved to have happened, then it’s in; if it didn’t, or can’t be documented, then it’s out. This way of going about writing history is fine as far as it goes. It does, however, have a significant drawback: it limits the [...] …

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John Bloom, “There You Have It: The Life, Legacy, and Legend of Howard Cosell”

2012-03-19 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

[Cross-posted from New Books in Sports] Howard Cosell was fond of saying that American television in the 1970s was dominated by three C’s, representing each of the broadcast networks: revered CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite, NBC’s late-night talk show host Johnny Carson, and Cosell himself, the marquee sports announcer for the ABC network.  Cosell was [...] …

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Ann Blair, “Too Much to Know: Managing Scholarly Information before the Modern Age”

2012-03-07 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

[Cross-posted from New Books in Science, Technology, and Society] Chewing on raw turnips and sand, keeping both feet in a tub of cold water, reading with just one eye open (to give the other a chance to rest) and sleeping only every other night: no, I am not describing the typical life of a pre-tenure [...] …

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Suman Seth, “Crafting the Quantum: Arnold Sommerfeld and the Practice of Theory, 1890-1926″

2012-02-27 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

[Cross-posted from New Books in Science, Technology and Society] Though Einstein, Planck, and Pauli have become household names in the history of science, the work of Arnold Sommerfeld has yet to reach the same level of wide recognition outside the field of theoretical physics and its history. In Crafting the Quantum: Arnold Sommerfeld and the Practice [...] …

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Randy Roberts, “Joe Louis: Hard Times Man”

2012-02-20 :: New Books Network

[Cross-posted from New Books in Sports] “I’m sure if it wasn’t for Joe Louis,” acknowledged Jackie Robinson, “the color line in baseball would not have been broken for another ten years.” To Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis was an inspiration and an idol. “I just give lip service to being the greatest,” said Ali in 1981, [...] …

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David Stahel, “Operation Barbarossa and Germany’s Defeat in the East”

2012-02-13 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

[Cross-posted from New Books in Military History] This week’s podcast is an interview with David Stahel. I will be talking to him about his 2009 work, Operation Barbarossa and Germany’s Defeat in the East (Cambridge University Press). One of our previous guests, Matthias Strohn, recommended the book, and I am glad he did. Stahel’s book [...] …

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Cynthia Wachtell, “War No More: The Antiwar Impulse in American Literature, 1861-1914″

2012-02-03 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

My favorite book as a teenager (and in fact the only book I ever read as a teenager) was All Quiet on the Western Front. I liked it mostly for the vivid scenes of trench warfare. Teenage boys love that stuff (or at least I did). But even then I recognized that it was essentially [...] …

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Michael David-Fox, “Showcasing the Great Experiment: Cultural Diplomacy and Western Visitors to the Soviet Union, 1921-1941″

2012-01-27 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

People who care about other places (and that’s not everyone) have always thought of Russia as a strange place. It doesn’t seem to “fit.” A good part of Russia is in Europe, but it’s not exactly “European.” Russia has natural resources galore, but it’s surprisingly poor. Russians have written a lot of great literature, but [...] …

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Gerald Steinacher, “Nazis on the Run: How Hitler’s Henchmen Fled Justice”

2011-12-13 :: New Books Network

When I was a kid I loved movies about Nazis who had escaped justice after the war. There was “The Marathon Man” (“Oh, don’t worry. I’m not going into that cavity. That nerve’s already dying.”). There was “The Boys from Brazil” (“The right Hitler for the right future! A Hitler tailor-made for the 1980s, 90s, [...] …

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Kariann Akemi Yokota, “Unbecoming British: How Revolutionary America Became a Postcolonial Nation”

2011-12-07 :: New Books Network

The founding fathers–and mothers, sons and daughters–were British. Sort of. It’s true that they were subjects of the British crown, and that they looked, talked, acted and had the tastes of folks in London. But they were always different. Though they carried with them a sort of “British cultural package,” what they changed that cultural [...] …

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Jay Rubenstein, “Armies of Heaven: The First Crusade and the Quest for Apocalypse”

2011-11-23 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

You’ve got to be pretty creative to get anything like “holy war” out of the New Testament, what with all that trespass-forgiving, cheek-turning, and neighbor-loving. By all appearances Jesus didn’t want his followers to fight for their faith, but rather to die for it as he had. And during the first three centuries of Christianity–in [...] …

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David Ciarlo, “Advertising Empire: Race and Visual Culture in Imperial Germany”

2011-11-17 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

If you’re a native-born American, you’re probably familiar with Aunt Jemima (pancake syrup), Uncle Ben (precooked rice), and Rastus (oatmeal)–commercial icons all. They were co-oped in whole or part from stock characters in American minstrel shows, largely because they suggested to white consumers a comforting though bygone hospitality. Aunt Jemima said “You might not have a loving mammy to do [...] …

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Colin Woodard, “American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America”

2011-11-10 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

Europeans like to say that “America” (aka the “United States”) is not a nation. They are right and wrong. It’s true that Americans come from all over the place, unlike, say, Germans.  Just ask an American where she comes from. She’s likely to reply that she comes from Ireland, Africa, Korea or Germany even if [...] …

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Rosamund Bartlett, “Tolstoy: A Russian Life”

2011-11-04 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

I vividly recall a time in my life–especially my late teens and early twenties–when I thought I could be anyone but had no idea which anyone to be. For this I blame (or credit) my liberal arts education, which convinced me that there was really nothing I couldn’t master but gave me little or no [...] …

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David Potter, “The Victor’s Crown: A History of Ancient Sport from Homer to Byzantium”

2011-11-01 :: New Books Network

[Cross-posted from New Books in Sports] Modern sports carry the DNA of the games of ancient Greece and Rome. This genetic inheritance will be most apparent next summer, when London hosts the 30th Summer Olympic Games. But these genes are also expressed any time we visit a stadium or arena to watch athletes compete. The [...] …

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Sally Ninham, “A Cohort of Pioneers: Australian Postgraduate Students and American Postgraduate Degrees, 1949-1964″

2011-10-25 :: New Books Network

[Cross-posted from New Books in History] Despite its focus on education, Sally Ninham‘s recent book, A Cohort of Pioneers: Australian Postgraduate Students and American Postgraduate Degrees, 1949-1964 (Connor Court Publishing, 2011), covers a lot of ground: the waning of Australian-British ties, the rise of Australian identity, post-war Australian-US relations, and much more. The book is also personal: it [...] …

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Edith Sheffer, “Burned Bridge: How East and West Germans Made the Iron Curtain”

2011-10-14 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

If Edith Sheffer‘s excellent Burned Bridge: How East and West Germans Made the Iron Curtain (Oxford UP, 2011) has a single lesson, it’s that dividing a country is not as easy as you might think. You don’t just draw a line and tell people that it’s now the “border,” for in order for borders to be borders, [...] …

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Andrew Curran, “The Anatomy of Blackness: Science and Slavery in an Age of Enlightenment”

2011-10-10 :: New Books Network

We’ve dealt with the question of how racial categories and conceptions evolve on New Books in History before, most notably in our interview with Nell Irving Painter. She told us about the history of “Whiteness.” Today we’ll return to the history of racial ideas and listen to Andrew Curran explain the history of “Blackness.” Doubtless Europeans have [...] …

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Steven Barnes, “Death and Redemption: The Gulag and the Shaping of Soviet Society”

2011-09-30 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

[Cross-posted from New Books in Russian and Eurasian Studies] Most Westerners know about the Gulag (aka “Chief Administration of Corrective Labor Camps and Colonies”) thanks to Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s eloquent, heart-wrenching Gulag Archipelago. Since the publication of that book in 1973 (and largely thanks to it), the Gulag has come to symbolize the horrors of Stalinism. [...] …

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Sandy Zipp, “Manhattan Projects: The Rise and Fall of Urban Renewal in Cold War New York”

2011-09-22 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

If you’ve ever lived in New York City, you know exactly what a “pre-war building” is. First and foremost, it’s better than a “post-war building.” Why, you might ask, is that so? Well part of the reason has to do with wartime and post-war “urban renewal,” that is, the process by which the Washington, big [...] …

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Charles McKinney, Jr., “Greater Freedom: The Evolution of the Civil Rights Struggle in Wilson, North Carolina”

2011-09-16 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

When I was an undergraduate, I noticed that there were certain books that seemed to be unavoidable (at least at my liberal arts college). They were assigned in many classes, and they were discussed in many others. Reading them seemed to be a secret requirement for graduation. These ”liberal-arts essentials” included Plato’s Republic, Rousseau’s Social Contract, Lockes’ [...] …

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Mikaila Lemonik Arthur, “Student Activism and Curricular Change in Higher Education”

2011-09-09 :: New Books Network

Colleges and universities have a reputation for being radical places where tenured radicals teach radical ideas. Don’t believe it.  Consider this: the set of academic departments that one finds in most “colleges of liberal arts and sciences”–history, chemistry, sociology, physics, and so on–has remained remarkably stable for many decades. How, exactly, is that “radical?” Yet as Mikaila [...] …

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Elizabeth Heineman, “Before Porn Was Legal: The Erotica Empire of Beate Uhse”

2011-09-02 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

When I was in college in the 1980s, I liked to listen to Iggy Pop (aka James Newell Osterberg, Jr.). I was always mystified, however, by his song “Five Foot One,” with its odd and catchy refrain “I wish life could be/Swed-ish mag-a-zines!”  What in the heck did that mean? I’d never seen a “Swed-ish [...] …

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Rodric Braithwaite, “Afgantsy: The Russians in Afghanistan, 1979-89″

2011-08-26 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

I was still in high school the year the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, 1979. I remember reading about it in Time magazine and watching President Carter denounce it on TV. The Soviets, everyone said, were bent on ruling the world. Détente had been a ploy to lull us to sleep. In Afghanistan, the Communists had renewed [...] …

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Keith Pomakoy, “Helping Humanity: American Policy and Genocide Rescue”

2011-08-19 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

It’s safe to say that nobody but genocidaires likes genocide. It’s also safe to say that everyone but genocidaires wants to halt on-going campaigns of mass murder and prevent future ones. The question, of course, is how to do this in practice. Keith Pomakoy’s significant new book  Helping Humanity: American Policy and Genocide Rescue (Lexington Books, [...] …

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Robert Thurston, “Lynching: American Mob Murder in Global Perspective”

2011-08-05 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

It takes a brave historian to take on the orthodoxy regarding the rise and fall of lynching in the United States. That orthodoxy holds that lynching in the South was a ‘system of social control’ in which whites used organized terror to oppress blacks. You can find this thesis in numerous monographs, textbooks, and in [...] …

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Anthony Penna, “The Human Footprint: A Global Environmental History”

2011-07-18 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

One of the most disturbing insights made by practitioners of “Big History” is that the distinction between geologic time and human time has collapsed in our era. The forces that drove geologic time–plate tectonics, the orientation of the Earth’s axis relative to the sun, volcanic activity–were distinct from the forces that drove human time–evolution, technological [...] …

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Christopher Krebs, “A Most Dangerous Book: Tacitus’s Germania from the Roman Empire to the Third Reich”

2011-06-22 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

Being a historian is a bit of a slog: years in graduate school, more years in dusty libraries and archives, and even more years teaching students who sometimes don’t seem interested in learning what you have to teach. But the job does have its pleasures, and one of the greatest–and surely the guiltiest–is watching people [...] …

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Eric Schneider, “Smack: Heroin and the American City”

2011-06-15 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

When I arrived at college in the early 1980s, drugs were cool, music was cool, and drug-music was especially cool. The coolest of the cool drug-music bands was The Velvet Underground. They were from the mean streets of New York City (The Doors were from the soft parade of L.A….); they hung out with Andy [...] …

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Elizabeth Abel, “Signs of the Times: The Visual Politics of Jim Crow”

2011-06-07 :: New Books Network

I think this is really interesting. Among the thousands of iconic and easily recognizable photographs of segregated water fountains in the American South, you will almost never find one that features a black woman, a white woman or a white man drinking. They are nearly all of black men drinking. Why is that? In her [...] …

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Adam Hochschild, “To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918″

2011-05-30 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

Today is Memorial Day here in the United States, the day on which we remember those who have fought and died in the service of our country. It’s fitting, then, that we are talking to Adam Hochschild about his To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 (Houghton Mifflin, 2011). The book [...] …

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Jonathan Steinberg, “Bismarck: A Life”

2011-05-24 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

What is the role of personality in shaping history? Shortly before the beginning of the First World War, the German sociologist Max Weber puzzled over this question. He was sure that there was a kind of authority that drew strength from character itself. He called this authority “charismatic,” a type of legitimate political power that [...] …

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Blair Ruble, “Washington’s U Street: A Biography”

2011-05-18 :: New Books Network

I used to live in Washington DC, not far from a place I learned to call the “U Street Corridor.” I really had no idea why it was a “corridor” (most places in DC are just “streets”) or why a lot of folks seemed to make a big deal out if it. Don’t get me [...] …

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Ricardo Duchesne, “The Uniqueness of Western Civilization”

2011-05-13 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

One of the standard assumptions of modern Western social science (history included) is that material conditions drive historical development. All of the “Great Transitions” in world history–the origins of agriculture, the birth of cities, the rise of high culture, the industrial revolution–can, so most Western social scientists claim, be associated with some condition that compelled [...] …

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Francis Fukuyama, “The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution”

2011-05-03 :: New Books Network

When I was an undergraduate, I fell in love with Montesquieu’s Spirit of the Laws. In the book Montesquieu reduces a set of disparate, seemingly unconnected facts arrayed over centuries and continents into a single, coherent theory of remarkable explanitory power. Alas, grand theoretical books like Spirit of the Laws are out of fashion today, [...] …

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David Shneer, “Through Soviet Jewish Eyes: Photography, War, and the Holocaust”

2011-04-29 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

We should be skeptical of what is sometimes called “Jew counting” and all it implies. Yet it cannot be denied that Jews played a pivotal and (dare we say) disproportionate role in moving the West from a pre-modern to a modern condition. Take the media. Most people know that Jews, though hardly alone, built much [...] …

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Michael Reynolds, “Shattering Empires: The Clash and Collapse of the Ottoman and Russian Empires, 1908-1918″

2011-04-22 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

Most of us live in a world of nations. If you were born and live in the Republic of X, then you probably speak X-ian, are a citizen of X, and would gladly fight and die for your X-ian brothers and sisters. If, however, you were born and live in the Republic of X and [...] …

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Megan Marshall, “The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism”

2011-04-15 :: New Books Network

[This interview is re-posted with permission from Jenny Attiyeh's ThoughtCast.] Author Megan Marshall has recently written a well-received biography of Elizabeth, Mary, and Sophia Peabody: The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism (Houghton Mifflin, 2005). The Peabodys were key players in the founding of the Transcendentalist movement in the early to mid 19th [...] …

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Carol Bundy, “The Nature of Sacrifice: A Biography of Charles Russell Lowell, Jr., 1835-64″

2011-04-08 :: New Books Network

[This interview is re-posted with permission from Jenny Attiyeh's ThoughtCast] At a time when the country’s attention is focused on the ever-expanding list of American war dead, Carol Bundy’s biography of a Union officer who sacrifices his life in the Civil War is eerily apt. The Nature of Sacrifice. A Biography of Charles Russell Lowell, [...] …

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Erik Jensen, “Body by Weimar: Athletes, Gender, and German Modernity”

2011-04-01 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

Here’s a simple–or should we say simplistic?–line of political reasoning: communities are made of people; people can either be sick or healthy; communities, therefore, are sick or healthy depending on the sickness or health of their people. This logic is powerful. It explains success: “We lost the war because we, individually and therefore communally, were [...] …

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Daniel Sidorick, “Condensed Capitalism: Campbell Soup and the Pursuit of Cheap Production in the Twentieth Century”

2011-03-27 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

When I was in college I had a summer job once working in an aircraft factory. My task was to count screws. Nope, I’m not kidding. I put together parts-kits that were then taken to another station “down the line” for assembly. It wasn’t much fun, and it taught me that I did not want [...] …

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Giancarlo Casale, “The Ottoman Age of Exploration”

2011-03-18 :: New Books Network

You’ve probably heard of the “Age of Exploration.” You know, Henry the Navigator, Vasco da Gama, Columbus, etc., etc. But actually that was the European Age of Exploration (and really it wasn’t even that, because the people who lived in what we now call “Europe” didn’t think of themselves as “Europeans” in the fifteenth and [...] …

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Hans Kundnani, “Utopia or Auschwitz: Germany’s 1968 Generation and the Holocaust”

2011-03-13 :: New Books Network

It’s pretty common in American political discourse to call someone a “fascist.” Everyone knows, however, that this is just name-calling: supposed fascists are never really fascists–they are just people you don’t like very much. Not so in post-War West Germany. There, too, it was common to call people “fascists. But in the Federal Republic they [...] …

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Louis Hyman, “Debtor Nation: The History of America in Red Ink”

2011-03-04 :: New Books Network

I remember clearly the day I was offered my first credit card. It was in Berkeley, CA in 1985. I was walking on Sproul Plaza and I saw a booth manned by two students. They were giving out all kinds of swag, so I walked over to see what was to be had. T-shirts, I [...] …

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Lesley Hazleton, “After the Prophet: the Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split”

2011-02-27 :: New Books Network

Sometimes a shallow explanation, the kind you read in newspapers and hear on television, is enough. “The home team was beaten at the buzzer” is probably all you need to know. Sometimes, however, it’s not. The intermittent conflict between the Shias and Sunnis in Iraq (and elsewhere) provides a good example. It is just not [...]…

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J. E. Lendon, “Song of Wrath: The Peloponnesian War Begins”

2011-02-18 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

Reading J. E. Lendon’s writerly Song of Wrath: The Peloponnesian War Begins (Basic Books, 2010) took me back to the eventful days of my youth at Price Elementary School, or rather to the large yardon which we had recess. We called it a “playground.” But we did not play on it. We did battle. We [...]…

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Virginia Scharff, “The Women Jefferson Loved”

2011-02-11 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

Most Americans could tell you who George Washington’s wife was. (Martha, right?) Most Americans probably couldn’t tell you who Thomas Jefferson’s wife was. (It was also Martha, but a different one of course). They might be able to tell you, however, who Thomas Jefferson’s alleged concubine was, as she has been in the news a [...] …

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Joyce Appleby, “The Relentless Revolution: A History of Capitalism”

2011-02-04 :: New Books Network

Today everybody wants to be a capitalist, even Chinese communists. It would be easy to think, then, that capitalism is “natural,” that there is a little profit-seeker in each one of us just waiting to pop out. There is some truth to this notion: humans are the most cooperative species on earth, and one of [...]…

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Catherine Epstein, “Model Nazi: Arthur Greiser and the Occupation of Western Poland”

2011-01-27 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

The term “totalitarian” is useful as it well describes the aspirations of polities such as Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union (at least under Stalin). Yet it can also be misleading, for it suggests that totalitarian ambitions were in fact achieved. But they were not, as we can see in Catherine Epstein’s remarkably detailed, thoroughly [...] …

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Joyce Salisbury, “The Beast Within: Animals in the Middle Ages”

2011-01-21 :: New Books Network

I have three cats. They have names (Fatty, Mini, and Koshka). They live in my house. I feed them, take them to the vet, and love them. When they die, I’ll be really sad. After having read Joyce Salisbury’s eye-opening The Beast Within: Animals in the Middle Ages (Routledge, 2011), I know now how weird [...]…

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Nell Irvin Painter, “The History of White People”

2011-01-14 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

We in the West tend to classify people by the color of their skin, or what we casually call “race.” But, as Nell Irvin Painter shows in her fascinating new book The History of White People (Norton, 2010), it wasn’t always so. The Greeks didn’t do it, at least very seriously. The Romans didn’t do [...] …

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Ian Sample, “Massive: The Missing Particle that Sparked the Greatest Hunt in Science”

2011-01-14 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

You’ve probably read about the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). It’s the largest (17 miles around!), most expensive (9 billion dollars!) scientific instrument in history. What’s it do? It accelerates beams of tiny particles (protons) to nearly the speed of light and then smashes them into one another. That’s cool, you say, but why? Well, the [...] …

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Ann Fabian, “The Skull Collectors: Race, Science and America’s Unburied Dead”

2010-12-17 :: New Books Network

What should we study? The eighteenth-century luminary and poet Alexander Pope had this to say on the subject: “Know then thyself, presume not God to scan; The proper study of mankind is man ” (An Essay on Man, 1733). He was not alone in this opinion. The philosophers of the Enlightenment–of which we may count [...] …

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David Shearer, “Policing Stalin’s Socialism: Repression and Social Order in the Soviet Union, 1924-1953″

2010-12-10 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

The question as to why the leaders of the Soviet Union murdered hundreds of thousands of Soviet citizens during the Great Purges is one of the most important of modern history, primarily because it shapes what we are likely to think about communism. There are two schools of thought. On the one hand, there are [...] …

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Thomas Weber, “Hitler’s First War: Adolf Hitler, the Men of the List Regiment, and the First World War”

2010-12-03 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

Here’s something interesting. If you search Google Books for “Hitler,” you’ll get 3,090,000 results. What’s that mean? Well, it means that more scholarly attention has probably been paid to Hitler than any other figure in modern history. Napoleon, Lincoln, Lenin and a few others might give him a run for his money, but I’d bet [...] …

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Deborah Kaple, “Gulag Boss: A Soviet Memoir”

2010-11-24 :: New Books Network

Here’s something remarkable: at some point in the future, something you believe to be just fine will be utterly disdained by the greater part of humanity. For instance, it is at least imaginable that one day everyone will believe that zoos were [NB] profoundly immoral. The future will condemn us for imprisoning animals. The future [...] …

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Kyra Hicks, “This I Accomplish: Harriet Powers’ Bible Quilt and Other Pieces”

2010-11-19 :: New Books Network

I’ll tell you something I’ve never really understood: the difference between “art” and “craft.” Yes, I get the sociological difference (“art” is made in New York and Paris; “craft” is made in Omaha and Wichita), but what about the substantive difference? One common way to differentiate the two is to say “art” is not functional [...] …

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Joe Maiolo, “Cry Havoc: How the Arms Race Drove the World to War, 1931–1941″

2010-11-12 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

In Cry Havoc: How the Arms Race Drove the World to War, 1931–1941 (Basic Books, 2010), Joe Maiolo proposes (I want to write “demonstrates,” but please read the book and judge for yourself) two remarkably insightful theses. The first is that the primary result of the disaster that was World War I was not the [...] …

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David Farber, “The Rise and Fall of Modern American Conservatism”

2010-11-05 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

I think that many smart people, particularly on the Left, make a really ill-considered assumption, to wit, that “Republican” means “Conservative.” I don’t mean lower case “c” conservative, as in wanting to maintain the status quo. Nearly all (there are important exceptions) twentieth-century Republicans were conservatives in that generic sense. Rather, I mean capital “c” [...] …

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Abbott Gleason, “A Liberal Education”

2010-10-28 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

I fear that most people think that “history” is “the past” and that the one and the other live in books. But it just ain’t so. History is a story we tell about the past, or rather some small portion of it. The past itself is gone and cannot, outside science fiction, be revisited. And [...] …

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James Fleming, “Fixing the Sky: The Checkered History of Weather and Climate Control”

2010-10-20 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

In the summer of 2008 the Chinese were worried about rain. They were set to host the Summer Olympics that year, and they wanted clear skies. Surely clear skies, they must have thought, would show the world that China had arrived. So they outfitted a small army (50,000 men) with artillery pieces and rocket launchers [...] …

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Aram Goudsouzian, “King of the Court: Bill Russell and the Basketball Revolution”

2010-10-12 :: New Books Network
Length: 1s

I imagine the guys who first faced Bill Russell felt like I did when I had to guard Antoine Carr in high school. I “held” Carr to 32 points. But no dunks! Russell’s opponents in college and the NBA rarely fared any better. Sports talk is full of hyperbole, but in Russell’s case most of [...] …

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David Schimmelpenninck van der Oye, “Russian Orientalism”

2010-10-08 :: New Books Network

There’s a saying, sometimes attributed to Napoleon, “Scratch a Russian and you find a Tatar.” I’ve scratched a Russian (I won’t say anything more about that) and I can tell you that the saying is false: all I found was more Russian. It’s true, however, that Russians have always known a lot about Tatars because [...]…

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Fred Spier, “Big History and the Future of Humanity”

2010-10-01 :: Marshall Poe
Length: 1s

My son Isaiah likes to play the “why” game. Isaiah: “Why is my ice cream gone?” Me: “Because you ate it.” Isaiah: “Why did I eat it?” Me: “Because you need food.” Isaiah: “Why do I need food?” And so on. Isaiah naturally wants to know why things are the way they are. We all [...] …

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Norman Naimark, “Stalin’s Genocides”

2010-09-24 :: Marshall Poe
Length: 1s

Absolutely no one doubts that Stalin murdered millions of people in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. His ruthless campaign of “dekulakization,” his pitiless deportation of “unreliable” ethnic groups, his senseless starvation of Ukrainian peasants, his cruel attempt to “cleanse” the Communist Party of supposed “enemies of the people”–all of these actions resulted in mass death. [...]…

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Thomas Kessner, “The Flight of the Century: Charles Lindbergh & the Rise of American Aviation”

2010-09-15 :: Marshall Poe
Length: 1s

Try to imagine having never seen an airplane. It’s hard. Aircraft are an ordinary part of our daily experience. Just look up and you’ll probably see one, or at least its vapor trails. Go to your local airport and you can fly in one pretty inexpensively. Heck, if you like, you can learn to pilot [...] …

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Kip Kosek, “Acts of Conscience: Christian Nonviolence and Modern American Democracy”

2010-09-10 :: Marshall Poe
Length: 1s

There’s a quip that goes “Christianity is probably a great religion. Someone should really try it.” The implication, of course, is that most people who call themselves Christians aren’t very Christian at all. And, in truth, it’s hard to be a good Christian, what with all that loving your enemies, turning the other cheek, and [...]…

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Elaine Tyler May, “America and the Pill: A History of Promise, Peril, and Liberation”

2010-09-04 :: Marshall Poe

Don’t you find it a bit curious that there are literally thousands of pills that we in the developed world take on a daily basis, but only one of them is called “the Pill?” Actually, you probably don’t find it curious, because you know that the pill has had a massive impact on modern life. [...] …

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Valerie Hébert, “Hitler’s Generals on Trial: The Last War Crimes Tribunal at Nuremberg”

2010-08-27 :: Marshall Poe
Length: 1s

Clausewitz famously said war was the “continuation of politics by other means.” Had he been unfortunate enough to witness the way the Wehrmacht fought on the Eastern Front in World War II, he might well have said war (or at least that war) was the “continuation of politics by any means.” Hitler was terribly specific [...] …

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Amanda Podany, “Brotherhood of Kings: How International Relations Shaped the Ancient Near East”

2010-08-19 :: Marshall Poe
Length: 1s

I have a (much beloved) colleague who calls all history about things before AD 1900 “that old stuff.” Of course she means it as a gentle jab at those of us who study said “old stuff.” Gentle, but in some ways telling. Many historians and history readers genuinely have a bias against the older periods, [...]…

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Jeffrey Jackson, “Paris Under Water: How the City of Light Survived the Great Flood of 1910″

2010-08-13 :: Marshall Poe
Length: 1s

In the late 19th century, French sociologist Émile Durkheim warned the world about spreading “normlessness” (anomie). He claimed that modern society, and particularly life in concentrated urban-industrial areas like Paris, left people without the sense of belonging that characterized “traditional” life. Durkheim was not alone in thinking that there was something fundamentally sick-making about modernity. [...]…

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Gary Bruce, “The Firm: The Inside Story of the Stasi”

2010-07-29 :: Marshall Poe
Length: 1s

I have a good friend who grew up in East Germany in the bad old days. The East German authorities suspected that her family would try to immigrate to the West (which they did), so they naturally told the Stasi—the East German secret service—to watch them (which they did). After the fall of the Wall, [...]…

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Todd Moye, “Freedom Flyers: The Tuskegee Airmen of World War II”

2010-07-23 :: Marshall Poe
Length: 1s

In the 1940s, the United States military performed an “experiment,” the substance of which was the formation of an all-black aviation unit known to history as the “Tuskegee Airmen.” In light of the honorable service record of countless African Americans, allowing blacks to become fighter and bomber pilots might not seem very “experimental” to you, [...]…

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Azar Gat, “War in Human Civilization”

2010-07-15 :: Marshall Poe
Length: 1s

Historians don’t generally like the idea of “human nature.” We tend to believe that people are intrinsically malleable, that they have no innate “drives,” “instincts,” or “motivations.” The reason we hew to the “blank slate” notion perhaps has to do with the fact—and it is a fact—that we see remarkable diversity in the historical record. [...]…

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John Steinberg, “All the Tsar’s Men: Russia’s General Staff and the Fate of the Empire, 1898-1914″

2010-07-09 :: Marshall Poe
Length: 1s

The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 was the most important political event of the twentieth century (no Revolution; no Nazis; no Nazis, no World War II; no World War II, no Cold War). It’s little wonder, then, that historians have expended oceans of effort and ink trying to explain why and how it happened. The answer [...]…

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Michael Kranish, “Flight from Monticello: Thomas Jefferson at War”

2010-07-01 :: Marshall Poe

The past is always with us, but it’s really always with politicians. Once you put yourself up for office, and particularly national office, everybody and his brother is going to start digging into your past to see what kind of “dirt” they can find. It’s true now, and it was true when Thomas Jefferson was [...] …

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Jerry Muller, “Capitalism and the Jews”

2010-06-25 :: Marshall Poe
Length: 1s

I confess I was attracted to this book by the title: Capitalism and the Jews (Princeton, 2010). Capitalism is a touchy subject; Jews are a touchy subject. But capitalism and the Jews, that’s a disaster waiting to happen. I don’t suggest you try this, but just imagine what would happen if you started a water-cooler [...] …

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Ruth Harris, “Dreyfus: Politics, Emotion, and the Scandal of the Century”

2010-06-17 :: Marshall Poe

If you’re like me (and I hope you aren’t), the “Trial of the Century” involved a washed-up football star, a slowly moving white Bronco, an ill-fitting glove, and charges of racism. I watched every bit of it and remember exactly where I was when the verdict was announced. But if you are French (which is [...] …

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Joanna Levin, “Bohemia in America, 1858-1920″

2010-06-11 :: Marshall Poe
Length: 1s

You’ve probably heard of hipsters. Heck, you may even be a hipster. If you don’t know what a hipster is, you might spend some time on this sometimes entertaining website. Where do hipsters come from? Lets work backwards. Before hipsters (1990s), there were slackers (1980s): middle-class, college-going, white kids into Alternative rock. They were hipsters [...] …

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Heather Cox Richardson, “Wounded Knee: Party Politics and the Road to an American Massacre”

2010-06-03 :: Marshall Poe
Length: 1s

Of all the events in American history, two are far and away the most troubling: slavery and the near-genocidal war against native Americans. In truth, we’ve dealt much better with the former than the latter. The slaves were emancipated. After a long and painful struggle, their descendants won their full civil rights. Though that struggle [...]…

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Audrey Kurth Cronin, “How Terrorism Ends: Understanding the Decline and Demise of Terrorist Campaigns”

2010-05-28 :: Marshall Poe

It’s one thing to say that the study of history is “relevant” to contemporary problems; it’s another to demonstrate it. In How Terrorism Ends: Understanding the Decline and Demise of Terrorist Campaigns(Princeton UP, 2009), Audrey Kurth Cronin does so in splendid fashion. She poses a common and very important question: what should we do about [...] …

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Fearghal McGarry, “The Rising: Ireland, Easter 1916″

2010-05-24 :: Marshall Poe
Length: 1s

Sometimes when you win you lose. That’s called a Pyrrhic victory. But sometimes when you lose you win. We don’t have a name for that (at least as far as I know). But we might call it an “Easter Rising victory” after the Irish Republican revolt of 1916. The Republicans took over several buildings in [...] …

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Jeffery Reznick, “John Galsworthy and the Disabled Soldiers of the Great War”

2010-05-18 :: Marshall Poe

You may not know who John Galsworthy is, but you probably know his work. Who hasn’t seen some production of The Forsyte Saga? Galsworthy was one of the most popular and famous British writers of the early 20th century (the Edwardian Era). He left an enormous body of work, for which he was awarded the [...] …

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Greg Castillo, “Cold War on the Home Front: The Soft Power of Midcentury Design”

2010-05-07 :: Marshall Poe
Length: 1s

If you grew up in the 1960s or 1970s in suburbia, you probably lived in a smallish ranch house that looked like this. That house probably had an “ultra modern” kitchen that probably looked like this. I grew up in such a house and it had such a kitchen. In fact, I think my mom, [...] …

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P. Bingham and J. Souza, “Death From a Distance and the Birth of a Humane Universe”

2010-04-30 :: Marshall Poe
Length: 1s

Long ago, historians more or less gave up on “theories of history.” They determined that human nature was too unpredictable, cultures too various, and developmental patterns too evanescent for any really scientific theory of history to be possible. Human history, they said, was chaos. The problem is that human history isn’t chaos at all. The [...] …

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Andrew Donson, “Youth in the Fatherless Land: War Pedagogy, Nationalism, and Authority in Germany, 1914-1918″

2010-04-23 :: Marshall Poe
Length: 1s

I was a little kid during the Vietnam War. It was on the news all the time, and besides my uncle was fighting there. I followed it closely, or as closely as a little kid can. I never thought for a moment that “we” could lose. “We” were a great country run by good people; [...] …

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Amy Bass, “Those About Him Remained Silent: The Battle Over W. E. B. Du Bois”

2010-04-15 :: Marshall Poe
Length: 1s

I asked my wife if she knew who W. E. B. Du Bois was. She did, as would most Americans. I then asked her if she knew where Du Bois was born and raised. She did not, and most Americans wouldn’t either. The odd thing is that Du Bois, who was one of the founders [...] …

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Patrick Manning, “The African Diaspora: A History Through Culture”

2010-04-09 :: Marshall Poe
Length: 1s

Africans were the first migrants because they were the first people. Some 60,000 years ago they left their homeland and in a relatively short period of time (by geological and evolutionary standards) moved to nearly every habitable place on the globe. We are their descendants. The Africans never stopped migrating, but they began to do [...] …

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David Laskin, “The Long Way Home: An American Journey from Ellis Island to the Great War”

2010-04-02 :: Marshall Poe
Length: 1s

One night my wife and I were on the road, staying in a hotel in I-don’t-remember-where. I woke up in the middle of the night to find said wife missing. Happily, I saw a light under the bathroom door. There she is, I thought. I fell back asleep. I woke up again sometime later. It [...] …

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Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern, “The Anti-Imperial Choice: The Making of the Ukrainian Jew”

2010-03-26 :: Marshall Poe
Length: 1s

I’ve got a name for you: Robert Zimmerman (aka Shabtai Zisel ben Avraham). You’ve heard of him. He was a Jewish kid from Hibbing, Minnesota. But he didn’t (as the stereotype would suggest) become a doctor, lawyer, professor or businessman. Nope, the professions were not for him. He loved the American folk legend Woody Guthrie [...] …

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Joel Wolfe, “Autos and Progress: The Brazilian Search for Modernity”

2010-03-19 :: Marshall Poe
Length: 1s

Here’s something I learned by reading Joel Wolfe’s terrific Autos and Progress: The Brazilian Search for Modernity (Oxford, 2010): the United States and Brazil have a lot in common. Both hived off European empires; both struggled with slavery and its legacy; both are profoundly multiethnic and multiracial; both have spent much of their respective histories [...] …

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David Aaronovitch, “Voodoo Histories: The Role of Conspiracy Theory in the Shaping of Modern History”

2010-03-11 :: Marshall Poe
Length: 1s

In preparation for this interview I watched the documentary (that’s what the producers call it, anyway) “Loose Change 9/11: An American Coup.” Of course it’s absolutely loony. In fact, it’s so loony that I began to wonder if the director, Dylan Avery, wasn’t having us on. It’s hard to tell whether “Loose Change” is a [...] …

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Charles King, “The Ghost of Freedom: A History of the Caucasus”

2010-03-05 :: Marshall Poe
Length: 1s

There’s a concept I find myself coming back to again and again–”speciation.” It’s drawn from the vocabulary of evolutionary biology and means, roughly, the process by which new species arise. Speciation occurs when a species must adapt to new circumstances; the more new circumstances, the more new species. Thus one kind of Finch (to take [...] …

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Hilary Earl, “The Nuremberg SS-Einsatzgruppen Trial, 1945-1958: Atrocity, Law, and History”

2010-02-26 :: Marshall Poe
Length: 1s

Hitler caused the Holocaust, that much we know (no Hitler, no Holocaust). But did he directly order it and, if so, how and when? This is one of the many interesting questions posed by Hilary Earl in her outstanding new book The Nuremberg SS-Einsatzgruppen Trial, 1945-1958: Atrocity, Law, and History (Cambridge UP, 2009). The book is [...] …

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Nicholas Thompson, “The Hawk and the Dove: Paul Nitze, George Kennan, and the History of the Cold War”

2010-02-18 :: Marshall Poe
Length: 1s

I met George Kennan twice, once in 1982 and again in about 1998. On both occasions, I found him tough to read. He was a very dignified man–I want to write “correct”–but also quite distant, even cerebral. Now that I’ve read Nicholas Thompson‘s very writerly and engaging The Hawk and the Dove: Paul Nitze, George [...] …

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Ben Kiernan, “Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to Darfur”

2010-02-12 :: Marshall Poe
Length: 1s

Chimps, our closest relatives, kill each other. But chimps do not engage in anything close to mass slaughter of their own kind. Why is this? There are two possible explanations for the difference. The first is this: chimps are not programmed, so to say, to commit mass slaughter, while humans are so programmed. The second [...] …

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Brian Balogh, “A Government Out of Sight: The Mystery of National Authority in 19th-Century America”

2010-02-05 :: Marshall Poe
Length: 1s

Americans don’t like “big government” right? Not exactly. In the Early Republic (1789 to the 1820s) folks were quite keen on building up the (you guessed it) republic. As in res publica, the “things held in common.” The “founding fathers”–all “Classical Republicans”–designed a form of government that, though “checked and balanced,” gave the federal government [...] …

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Kenneth Moss, “Jewish Renaissance in the Russian Revolution”

2010-01-29 :: Marshall Poe
Length: 1s

For us, every “nation” has and has always had a “culture,” meaning a defining set of folkways, customs, and styles that is different from every other. But like the modern understanding of the word “nation,” this idea of “culture” or “a culture” is not very old. According to the OED, the modern meaning gained currency [...] …

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Alan Steinweis, “Kristallnacht 1938″

2010-01-23 :: Marshall Poe
Length: 1s

One of the most fundamental–and vexing–questions in all of modern history is whether cultures make governments or governments make cultures. Tocqueville, who was right about almost everything, thought the former: he said that American culture made American government democratic. Neocon theorists, who have been wrong about most things, believe the opposite: that democratic governments can [...] …

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Jared Diamond and James A. Robinson, “Natural Experiments of History”

2010-01-20 :: Marshall Poe
Length: 1s

I remember telling my wife, the mathematician, that historians typically work on one time and place their entire careers. If you begin, say, as a historian of Russia in the 1600s (as I did), you are likely to end as a historian of Russia in the 1600s (I didn’t, but that’s another story). “You’ve got [...] …

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Julian Zelizer, “Arsenal of Democracy: The Politics of National Security From WWII to the War on Terrorism”

2010-01-14 :: Marshall Poe
Length: 1s

Historians are by their nature public intellectuals because they are intellectuals who write about, well, the public. Alas, many historians seem to forget the “public” part and concentrate on the “intellectual” part. Our guest today–sponsored by the National History Center–is not among them. Julian Zelizer has used his historical research and writing to inform the [...] …

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Toby Lester, “The Fourth Part of the World: The Race to the Ends of the Earth, and the Epic Story of the Map That Gave America its Name”

2010-01-07 :: Marshall Poe
Length: 1s

Why the heck is “America” called “America” and not, say, “Columbia?” You’ll find the answer to that question and many more in Toby Lester‘s fascinating and terrifically readable new book The Fourth Part of the World: The Race to the Ends of the Earth, and the Epic Story of the Map That Gave America its [...] …

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Stephen Kotkin, “Uncivil Society: 1989 and the Implosion of the Communist Establishment”

0000-00-00 :: Marshall Poe
Length: 1s

Why did communism collapse so rapidly in Eastern Europe in 1989? The answer commonly given at the time was that something called “civil society,” having grown mighty in the 1980s, overthrew it. I’ve always been more than a little uncomfo…

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Harvey Schwartz, “Solidarity Stories: An Oral History of the ILWU”

0000-00-00 :: Marshall Poe
Length: 1s

One of my favorite bumper stickers reads “Unions: the Folks Who Brought You the Weekend.” Indeed they did. Organized labor has had a rocky history in the U.S. It’s been hounded for leaning left, associating with mobsters, and being corru…

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Sarah Ross, “The Birth of Feminism: Woman as Intellect in Renaissance Italy and England”

0000-00-00 :: Marshall Poe
Length: 1s

I’ll be honest: I have a Ph.D. in early modern European history from a big university you’ve probably heard of and I couldn’t name a single female writer of the Renaissance before I read Sarah Ross’s new book The Birth of Feminism.…

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Benjamin Binstock, “Vermeer’s Family Secrets: Genius, Discovery, and the Unknown Apprentice”

0000-00-00 :: Marshall Poe
Length: 1s

Ben Binstock‘s Vermeer’s Family Secrets: Genius, Discovery, and the Unknown Apprentice (Routledge, 2009) is one of the most fascinating books I have ever read.  It does what all good history books should do–tell you something you though…

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Michaela Hoenicke, “Know Your Enemy: American Debate on Nazism, 1933-1945″

0000-00-00 :: Marshall Poe
Length: 1s

To Americans, Hitler et al. were a confusing bunch. The National Socialists were Germans, and Germans had a reputation for refinement, industry, and order. After all, many Americans were of German descent, and they surely thought of themselves as refined,…

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