New Books Network

Toby Lester, “The Fourth Part of the World: The Race to the Ends of the Earth, and the Epic Story of the Map That Gave America its Name” (Free Press, 2009)
Why the heck is “America” called “America” and not, say, “Columbia?” You’ll find the answer to that question and many more in Toby Lester‘s fascinating and terrifically readable new book The Fourth Part of the World: The Race to the Ends of the Earth, and the Epic Story of the... Read More
Jack Greene and Philip Morgan, “Atlantic History: A Critical Appraisal” (Oxford UP, 2008)
This is the first in a series of podcasts that New Books in History is offering in conjunction with the National History Center. The NHC and Oxford University Press have initiated a book series called “Reinterpreting History.”The volumes in the series aim to convey to readers how and why historians... Read More
Lawrence Wittner, “Confronting the Bomb: A Short History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement” (Stanford UP, 2009)
In 1983, when I was in college, I participated in something called a “Die-In.” A group of us set up crosses on the commons and threw ourselves on the ground as if we were dead. The idea, such as it was, was to suggest that nuclear weapons were bad and... Read More
Adrian Goldsworthy, “How Rome Fell: Death of a Superpower” (Yale UP, 2009)
It’s the classic historical question: Why did the Roman Empire fall? There are doubtless lots of reasons. One historian has noted 210 of them. No wonder Gibbon said that we should stop “inquiring why the Roman Empire was destroyed,” but rather “be surprised that it lasted so long.” Indeed. But... Read More
Godfrey Hodgson, “The Myth of American Exceptionalism” (Yale UP, 2009)
How different is the United States from other nations? American leaders and common folk have often said it’s very different. The Founding Fathers said it, Abraham Lincoln said it, Woodrow Wilson said it, Franklin Roosevelt said it, Bill Clinton said it, and George W. Bush said it–and they were hardly... Read More
Gregory Cochran, “The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution” (Basic, 2009)
First, the conventional wisdom. Because Homo sapiens are a young species and haven’t had time to genetically differentiate, we modern humans are all basically genetically identical. Because Homo sapiens figured out ways to use culture to overcome natural selection, human genetic evolution ceased ages ago. Because Homo sapiens are genetically... 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
Ian McNeely, “Reinventing Knowledge: From Alexandria to the Internet” (Norton, 2008)
We don’t think much about institutions. They just seem to “be there.” But they have a history, as Ian McNeely and Lisa Wolverton show in their important new book Reinventing Knowledge. From Alexandria to the Internet (W.W. Norton, 2008). The book deals specifically with institutions in which knowledge has been... Read More
Walter Moss, “An Age of Progress? Clashing Twentieth Century Global Forces” (Anthem Press, 2008)
Today I’m very pleased to have Professor Walter Moss of Eastern Michigan University on the program. Walt and I have known each others for years, and I’ve long admired him. Walt is best known for his many works on Russian history, though his new book–the topic of our discussion today–is... Read More
Robert Gellately, “Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler: The Age of Social Catastrophe” (Knopf, 2007)
Today we’re pleased to feature an interview with Robert Gellately of Florida State University. Professor Gellately is a distinguished and widely read historian of Germany, with a particular focus on the Nazi period. He’s the author of a number of path-breaking books, including The Politics of Economic Despair: Shopkeepers and... Read More