Monday, March 31, 2008

"Imperial Nature"

New from the University of Chicago Press: Jim Endersby's Imperial Nature: Joseph Hooker and the Practices of Victorian Science.

About the book, from the publisher:
Joseph Dalton Hooker (1817–1911) was an internationally renowned botanist, a close friend and early supporter of Charles Darwin, and one of the first—and most successful—British men of science to become a full-time professional. He was also, Jim Endersby argues, the perfect embodiment of Victorian science. A vivid picture of the complex interrelationships of scientific work and scientific ideas, Imperial Nature gracefully uses one individual’s career to illustrate the changing world of science in the Victorian era.

By analyzing Hooker’s career, Endersby offers vivid insights into the everyday activities of nineteenth-century naturalists, considering matters as diverse as botanical illustration and microscopy, classification, and specimen transportation and storage, to reveal what they actually did, how they earned a living, and what drove their scientific theories. What emerges is a rare glimpse of Victorian scientific practices in action. By focusing on science’s material practices and one of its foremost practitioners, Endersby ably links concerns about empire, professionalism, and philosophical practices to the forging of a nineteenth-century scientific identity.
Visit Jim Endersby's Joseph Hooker website.

The Page 99 Test: Jim Endersby's A Guinea Pig’s History of Biology.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

"On Speed"

New from New York University Press: On Speed: The Many Lives of Amphetamine by Nicolas Rasmussen.

About the book, from the publisher:

Uppers. Crank. Bennies. Dexies. Greenies. Black Beauties. Purple Hearts. Crystal. Ice. And, of course, Speed. Whatever their street names at the moment, amphetamines have been an insistent force in American life since they were marketed as the original antidepressants in the 1930s. On Speed tells the remarkable story of their rise, their fall, and their surprising resurgence. Along the way, it discusses the influence of pharmaceutical marketing on medicine, the evolving scientific understanding of how the human brain works, the role of drugs in maintaining the social order, and the centrality of pills in American life. Above all, however, this is a highly readable biography of a very popular drug. And it is a riveting story.

Incorporating extensive new research, On Speed describes the ups and downs (fittingly, there are mostly ups) in the history of amphetamines, and their remarkable pervasiveness. For example, at the same time that amphetamines were becoming part of the diet of many GIs in World War II, an amphetamine-abusing counterculture began to flourish among civilians. In the 1950s, psychiatrists and family doctors alike prescribed amphetamines for a wide variety of ailments, from mental disorders to obesity to emotional distress. By the late 1960s, speed had become a fixture in everyday life: up to ten percent of Americans were thought to be using amphetamines at least occasionally.

Although their use was regulated in the 1970s, it didn't take long for amphetamines to make a major comeback, with the discovery of Attention Deficit Disorder and the role that one drug in the amphetamine family—Ritalin—could play in treating it. Todays most popular diet-assistance drugs differ little from the diet pills of years gone by, still speed at their core. And some of our most popular recreational drugs—including the "mellow" drug, Ecstasy—are also amphetamines. Whether we want to admit it or not, writes Rasmussen, were still a nation on speed.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

"The Natural and the Supernatural in the Middle Ages"

New from Cambridge University Press: The Natural and the Supernatural in the Middle Ages by Robert Bartlett.

About the book, from the publisher:
How did people of the medieval period explain physical phenomena, such as eclipses or the distribution of land and water on the globe? What creatures did they think they might encounter: angels, devils, witches, dogheaded people? This fascinating book explores the ways in which medieval people categorized the world, concentrating on the division between the natural and the supernatural and showing how the idea of the supernatural came to be invented in the Middle Ages. Robert Bartlett examines how theologians and others sought to draw lines between the natural, the miraculous, the marvelous and the monstrous, and the many conceptual problems they encountered as they did so. The final chapter explores the extraordinary thought-world of Roger Bacon as a case study exemplifying these issues. By recovering the mentalities of medieval writers and thinkers the book raises the critical question of how we deal with beliefs we no longer share.

Friday, March 28, 2008

"Retaking Rationality"

New from Oxford University Press: Retaking Rationality: How Cost Benefit Analysis Can Better Protect the Environment and Our Health by Richard Revesz and Michael Livermore.

About the book, from the publisher:
That America's natural environment has been degraded and despoiled over the past 25 years is beyond dispute. Nor has there been any shortage of reasons why -- short-sighted politicians, a society built on over-consumption, and the dramatic weakening of environmental regulations.

In Retaking Rationality, Richard Revesz and Michael Livermore argue convincingly that one of the least understood-and most important-causes of our failure to protect the environment has been a misguided rejection of reason. The authors show that environmentalists, labor unions, and other progressive groups have declined to participate in the key governmental proceedings concerning the cost-benefit analysis of federal regulations. As a result of this vacuum, industry groups have captured cost-benefit analysis and used it to further their anti-regulatory ends. Beginning in 1981, the federal Office of Management and Budget and the federal courts have used cost-benefit analysis extensively to determine which environmental, health, and safety regulations are approved and which are sent back to the drawing board. The resulting imbalance in political participation has profoundly affected the nation's regulatory and legal landscape. But Revesz and Livermore contend that economic analysis of regulations is necessary and that it needn't conflict with-and can in fact support-a more compassionate approach to environmental policy. Indeed, they show that we cannot give up on rationality if we truly want to protect our natural environment.

Retaking Rationality makes clear that by embracing and reforming cost-benefit analysis, and by joining reason and compassion, progressive groups can help enact strong environmental and public health regulation.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

"Partisans of Allah"

New from Harvard University Press: Partisans of Allah: Jihad in South Asia by Ayesha Jalal.

About the book, from the publisher:
The idea of jihad is central to Islamic faith and ethics, and yet its meanings have been highly contested over time. They have ranged from the philosophical struggle to live an ethical life to the political injunction to wage war against enemies of Islam. Today, more than ever, jihad signifies the political opposition between Islam and the West. As the line drawn between Muslims and non-Muslims becomes more rigid, Ayesha Jalal seeks to retrieve the ethical meanings of this core Islamic principle in South Asian history.

Drawing on historical, legal, and literary sources, Jalal traces the intellectual itinerary of jihad through several centuries and across the territory connecting the Middle East with South Asia. She reveals how key innovations in modern Islamic thought resulted from historical imperatives. The social and political scene in India before, during, and after British colonial rule forms the main backdrop. We experience the jihad as armed warfare waged by Sayyid Ahmad of Rai Bareilly between 1826 and 1831, the calls to jihad in the great rebellion of 1857, the fusion of jihad with a strand of anti-colonial nationalism in the early twentieth century, and the contemporary politics of self-styled jihadis in Pakistan, waging war to liberate co-religionists in Afghanistan and Kashmir.

Partisans of Allah surveys this rich and tumultuous history of South Asian Muslims and its critical contribution to the intellectual development of the key concept of jihad. Analyzing the complex interplay of ethics and politics in Muslim history, the author effectively demonstrates the preeminent role of jihad in the Muslim faith today.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"Shaping Strategy"

New from Princeton University Press: Shaping Strategy: The Civil-Military Politics of Strategic Assessment by Risa Brooks.

About the book, from the publisher:
Good strategic assessment does not guarantee success in international relations, but bad strategic assessment dramatically increases the risk of disastrous failure. The most glaring example of this reality is playing out in Iraq today. But what explains why states and their leaders are sometimes so good at strategic assessment--and why they are sometimes so bad at it? Part of the explanation has to do with a state's civil-military relations. In Shaping Strategy, Risa Brooks develops a novel theory of how states' civil-military relations affect strategic assessment during international conflicts. And her conclusions have broad practical importance: to anticipate when states are prone to strategic failure abroad, we must look at how civil-military relations affect the analysis of those strategies at home.

Drawing insights from both international relations and comparative politics, Shaping Strategy shows that good strategic assessment depends on civil-military relations that encourage an easy exchange of information and a rigorous analysis of a state's own relative capabilities and strategic environment. Among the diverse case studies the book illuminates, Brooks explains why strategic assessment in Egypt was so poor under Gamal Abdel Nasser prior to the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and why it improved under Anwar Sadat. The book also offers a new perspective on the devastating failure of U.S. planning for the second Iraq war. Brooks argues that this failure, far from being unique, is an example of an assessment pathology to which states commonly succumb.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"The Everyday Lives of Young Children"

New from Cambridge University Press: The Everyday Lives of Young Children: Culture, Class, and Child Rearing in Diverse Societies by Jonathan Tudge.

About the book, from the publisher:
Where do young children spend their time? What activities are they involved in, and who do they interact with? How do these activities and interactions vary across different societies and cultural groups? This book provides unique answers to these questions, by describing the lives of three-year-olds in the United States, Russia, Estonia, Finland, South Korea, Kenya, and Brazil. Each child was followed for the equivalent of one complete waking day, whether at home, in childcare, on the streets, at the shops, etc. Graphic displays and verbal descriptions of the children’s everyday activities and interactions reveal both the ways in which culture influences children’s lives and the ways in which children play a role in changing the cultural groups of which they are a part. This book also has a clear theoretical rationale and illustrates why and how to do cultural-ecological research.

Monday, March 24, 2008


New from Yale University Press: Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein.

About the book, from the publisher:
Every day, we make decisions on topics ranging from personal investments to schools for our children to the meals we eat to the causes we champion. Unfortunately, we often choose poorly. The reason, the authors explain, is that, being human, we all are susceptible to various biases that can lead us to blunder. Our mistakes make us poorer and less healthy; we often make bad decisions involving education, personal finance, health care, mortgages and credit cards, the family, and even the planet itself.

Thaler and Sunstein invite us to enter an alternative world, one that takes our humanness as a given. They show that by knowing how people think, we can design choice environments that make it easier for people to choose what is best for themselves, their families, and their society. Using colorful examples from the most important aspects of life, Thaler and Sunstein demonstrate how thoughtful “choice architecture” can be established to nudge us in beneficial directions without restricting freedom of choice. Nudge offers a unique new take—from neither the left nor the right—on many hot-button issues, for individuals and governments alike. This is one of the most engaging and provocative books to come along in many years.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

"Suffragists in an Imperial Age"

New from Oxford University Press: Suffragists in an Imperial Age: U.S. Expansion and the Woman Question, 1870-1929 by Allison L. Sneider.

About the book, from the publisher:
In 1899, Carrie Chapman Catt, who succeeded Susan B. Anthony as head of the National American Women Suffrage Association, argued that it was the "duty" of U.S. women to help lift the inhabitants of its new island possessions up from "barbarism" to "civilization," a project that would presumably demonstrate the capacity of U.S. women for full citizenship and political rights. Catt, like many suffragists in her day, was well-versed in the language of empire, and infused the cause of suffrage with imperialist zeal in public debate.

Unlike their predecessors, who were working for votes for women within the context of slavery and abolition, the next generation of suffragists argued their case against the backdrop of the U.S. expansionism into Indian and Mormon territory at home as well as overseas in the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii. In this book, Allison L. Sneider carefully examines these simultaneous political movements--woman suffrage and American imperialism--as inextricably intertwined phenomena, instructively complicating the histories of both.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

"Worlds at War"

New from Random House: Worlds at War: The 2,500-Year Struggle Between East and West by Anthony Pagden.

About the book, from the publisher:
Spanning two and a half millennia, Anthony Pagden’s mesmerizing Worlds at War delves deep into the roots of the “clash of civilizations” between East and West that has always been a battle over ideas, and whose issues have never been more urgent.

Worlds At War begins in the ancient world, where Greece saw its fight against the Persian Empire as one between freedom and slavery, between monarchy and democracy, between individuality and the worship of men as gods. Here, richly rendered, are the crucial battle of Marathon, considered the turning point of Greek and European history; the heroic attempt by the Greeks to turn the Persians back at Thermopylae; and Salamis, one of the greatest naval battles of all time, which put an end to the Persian threat forever.

From there Pagden’s story sweeps to Rome, which created the modern concepts of citizenship and the rule of law. Rome’s leaders believed those they conquered to be free, while the various peoples of the East persisted in seeing their subjects as property. Pagden dramatizes the birth of Christianity in the East and its use in the West as an instrument of government, setting the stage for what would become, and has remained, a global battle of the secular against the sacred. Then Islam, at first ridiculed in Christian Europe, drives Pope Urban II to launch the Crusades, which transform the relationship between East and West into one of competing religious beliefs.

Modern times bring a first world war, which among its many murky aims seeks to redesign the Muslim world by force. In our own era, Muslims now find themselves in unwelcoming Western societies, while the West seeks to enforce democracy and its own secular values through occupation in the East. Pagden ends on a cautionary note, warning that terrorism and war will continue as long as sacred and secular remain confused in the minds of so many.

Eye-opening and compulsively readable, Worlds at War is a stunning work of history and a triumph of modern scholarship. It is bound to become the definitive work on the reasons behind the age-old and still escalating struggle that, more than any other, has come to define the modern world–a book for anyone seeking to know why “we came to be the way we are.”

Friday, March 21, 2008

"Flesh Made Word"

New from Harvard University Press: Flesh Made Word: Saints' Stories and the Western Imagination by Aviad Kleinberg.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the fourth century a new narrative genre captured the imagination of the faithful—the moving accounts of the lives of Christian saints. Willing to die gruesome deaths or endure constant suffering, saints conveyed a powerful message: God was still present in the world. He continues to manifest His powers and communicate His messages through His special friends—the saints. What kind of Christianity do we find in these stories? In this original and provocative work, Aviad Kleinberg argues that the saints’ stories of medieval Europe were more than edifying entertainment; they retain an alternative theology, often quite different from the formal theology of the Church. By telling and retelling the story of virtue and salvation, by expanding the religious imagination of the West, they were shaping and reshaping Christianity itself.

In this study of stories from the fourth through the fourteenth centuries, we meet the tender Perpetua bidding farewell to her infant son, Simeon Stylites turning himself into a rotting corpse, Francis of Assisi finding joy in suffering, and Fra Ginepro playing the fool, for Christ. We meet holy anchorites, headstrong virgins, fearless dragon slayers, and scheming politicians. Kleinberg unveils the inner contradictions, the subversive ideas, and the deadly power games that lay behind the making of the Western imagination. People, ideas, and passions—often relegated to the back pews—take center stage in this daring book. This is a story of how stories change lives.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

"The Medieval Origins of the Legal Profession"

New from the University of Chicago Press: The Medieval Origins of the Legal Profession: Canonists, Civilians, and Courts by James A. Brundage.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the aftermath of sixth-century barbarian invasions, the legal profession that had grown and flourished during the Roman Empire vanished. Nonetheless, professional lawyers suddenly reappeared in Western Europe seven hundred years later during the 1230s when church councils and public authorities began to impose a body of ethical obligations on those who practiced law. James Brundage’s The Medieval Origins of the Legal Profession traces the history of legal practice from its genesis in ancient Rome to its rebirth in the early Middle Ages and eventual resurgence in the courts of the medieval church.

By the end of the eleventh century, Brundage argues, renewed interest in Roman law combined with the rise of canon law of the Western church to trigger a series of consolidations in the profession. New legal procedures emerged, and formal training for proctors and advocates became necessary in order to practice law in the reorganized church courts. Brundage demonstrates that many features that characterize legal advocacy today were already in place by 1250, as lawyers trained in Roman and canon law became professionals in every sense of the term. A sweeping examination of the centuries-long power struggle between local courts and the Christian church, secular rule and religious edict, The Medieval Origins of the Legal Profession will be a resource for the professional and the student alike.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

"One Nation Under Debt"

New from McGraw-Hill: One Nation Under Debt: Hamilton, Jefferson, and the History of What We Owe by Robert E. Wright.

About the book, from the publisher:

Like its current citizens, the United States was born in debt-a debt so deep that it threatened to destroy the young nation. Thomas Jefferson considered the national debt a monstrous fraud on posterity, while Alexander Hamilton believed debt would help America prosper. Both, as it turns out, were right.

One Nation Under Debt explores the untold history of America's first national debt, which arose from the immense sums needed to conduct the American Revolution. Noted economic historian Robert Wright, Ph.D. tells in riveting narrative how a subjugated but enlightened people cast off a great tyrant-“but their liberty, won with promises as well as with the blood of patriots, came at a high price.” He brings to life the key events that shaped the U.S. financial system and explains how the actions of our forefathers laid the groundwork for the debt we still carry today.

As an economically tenuous nation by Revolution's end, America's people struggled to get on their feet. Wright outlines how the formation of a new government originally reduced the nation's debt-but, as debt was critical to this government's survival, it resurfaced, to be beaten back once more. Wright then reveals how political leaders began accumulating massive new debts to ensure their popularity, setting the financial stage for decades to come.

Wright traces critical evolutionary developments-from Alexander Hamilton's creation of the nation's first modern capital market, to the use of national bonds to further financial goals, to the drafting of state constitutions that created non-predatory governments. He shows how, by the end of Andrew Jackson's administration, America's financial system was contributing to national growth while at the same time new national and state debts were amassing, sealing the fate for future generations.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

"A Brief History of the Late Ottoman Empire"

New from Princeton University Press: A Brief History of the Late Ottoman Empire by M. Sükrü Hanioglu.

About the book, from the publisher:

At the turn of the nineteenth century, the Ottoman Empire straddled three continents and encompassed extraordinary ethnic and cultural diversity among the estimated thirty million people living within its borders. It was perhaps the most cosmopolitan state in the world--and possibly the most volatile. A Brief History of the Late Ottoman Empire now gives scholars and general readers a concise history of the late empire between 1789 and 1918, turbulent years marked by incredible social change.

Moving past standard treatments of the subject, M. Sükrü Hanioglu emphasizes broad historical trends and processes more than single events. He examines the imperial struggle to centralize amid powerful opposition from local rulers, nationalist and other groups, and foreign powers. He looks closely at the socioeconomic changes this struggle wrought and addresses the Ottoman response to the challenges of modernity. Hanioglu shows how this history is not only essential to comprehending modern Turkey, but is integral to the histories of Europe and the world. He brings Ottoman society marvelously to life in all its facets--cultural, diplomatic, intellectual, literary, military, and political--and he mines imperial archives and other documents from the period to describe it as it actually was, not as it has been portrayed in postimperial nationalist narratives. A Brief History of the Late Ottoman Empire is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand the legacy left in this empire's ruins--a legacy the world still grapples with today.

Monday, March 17, 2008

"The Crisis of Imprisonment"

New from Cambridge University Press: The Crisis of Imprisonment: Protest, Politics, and the Making of the American Penal State, 1776–1941 by Rebecca McLennan.

About the book, from the publisher:
America’s prison-based system of punishment has not always enjoyed the widespread political and moral legitimacy it has today. In this groundbreaking reinterpretation of penal history, Rebecca McLennan covers the periods of deep instability, popular protest, and political crisis that characterized early American prisons. She details the debates surrounding prison reform, including the limits of state power, the influence of market forces, the role of unfree labor, and the ‘just deserts’ of wrongdoers. McLennan also explores the system that existed between the War of 1812 and the Civil War, where private companies relied on prisoners for labor. Finally, she discusses the rehabilitation model that has primarily characterized the penal system in the twentieth century. Unearthing fresh evidence from prison and state archives, McLennan shows how, in each of three distinct periods of crisis, widespread dissent culminated in the dismantling of old systems of imprisonment.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

"India: The Emerging Giant"

New from Oxford University Press: India: The Emerging Giant by Arvind Panagariya.

About the book, from the publisher:
India is not only the world's largest and fiercely independent democracy, but also an emerging economic giant. But to date there has been no comprehensive account of India's remarkable growth or the role policy has played in fueling this expansion. India: The Emerging Giant fills this gap, shedding light on one of the most successful experiments in economic development in modern history.

Why did the early promise of the Indian economy not materialize and what led to its eventual turnaround? What policy initiatives have been undertaken in the last twenty years and how do they relate to the upward shift in the growth rate? What must be done to push the growth rate to double-digit levels? To answer these crucial questions, Arvind Panagariya offers a brilliant analysis of India's economy over the last fifty years--from the promising start in the 1950s, to the near debacle of the 1970s (when India came to be regarded as a "basket case"), to the phenomenal about face of the last two decades. The author illuminates the ways that government policies have promoted economic growth (or, in the case of Indira Gandhi's policies, economic stagnation), and offers insightful discussions of such key topics as poverty and inequality, tax reform, telecommunications (perhaps the single most important success story), agriculture and transportation, and the government's role in health, education, and sanitation.

The dramatic change in the fortunes of 1.1 billion people has, not surprisingly, generated tremendous interest in the economy of India. Arvind Panagariya offers the first major account of how this has come about and what more India must do to sustain its rapid growth and alleviate poverty. It will be must reading for everyone interested in modern India, foreign affairs, or the world economy.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

"Starved for Science"

New from Harvard University Press: Starved for Science: How Biotechnology Is Being Kept Out of Africa by Robert Paarlberg.

About the book, from the publisher:

Heading upcountry in Africa to visit small farms is absolutely exhilarating given the dramatic beauty of big skies, red soil, and arid vistas, but eventually the two-lane tarmac narrows to rutted dirt, and the journey must continue on foot. The farmers you eventually meet are mostly women, hardworking but visibly poor. They have no improved seeds, no chemical fertilizers, no irrigation, and with their meager crops they earn less than a dollar a day. Many are malnourished.

Nearly two-thirds of Africans are employed in agriculture, yet on a per-capita basis they produce roughly 20 percent less than they did in 1970. Although modern agricultural science was the key to reducing rural poverty in Asia, modern farm science—including biotechnology—has recently been kept out of Africa.

In Starved for Science Robert Paarlberg explains why poor African farmers are denied access to productive technologies, particularly genetically engineered seeds with improved resistance to insects and drought. He traces this obstacle to the current opposition to farm science in prosperous countries. Having embraced agricultural science to become well-fed themselves, those in wealthy countries are now instructing Africans—on the most dubious grounds—not to do the same.

In a book sure to generate intense debate, Paarlberg details how this cultural turn against agricultural science among affluent societies is now being exported, inappropriately, to Africa. Those who are opposed to the use of agricultural technologies are telling African farmers that, in effect, it would be just as well for them to remain poor.

Friday, March 14, 2008

"Throes of Democracy"

New from Harper: Throes of Democracy: The American Civil War Era 1829-1877 by Walter A. McDougall.

About the book, from the publisher:

"And then there came a day of fire!" From its shocking curtain-raiser—the conflagration that consumed Lower Manhattan in 1835—to the climactic centennial year of 1876, when Americans staged a corrupt, deadlocked presidential campaign (fought out in Florida), Walter A. McDougall's Throes of Democracy: The American Civil War Era, 1829-1877 throws off sparks like a flywheel. This eagerly awaited sequel to Freedom Just Around the Corner: A New American History, 1585-1828 carries the saga of the American people's continuous self-reinvention from the inauguration of President Andrew Jackson through the eras of Manifest Destiny, Civil War, and Reconstruction, America's first failed crusade to put "freedom on the march" through regime change and nation building.

But Throes of Democracy is much more than a political history. Here, for the first time, is the American epic as lived by Germans and Irish, Catholics and Jews, as well as people of British Protestant and African American stock; an epic defined as much by folks in Wisconsin, Kansas, and Texas as by those in Massachusetts, New York, and Virginia; an epic in which Mormon prophet Joseph Smith, showman P. T. Barnum, and circus clown Dan Rice figure as prominently as Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, and Henry Ward Beecher; an epic in which railroad management and land speculation prove as gripping as Indian wars. Walter A. McDougall's zesty, irreverent narrative says something new, shrewd, ironic, or funny about almost everything as it reveals our national penchant for pretense—a predilection that explains both the periodic throes of democracy and the perennial resilience of the United States.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

"The Presidency in the Era of 24-Hour News"

New from Princeton University Press: The Presidency in the Era of 24-Hour News by Jeffrey E. Cohen.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Presidency in the Era of 24-Hour News examines how changes in the news media since the golden age of television--when three major networks held a near monopoly on the news people saw in the United States--have altered the way presidents communicate with the public and garner popular support. How did Bill Clinton manage to maintain high approval ratings during the Monica Lewinsky scandal? Why has the Iraq war mired George Bush in the lowest approval ratings of his presidency? Jeffrey Cohen reveals how the decline of government regulation and the growth of Internet and cable news outlets have made news organizations more competitive, resulting in decreased coverage of the president in the traditional news media and an increasingly negative tone in the coverage that does occur. He traces the dwindling of public trust in the news and shows how people pay less attention to it than they once did. Cohen argues that the news media's influence over public opinion has decreased considerably as a result, and so has the president's ability to influence the public through the news media. This has prompted a sea change in presidential leadership style. Engaging the public less to mobilize broad support, presidents increasingly cultivate special-interest groups that often already back the White House's agenda.

This book carries far-reaching implications for the future of presidential governance and American democracy in the era of new media.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

"The Classical Foundations of the American Constitution"

New from Cambridge University Press: The Classical Foundations of the American Constitution: Prevailing Wisdom by David J. Bederman.

About the book, from the publisher:
The framers of the American Constitution were substantially influenced by ancient history and classical political theory, as exemplified by their education, the availability of classical readings, and their inculcation in classical republican values. This volume explores how the framing generation deployed classical learning to develop many of the essential structural aspects of the Constitution: federalism, separation of powers, a bicameral legislature, independent courts, and the war and foreign relations powers. Also examined are very contemporary constitutional debates, for which there were classical inspirations, including sovereign immunity, executive privilege, line-item vetoes, and the electoral college. Combining techniques of intellectual history, classical studies, and constitutional interpretation, this book makes a unique contribution to our understanding of contemporary constitutionalism.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

"1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War"

New from Yale University Press: 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War by Benny Morris.

About the book, from the publisher:
This history of the foundational war in the Arab-Israeli conflict is groundbreaking, objective, and deeply revisionist. A riveting account of the military engagements, it also focuses on the war's political dimensions. Benny Morris probes the motives and aims of the protagonists on the basis of newly opened Israeli and Western documentation. The Arab side—where the archives are still closed—is illuminated with the help of intelligence and diplomatic materials.

Morris stresses the jihadi character of the two-stage Arab assault on the Jewish community in Palestine. Throughout, he examines the dialectic between the war's military and political developments and highlights the military impetus in the creation of the refugee problem, which was a by-product of the disintegration of Palestinian Arab society. The book thoroughly investigates the role of the Great Powers—Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union—in shaping the conflict and its tentative termination in 1949. Morris looks both at high politics and general staff decision-making processes and at the nitty-gritty of combat in the successive battles that resulted in the emergence of the State of Israel and the humiliation of the Arab world, a humiliation that underlies the continued Arab antagonism toward Israel.

Monday, March 10, 2008

"God’s Crucible"

Recently from W.W. Norton: David Levering-Lewis' God’s Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570–1215.

About the book, from the publisher:
In this panoramic history of Islamic culture in early Europe, a Pulitzer Prize–winning historian reexamines what we once thought we knew.

At the beginning of the eighth century, the Arabs brought a momentous revolution in power, religion, and culture to Dark Ages Europe. David Levering Lewis’s masterful history begins with the fall of the Persian and Roman empires, followed by the rise of the prophet Muhammad and the creation of Muslim Spain. Five centuries of engagement between the Muslim imperium and an emerging Europe followed, from the Muslim conquest of Visigoth Hispania in 711 to Latin Christendom’s declaration of unconditional warfare on the Caliphate in 1215. Lewis’s narrative, filled with accounts of some of the greatest battles in world history, reveals how cosmopolitan, Muslim al-Andalus flourished—a beacon of cooperation and tolerance between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity—while proto-Europe, defining itself in opposition to Islam, made virtues out of hereditary aristocracy, religious intolerance, perpetual war, and slavery. A cautionary tale, God’s Crucible provides a new interpretation of world-altering events whose influence remains as current as today’s headlines.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

"Subversive Sounds"

New from the University of Chicago Press: Subversive Sounds: Race and the Birth of Jazz in New Orleans by Charles Hersch.

About the book, from the publisher:
Hurricane Katrina threatened to wash away the history of an incomparable, culturally vibrant American city, while the aftermath exposed New Orleans’ ugly, deeply rooted racial divisions. Subversive Sounds, Charles Hersch’s study of the role of race in the origins of jazz, probes both sides of the city’s heritage, uncovering a web of racial interconnections and animosities that was instrumental to the creation of a vital art form.

Drawing on oral histories, police reports, newspaper accounts, and vintage recordings, Hersch brings to vivid life the neighborhoods and nightspots where jazz was born. He shows how musicians such as Jelly Roll Morton, Nick La Rocca, and Louis Armstrong negotiated New Orleans’ complex racial rules to pursue their craft and how, in order to widen their audiences, they became fluent in a variety of musical traditions from diverse ethnic sources. These encounters with other music and other races subverted their own racial identities and changed the way they played—a musical miscegenation that, in the shadow of Jim Crow, undermined the pursuit of racial purity and indelibly transformed American culture.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

"Luck and the Irish"

New from Oxford University Press: Luck and the Irish: A Brief History of Change from 1970 by Roy Foster.

About the book, from the publisher:
Roy Foster is one of Ireland's leading historians, the author of the much acclaimed two-volume biography of Yeats as well as the definitive history Modern Ireland , which has been hailed as "dazzling" (New York Times Book Review ) and "elegant, erudite, wise, witty" (Irish Times ). Now, this brilliant writer offers a "short and combative" account of Ireland's astonishing transformation over the last three decades.

Has there really been an "economic miracle"? Where does the explosion of cultural energy in music, literature, and theater come from? Has the power of the Catholic Church really crumbled? Focusing largely on contemporary events, living people, current controversies, and popular culture, Luck and the Irish explores these questions and raises other provocative questions of its own. Foster looks at the astonishing volte-face undertaken by Sinn Fein, eventually taking office in a state they had once fought to destroy. He describes how Catholicism, once the bedrock of Irish identity, has been decisively compromised, as evidenced by the exploitation and abuse scandals and the drastic decline in devotions. At the same time, the position of women in Irish society has been transformed, with the growth of feminism, a revolution in sexual attitudes, far more women in the work force, the ascendancy of President Mary Robinson, and the movement of women to front-rank Cabinet posts--all of which have put the position of Irish women ahead of that in many European nations.

Many old molds have been broken in Irish society over the last 30 years, and the immediate results have been breath-taking. But are these developments really as permanent or even as beneficial as they appear? Everyone curious about the recent past, the burgeoning present, and the unclear future of Ireland will want to read this superbly written and deeply thoughtful book.

Friday, March 7, 2008

"The Road to Dallas"

New from Harvard University Press: The Road to Dallas: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by David Kaiser.

About the book, from the publisher:
Neither a random event nor the act of a lone madman—the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was an appalling and grisly conspiracy. This is the unvarnished story.

With deft investigative skill, David Kaiser shows that the events of November 22, 1963, cannot be understood without fully grasping the two larger stories of which they were a part: the U.S. government’s campaign against organized crime, which began in the late 1950s and accelerated dramatically under Robert Kennedy; and the furtive quest of two administrations—along with a cadre of private interest groups—to eliminate Fidel Castro.

The seeds of conspiracy go back to the Eisenhower administration, which recruited top mobsters in a series of plots to assassinate the Cuban leader. The CIA created a secretive environment in which illicit networks were allowed to expand in dangerous directions. The agency’s links with the Mafia continued in the Kennedy administration, although the President and his closest advisors—engaged in their own efforts to overthrow Castro—thought this skullduggery had ended. Meanwhile, Cuban exiles, right-wing businessmen, and hard-line anti-Communists established ties with virtually anyone deemed capable of taking out the Cuban premier. Inevitably those ties included the mob.

The conspiracy to kill JFK took shape in response to Robert Kennedy’s relentless attacks on organized crime—legal vendettas that often went well beyond the normal practices of law enforcement. Pushed to the wall, mob leaders merely had to look to the networks already in place for a solution. They found it in Lee Harvey Oswald—the ideal character to enact their desperate revenge against the Kennedys.

Comprehensive, detailed, and informed by original sources, The Road to Dallas adds surprising new material to every aspect of the case. It brings to light the complete, frequently shocking, story of the JFK assassination and its aftermath.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

"I Was Wrong"

New from Cambridge University Press: I Was Wrong: The Meanings of Apologies by Nick Smith.

About the book, from the publisher:
Apologies can be profoundly meaningful, yet many gestures of contrition - especially those in legal contexts - appear hollow and even deceptive. Discussing numerous examples from ancient and recent history, I Was Wrong argues that we suffer from considerable confusion about the moral meanings and social functions of these complex interactions. Rather than asking whether a speech act ‘is or is not’ an apology, Smith offers a highly nuanced theory of apologetic meaning. Smith leads us though a series of rich philosophical and interdisciplinary questions, explaining how apologies have evolved from a confluence of diverse cultural and religious practices that do not translate easily into secular discourse or gender stereotypes. After classifying several varieties of apologies between individuals, Smith turns to apologies from collectives. Although apologies from corporations, governments, and other groups can be quite meaningful in certain respects, we should be suspicious of those that supplant apologies from individual wrongdoers.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

"International Political Economy"

New from Princeton University Press: International Political Economy: An Intellectual History by Benjamin J. Cohen.

About the book, from the publisher:

The field of international political economy gained prominence in the early 1970s--when the Arab oil embargo and other crises ended the postwar era of virtually unhindered economic growth in the United States and Europe--and today is an essential part of both political science and economics. This book offers the first comprehensive examination of this important field's development, the contrasting worldviews of its American and British schools, and the different ways scholars have sought to meet the challenges posed by an ever more complex and interdependent world economy.

Benjamin Cohen explains the critical role played by the early "intellectual entrepreneurs," a generation of pioneering scholars determined to bridge the gap between international economics and international politics. Among them were brilliant thinkers like Robert Keohane, Susan Strange, and others whose legacies endure to the present day. Cohen shows how their personalities and the historical contexts in which they worked influenced how the field evolved. He examines the distinctly different insights of the American and British schools and addresses issues that have been central to the field's development, including systemic transformation, system governance, and the place of the sovereign state in formal analysis. The definitive intellectual history of international political economy, this book is the ideal volume for IPE scholars and those interested in learning more about the field.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

"The Discovery of Mankind"

New from Yale University Press: The Discovery of Mankind: Atlantic Encounters in the Age of Columbus by David Abulafia.

About the book, from the publisher:
The first landings in the Atlantic World generated striking and terrifying impressions of unknown peoples who were entirely foreign to anything in European explorers’ experience. From the first recorded encounters with the native inhabitants of the Canary Islands in 1341 to Columbus's explorations in 1492 and Cabral's discovery of Brazil in 1500, western Europeans struggled to make sense of the existence of the peoples they met. Were they Adam's children, of a common lineage with the peoples of the Old World, or were they a separate creation, the monstrous races of medieval legend? Should they govern themselves? Did they have the right to be free? Did they know God? Could they know God?

Emphasizing contact between peoples rather than the discovery of lands, and using archaeological findings as well as eyewitness accounts, David Abulafia explores the social lives of the New World inhabitants, the motivations and tensions of the first transactions with Europeans, and the swift transmutation of wonder to vicious exploitation. Lucid, readable, and scrupulously researched, this is a work of humane engagement with a period in which a tragically violent standard was set for European conquest across the world.

Monday, March 3, 2008

"International Justice in Rwanda and the Balkans"

New from Cambridge University Press: International Justice in Rwanda and the Balkans: Virtual Trials and the Struggle for State Cooperation by Victor A. Peskin.

About the book, from the publisher:
Today’s international war crimes tribunals lack police powers, and therefore must prod and persuade defiant states to co-operate in the arrest and prosecution of their own political and military leaders. Victor Peskin’s comparative study traces the development of the capacity to build the political authority necessary to exact compliance from states implicated in war crimes and genocide in the cases of the International War Crimes Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Drawing on 300 in-depth interviews with tribunal officials, Balkan and Rwandan politicians, and Western diplomats, Peskin uncovers the politicized, protracted, and largely behind-the-scenes tribunal-state struggle over co-operation.
Read an excerpt from International Justice in Rwanda and the Balkans.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

"Fatal Misconception"

New from Harvard University Press: Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population by Matthew Connelly.

About the book, from the publisher:
Fatal Misconception is the disturbing story of our quest to remake humanity by policing national borders and breeding better people. As the population of the world doubled once, and then again, well-meaning people concluded that only population control could preserve the "quality of life." This movement eventually spanned the globe and carried out a series of astonishing experiments, from banning Asian immigration to paying poor people to be sterilized.

Supported by affluent countries, foundations, and non-governmental organizations, the population control movement experimented with ways to limit population growth. But it had to contend with the Catholic Church's ban on contraception and nationalist leaders who warned of "race suicide." The ensuing struggle caused untold suffering for those caught in the middle--particularly women and children. It culminated in the horrors of sterilization camps in India and the one-child policy in China.

Matthew Connelly offers the first global history of a movement that changed how people regard their children and ultimately the face of humankind. It was the most ambitious social engineering project of the twentieth century, one that continues to alarm the global community. Though promoted as a way to lift people out of poverty--perhaps even to save the earth--family planning became a means to plan other people's families.

With its transnational scope and exhaustive research into such archives as Planned Parenthood and the newly opened Vatican Secret Archives, Connelly's withering critique uncovers the cost inflicted by a humanitarian movement gone terribly awry and urges renewed commitment to the reproductive rights of all people.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

"Seneca Falls and the Origins of the Women's Rights Movement"

Published in January by Oxford University Press: Seneca Falls and the Origins of the Women's Rights Movement by Sally McMillen.

About the book, from the publisher:
In a quiet town of Seneca Falls, New York, over the course of two days in July, 1848, a small group of women and men, led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, held a convention that would launch the woman's rights movement and change the course of history. The implications of that remarkable convention would be felt around the world and indeed are still being felt today.

In Seneca Falls and the Origins of the Woman's Rights Movement, the latest contribution to Oxford's acclaimed Pivotal Moments in American History series, Sally McMillen unpacks, for the first time, the full significance of that revolutionary convention and the enormous changes it produced. The book covers 50 years of women's activism, from 1840-1890, focusing on four extraordinary figures--Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, and Susan B. Anthony. McMillen tells the stories of their lives, how they came to take up the cause of women's rights, the astonishing advances they made during their lifetimes, and the lasting and transformative effects of the work they did. At the convention they asserted full equality with men, argued for greater legal rights, greater professional and education opportunities, and the right to vote--ideas considered wildly radical at the time. Indeed, looking back at the convention two years later, Anthony called it "the grandest and greatest reform of all time--and destined to be thus regarded by the future historian." In this lively and warmly written study, Sally McMillen may well be the future historian Anthony was hoping to find.

A vibrant portrait of a major turning point in American women's history, and in human history, this book is essential reading for anyone wishing to fully understand the origins of the woman's rights movement.