Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"The Hoods"

New from Princeton University Press: The Hoods: Crime and Punishment in Belfast by Heather Hamill.

About the book, from the publisher:
A distinctive feature of the conflict in Northern Ireland over the past forty years has been the way Catholic and Protestant paramilitaries have policed their own communities. This has mainly involved the violent punishment of petty criminals involved in joyriding and other types of antisocial behavior. Between 1973 and 2007, more than 5,000 nonmilitary shootings and assaults were attributed to paramilitaries punishing their own people. But despite the risk of severe punishment, young petty offenders--known locally as "hoods"--continue to offend, creating a puzzle for the rational theory of criminal deterrence. Why do hoods behave in ways that invite violent punishment?

In The Hoods, Heather Hamill explains why this informal system of policing and punishment developed and endured and why such harsh punishments as beatings, "kneecappings," and exile have not stopped hoods from offending. Drawing on a variety of sources, including interviews with perpetrators and victims of this violence, the book argues that the hoods' risky offending may amount to a game in which hoods gain prestige by displaying hard-to-fake signals of toughness to each other. Violent physical punishment feeds into this signaling game, increasing the hoods' status by proving that they have committed serious offenses and can "manfully" take punishment yet remained undeterred. A rare combination of frontline research and pioneering ideas, The Hoods has important implications for our fundamental understanding of crime and punishment.

Monday, November 29, 2010

"The Long Divergence"

New from Princeton University Press: The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East by Timur Kuran.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the year 1000, the economy of the Middle East was at least as advanced as that of Europe. But by 1800, the region had fallen dramatically behind--in living standards, technology, and economic institutions. In short, the Middle East had failed to modernize economically as the West surged ahead. What caused this long divergence? And why does the Middle East remain drastically underdeveloped compared to the West? In The Long Divergence, one of the world's leading experts on Islamic economic institutions and the economy of the Middle East provides a new answer to these long-debated questions.

Timur Kuran argues that what slowed the economic development of the Middle East was not colonialism or geography, still less Muslim attitudes or some incompatibility between Islam and capitalism. Rather, starting around the tenth century, Islamic legal institutions, which had benefitted the Middle Eastern economy in the early centuries of Islam, began to act as a drag on development by slowing or blocking the emergence of central features of modern economic life--including private capital accumulation, corporations, large-scale production, and impersonal exchange. By the nineteenth century, modern economic institutions began to be transplanted to the Middle East, but its economy has not caught up. And there is no quick fix today. Low trust, rampant corruption, and weak civil societies--all characteristic of the region's economies today and all legacies of its economic history--will take generations to overcome.

The Long Divergence
opens up a frank and honest debate on a crucial issue that even some of the most ardent secularists in the Muslim world have hesitated to discuss.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

"The End of Byzantium"

New from Yale University Press: The End of Byzantium by Jonathan Harris.

About the book, from the publisher:
By 1400, the once-mighty Byzantine Empire stood on the verge of destruction. Most of its territories had been lost to the Ottoman Turks, and Constantinople was under close blockade. Against all odds, Byzantium lingered on for another fifty years until 1453, when the Ottomans dramatically toppled the capital’s walls. During this bleak and uncertain time, ordinary Byzantines faced difficult decisions to protect their livelihoods and families against the death throes of their homeland. In this evocative and moving book, Jonathan Harris explores individual stories of diplomatic maneuverings, covert defiance, and sheer luck against a backdrop of major historical currents and offers a new perspective on the real reasons behind the fall of this extraordinarily fascinating empire.
Read reviews of The End of Byzantium.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

"A Moral Theory of Political Reconciliation"

New from Cambridge University Press: A Moral Theory of Political Reconciliation by Colleen Murphy.

About the book, from the publisher:
Following extended periods of conflict or repression, political reconciliation is indispensable to the establishment or restoration of democratic relationships and critical to the pursuit of peacemaking globally. In this important new book, Colleen Murphy offers an innovative analysis of the moral problems plaguing political relationships under the strain of civil conflict and repression. Focusing on the unique moral damage that attends the deterioration of political relationships, Murphy identifies the precise kinds of repair and transformation that processes of political reconciliation ought to promote. Building on this analysis, she proposes a normative model of political relationships. A Moral Theory of Political Reconciliation delivers an original account of the failure and restoration of political relationships, which will be of interest to philosophers, social scientists, legal scholars, policy analysts, and all those who are interested in transitional justice, global politics, and democracy.

Friday, November 26, 2010

"Age of Fracture"

New from Harvard University Press: Age of Fracture by Daniel T. Rodgers.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the last quarter of the twentieth century, the ideas that most Americans lived by started to fragment. Mid-century concepts of national consensus, managed markets, gender and racial identities, citizen obligation, and historical memory became more fluid. Flexible markets pushed aside Keynesian macroeconomic structures. Racial and gender solidarity divided into multiple identities; community responsibility shrank to smaller circles. In this wide-ranging narrative, Daniel Rodgers shows how the collective purposes and meanings that had framed social debate became unhinged and uncertain.

Age of Fracture offers a powerful reinterpretation of the ways in which the decades surrounding the 1980s changed America. Through a contagion of visions and metaphors, on both the intellectual right and the intellectual left, earlier notions of history and society that stressed solidity, collective institutions, and social circumstances gave way to a more individualized human nature that emphasized choice, agency, performance, and desire. On a broad canvas that includes Michel Foucault, Ronald Reagan, Judith Butler, Charles Murray, Jeffrey Sachs, and many more, Rodgers explains how structures of power came to seem less important than market choice and fluid selves.

Cutting across the social and political arenas of late-twentieth-century life and thought, from economic theory and the culture wars to disputes over poverty, color-blindness, and sisterhood, Rodgers reveals how our categories of social reality have been fractured and destabilized. As we survey the intellectual wreckage of this war of ideas, we better understand the emergence of our present age of uncertainty.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

"Too Much to Know"

New from Yale University Press: Too Much to Know: Managing Scholarly Information before the Modern Age by Ann M. Blair.

About the book, from the publisher:
The flood of information brought to us by advancing technology is often accompanied by a distressing sense of “information overload,” yet this experience is not unique to modern times. In fact, says Ann M. Blair in this intriguing book, the invention of the printing press and the ensuing abundance of books provoked sixteenth- and seventeenth-century European scholars to register complaints very similar to our own. Blair examines methods of information management in ancient and medieval Europe as well as the Islamic world and China, then focuses particular attention on the organization, composition, and reception of Latin reference books in print in early modern Europe. She explores in detail the sophisticated and sometimes idiosyncratic techniques that scholars and readers developed in an era of new technology and exploding information.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"Bourgeois Dignity"

New from the University of Chicago Press: Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can't Explain the Modern World by Deirdre N. McCloskey.

About the book, from the publisher:
The big economic story of our times is not the Great Recession. It is how China and India began to embrace neoliberal ideas of economics and attributed a sense of dignity and liberty to the bourgeoisie they had denied for so long. The result was an explosion in economic growth and proof that economic change depends less on foreign trade, investment, or material causes, and a whole lot more on ideas and what people believe.

Or so says Deirdre N. McCloskey in Bourgeois Dignity, a fiercely contrarian history that wages a similar argument about economics in the West. Here she turns her attention to seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe to reconsider the birth of the industrial revolution and the rise of capitalism. According to McCloskey, our modern world was not the product of new markets and innovations, but rather the result of shifting opinions about them. During this time, talk of private property, commerce, and even the bourgeoisie itself radically altered, becoming far more approving and flying in the face of prejudices several millennia old. The wealth of nations, then, didn’t grow so dramatically because of economic factors: it grew because rhetoric about markets and free enterprise finally became enthusiastic and encouraging of their inherent dignity.

An utterly fascinating sequel to her critically acclaimed book The Bourgeois Virtues, Bourgeois Dignity is a feast of intellectual riches from one of our most spirited and ambitious historians—a work that will forever change our understanding of how the power of persuasion shapes our economic lives.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"Arab France"

New from the University of California Press: Arab France: Islam and the Making of Modern Europe, 1798-1831 by Ian Coller.

About the book, from the publisher:
Many think of Muslims in Europe as a twentieth century phenomenon, but this book brings to life a lost community of Arabs who lived through war, revolution, and empire in early nineteenth century France. Ian Coller uncovers the surprising story of the several hundred men, women, and children—Egyptians, Syrians, Greeks, and others—who followed the French army back home after Napoleon’s occupation of Egypt. Based on research in neglected archives, on the rediscovery of forgotten Franco-Arab authors, and on a diverse collection of visual materials, the book builds a rich picture of the first Arab France—its birth, rise, and sudden decline in the age of colonial expansion. As he excavates a community that was nearly erased from the historical record, Coller offers a new account of France itself in this pivotal period, one that transcends the binary framework through which we too often view history by revealing the deep roots of exchange between Europe and the Muslim world, and showing how Arab France was in fact integral to the dawn of modernity.

Monday, November 22, 2010

"God's Almost Chosen Peoples"

New from the University of Carolina Press: God's Almost Chosen Peoples: A Religious History of the American Civil War by George C. Rable.

About the book, from the publisher:
Throughout the Civil War, soldiers and civilians on both sides of the conflict saw the hand of God in the terrible events of the day, but the standard narratives of the period pay scant attention to religion. Now, in God's Almost Chosen Peoples, Lincoln Prize-winning historian George C. Rable offers a groundbreaking account of how Americans of all political and religious persuasions used faith to interpret the course of the war.

Examining a wide range of published and unpublished documents--including sermons, official statements from various churches, denominational papers and periodicals, and letters, diaries, and newspaper articles--Rable illuminates the broad role of religion during the Civil War, giving attention to often-neglected groups such as Mormons, Catholics, blacks, and people from the Trans-Mississippi region. The book underscores religion's presence in the everyday lives of Americans north and south struggling to understand the meaning of the conflict, from the tragedy of individual death to victory and defeat in battle and even the ultimate outcome of the war. Rable shows that themes of providence, sin, and judgment pervaded both public and private writings about the conflict. Perhaps most important, this volume--the only comprehensive religious history of the war--highlights the resilience of religious faith in the face of political and military storms the likes of which Americans had never before endured.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

"The Great Wall"

New from Harvard University Press: The Great Wall: A Cultural History by Carlos Rojas.

About the book, from the publisher:
Carlos Rojas presents a sweeping survey of the historical and political significance of one of the world’s most recognizable monuments. Although the splendor of the Great Wall has become virtually synonymous with its vast size, the structure’s conceptual coherence is actually grounded on the tenuous and ephemeral stories we tell about it. These stories give life to the Wall and help secure its hold on our collective imagination, while at the same time permitting it to constantly reinvent itself in accordance with the needs of each new era.

Through an examination of allusions to the Wall in an eclectic array of texts—ranging from official dynastic histories, elite poetry, and popular folktales, to contemporary tourist testimonials, children’s songs, and avant-garde performance art—this study maps out a provocative new framework for understanding the structure’s function and significance.

This volume approaches the Wall through the stories we tell and contends that it is precisely in this cultural history that we may find the Wall’s true meaning, together with the secret of its greatness.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

"The Best Things in Life"

New from Oxford University Press: The Best Things in Life: A Guide to What Really Matters by Thomas Hurka.

About the book, from the publisher:
For centuries, philosophers, theologians, moralists, and ordinary people have asked: How should we live? What makes for a good life?

In The Best Things in Life, distinguished philosopher Thomas Hurka takes a fresh look at these perennial questions as they arise for us now in the 21st century. Should we value family over career? How do we balance self-interest and serving others? What activities bring us the most joy? While religion, literature, popular psychology, and everyday wisdom all grapple with these questions, philosophy more than anything else uses the tools of reason to make important distinctions, cut away irrelevancies, and distill these issues down to their essentials. Hurka argues that if we are to live a good life, one thing we need to know is which activities and experiences will most likely lead us to happiness and which will keep us from it, while also reminding us that happiness isn't the only thing that makes life good. Hurka explores many topics: four types of good feeling (and the limits of good feeling); how we can improve our baseline level of happiness (making more money, it turns out, isn't the answer); which kinds of knowledge are most worth having; the importance of achieving worthwhile goals; the value of love and friendship; and much more. Unlike many philosophers, he stresses that there isn't just one good in life but many: pleasure, as Epicurus argued, is indeed one, but knowledge, as Socrates contended, is another, as is achievement. And while the great philosophers can help us understand what matters most in life, Hurka shows that we must ultimately decide for ourselves.

This delightfully accessible book offers timely guidance on answering the most important question any of us will ever ask: How do we live a good life?

Friday, November 19, 2010

"The Big Ditch"

New from Princeton University Press: The Big Ditch: How America Took, Built, Ran, and Ultimately Gave Away the Panama Canal by Noel Maurer & Carlos Yu.

About the book, from the publisher:
On August 15, 1914, the Panama Canal officially opened for business, forever changing the face of global trade and military power, as well as the role of the United States on the world stage. The Canal's creation is often seen as an example of U.S. triumphalism, but Noel Maurer and Carlos Yu reveal a more complex story. Examining the Canal's influence on Panama, the United States, and the world, The Big Ditch deftly chronicles the economic and political history of the Canal, from Spain's earliest proposals in 1529 through the final handover of the Canal to Panama on December 31, 1999, to the present day.

The authors show that the Canal produced great economic dividends for the first quarter-century following its opening, despite massive cost overruns and delays. Relying on geographical advantage and military might, the United States captured most of these benefits. By the 1970s, however, when the Carter administration negotiated the eventual turnover of the Canal back to Panama, the strategic and economic value of the Canal had disappeared. And yet, contrary to skeptics who believed it was impossible for a fledgling nation plagued by corruption to manage the Canal, when the Panamanians finally had control, they switched the Canal from a public utility to a for-profit corporation, ultimately running it better than their northern patrons.

A remarkable tale, The Big Ditch offers vital lessons about the impact of large-scale infrastructure projects, American overseas interventions on institutional development, and the ability of governments to run companies effectively.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"The Assemblies of God"

New from the NYU Press: The Assemblies of God: Godly Love and the Revitalization of American Pentecostalism by Margaret M. Poloma and John C. Green.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Assemblies of God (AG) is the ninth largest American and the world’s largest Pentecostal denomination, with over 50 million followers worldwide. The AG embraces a worldview of miracles and mystery that makes“supernatural” experiences, such as speaking in tongues, healing, and prophecy, normal for Christian believers. Ever since it first organized in 1916, however, the “charismata” or “gifts of the Holy Spirit” have felt tension from institutional forces. Over the decades, vital charismatic experiences have been increasingly tamed by rituals, doctrine, and denominational structure. Yet the path towards institutionalization has not been clear-cut. New revivals and direct personal experience of God—the hallmarks of Pentecostalism—continue as an important part of the AG tradition, particularly in the growing number of ethnic congregations in the United States.

The Assemblies of God draws on fresh, up-to-date research including quantitative surveys and interviews from twenty-two diverse Assemblies of God congregations to offer a new sociological portrait of the AG for the new millennium. The authors suggest that there is indeed a potential revitalization of the movement in the works within the context of the larger global Pentecostal upswing, and that this revitalization may be spurred by what the authors call “godly love:” the dynamic interaction between divine and human love that enlivens and expands benevolence.

The volume provides a wealth of data about how the second-largest American Pentecostal denomination sees itself today, and suggests trends to illuminate where it is headed in the future.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"Bridges of Reform"

New from Oxford University Press: Bridges of Reform: Interracial Civil Rights Activism in Twentieth-Century Los Angeles by Shana Bernstein.

About the book, from the publisher:
In her first book, Shana Bernstein reinterprets U.S. civil rights activism by looking at its roots in the interracial efforts of Mexican, African, Jewish, and Japanese Americans in mid-century Los Angeles. Expanding the frame of historical analysis beyond black/white and North/South, Bernstein reveals that meaningful domestic activism for racial equality persisted from the 1930s through the 1950s. She stresses how this coalition-building was facilitated by the cold war climate, as activists sought protection and legitimacy in this conservative era.

Emphasizing the significant connections between ethno-racial communities and between the United States and world opinion, Bridges of Reform demonstrates the long-term role western cities like Los Angeles played in shaping American race relations.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"Stormy Weather"

New from the University of Carolina Press: Stormy Weather: Middle-Class African American Marriages between the Two World Wars by Anastasia C. Curwood.

About the book, from the publisher:
The so-called New Negroes of the period between World Wars I and II embodied a new sense of racial pride and upward mobility for the race. Many of them thought that relationships between spouses could be a crucial factor in realizing this dream. But there was little agreement about how spousal relationships should actually function in an ideal New Negro marriage. Shedding light on an often-overlooked aspect of African American social history, Anastasia Curwood explores the public and private negotiations over gender relationships inside marriage that consumed upwardly mobile black Americans between 1918 and 1942.

Curwood uses private correspondence between spouses, including her own grandparents, and public writings from leading figures of the era to investigate African Americans' deepest hopes within their private lives. She follows changes and conflicts in African American marital ideals--and demonstrates how those ideals sometimes clashed with reality. In the process, Curwood shows how New Negro marriages are an especially rich site for assessing the interactions of racial, class, and gender identities.

Monday, November 15, 2010

"Castles Made of Sand"

New from Thomas Dunne Books: Castles Made of Sand: A Century of Anglo-American Espionage and Intervention in the Middle East by Andre Gerolymatos.

About the book, from the publisher:
With roots in imperialism and the nineteenth-century mindset of the “Great Game,” Western nations have waged an intricate spy game this past century to establish control over the Middle East, secure access to key resources and regions of commerce, and prevent the spread of Soviet communism into the region. From the Suez Canal to the former Ottoman Empire, British and American intelligence communities have conspired to topple regimes and initiate Muslim leaders as pawns in a geopolitical chess game fought against Marxist expansion.

Yet while the Iron Curtain was doomed to fall near the end of the twentieth century, this pattern of tunnel vision has created a different monster. The resulting resurgence of Muslim radicalism, and the induction of Arabs and other Muslims into the dark arts of espionage and sabotage, have only served to fan the flames in an already incendiary region and deepen the tensions between the Middle East and the West today.

An authority on international studies and the history of guerilla warfare, André Gerolymatos offers the contemporary reader insight into the intelligence game that is still waged internationally with lethal intent, and into the Middle Eastern terrorist networks that had evolved over the decades. In this definitive account of covert operations in the Middle East, the author brings to life the extraordinary men and women whose successes and failures have shaped relations, and he reveals how the explosive nature of the region today has direct roots in the history of American and Western intervention.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

"Imperial Sceptics"

New from Cambridge University Press: Imperial Sceptics: British Critics of Empire, 1850–1920 by Gregory Claeys.

About the book, from the publisher:
Imperial Sceptics provides a highly original analysis of the emergence of opposition to the British Empire from 1850–1920. Departing from existing accounts, which have focused upon the Boer War and the writings of John Hobson, Gregory Claeys proposes a new chronology for the contours of resistance to imperial expansion. Claeys locates the impetus for such opposition in the late 1850s with the British followers of Auguste Comte. Tracing critical strands of anti-imperial thought through to the First World War, Claeys then scrutinises the full spectrum of socialist writings from the early 1880s onwards, revealing a fundamental division over whether a new conception of 'socialist imperialism' could appeal to the electorate and satisfy economic demands. Based upon extensive archival research, and utilising rare printed sources, Imperial Sceptics will prove a major contribution to our understanding of nineteenth-century political thought, shedding new light on theories of nationalism, patriotism, the state and religion.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


New from W.W. Norton: Madre: Perilous Journeys with a Spanish Noun by Liza Bakewell.

About the book, from the publisher:
Why is the word madre, "mother," so complicated in Spanish—especially in Mexico?

Leaping off the page with energy, insight, and attitude, Liza Bakewell's exploration of language is anything but "just semantics." Why does me vale madre mean worthless, while ¡qué padre! means fabulous, she asks? And why do one hundred madres disappear when one padre enters the room, converting the group from madres to padres? Thus begins a journey through Mexican culture in all its color: weddings, dinner parties, an artist's studio, heart-stopping taxi rides, angry journalists, corrupt politicians, Blessed Virgins, and mothers both sacred and profane.

Along the way, a reader discovers not only an invaluable lexicon of Mexican slang (to be used with caution or not at all) but also thought-provoking reflections on the evolution of language; its winding path through culture, religion, and politics; and, not least, what it means—and what it threatens—to be a creative female, a madre.
Visit Liza Bakewell's website.

Friday, November 12, 2010

"Galileo: Watcher of the Skies"

New from Yale University Press: Galileo: Watcher of the Skies by David Wootton.

About the book, from the publisher:
Galileo (1564–1642) is one of the most important and controversial figures in the history of science. A hero of modern science and key to its birth, he was also a deeply divided man: a scholar committed to the establishment of scientific truth yet forced to concede the importance of faith, and a brilliant analyst of the elegantly mathematical workings of nature yet bungling and insensitive with his own family.

Tackling Galileo as astronomer, engineer, and author, David Wootton places him at the center of Renaissance culture. He traces Galileo through his early rebellious years; the beginnings of his scientific career constructing a “new physics”; his move to Florence seeking money, status, and greater freedom to attack intellectual orthodoxies; his trial for heresy and narrow escape from torture; and his house arrest and physical (though not intellectual) decline. Wootton reveals much that is new—from Galileo’s premature Copernicanism to a previously unrecognized illegitimate daughter—and, controversially, rejects the long-established orthodoxy which holds that Galileo was a good Catholic.

Absolutely central to Galileo’s significance—and to science more broadly—is the telescope, the potential of which Galileo was the first to grasp. Wootton makes clear that it totally revolutionized and galvanized scientific endeavor to discover new and previously unimagined facts. Drawing extensively on Galileo’s voluminous letters, many of which were self-censored and sly, this is an original, arresting, and highly readable biography of a difficult, remarkable Renaissance genius.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"The Propriety of Liberty"

New from Princeton University Press: The Propriety of Liberty: Persons, Passions, and Judgement in Modern Political Thought by Duncan Kelly.

About the book, from the publisher:
In this book, Duncan Kelly excavates, from the history of modern political thought, a largely forgotten claim about liberty as a form of propriety. By rethinking the intellectual and historical foundations of modern accounts of freedom, he brings into focus how this major vision of liberty developed between the seventeenth and the nineteenth centuries.

In his framework, celebrated political writers, including John Locke, Montesquieu, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, and Thomas Hill Green pursue the claim that freedom is best understood as a form of responsible agency or propriety, and they do so by reconciling key moral and philosophical claims with classical and contemporary political theory. Their approach broadly assumes that only those persons who appropriately regulate their conduct can be thought of as free and responsible. At the same time, however, they recognize that such internal forms of self-propriety must be judged within the wider context of social and political life. Kelly shows how the intellectual and practical demands of such a synthesis require these great writers to consider freedom as part of a broader set of arguments about the nature of personhood, the potentially irrational impact of the passions, and the obstinate problems of individual and political judgement. By exploring these relationships, The Propriety of Liberty not only revises the intellectual history of modern political thought, but also sheds light on contemporary debates about freedom and agency.
Read an excerpt from The Propriety of Liberty.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"Hitler's First War"

New from Oxford University Press: Hitler's First War: Adolf Hitler, the Men of the List Regiment, and the First World War by Thomas Weber.

About the book, from the publisher:
Perhaps no individual in modern history has received more intensive study than Adolf Hitler. His many biographers have provided countless conflicting interpretations of his dark life, but virtually all agree on one thing: Hitler's formative experience was his service in World War I. Unfortunately, historians have found little to illuminate this critical period. Until now.

In Hitler's First War, award-winning author Thomas Weber delivers a master work of history--a major revision of our understanding of Hitler's life. Weber paints a group portrait of the List Regiment, Hitler's unit during World War I, to rewrite the story of his military service. Drawing on deep and imaginative research, Weber refutes the story crafted by Hitler himself, and so challenges the historical argument that the war led naturally to Nazism. Contrary to myth, the regiment consisted largely of conscripts, not enthusiastic volunteers. Hitler served with scores of Jews, including noted artist Albert Weisberger, who proved more heroic, and popular, than the future Fuhrer. Indeed, Weber finds that the men shunned Private Hitler as a "rear area pig," and that Hitler himself was still unsure of his political views when the war ended in 1918. Through the stories of such comrades as a soldier-turned-concentration camp commandant, veterans who fell victim to the Holocaust, an officer who became Hitler's personal adjutant in the 1930s but then cooperated with British intelligence, and the veterans who simply went back to their Bavarian farms and never joined the Nazi ranks, Weber demonstrates how and why Hitler aggressively policed the myth of his wartime experience.

Underlying all Hitler studies is a seemingly unanswerable question: Was he simply a product of his times, or an anomaly beyond all calculation? Weber's groundbreaking work sheds light on this puzzle and offers a profound challenge to the idea that World War I served as the perfect crucible for Hitler's subsequent rise.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

"As China Goes, So Goes the World"

New from Hill and Wang: As China Goes, So Goes the World: How Chinese Consumers Are Transforming Everything by Karl Gerth.

About the book, from the publisher:
In this revelatory examination of the most overlooked force that is changing the face of China, the Oxford historian and scholar of modern Asia Karl Gerth shows that as the Chinese consumer goes, so goes the world. While Americans and Europeans have become increasingly worried about China’s competition for manufacturing jobs and energy resources, they have overlooked an even bigger story: China’s rapid development of an American-style consumer culture, which is revolutionizing the lives of hundreds of millions of Chinese and has the potential to reshape the world.

This change is already well under way. China has become the world’s largest consumer of everything from automobiles to beer and has begun to adopt such consumer habits as living in large single-occupancy homes, shopping in gigantic malls, and eating meat-based diets served in fast-food outlets. Even rural Chinese, long the laggards of consumerism, have been buying refrigerators, televisions, mobile phones, and larger houses in unprecedented numbers. As China Goes, So Goes the World reveals why we should all care about the everyday choices made by ordinary Chinese. Taken together, these seemingly small changes are deeper and more profound than the headline-grabbing stories on military budgets, carbon emissions, or trade disputes.

Monday, November 8, 2010

"The Third City"

New from The University of Chicago Press: The Third City: Chicago and American Urbanism by Larry Bennett.

About the book, from the publisher:
Our traditional image of Chicago—as a gritty metropolis carved into ethnically defined enclaves where the game of machine politics overshadows its ends—is such a powerful shaper of the city’s identity that many of its closest observers fail to notice that a new Chicago has emerged over the past two decades. Larry Bennett here tackles some of our more commonly held ideas about the Windy City—inherited from such icons as Theodore Dreiser, Carl Sandburg, Daniel Burnham, Robert Park, Sara Paretsky, and Mike Royko—with the goal of better understanding Chicago as it is now: the third city.

Bennett calls contemporary Chicago the third city to distinguish it from its two predecessors: the first city, a sprawling industrial center whose historical arc ran from the Civil War to the Great Depression; and the second city, the Rustbelt exemplar of the period from around 1950 to 1990. The third city features a dramatically revitalized urban core, a shifting population mix that includes new immigrant streams, and a growing number of middle-class professionals working in new economy sectors. It is also a city utterly transformed by the top-to-bottom reconstruction of public housing developments and the ambitious provision of public works like Millennium Park. It is, according to Bennett, a work in progress spearheaded by Richard M. Daley, a self-consciously innovative mayor whose strategy of neighborhood revitalization and urban renewal is a prototype of city governance for the twenty-first century. The Third City ultimately contends that to understand Chicago under Daley’s charge is to understand what metropolitan life across North America may well look like in the coming decades.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

"Border War"

New from the University of Carolina Press: Border War: Fighting over Slavery before the Civil War by Stanley Harrold.

About the book, from the publisher:
During the 1840s and 1850s, a dangerous ferment afflicted the North-South border region, pitting the slave states of Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri against the free states of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Aspects of this struggle--the underground railroad, enforcement of the fugitive slave laws, mob actions, and sectional politics--are well known as parts of other stories. Here, Stanley Harrold explores the border struggle itself, the dramatic incidents that it comprised, and its role in the complex dynamics leading to the Civil War.

Border War examines the previously neglected cross-border clash of attitudes and traditions dating many generations back. By the mid-nineteenth century, nowhere else were tensions greater between antislavery and proslavery interests. Nowhere else was there more direct conflict between the forces binding North and South together and those driving them apart. There were mass slave escapes, battles between antislavery and proslavery vigilantes, and fierce resistance in the Border North to the kidnapping of free African Americans. There were also fights throughout the borderlands between fugitive slaves and those attempting to apprehend them. Harrold argues that, during the 1850s, warfare on the Kansas-Missouri line and John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia, were manifestations of a more pervasive border conflict that helped push the Lower South into secession and helped persuade most of the Border South to stand by the Union.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

"Intellectual Curiosity and the Scientific Revolution"

New from Cambridge University Press: Intellectual Curiosity and the Scientific Revolution: A Global Perspective by Toby E. Huff.

About the book, from the publisher:
Seventeenth-century Europe witnessed an extraordinary flowering of discoveries and innovations. This study, beginning with the Dutch-invented telescope of 1608, casts Galileo's discoveries into a global framework. Although the telescope was soon transmitted to China, Mughal India, and the Ottoman Empire, those civilizations did not respond as Europeans did to the new instrument. In Europe, there was an extraordinary burst of innovations in microscopy, human anatomy, optics, pneumatics, electrical studies, and the science of mechanics. Nearly all of those aided the emergence of Newton's revolutionary grand synthesis, which unified terrestrial and celestial physics under the law of universal gravitation. That achievement had immense implications for all aspects of modern science, technology, and economic development. The economic implications are set out in the concluding epilogue. All these unique developments suggest why the West experienced a singular scientific and economic ascendancy of at least four centuries.

Friday, November 5, 2010

"Coming to Terms with the Nation"

New from the University of California Press: Coming to Terms with the Nation: Ethnic Classification in Modern China by Thomas S. Mullaney.

About the book, from the publisher:
China is a vast nation comprised of hundreds of distinct ethnic communities, each with its own language, history, and culture. Today the government of China recognizes just 56 ethnic nationalities, or minzu, as groups entitled to representation. This controversial new book recounts the history of the most sweeping attempt to sort and categorize the nation's enormous population: the 1954 Ethnic Classification project (minzu shibie). Thomas S. Mullaney draws on recently declassified material and extensive oral histories to describe how the communist government, in power less than a decade, launched this process in ethnically diverse Yunnan. Mullaney shows how the government drew on Republican-era scholarship for conceptual and methodological inspiration as it developed a strategy for identifying minzu and how non-Party-member Chinese ethnologists produced a “scientific” survey that would become the basis for a policy on nationalities.
Read excerpts from Coming to Terms with the Nation at The China Beat.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

"Not in the Heavens"

New from Princeton University Press: Not in the Heavens: The Tradition of Jewish Secular Thought by David Biale.

About the book, from the publisher:
Not in the Heavens traces the rise of Jewish secularism through the visionary writers and thinkers who led its development. Spanning the rich history of Judaism from the Bible to today, David Biale shows how the secular tradition these visionaries created is a uniquely Jewish one, and how the emergence of Jewish secularism was not merely a response to modernity but arose from forces long at play within Judaism itself.

Biale explores how ancient Hebrew books like Job, Song of Songs, and Esther downplay or even exclude God altogether, and how Spinoza, inspired by medieval Jewish philosophy, recast the biblical God in the role of nature and stripped the Torah of its revelatory status to instead read scripture as a historical and cultural text. Biale examines the influential Jewish thinkers who followed in Spinoza's secularizing footsteps, such as Salomon Maimon, Heinrich Heine, Sigmund Freud, and Albert Einstein. He tells the stories of those who also took their cues from medieval Jewish mysticism in their revolts against tradition, including Hayim Nahman Bialik, Gershom Scholem, and Franz Kafka. And he looks at Zionists like David Ben-Gurion and other secular political thinkers who recast Israel and the Bible in modern terms of race, nationalism, and the state.

Not in the Heavens demonstrates how these many Jewish paths to secularism were dependent, in complex and paradoxical ways, on the very religious traditions they were rejecting, and examines the legacy and meaning of Jewish secularism today.
Read an excerpt from Not in the Heavens.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"Managing the Mountains"

New from Yale University Press: Managing the Mountains: Land Use Planning, the New Deal, and the Creation of a Federal Landscape in Appalachia by Sara M. Gregg.

About the book, from the publisher:
Historians have long viewed the massive reshaping of the American landscape during the New Deal era as unprecedented. This book uncovers the early twentieth-century history rich with precedents for the New Deal in forest, park, and agricultural policy. Sara M. Gregg explores the redevelopment of the Appalachian Mountains from the 1910s through the 1930s, finding in this region a changing paradigm of land use planning that laid the groundwork for the national New Deal. Through an intensive analysis of federal planning in Virginia and Vermont, Gregg contextualizes the expansion of the federal government through land use planning and highlights the deep intellectual roots of federal conservation policy.
Visit Sara M. Gregg's website.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"Dacha Idylls"

New from the University of California Press: Dacha Idylls: Living Organically in Russia's Countryside by Melissa L. Caldwell.

About the book, from the publisher:
Dacha Idylls is a lively account of dacha life and how Russians experience this deeply rooted tradition of the summer cottage amid the changing cultural, economic, and political landscape of postsocialist Russia. Simultaneously beloved and reviled, dachas wield a power that makes owning and caring for them an essential part of life. In this book, Melissa L. Caldwell captures the dacha’s abiding traditions and demonstrates why Russians insist that these dwellings are key to understanding Russian life. She draws on literary texts as well as observations from dacha dwellers to highlight this enduring fact of Russian culture at a time when so much has changed. Caldwell presents the dacha world in all its richness and complexity—a “good life” that draws inspiration from the natural environment in which it is situated.

Monday, November 1, 2010

"Meditation in Modern Buddhism"

New from Cambridge University Press: Meditation in Modern Buddhism: Renunciation and Change in Thai Monastic Life by Joanna Cook.

About the book, from the publisher:
In contemporary Thai Buddhism, the burgeoning popularity of vipassanā meditation is dramatically impacting the lives of those most closely involved with its practice: monks and mae chee (lay nuns) living in monastic communities. For them, meditation becomes a central focus of life and a way to transform the self. This ethnographic account of a thriving Northern Thai monastery examines meditation in detail, and explores the subjective signification of monastic duties and ascetic practices. Drawing on fieldwork done both as an analytical observer and as a full participant in the life of the monastery, Joanna Cook analyzes the motivation and experience of renouncers, and shows what effect meditative practices have on individuals and community organization. The particular focus on the status of mae chee - part lay, part monastic - provides a fresh insight into social relationships and gender hierarchy within the context of the monastery.