History

Free e-book for March: Lincoln’s Constitution

March 1, 2017
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Free e-book for March: Lincoln’s Constitution

Our free e-book for March is Lincoln’s Constitution by Daniel Farber. Download your copy here. In Lincoln’s Constitution, Daniel Farber leads the reader to understand exactly how Abraham Lincoln faced the inevitable constitutional issues brought on by the Civil War. Examining what arguments Lincoln made in defense of his actions and how his words and deeds fit into the context of the times, Farber illuminates Lincoln’s actions by placing them squarely within their historical moment. The answers here are crucial not only for a better understanding of the Civil War but also for shedding light on issues-state sovereignty, presidential power, and limitations on civil liberties in the name of national security-that continue to test the limits of constitutional law even today. To read more about Lincoln’s Constitution, click here. To download your free e-book edition, click here. . . .

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Yuliya Komska: Can civilians make borders better?

February 22, 2017
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Yuliya Komska: Can civilians make borders better?

“Can civilians make borders better?” by Yuliya Komska, author of The Icon Curtain: The Cold War’s Quiet Border (2015) *** Received wisdom contends that borders and walls are the work of states and supra-national bodies eager to regulate security, the movement of populations, and the flow of commodities. Not surprisingly, the construction and enforcement of these zones rely on weaponized technologies, substantial armed presence, and the use of surplus materials. Whether skimming the European Union’s southeastern edge, snaking between Israel and the West Bank, or cementing the line between the United States and Mexico, borders coalesce as militarized spaces, ostensibly antithetical to those inhabited by civilians in peacetime. The concomitant impression is that civilians can humanize borders by channeling creative energies to subversive effect. Think of the colorful graffiti on the western side of the Berlin Wall, or the works of the elusive artist Banksy, who brought the divided German city’s visual motifs (such as the iconic trompe-l’oeil barrier breech or the make-belief scenic vista) to Gaza in 2005. Consider also the shrines and crosses at the Mexican border, which commemorate the thousands who died in US Border Patrol operations, or the more choreographed incentives that reimagine this emergent border wall, several . . .

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Our free e-book for February: The Fear of Barbarians

February 1, 2017
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Our free e-book for February: The Fear of Barbarians

Our free e-book for February is Tzvetan Todorov’s The Fear of Barbarians—download your copy, here. *** The relationship between Western democracies and Islam, rarely entirely comfortable, has in recent years become increasingly tense. A growing immigrant population and worries about cultural and political assimilation—exacerbated by terrorist attacks in the United States, Europe, and around the world—have provoked reams of commentary from all parts of the political spectrum, a frustrating majority of it hyperbolic or even hysterical. In The Fear of Barbarians, the celebrated intellectual Tzvetan Todorov offers a corrective: a reasoned and often highly personal analysis of the problem, rooted in Enlightenment values yet open to the claims of cultural difference. Drawing on history, anthropology, and politics, and bringing to bear examples ranging from the murder of Theo van Gogh to the French ban on headscarves, Todorov argues that the West must overcome its fear of Islam if it is to avoid betraying the values it claims to protect. True freedom, Todorov explains, requires us to strike a delicate balance between protecting and imposing cultural values, acknowledging the primacy of the law, and yet strenuously protecting minority views that do not interfere with its aims. Adding force to Todorov’s arguments is his . . .

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Free e-book for January: Dori Katz’s Looking for Strangers

January 3, 2017
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Free e-book for January: Dori Katz’s Looking for Strangers

It’s a new year, and our free e-book for January is Dori Katz’s Looking for Strangers: The True Story of My Hidden Wartime Childhood.  Download your copy here. *** Dori Katz is a Jewish Holocaust survivor who thought that her lost memories of her childhood years in Belgium were irrecoverable. But after a chance viewing of a documentary about hidden children in German-occupied Belgium, she realized that she might, in fact, be able to unearth those years. Looking for Strangers is the deeply honest record of her attempt to do so, a detective story that unfolds through one of the most horrifying periods in history in an attempt to understand one’s place within it. In alternating chapters, Katz journeys into multiple pasts, setting details from her mother’s stories that have captivated her throughout her life alongside an account of her own return to Belgium forty years later—against her mother’s urgings—in search of greater clarity. She reconnects her sharp but fragmented memories: being sent by her mother in 1943, at the age of three, to live with a Catholic family under a Christian identity; then being given up, inexplicably, to an orphanage in the years immediately following the war. Only after . . .

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The Birth of Theory at New Books in History

December 16, 2016
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The Birth of Theory at New Books in History

  Andrew Cole’s The Birth of Theory posits Hegel as the world’s ur-critical theorist, accounting for the origins of his dialectic as a theory, and situating the thinker’s unconventional (for modern philosophy) turn toward the medieval and premodern realms, which ultimately embedded Hegel in its long tradition, and suggested “that it is precisely Hegel’s engagement with medieval modes of thought that make his work a productive source for Marx and the later thinkers who develop dialectical thinking into theory as we know it today.” Cole’s work was previously reviewed by the likes of Qui Parle (“The Birth of Theory is filled with illuminating and often counterintuitive readings. . . . Cole’s argument touches on an array of important avenues of inquiry, offering counterproposals that should unsettle the doctrinally comfortable and reinvigorate theoretical discussions in a variety of connected fields: Hegel scholarship and the history of Continental philosophy; Marxist and post-Marxist analysis of culture, ideology, and commodity fetishism; literary criticism, whether historicist or not; and contemporary discussions of new vitalisms, materialisms, and speculative ontologies. . . . The Birth of Theory offers a set of tantalizing and highly original arguments.”) and the Review of Metaphysics (“The Birth of Theory is an ambitious, original, lucidly-written, scrupulously-researched, . . .

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Chicago Reader on Dirty Waters

December 12, 2016
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Chicago Reader on Dirty Waters

From a recent Chicago Reader review of R. J. Nelson’s Dirty Waters: Confessions of Chicago’s Last Harbor Boss, the story of one city employee’s rise and fall as Chicago’s director of Harbors and Marine Services: Dirty Waters, a fine chronicle of Nelson’s tenure as a city employee, begins with his first day on the job and concludes not long after he was ignominiously terminated by Forrest Claypool, then the Park District’s general superintendent. What Nelson encounters during that time will be familiar to anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of local government: parks department supervisors who demand permits for their personal boats, inept public-sector employees who receive high salaries due to political connections, and obfuscatory paperwork designed to deaden the enthusiasm and limit the geographic and civic access of ordinary boaters. t a play-by-play account of Nelson’s time as harbor boss, Dirty Waters might get bogged down by inside-baseball accounts of bygone local politics. But there’s a certain Chicagoness to Nelson’s storytelling that’s highly entertaining—the book reads like a series of anecdotes being told by a lifelong resident of the city. Nelson can veer off on tangents, sometimes excessively so, but more often than not the asides keep the narrative interesting, provide valuable context, . . .

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Excerpt: They Thought They Were Free

December 5, 2016
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Excerpt: They Thought They Were Free

Following the 2016 presidential election, a group of Redditors digging for context and historical parallel rediscovered an excerpt on our website from Milton Mayer’s 1955 book, They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933–1945. There, Mayer interviews ten German citizens, all Nazi Party members, following the war about the course of their lives during that decade, in order to determine what, precisely, had made them Nazis. As Mayer put it: What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could not understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it. Below is the excerpt in full. *** But Then It Was Too Late “What no one seemed to notice,” said a colleague of mine, a philologist, “was the ever widening gap, after 1933, between the government and . . .

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Alice in Space (in Nature)

November 30, 2016
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Alice in Space (in Nature)

Gillian Beer wrote “History: Untangling Alice” for Nature, synthesizing some of the research from her book Alice In Space, which examines the Alice books by Lewis Carroll via the immediate context in which they landed: the 1860s, a decade rife with new languages and concepts drawn from scientific, linguistic, and educational developments. (Note: this book is so great!) In Beer’s words: When I started writing it more than a decade ago, I wondered how far intuition and familiarity with Victorian intellectual culture should take me in asserting Carroll’s participation in the ideas thronging around him. I had to rely on the Alice books for evidence of allusion and parodies. Now I have a fuller picture of how Carroll used fantasy to pursue thoughts — on radical mathematics and Boolean logic, for example — that he constrained in his professional life as a devout Euclidean. The Victorian culture within which the Alice books were written is largely invisible to us now. It was a period of immense intellectual upheaval in fields from mathematics to language theory, evolution and education. Carroll slips these ideas into the layers of his jokes, sliding infant puns above learned references. He had a teasing openness to the ideas being pursued by his contemporaries . . .

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Free e-book for November: Carl H. Nightingale’s Segregation

November 3, 2016
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Free e-book for November: Carl H. Nightingale’s Segregation

Our free e-book for November is Carl H. Nightingale’s Segregation: A Global History of Divided Cities. Read more and download your copy below: When we think of segregation, what often comes to mind is apartheid South Africa, or the American South in the age of Jim Crow—two societies fundamentally premised on the concept of the separation of the races. But as Carl H. Nightingale shows us in this magisterial history, segregation is everywhere, deforming cities and societies worldwide. Starting with segregation’s ancient roots, and what the archaeological evidence reveals about humanity’s long-standing use of urban divisions to reinforce political and economic inequality, Nightingale then moves to the world of European colonialism. It was there, he shows, segregation based on color—and eventually on race—took hold; the British East India Company, for example, split Calcutta into “White Town” and “Black Town.” As we follow Nightingale’s story around the globe, we see that division replicated from Hong Kong to Nairobi, Baltimore to San Francisco, and more. The turn of the twentieth century saw the most aggressive segregation movements yet, as white communities almost everywhere set to rearranging whole cities along racial lines. Nightingale focuses closely on two striking examples: Johannesburg, with its state-sponsored separation, and . . .

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The Fixers on the Leonard Lopate Show

November 2, 2016
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The Fixers on the Leonard Lopate Show

  The Fixers: Devolution, Development, and Civil Society in Newark, 1960–1990 chronicles the sociocultural revelations behind three decades of change and tumult that manifested in Newark, New Jersey’s postwar decline—and the coalitions of residents, lay activists, public housing policy advocates, black nationalists, white Catholic priests, and other “fixers,” who fought to organize their communities as a form of resistance. Recently, the book was a topic on the Leonard Lopate Show, where author Julia Rabig expanded upon the roles of these individuals in transforming a limited welfare state into a series of collective causes. To listen to streaming audio from the broadcast, click below: To read more about The Fixers, click here. . . .

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