Charles King, “The Ghost of Freedom: A History of the Caucasus” (Oxford UP, 2008)
There’s a concept I find myself coming back to again and again–“speciation.” It’s drawn from the vocabulary of evolutionary biology and means, roughly, the process by which new species arise. Speciation occurs when a species must adapt to new circumstances;… Read More
Hilary Earl, “The Nuremberg SS-Einsatzgruppen Trial, 1945-1958: Atrocity, Law, and History” (Cambridge UP, 2010)
Hitler caused the Holocaust, that much we know (no Hitler, no Holocaust). But did he directly order it and, if so, how and when? This is one of the many interesting questions posed by Hilary Earl in her outstanding new… Read More
Nicholas Thompson, “The Hawk and the Dove: Paul Nitze, George Kennan, and the History of the Cold War” (Henry Holt, 2010)
I met George Kennan twice, once in 1982 and again in about 1998. On both occasions, I found him tough to read. He was a very dignified man–I want to write “correct”–but also quite distant, even cerebral. Now that I’ve… Read More
Ben Kiernan, “Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to Darfur” (Yale UP, 2007)
Chimps, our closest relatives, kill each other. But chimps do not engage in anything close to mass slaughter of their own kind. Why is this? There are two possible explanations for the difference. The first is this: chimps are not… Read More
Brian Balogh, “A Government Out of Sight: The Mystery of National Authority in 19th-Century America” (Cambridge UP, 2009)
Americans don’t like “big government” right? Not exactly. In the Early Republic (1789 to the 1820s) folks were quite keen on building up the (you guessed it) republic. As in res publica, the “things held in common.” The… Read More
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