Blog Archives

Jaroslav Pelikan, 1923-2006

May 15, 2006
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Jaroslav Pelikan, 1923-2006

Jaroslav Pelikan, a leading scholar in the history of Christianity, died on Saturday, May 13, at the age of 82. He was the Sterling Professor Emeritus of History at Yale University, having served on the Yale faculty from 1962 to 1996. We were fortunate to publish Pelikan’s extraordinary five-volume work The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, a religious and intellectual history of Christian doctrine from the first century to the twentieth. Martin Marty said of the work that it is “a series for which they must have coined words like ‘magisterial’.” . . .

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Senator Harry Reid on The Medical Malpractice Myth

May 10, 2006
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Senator Harry Reid on The Medical Malpractice Myth

On Monday, May 8, on the Senate floor, Democratic Leader Harry Reid gave a speech about medical malpractice legislation. The Senator’s analysis drew extensively on The Medical Malpractice Myth by Tom Baker. Reid said: “Over the weekend, I reviewed an insightful book entitled The Medical Malpractice Myth by Professor Tom Baker and published by the University of Chicago Press. . . . In this book, Professor Baker methodically debunks the most common myths in the medical malpractice debate.” Reid summarized the major claims of the book and utilized them to oppose two Senate bills that would impose significant limitations on medical liability lawsuits. Our excerpt from the book introduces Baker’s argument. . . .

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In 1887 Buffalo Bill’s Wild West opened in London

May 9, 2006
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In 1887 Buffalo Bill’s Wild West opened in London

On May 9, 1887, William Cody’s Wild West show opened its first overseas tour at the Earls Court exhibition complex in London. Buffalo Bill’s Wild West was a circus, a rodeo, and a historical pageant—a mammoth extravaganza that culminated in a reenactment of the Battle of Little Big Horn. The show was hugely successful in England, with twice-daily performances to crowds of 30,000. Queen Victoria made her first public appearance since the death of her husband twenty-five years earlier at a command performance on May 11, 1887. By the time the show closed in October, well over a million Londoners had witnessed the Buffalo Bill version of the American West. The English tour of the Wild West show and the European tour two years later—early examples of the globalization of American mass culture—are decribed in Buffalo Bill in Bologna: The Americanization of the World, 1869-1922 by Robert W. Rydell and Rob Kroes. Our excerpt from the book covers the European tours. . . .

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John Kenneth Galbraith, 1908-2006

May 1, 2006
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John Kenneth Galbraith, 1908-2006

Amartya Sen said the influence of John Kenneth Galbraith’s book The Affluent Society is so pervasive as to be taken for granted: “It’s like reading Hamlet and deciding it’s full of quotations.” A counselor for presidents from FDR to LBJ, a maverick economist, academic gadfly, acerbic commentator on modern society, and bestselling author, Galbraith not only consistently challenged the “conventional wisdom,” he also coined the phrase. We are proud to have published in paperback Galbraith’s 1998 book Created Unequal: The Crisis in American Pay, which showed how government policies in the 1990s widened the pay gap between different kinds of workers. We will be equally pleased this fall to reprint Richard Parker’s biography John Kenneth Galbraith: His Life, His Politics, His Economics, which even William F. Buckley called “the most readable and instructive biography of the century.” . . .

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Oceans and Sustainability

April 21, 2006
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Oceans and Sustainability

An essay for International Earth Day by Dorrik Stow, professor of ocean and earth science at the University of Southampton, UK, and the author of Oceans: An Illustrated Reference. Sustainability is neither a fashionable trend that will go away once its media exposure has played out, nor is it an option we can lightly dismiss. Sustainability is every bit as essential to the future of human existence as are the food and water we consume and the air we breathe. April 22 has been designated International Earth Day, a time to focus across the world on planet Earth—her natural resources, environment and future. Despite being endowed with enormous richness and diversity of natural resources, the United States can only sustain itself at present rates of consumption for about six months of each year. For the remaining half year it is totally reliant on imports. Furthermore, if the global population consumed at the same rate as the American people, the world would require more than five times the total global resource base to survive. The sums simply do not add up. But we are no better here in the UK, so I am not simply pointing an accusing finger from across . . .

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The Will to Act on the Environment

April 20, 2006
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The Will to Act on the Environment

An essay for International Earth Day by R. Bruce Hull, author of Infinite Nature. As the saying goes: We live in interesting times. Globalization and fundamentalism seem locked in a death struggle to control world economies and cultures. The biosphere, the thin skin of life that blankets Earth, is now dominated by the products of human creativity. Environmental alarmists look at this domination and see biodiversity loss, a destabilized climate, eroding soils, over-fished oceans, and collapsing ecological systems. Even most skeptical environmentalists—who typically highlight the reliable and abundant supply of food, energy, and other resources—acknowledge serious challenges to meeting exponentially growing demands. Meanwhile, the traditional methods of environmental management are faltering. Rational, centralized environmental planning is an admitted failure in most professional circles, and the science wars have diminished the credibility of all expertise. Environmental issues infrequently find space on the national agenda, and critics say environmentalism’s method and focus must change. These conflicting environmental currents and eddies flow within the larger river of postmodern angst, causing us to rethink answers to our ultimate questions: What does it mean to be human? What is the essence of the natural and supernatural world we live in? How should we relate to . . .

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Getting in before they closed the door

April 17, 2006
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Getting in before they closed the door

When did restrictions on immigration into the U.S. begin? The first comprehensive legislation to control immigration was enacted in the 1920s. But, as this excerpt from American Immigration by Maldwyn Allen Jones explains, the movement to restrict immigration began decades earlier: The dedication ceremonies for the Statue of Liberty in October 1886 took place, ironically enough, at precisely the time that Americans were beginning seriously to doubt the wisdom of unrestricted immigration. In the prevailing atmosphere, Emma Lazarus’ poetic welcome to the Old World’s “huddled masses” struck an almost discordant note. Already the first barriers had been erected against the entry of undesirables. In response to public pressure Congress had suspended Chinese immigration and had taken the first tentative steps to regulate the European influx. Organized nativism, moreover, was just reviving after a lapse of a quarter of a century and would shortly be demanding restrictions of a more drastic and general nature. This renewed agitation was no passing phase. It marked, on the contrary, the opening of a prolonged debate which was not to culminate until the 1920’s, when the enactment of a restrictive code brought the era of mass immigration to a close. Of all this there was . . .

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Review: Miller, Reluctant Capitalists

April 13, 2006
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Review: Miller, Reluctant Capitalists

The rise and dominance of superstore chains in the book retail industry is as much a fact of life in the UK as it is here in the States. In the UK, the 140-store Ottakar’s chain is a takeover target currently in the sights of the two largest players in the UK market, Waterstones and WH Smith. In his review in the New Statesman of Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption by Laura J. Miller, Nicholas Cree writes, “Waterstone’s, it seems, is scarcely more popular among the bien-pensants than are giant supermarket chains. Why people might feel this antipathy, and how the rise of chain booksellers has affected consumers, are the subjects of Laura J Miller’s study.” Miller’s book charts the evolution of bookselling from independent bookstores through the era of shopping mall stores to the current dominance by superstore chains and online retailing. More than in most industries this transition has generated consumer antipathy, as Cree notes, as well as passionate debate among booksellers, publishers, and the public. Miller uses interviews with bookstore customers and members of the book industry to explain why books evoke such distinct and heated reactions. Read an excerpt from the book. . . .

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Revising the Suburbs

March 24, 2006
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Revising the Suburbs

In an article in the March 24 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education, reporter Jennifer Howard sees a new wave of scholars challenging the usual wisdom about sprawl and urban growth. Three of our books are discussed in the article. Places of Their Own: African American Suburbanization in the Twentieth Century by Andrew Wiese is cited as an example of new work being done in suburbs populated by people other than the white middle-class. Wiese says that his project “challenges historians to think and write about suburbs in a different way.” We have an excerpt from his book. Howard notes that “in 1961 the urban historian Lewis Mumford indicted suburbia as a leveler of the worst order” and that Mumford’s critique is subjected to analysis in our forthcoming collection The New Suburban History (July), edited by Kevin M. Kruse and Thomas J. Sugrue. “The contributors to The New Suburban History focus on the role of African-Americans, other ethnic minorities, and immigrants in the history of suburbanization, as well as on the legal and economic mechanisms that shaped suburban identities and geographies in post-World War II America.” Not surprisingly, a lot of room is given over to Robert Bruegmann’s Sprawl: . . .

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Now it’s hamantashen time

March 14, 2006
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Now it’s hamantashen time

The Latke-Hamantash Debate was born at the University of Chicago some sixty years. In Chicago the debate is traditionally held on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. On other campuses—Cornell University, for example—the debate takes place around the celebration of Purim. Purim, Hanukkah, or, heck, the Fourth of July, any time is an appropriate time for the intellectual and gastronomic delights of The Great Latke-Hamantash Debate, a collection of the best of nearly sixty years of brilliant University of Chicago oratory deployed on behalf of latkes and hamantashen. In the Jerusalem Report Matt Nesvisky writes, “Editor Cernea, herself an anthropologist and a former Hillel official, has done a creditable job of combing through the organization’s archives to come up with essays that are never quite hilarious but are usually at least moderately amusing. I for one confess to a fondness for Ralph Marcus’s charming couplet: ‘Though David admired Bathsheba’s torso/ He liked her hamantashen more so.’ A close second is when Lawrence Sherman has Mercutio remarking ‘Women who are cold, cold latkes/ Cannot warm a young man’s gatkes.’” Our online feature for the book includes the text and audio of Ted Cohen’s “Consolations of the Latke” as well as recipes . . .

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