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
Heather Prescott, “Student Bodies: The Influence of Student Health Services in American Society and Medicine” (University of Michigan Press, 2007)
When you were in college, did you visit the health center? I did, several times. Did you ever wonder why there was a student health center? I didn’t. It seemed like a part of the college scenery, something that had “always” been there. Far from it, as Heather Prescott shows... Read More
William Beezley, “Mexican National Identity: Memory, Innuendo and Popular Culture” (University of Arizona Press, 2008)
The question of how we come to understand who we are–nationality-wise–is a thorny one. In a widely-read book, Benedict Anderson said we got nationality, inter alia, by reading about it in books. William Beezley‘s got a different, though complementary, thesis regarding Mexicans of the 19th century: they were shown nationality... Read More
Christopher Capozzola, “Uncle Sam Wants You: World War I and the Making of The Modern American Citizen” (Oxford UP, 2008)
I confess I sometimes wonder where we got in the habit of proclaiming, usually with some sort of righteous indignation, that we have the “right” to this or that as citizens. I know that the political theorists of the eighteenth century wrote a lot about “rights,” and that “rights” made... Read More
John Lukacs, “Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat: The Dire Warning” (Basic Books, 2008)
Much has been written about Winston Churchill recently. Some love him, some hate him. But few understand him, at least as well as John Lukacs. That’s hardly a surprise as Lukacs has been thinking and writing about Churchill for over fifty years. He’s written a wonderful book focusing on one... Read More