Sunday, January 25, 2015

"Making Money"

New from Oxford University Press: Making Money: Coin, Currency, and the Coming of Capitalism by Christine Desan.

About the book, from the publisher:
Money travels the modern world in disguise. It looks like a convention of human exchange - a commodity like gold or a medium like language. But its history reveals that money is a very different matter. It is an institution engineered by political communities to mark and mobilize resources. As societies change the way they create money, they change the market itself - along with the rules that structure it, the politics and ideas that shape it, and the benefits that flow from it.

One particularly dramatic transformation in money's design brought capitalism to England. For centuries, the English government monopolized money's creation. The Crown sold people coin for a fee in exchange for silver and gold. 'Commodity money' was a fragile and difficult medium; the first half of the book considers the kinds of exchange and credit it invited, as well as the politics it engendered. Capitalism arrived when the English reinvented money at the end of the 17th century. When it established the Bank of England, the government shared its monopoly over money creation for the first time with private investors, institutionalizing their self-interest as the pump that would produce the money supply. The second half of the book considers the monetary revolution that brought unprecedented possibilities and problems. The invention of circulating public debt, the breakdown of commodity money, the rise of commercial bank currency, and the coalescence of ideological commitments that came to be identified with the Gold Standard - all contributed to the abundant and unstable medium that is modern money. All flowed as well from a collision between the individual incentives and public claims at the heart of the system. The drama had constitutional dimension: money, as its history reveals, is a mode of governance in a material world. That character undermines claims in economics about money's neutrality. The monetary design innovated in England would later spread, producing the global architecture of modern money.
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 24, 2015

"Boom, Bust, Exodus"

New from Oxford University Press: Boom, Bust, Exodus: The Rust Belt, the Maquilas, and a Tale of Two Cities by Chad Broughton.

About the book, from the publisher:
In 2002, the town of Galesburg, a slowly declining Rustbelt city of 33,000 in western Illinois, learned that it would soon lose its largest factory, a Maytag refrigerator plant that had anchored Galesburg's social and economic life for decades. Workers at the plant earned $15.14 an hour, had good insurance, and were assured a solid retirement. In 2004, the plant was relocated to Reynosa, Mexico, where workers sometimes spent 13-hour days assembling refrigerators for $1.10 an hour.

In Boom, Bust, Exodus, Chad Broughton offers a ground-level look at the rapid transition to a globalized economy, from the perspective of those whose lives it has most deeply affected. We live in a commoditized world, increasingly divorced from the origins of the goods we consume; it is easy to ignore who is manufacturing our smart phones and hybrid cars; and where they come from no longer seems to matter. And yet, Broughton shows, the who and where matter deeply, and in this book he puts human faces to the relentless cycle of global manufacturing.

It is a tale of two cities. In Galesburg, where parts of the empty Maytag factory still stand, a hollowed out version of the American dream, the economy is a shadow of what it once was. Reynosa, in contrast, has become one of the exploding post-NAFTA "second-tier cities" of the developing world, thanks to the influx of foreign-owned, export-oriented maquiladoras--an industrial promised land throbbing with the energy of commerce, legal and illegal. And yet even these distinctions, Broughton shows, cannot be finely drawn: families in Reynosa also struggle to get by, and the city is beset by violence and a ruthless drug war. Those left behind in the post-Industrial decline of Galesburg, meanwhile, do not see themselves as helpless victims: they have gone back to school, pursued new careers, and learned to adapt and even thrive.

In an era of growing inequality and a downsized middle class, Boom, Bust, Exodus gives us the voices of those who have borne the heaviest burdens of the economic upheavals of the past three decades. A deeply personal work grounded in solid scholarship, this important, immersive, and affecting book brings home the price and the cost of globalization.
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 23, 2015

"Washington's Revolution"

New from Knopf: Washington's Revolution: The Making of America's First Leader by Robert Middlekauff.

About the book, from the publisher:
A vivid, insightful, essential new account of the formative years that shaped a callow George Washington into an extraordinary leader, from the Bancroft Prize winner and Pulitzer Prize finalist Robert Middlekauff.

George Washington was famously unknowable, a man of deep passions hidden behind a facade of rigid self-control. Yet before he was a great general and president, Washington was a young man prone to peevishness and a volcanic temper. His greatness as a leader evolved over time, the product of experience and maturity but also a willed effort to restrain his wilder impulses.

Focusing on Washington’s early years, Robert Middlekauff penetrates his mystique, revealing his all-too-human fears, values, and passions. Rich in psychological detail regarding Washington’s temperament, idiosyncrasies, and experiences, this book shows a self-conscious Washington who grew in confidence and experience as a young soldier, businessman, and Virginia gentleman, and who was transformed into a patriot by the revolutionary ferment of the 1760s and ’70s. Taking command of an army in constant dire need—of adequate food, weapons, and, at times, even clothing and shoes—Washington displayed incredible persistence and resourcefulness, growing into a leader who both understood and defined the crucial role of the army in the formation of a new American society.

Middlekauff makes clear that Washington was at the heart of not just the revolution’s course and outcome but also the success of the nation it produced. This is an indispensable book for truly understanding one of America’s great figures.
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 22, 2015

"Imprisoned by the Past"

New from Oxford University Press: Imprisoned by the Past: Warren McCleskey and the American Death Penalty by Jeffrey L. Kirchmeier.

About the book, from the publisher:
Imprisoned by the Past: Warren McCleskey and the American Death Penalty connects the history of the American death penalty to the case of Warren McCleskey. By highlighting the relation between American history and an individual case, Imprisoned by the Past provides a unique understanding of the big picture of capital punishment in the context of a compelling human story.

McCleskey's criminal law case resulted in one of the most important Supreme Court cases in U.S. legal history, where the Court confronted evidence of racial discrimination in the administration of capital punishment. The case marks the last that the Supreme Court realistically might have held that capital punishment violates the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. As such, the constitutional law case also created a turning point in the death penalty debate in the country. The book connects McCleskey's case -- as well as his life and crime -- to the issues that have haunted the American death penalty debate since the first executions by early settlers and that still affect the legal system today.

Imprisoned by the Past ties together three unique American stories in U.S history. First, the book considers the changing American death penalty across centuries where drastic changes have occurred in the last fifty years. Second, the book discusses the role that race played in that history. And third, the book tells the story of Warren McCleskey and how his life and legal case brought together the other two narratives.
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

"The Hero’s Fight"

New from Princeton University Press: The Hero’s Fight: African Americans in West Baltimore and the Shadow of the State by Patricia Fernández-Kelly.

About the book, from the publisher:
Baltimore was once a vibrant manufacturing town, but today, with factory closings and steady job loss since the 1970s, it is home to some of the most impoverished neighborhoods in America. The Hero’s Fight provides an intimate look at the effects of deindustrialization on the lives of Baltimore’s urban poor, and sheds critical light on the unintended consequences of welfare policy on our most vulnerable communities.

Drawing on her own uniquely immersive brand of fieldwork, conducted over the course of a decade in the neighborhoods of West Baltimore, Patricia Fernández-Kelly tells the stories of people like D. B. Wilson, Big Floyd, Towanda, and others whom the American welfare state treats with a mixture of contempt and pity—what Fernández-Kelly calls “ambivalent benevolence.” She shows how growing up poor in the richest nation in the world involves daily interactions with agents of the state, an experience that differs significantly from that of more affluent populations. While ordinary Americans are treated as citizens and consumers, deprived and racially segregated populations are seen as objects of surveillance, containment, and punishment. Fernández-Kelly provides new insights into such topics as globalization and its effects on industrial decline and employment, the changing meanings of masculinity and femininity among the poor, social and cultural capital in poor neighborhoods, and the unique roles played by religion and entrepreneurship in destitute communities.

Blending compelling portraits with in-depth scholarly analysis, The Hero’s Fight explores how the welfare state contributes to the perpetuation of urban poverty in America.
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

"Sex, Money and Personal Character in Eighteenth-Century British Politics"

New from Yale University Press: Sex, Money and Personal Character in Eighteenth-Century British Politics by Marilyn Morris.

About the book, from the publisher:
How, and why, did the Anglo-American world become so obsessed with the private lives and public character of its political leaders? Marilyn Morris finds answers in eighteenth-century Britain, when a long tradition of court intrigue and gossip spread into a much broader and more public political arena with the growth of political parties, extra-parliamentary political activities, and a partisan print culture.

The public’s preoccupation with the personal character of the ruling elite paralleled a growing interest in the interior lives of individuals in histories, novels, and the theater. Newspaper reports of the royal family intensified in intimacy and its members became moral exemplars—most often, paradoxically, when they misbehaved. Ad hominem attacks on political leaders became commonplace; politicians of all affiliations continued to assess one another’s characters based on their success and daring with women and money. And newly popular human-interest journalism promoted the illusion that the personal characters of public figures could be read by appearances.
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 19, 2015

"Culinary Culture in Colonial India"

New from Cambridge University Press: Culinary Culture in Colonial India: A Cosmopolitan Platter and the Middle-Class by Utsa Ray.

About the book, from the publisher:
This book utilizes cuisine to understand the construction of the colonial middle class in Bengal who indigenized new culinary experiences as a result of colonial modernity. This process of indigenization developed certain social practices, including imagination of the act of cooking as a classic feminine act and the domestic kitchen as a sacred space. The process of indigenization was an aesthetic choice that was imbricated in the upper caste and patriarchal agenda of the middle-class social reform. However, in these acts of imagination, there were important elements of continuity from the pre-colonial times. The book establishes the fact that Bengali cuisine cannot be labeled as indigenist although it never became widely commercialized. The point was to cosmopolitanize the domestic and yet keep its tag of 'Bengaliness'. The resultant cuisine was hybrid, in many senses like its makers.
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 18, 2015

"A Path in the Mighty Waters"

New from Yale University Press: A Path in the Mighty Waters: Shipboard Life and Atlantic Crossings to the New World by Stephen R. Berry.

About the book, from the publisher:
In October 1735, James Oglethorpe’s Georgia Expedition set sail from London, bound for Georgia. Two hundred and twenty-seven passengers boarded two merchant ships accompanied by a British naval vessel and began a transformative voyage across the Atlantic that would last nearly five months. Chronicling their passage in journals, letters, and other accounts, the migrants described the challenges of physical confinement, the experiences of living closely with people from different regions, religions, and classes, and the multi-faceted character of the ocean itself.

Using their specific journey as his narrative arc, Stephen Berry’s A Path in the Mighty Waters tells the broader and hereto underexplored story of how people experienced their crossings to the New World in the eighteenth-century. During this time, hundreds of thousands of Europeans – mainly Irish and German – crossed the Atlantic as part of their martial, mercantile, political, or religious calling. Histories of these migrations, however, have often erased the ocean itself, giving priority to activities performed on solid ground. Reframing these histories, Berry shows how the ocean was more than a backdrop for human events; it actively shaped historical experiences by furnishing a dissociative break from normal patterns of life and a formative stage in travelers’ processes of collective identification. Shipboard life, serving as a profound conversion experience for travelers, both spiritually and culturally, resembled the conditions of a frontier or border zone where the chaos of pure possibility encountered an inner need for stability and continuity, producing permutations on existing beliefs.

Drawing on an impressive array of archival collections, Berry’s vivid and rich account reveals the crucial role the Atlantic played in history and how it has lingered in American memory as a defining experience.
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 17, 2015

"Islam in Liberalism"

New from the University of Chicago Press: Islam in Liberalism by Joseph A. Massad.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the popular imagination, Islam is often associated with words like oppression, totalitarianism, intolerance, cruelty, misogyny, and homophobia, while its presumed antonyms are Christianity, the West, liberalism, individualism, freedom, citizenship, and democracy. In the most alarmist views, the West’s most cherished values—freedom, equality, and tolerance—are said to be endangered by Islam worldwide.

Joseph Massad’s Islam in Liberalism explores what Islam has become in today’s world, with full attention to the multiplication of its meanings and interpretations. He seeks to understand how anxieties about tyranny, intolerance, misogyny, and homophobia, seen in the politics of the Middle East, are projected onto Islam itself. Massad shows that through this projection, Europe emerges as democratic and tolerant, feminist, and pro-LGBT rights—or, in short, Islam-free. Massad documents the Christian and liberal idea that we should missionize democracy, women’s rights, sexual rights, tolerance, equality, and even therapies to cure Muslims of their un-European, un-Christian, and illiberal ways. Along the way he sheds light on a variety of controversial topics, including the meanings of democracy—and the ideological assumption that Islam is not compatible with it while Christianity is—women in Islam, sexuality and sexual freedom, and the idea of Abrahamic religions valorizing an interfaith agenda. Islam in Liberalism is an unflinching critique of Western assumptions and of the liberalism that Europe and Euro-America blindly present as a type of salvation to an assumingly unenlightened Islam.
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 16, 2015

"Witchcraft, Demonology, and Confession in Early Modern France"

New from Cambridge University Press: Witchcraft, Demonology, and Confession in Early Modern France by Virginia Krause.

About the book, from the publisher:
Denounced by neighbors and scrutinized by demonologists, the early modern French witch also confessed, self-identified as a witch and as the author of horrific deeds. What led her to this point? Despair, solitude, perhaps even physical pain, but most decisively, demonology's two-pronged prosecutorial and truth-seeking confessional apparatus. This book examines the systematic and well-oiled machinery that served to extract, interpret, and disseminate witches' confessions in early modern France. For the demonologist, confession was the only way to find out the truth about the clandestine activities of witches. For the witch, however, trial confessions opened new horizons of selfhood. In this book, Virginia Krause unravels the threads that wove together the demonologist's will to know and the witch's subjectivity. By examining textual and visual evidence, Krause shows how confession not only generated demonological theory but also brought forth a specific kind of self, which we now recognize as the modern subject.
--Marshal Zeringue