New Books Network

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
Nicholas Evan Sarantakes, “Dropping the Torch: Jimmy Carter, the Olympic Boycott, and the Cold War” (Cambridge UP, 2010)
As a young, patriotic American, I was torn by the boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. On the one hand, I knew already as an eleven-year-old, long before Ronald Reagan had uttered the phrase, that the Soviet Union was the Evil Empire. Their invasion of Afghanistan in December... Read More
Richard Bourne, “Catastrophe: What Went Wrong in Zimbabwe?” (Zed Books, 2011)
Much of the literature on modern Africa makes the unhappy comparison between hopes, especially upon independence, and reality. In Zimbabwe that link resonates even more than is normal. Zimbabwe only achieved full independence in 1980 after a brutal war involving several guerilla groups and the country’s white minority, which had... Read More
Philip Oltermann, “Keeping Up With the Germans: A History of Anglo-German Encounters” (Faber and Faber, 2012)
Few people are in a better position to assess different countries and cultures than those caught between them. So it is with Philip Oltermann: a German journalist who came to England while a teenager, and who has lived here and worked here ever since (even managing to marry an English... Read More
Karen Abbott, “American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee” (Random House, 2012)
As a whole, the genre of biography trends towards linear narratives–wherein the events of a subject’s life are tracked in the order that they occurred. This makes sense, as it’s how we live our lives, but there are advantages that come with non-linear structure. In the case of Karen Abbott‘s... Read More
Marshall Poe, “A History of Communications: Media and Society from the Evolution of Speech to the Internet” (Cambridge UP, 2011)
It is not every historian who would offer readers an attempt to explain human nature. In A History of Communications: Media and Society from the Evolution of Speech to the Internet (Cambridge University Press, 2011), Marshall Poe does just that. At the same time, Poe guides readers through the history... Read More
David Edgerton, “Britain’s War Machine: Weapons, Resources and Experts in the Second World War” (Oxford UP, 2011)
My grandfather joined up when the Second World War broke out, but he was soon returned to civvy street as he was much more valuable employing his mechanic’s skills to fight the Nazis from a factory in Newcastle. He ended up making the parts of the spot lights that were... Read More