New Books Network

Kees Boterbloem, “The Fiction and Reality of Jan Struys: A Seventeenth-Century Dutch Globetrotter” (Palgrave-McMillan, 2008)
When we speak of the “Age of Discovery,” we usually mean the later fifteenth and sixteenth century. You know, Columbus, Magellan and all that. But the “Age of Discovery” continued well into the seventeenth century as Europeans continued to travel the globe in search of riches, fame and adventure. And... Read More
Simon Morrison, “The People’s Artist: Prokofiev’s Soviet Years” (Oxford UP, 2009)
In the Soviet Union, artists lived lives that were at once charmed and cursed. Though relatively poor, the USSR poured resources into the arts. The Party created a large, well-funded cultural elite of which only two things were expected. First, that they practice their art. Second–and here’s the rub–that they... Read More
Carl Bon Tempo, “Americans at the Gates: The United States and Refugees during the Cold War” (Princeton UP, 2008)
My Midwestern high school was pretty typical. There were freaks, geeks, jocks, drama-types. Some were white. And some were black. All were recognizably “American.” The only unusual thing about Wichita Southeast was the presence of a reasonably large number of Vietnamese. That’s right, Vietnamese. We didn’t know what to think... Read More
Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern, “Jews in the Russian Army, 1827-1917” (Cambridge UP, 2008)
Every Jew knows the story. The evil tsarist authorities ride into the Shtetl. They demand a levy of young men for the army. Mothers’ weep. Fathers’ sigh. The community mourns the loss of its young. It’s a good story, and some of it’s even true. The reality, of course, was... Read More
Samuel Kassow, “Who Will Write Our History? Emanuel Ringelblum, the Warsaw Ghetto, and the Oyneg Shabes Archive” (Indiana UP, 2007)
Scholars argue about whether the Holocaust was unprecedented. It’s a difficult question. On the one hand, slaughters litter the pages of history. On the other hand, none of them seem quite as calculated, systematic and horribly efficient as the Nazi murder of the Jews and other “Untermenchen.” One thing, however,... Read More
Matthew Goodman, “The Sun and the Moon: The Remarkable True Account of Hoaxers, Showmen, Dueling Journalists, and Lunar Man-Bats in Nineteenth-Century New York” (Basic Books, 2008)
The modern newspaper is not as old as you think. Until the early nineteenth century, they were thin and expensive. It was only with the advent of the penny press circa 1830 that the truly mass broadsheet was born. Yet selling a paper for a cent was not a straight-forward... Read More
Matt Wasniewski, et al., “Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007” (U.S. House of Representatives, 2008)
In just a few days, the United States will inaugurate its first black president, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois. And though it’s a momentous day for the cause of equality, Mr. Obama is hardly the first African American to come to DC to serve the people of the United States.... Read More
John H. Summers, “Every Fury on Earth” (Davies Group, 2008)
The vast majority of historians write history. Perhaps that’s good, as one should stick to what one knows. But there are historians who braves the waters of social and political criticism. One thinks of Arthur Schelsinger Jr., Richard Hofstadter, Christopher Lasch, Robert Conquest, Richard Pipes, Eric Hobsbawm, E. P. Thompson,... Read More
Vicki Ruiz, “From Out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth-Century America” (Oxford UP, 2008)
There was a time when “history” was the history of powerful people. Shakespeare captures this notion of history in the prologue to Henry V: O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend The brightest heaven of invention, A kingdom for a stage, princes to act And monarchs to behold... Read More
Donald Worster, “A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir” (Oxford UP, 2008)
If you study pre-modern history in any depth, one of the most startling things you will discover is that “traditional” societies usually had an adversarial relationship with “nature.” They fought the wild tooth and nail in a never-ending effort to bring it under human control. It never really occurred to... Read More