Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age. By Modris Eksteins. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1989. Bibliography, References, Index. ISBN 0-395-93758-2. Pp. 396. $16.00 (Paper).
In the Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age, Modris Eksteins connects the culture of the late nineteenth century with the death and destruction wrought on the battlefields of the Great War. While Paul Fussel advanced the thesis that the First World War directly caused the emer… »
The Long Shadow of the Civil War: Southern Dissent and Its Legacies. By Victoria E. Bynum. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2010. ISBN: 978-0-8078-3381-0. Bibliography. Index. Pp. 240. $35.00.
Often misunderstood as a monolith, the Confederacy was not without dissenters and its own rebels. In The Long Shadow of the Civil War, Victoria E. Bynum focuses on guerrilla bands that challenged Confederate rule in the states of North Carolina, Mississippi, and Texas. Uprisings such… »
U.S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth. By Joan Waugh. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2009. ISBN: 978-0-8078-3317-9. Bibliography. Index. Pp. 384. $30.00.
Since the First World War, the memory of General Ulysses S. Grant has shifted from positive to negative to positive, again. In part because of the restoration of Grant’s tomb, the disintegration of the Lost Cause, and the 1990 Ken Burns documentary on the Civil War, a more sympathetic interpretation of the general has »
Performing Medicine; Medical Culture and Identity in Provincial England, c.1760-1850 (Manchester & New York: Manchester University Press, 2011), 254pp.
I get excited when I receive a new book that so wonderfully engages with some of the major themes covered in my dissertation, and even better, a book that nicely contextualizes the background upon which I will narrate my story of aural surgery. I’ve long been a fan of Michael Brown’s works, particularly his paper “Medicine, Quackery and the Free… »
What follows are points of praise and criticism of Jackson Lears’ Rebirth of a Nation: The Making of Modern America, 1877-1920. I refuse to call this a review because that implies a smooth narrative of reflection. Creating that narrative requires more time than I have today. Plus, that kind of piece isn’t needed. This book has been positively reviewed, in narrative form, in a multitude of prominent, top-notch newspapers and magazines. In addition the end pages of Lears’ book are littered with q… »
On October 16, Farrar, Straus and Giroux published Henry Wiencek’s third book, Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves. His previous works both dealt with slavery, most notably his well-received An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America. By contrast, his latest work has come under fire from leading Jefferson scholars around the country. Within days of the book’s release, highly critical reviews by academics appeared in online magazines. These r… »
In the last few weeks everybody else has been nominating books of the year or recommending books for Christmas so I thought I would follow the trend and at the same time try to improve my somewhat negative image by actually writing a positive book review. In fact this is not a review of one book but of a whole series of seven books, The Routledge Sciences of Antiquity series. These books are not new but have been available for some years now although one of them saw the release of its second ex… »
I just read Alexandra Stern’s fine new history of genetic counseling, Telling Genes (Johns Hopkins, 2012; $40 cloth/$25 paper/ $15 Kindle). Though Alex is my friend, I review her book here because her subject relates so closely to the themes … Continue reading →
Reasonable men can dream monstrous dreams. It is the lesson of the 20th century: a lesson articulated from various perspectives since Adorno and Horkheimer wrote Dialectic of Enlightenment amid the wreckage of World War Two. Defenders of the Enlightenment can cogently argue (and many have) that Nazi science was a grotesque caricature, that the Holocaust was a betrayal of the Enlightenment rather than a fulfilment of its fatal dialectic. But it is harder to make that case with respect to the dev… »
Vietnam: Explaining America’s Lost War. By Gary R. Hess (ed). Malden, MA: Backwell Publishing, 2009. ISBN 978-1-4051-2528-4. Biography. References. Index. Pp. 218 $43.95 (Paper).
In Vietnam: Explaining America’s Lost War, historian Gary R. Hess assesses the current state of Vietnam War historiography. With strong orthodox leanings, Hess compares the arguments made by revisionists with those of orthodox scholars. Topics covered in Hess’s work include: whether the war was necessary or a mistake; … »
Another result of my plea for reading suggestions on twitter; this is a review and summary of Arthur Koestler’s book “The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man’s Changing Vision of the Universe”. The book is a history of cosmology running from Pythagoras, in the 6th century BC, to Galileo who spanned the end of the 16th century, just touching lightly on Newton. It traces a revolution from a time when the cosmos, beyond the earth, was considered different, stable and perfect, to a time when it was shown »
Steven Shapin salutes a biography of the ‘father of the atomic bomb’
Robert Oppenheimer was a complicated man. Everybody who knew him thought he was complicated; many of his friends and colleagues reckoned that he was far too complicated to figure out; some thought that he never figured himself out and that his life was one long, painful and ultimately unsuccessful experiment in personal identity, starting with toe-curling problems about sexual identity and culminating with mature, whose-side-i… »
Dr Rob Boddice is Marie-Curie CoFund Fellow at the Cluster of Excellence ‘Languages of Emotion’, at the Freie Universität Berlin, and Honorary Research Fellow at the Birkbeck Pain Project, London. Here he reviews Javier Moscoso’s new book Pain: A Cultural History (Palgrave … Continue reading →
Fifteen hundred years before the birth of Christ, a chunk of stuff blew off the planet Jupiter. That chunk soon became an enormous comet, approaching Earth several times around the period of the exodus of the Jews from Egypt and Joshua’s siege of Jericho. The ensuing havoc included the momentary stopping and restarting of the Earth’s rotation; the introduction into its crust of organic chemicals (including a portion of the world’s petroleum reserves); the parting of the Red Sea, induced by a ma… »
In February 1924, four months before George Mallory and Sandy Irvine died on Everest, Conrad published a short essay called ‘Geography and Some Explorers’. He distinguished between the provision of scientific facts, which could be of only limited interest, and the ‘drama of human . . .
A number of scholars have recently examined the ways in which Italians participated in, supported and/or resisted the Fascist project of radically transforming politics, society, and the citizens’ private sphere, including the transformation of the
Professor Dyer’s A Country Merchant represents the development of several emerging themes in late medieval and early modern history: for one, the increasing recognition of the long 15th century, and especially the period roughly framed by the reign
A brief panic over running out of things to read led me to poll my twitter followers for suggestions, Andrew Hodges’ biography of Alan Turing, Alan Turing: The Enigma was one result of that poll. Turing is most famous for his cryptanalysis work at Bletchley Park during the Second World War. He was born 23rd June 1912, so this is his 100th anniversary year. He was the child of families in the Indian Civil Service, with a baronetcy in another branch of the family.
The attitude of his public scho… »
In the Sunday NYTimes Book Review, David R. Swartz’s new book, Moral Minority: The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservatism is reviewed by Molly Worthen (who will be a member of a panel at the S-USIH conference in a month). Overall, Worthen finds much to praise about Swartz’s book, not least that it is one of the few books to ask what happened to the religious left following the Vietnam War. Readers of this blog know I am interested in this question as well and having ordered Swartz’s book … »
Bernard Porter on a philandering prince who made the monarchy popular again
In 1857 the 16-year-old Albert Edward, Queen Victoria’s first son and so heir to her throne, was set an essay on "whether kings should be elected". Yes, he wrote, "it is better than hereditary right because you have more chance of having a good sovereign; if it goes by hereditary right, if you have a bad or weak sovereign, you cannot prevent him reigning." This, however, didn’t stop him accepting the throne when it pass… »
Out of what materials was ‘Oliver Cromwell’ shaped? (1) To what extent was he self-consciously shaping and reshaping himself? Did he record those self-constructing manoeuvres with some insight and effect? Certainly his spiritual odyssey is
By Peter Richardson
“Subversives” shows how the two men and their allies sabotaged the careers of law-abiding citizens, defended reckless police violence and exploited an appalling double standard in the political use of FBI intelligence.
August 14, 2012 Reagan and Hoover, Sittin’ in a Tree
August 7, 2012 From a Refugee Camp to the Olympics
Alexander von Humboldt had the air of the mystic about him. He was a man who wandered mountains, gathered disciples, and looked for hidden meanings. In the age of specialization, he still thought it reasonable to write a book about The Universe. Yet as mystics go, Humboldt was a strange one. His visions did not appear to him in moments of solitude, while sitting in a temple or perched on a mountaintop. Rather, they came to him in the midst of the typhoon, trying to apprehend the deluge of pheno… »
Review of James Morton Turner’s, The Promise of Wilderness: American Environmental Politics since 1964 (University of Washington Press, 2012). ISBN 9780295991757 Reviewed by Keith Woodhouse Legislating the Wild Environmental history is not always gathered into intellectual history’s wide embrace. The concreteness and immediacy of the natural world can seem distinct from the abstractions that make up the world of ideas; in some ways non-human nature is exactly what human thought and imaginati… »
Gavin Robinson, Horses, People and Parliament in the English Civil War: Extracting Resources and Constructing Allegiance (Ashgate, 2012).
‘Parliamentarian’ and ‘Royalist’ are two of those words that it’s easy to throw around unthinkingly. Partly it’s because they are such a convenient shorthand for a set of concepts that are too complicated to express succinctly, that we can forget the nuances that come with them. But as the introduction of Horses, People and Parliament points out, it’s also be… »
How Protestant was Tudor England? By Diarmaid MacCulloch
Eamon Duffy secured his historical reputation with a great and eloquent book, The Stripping of the Altars, listening to voices that others had missed. Thanks to that and his later book, Fires of Faith, we can reassess both pre-reformation religion and the version of Catholicism that Queen Mary and her Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal Reginald Pole, rebuilt after Protestant mayhem. Now Duffy gathers up a number of essays pushing further … »
Review of Mark Solovey and Hamilton Cravens, eds. Cold War Social Science: Knowledge Production, Liberal Democracy, and Human Nature (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2012). ISBN: 978-0-230-34050-3, ISBN10: 0-230-34050-4 Reviewed by Christopher Shannon Social Science as Soulcraft As an academic genre, the edited volume of essays has a storied past in U.S. intellectual history. The essays in John Higham and Paul Conkin’s New Directions in American Intellectual History (1979) and Richard Fox a… »
A few weeks ago, this blog published Jim Livingston’s savage critique of Paul Murphy’s new book. The critique was part of a roundtable organized by Tim Lacy, our outgoing book review editor. I am our current book review editor. When I read Livingston’s piece, I thought, What the hell have I gotten myself into? I wasn’t just wondering about the book review editing gig, or doubting the wisdom of the blogging gig (from which I was taking a working break). What I really had in mind was the ent… »
Here at The Dispersal of Darwin, any mention of a tree of life stirs up the well-used image of Darwin’s sketch from 1837 (from Notebook B on transmutation, p. 36):
Writing “I think” above his sketch, Darwin likened the evolutionary relationships between species like that of branches on a tree (common ancestry from a central trunk, continued diversity resulting from many new branches forming, extinction when some branches cease). He wrote in On the Origin of Species (1859, p. 130): “The affini… »
According to the blurb on the back of this book:‘Everyone has a personal connection to the past, independent of historical inquiry. So, what is the role of the historian? Making History argues that historians have damagingly dissociated the
Professor John Maynard has revealed a little-known but significant Aboriginal movement in New South Wales during the 1920s that effectively protested against the government removing Aboriginal children from their families and the eviction of Aboriginal farmers from the land they owned. This book review is my contribution to the Indigenous Literature Week (1-8 July). Continue reading →
Rosalind Crone’s Violent Victorians is the kind of book that should be on every undergraduate reading list for 19th-century studies. The intricacies of class, of the multi-faceted character of a modernising society, and of the many faces of urban
In my last post, which mused on different kinds of veracity in history, I mentioned the book that I am reviewing today: Ian Hesketh’s The Science of History in Victorian Britain: Making the Past Speak, published by Pickering Chatto last year in the same series as my own book. It focuses on British historiography of the second half of the 19th century, in particular the claims made about possible scientific approaches to history, contrasted with more literary forms, in the process of its profess… »
‘I wish I knew a history was a history,’ remarks Gertrude Stein in A Geographical History of America. That might be because ‘history is the state of confusion between anybody doing anything and anything happening’.(1) An oblique
This post is a review of C.D. Andriesse’s biography “Huygens: The Man Behind the Principle”. Huygens Principle concerns the propagation of light but he carried out a wide range of research, including work on clocks, Saturn (discovering its moon “Titan” and hypothesizing the existence of its rings), buoyancy, circular motion, collisions, musical scales and pendulums. Huygens has made passing appearances in my blog posts on the French Académie des Sciences, on telescopes and also on clocks.
On the »
In books for children, Charles Darwin is generally depicted as an old man, a wise and respected gentleman. In more recent years, there have been many books that focus on Darwin during the voyage of HMS Beagle, and they show him as a curious young man, an explorer and collector, traversing exotic locales. For those wishing for a book about Darwin as he was in between young and old, as a middle-aged man at the time he wrote On the Origin of Species, then you must check out The Humblebee Hunter, I… »
The Oxford Handbook of the History of Medicine appears at a critical moment for medical history; in a period when its practitioners are being forced to re-evaluate their aims and agendas in the face of shifting funding priorities and disciplinary angst.
At the dawn of the 1930s a new empowered image of the female was taking root in popular culture in the West, also challenging the Chinese and Japanese historical norm of the woman as homemaker or geisha in the East. Through a focus on the writings of the Western women who engaged with the Far East, this book reveals the complex redefining of the self taking place in a time of political and economic upheaval. An appealing read for those interested in gender, cultural exchange and cultural borrow… »
Art and Anatomy in Renaissance Italy (Metropolitan Museum of Art / Yale University Press, 2012), a reprint of an issue of the Met’s Bulletin, is a 46-page illustrated essay by Domenico Laurenza, a historian of science who spent several years as a fellow at the Met studying the museum’s collections of anatomical drawings, manuscripts, and printed books. Laurenza subtitles his essay "Images from a Scientific Revolution," and, using examples mostly drawn from the Met’s collections, explores the w… »
Earlier, it was telescopes, now I’m on to clocks! Here I review Eric Bruton’s book “The History of Clocks & Watches”. I came to it via an edition of the Radio 4 programme “In Our Time” on the measurement of time (here). The book was originally published in 1979, the edition I read was from 2002. I mention this because there is some evidence that the text has not been fully updated.
1 Earliest clocks
The book starts with a slightly cursory look at the use of the sun to measure time, and mentions… »
Review of Daniel Horowitz’s Consuming Pleasures: Intellectuals and Popular Culture in the Postwar World (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012). ISBN: 9780812243956. 491 pages. Reviewed by Andrew Seal Yale University The book under review is the third that Daniel Horowitz has published on consumer culture in the United States, and it both is and isn’t useful to think of it as part of a trilogy, along with The Morality of Spending: Attitudes Toward the Consumer Society in Americ… »
The history of Britain during the two inter-war decades could be characterised by reference to a process by which, while the nation still clung to many of its pre-1914 imperial certainties (which in many ways still defined British identity), society was
This is a book review. It is a review of Mark A. Peterson’s Galileo’s Muse: Renaissance Mathematics and the Arts (Harvard University Press, 2011) that I have to admit I’m writing with some reluctance. Why? I’m writing this review with some reluctance because it is going to be an extremely negative review. Now regular readers of this blog are probably asking themselves, “is he ill?” “There’s nothing the Renaissance Mathematicus likes more than putting the boot in, so why not now?” These would of… »
British imperialism may have been oversold. Anti-imperialists tend to blame it for most of the problems of the modern world; a rather smaller band of apologists credits it with spreading modernity. These views are not incompatible: either way it is seen as crucial. Most of the popular . . .
The main theme of this book is American environmentalism and the development of the modern environmental movement. Starting with the standard narrative for the development of this movement, Chad Montrie lays out in chronological order how it is
This post is a review and summary of Larrie D. Ferreiro’s book “Measure of the Earth” which describes the French Geodesic Mission to South America to measure the length of a degree of latitude at the equator. The action takes place in the 2nd quarter of the 18th century, the Mission left France in 1735 with the first of its members returning to Europe in 1744.
The book fits together with The Measure of All Things by Ken Alder, which is about the later French effort to measure a meridian through… »
Anglo-Saxon historians are in an enviable position when it comes to electronic resources. We already have a host of helpful websites at our fingertips: the Electronic Sawyer (http://www.esawyer.org.uk/), Kemble (http://www.kemble.asnc.cam.ac.uk/),
A review of The Herschels: A Scientific Family in Training, by Emily Winterburn.
William Herschel and his family have long been subjects of interest for historians and popularizers. The Herschels were blessed with uncommon longevity: two event-filled centuries elapsed from the time of William’s birth in 1738 to the death of his youngest grandchild in 1939. The lives of the notable among them (William, his sister Caroline and son John) were rife with exciting tales of adventure, discovery and ro… »
A brief survey of the recent academic literature on global history reveals an academy that is still trying to define a historiographical movement. Definitions abound, ranging from the vague – connecting world history, international history,
This post is a review of “Stargazers:The Life and Times of the Telescope” by Fred Watson. It traces the history, and development of the telescope from a little before its invention in 1608 to the present day.
The book begins its historical path with Tycho Brahe, a Danish astronomer who lived 1546-1601. He built an observatory, Uraniborg, on the Danish island of Hven in view of his patron, King Frederick II of Denmark. Brahe’s contribution to astronomy were the data which were to lead to Johannes »
Nuala Zahedieh’s The Capital and the Colonies explains the rise of London to preeminence in the Atlantic economy. Between 1660 and 1700, Londoners used their considerable political and economic advantages to shape a commercial system that fostered
The residents of Sydney Town in the first half of the 19th century were often engaged in disputes with their fellow setlers. Using the documents relating to a controversial missionary author, Anna Johnston, gains a greater understanding about the behaviour of the missionary and his contemporaries. In her book, The Paper War, she shares with her readers some of the techniques that historians use when exploring documents in an archive to gain an understanding of life in the past. This is a book r… »
Book review by Trent Overby:
Voyagers of the Titanic: Passengers, Sailors, Shipbuilders, Aristocrats, and the Worlds They Came From tells the story of the people involved with the Titanic, from its inception to its sinking, rather than focusing on the accident itself. Richard Davenport-Hines delves into the lives of those who created this ‘unsinkable leviathan,’ those who traveled on the world’s most luxurious liner, and those whose lives were lost while in the pursuit of a better life in Ameri… »
Review of Kevin Schultz’s Tri-Faith America: How Catholics and Jews Held Postwar America to Its Protestant Promise (New York City: Oxford University Press, 2011). ISBN: 9780195331769. 264 pages. Reviewed by Fred Beuttler Carroll University America as a “Protestant” Nation? A few years ago I was at a conference on religion and neuroscience and was arguing with a German theologian over which of our two countries was more democratic. We went back and forth on various aspects of our respective … »
Book Review of The Last Pagan – Informative and well-written the Last Pagan will surely be the definitive book on Julian for some time to come. It is a biography worthy to grace any Romanophiles study.
Performing Medicine, an exploration of the transformation of the cultures, values and meanings of medicine across the late 18th and early 19th centuries, constitutes a new and welcome contribution to the historiography of medical life and the creation of
Review of Sven Beckert and Julia B. Rosenbaum, Editors, The American Bourgeoisie: Distinction and Identity in the Nineteenth Century. Studies in Cultural and Intellectual History, Palgrave Macillan: New York City, 2011. Reviewed by Nicholas P. Cox University of Houston “Who in the world today, especially in the realm of culture, defends the bourgeoisie?” -Daniel Bell, The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism (1976) If Sven Beckert and Julia B. Rosenbaum, editors of The American Bourgeoisi… »
This is a review of “The Great Arc: The Dramatic Tale of How India Was Mapped and Everest Was Named” by John Keay. This book does exactly what it says in the lengthy subtitle: describe the Great Triangulation Survey of India which was conducted in the first half of the 19th century.
It fits together with “Map of a Nation” by Rachel Hewitt and “The Measure of All Things” By Ken Alder. The former describes the detailed mapping of the United Kingdom by the Ordnance Survey, whilst the later describ… »
A review of The Hunter’s Gaze: Charles Darwin and the Role of Dogs and Sport in Nineteenth Century Natural History, by David Allan Feller.
In The Hunter’s Gaze: Charles Darwin and the Role of Dogs and Sport in Nineteenth Century Natural History, David Feller analyzes the role of dogs in the formation of Darwin’s scientific career and the formulation of his theories. Feller argues that Darwin acquired all that he needed from the dogs with which he shared his life, from his earliest years in the … »
“Decoding the Heavens” by Jo Marchant is the story of the Antikythera Mechanism, a mechanical astronomical calculator dating from around 100BC which predicts the motions of heavenly bodies including the sun, moon and various planets. The best way to understand how the device worked is through videos relating to this book (here) and, rather more slickly (here).
The Antikythera Mechanism was recovered off the coast of the island which provides its name in 1900. The wreck from which it was recover… »
In The Future of History Alan Munslow tackles the big problem facing historians in the 21st century, the problem of whether history as we know it has a future and, if not, what historians should do about that. Munslow sees the main problem as
A review of Nature and the Making of a Scientific Community, 1869-1939, by Melinda Baldwin.
Melinda Baldwin’s dissertation provides a fascinating history of the early years of the scientific journal Nature, beginning with its creation in 1869 by Sir Norman Lockyer and ending with the retirement of its second editor Sir Richard Arman Gregory in 1939. Challenging our awareness of Nature’s prominent place in the sciences today, Baldwin historicizes the complicated process by which the publication … »