New Books Network

Laurent Dubois, “Soccer Empire: The World Cup and the Future of France” (University of California Press, 2011)
There are few moments in recent sports history as riveting, perplexing, and widely debated as Zinedine Zidane’s head-butt to Marco Materazzi in the final match of the 2006 World Cup. Think of your own reaction when the referee stopped play to attend to Materazzi, and you then saw the reply... Read More
Paul Friedland, “Seeing Justice Done: The Age of Spectacular Capital Punishment In France” (Oxford University Press, 2012)
It seems safe to say that the guillotine occupies a macabre place in the popular imagination among the icons of France’s transition to modernity–perhaps stashed somewhere in between idealized barricades or lurking on one chronological flank of the Eiffel Tower. The guillotine’s mechanization of official killing was instrumental in carrying... Read More
Nancy Hargrove, “T.S. Eliot’s Parisian Year” (University of Florida Press, 2010)
When it comes to writers and artists, biography plays a provocative role–yielding insight into both artistic influences and origins. This is especially true with the modernists, in particular T.S. Eliot. After graduating from Harvard University in 1910, the young Eliot spent a year in Paris, a year that had a... Read More
Carolina Armenteros, “The French Idea of History: Joseph de Maistre and his Heirs, 1794-1854” (Cornell UP, 2011)
When I was an undergraduate, I took a class called “The Enlightenment” in which we read all the thinkers of, well, “The Enlightenment.” I came to understand that they were the “good guys” of Western history, at least for most folks. We also read, as a kind of coda, a... Read More
Carolyn Burke, “No Regrets: The Life of Edith Piaf” (Knopf, 2011)
Edith Piaf’s story is rife with drama. The daughter of an acrobat and a singer, she was the first French superstar and sang with wild abandon in a voice that rivaled Judy Garland’s. And yet, so often Piaf’s high-spirits are used against her and her life is made to fit... Read More
Andrew Curran, “The Anatomy of Blackness: Science and Slavery in an Age of Enlightenment” (Johns Hopkins UP, 2011)
We’ve dealt with the question of how racial categories and conceptions evolve on New Books in History before, most notably in our interview with Nell Irving Painter. She told us about the history of “Whiteness.” Today we’ll return to the history of racial ideas and listen to Andrew Curranexplain the... Read More
Jeffrey H. Jackson, “Paris Under Water: How the City of Light Survived the Great Flood of 1910” (Palgrave-MacMillan, 2010)
In the late 19th century, French sociologist Emile Durkheim warned the world about spreading “normlessness” (anomie). He claimed that modern society, and particularly life in concentrated urban-industrial areas like Paris, left people without the sense of belonging that characterized “traditional” life. Durkheim was not alone in thinking that there was... Read More
Ruth Harris, “Dreyfus: Politics, Emotion, and the Scandal of the Century” (Henry Holt, 2010)
If you’re like me (and I hope you aren’t), the “Trial of the Century” involved a washed-up football star, a slowly moving white Bronco, an ill-fitting glove, and charges of racism. I watched every bit of it and remember exactly where I was when the verdict was announced. But if... Read More
Richard Fogarty, “Race and War in France: Colonial Subjects in the French Army,  1914-1918” (Johns Hopkins UP, 2008)
The thing about empire building is that when you’re done building one, you’ve got to figure out what to do with it. This generally involves the “extraction of resources.” We tend to think of this in terms of things like gold, oil, or rubber. But people can be “extracted” as... Read More