Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"Black Rage in New Orleans"

New from Louisiana State University Press: Black Rage in New Orleans: Police Brutality and African American Activism from World War II to Hurricane Katrina by Leonard N. Moore.

About the book, from the publisher:
In Black Rage in New Orleans, Leonard N. Moore traces the shocking history of police corruption in the Crescent City from World War II to Hurricane Katrina and the concurrent rise of a large and energized black opposition to it. In New Orleans, crime, drug abuse, and murder were commonplace, and an underpaid, inadequately staffed, and poorly trained police force frequently resorted to brutality against African Americans. Endemic corruption among police officers increased as the city’s crime rate soared, generating anger and frustration among New Orleans’s black community. Rather than remain passive, African Americans in the city formed antibrutality organizations, staged marches, held sit-ins, waged boycotts, vocalized their concerns at city council meetings, and demanded equitable treatment.

Moore explores a staggering array of NOPD abuses—police homicides, sexual violence against women, racial profiling, and complicity in drug deals, prostitution rings, burglaries, protection schemes, and gun smuggling—and the increasingly vociferous calls for reform by the city’s black community. Documenting the police harassment of civil rights workers in the 1950s and 1960s, Moore then examines the aggressive policing techniques of the 1970s, and the attempts of Ernest “Dutch” Morial—the first black mayor of New Orleans—to reform the force in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Even when the department hired more African American officers as part of that reform effort, Moore reveals, the corruption and brutality continued unabated in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Dramatic changes in departmental leadership, together with aid from federal grants, finally helped professionalize the force and achieved long-sought improvements within the New Orleans Police Department. Community policing practices, increased training, better pay, and a raft of other reform measures for a time seemed to signal real change in the department. The book’s epilogue, “Policing Katrina,” however, looks at how the NOPD’s ineffectiveness compromised its ability to handle the greatest natural disaster in American history, suggesting that the fruits of reform may have been more temporary than lasting.

The first book-length study of police brutality and African American protest in a major American city, Black Rage in New Orleans will prove essential for anyone interested in race relations in America’s urban centers.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"Revolutionary Commerce"

New from Harvard University Press: Revolutionary Commerce: Globalization and the French Monarchy by Paul Cheney.

About the book, from the publisher:
Combining the intellectual history of the Enlightenment, Atlantic history, and the history of the French Revolution, Paul Cheney explores the political economy of globalization in eighteenth-century France.

The discovery of the New World and the rise of Europe's Atlantic economy brought unprecedented wealth. It also reordered the political balance among European states and threatened age-old social hierarchies within them. In this charged context, the French developed a "science of commerce" that aimed to benefit from this new wealth while containing its revolutionary effects. Montesquieu became a towering authority among reformist economic and political thinkers by developing a politics of fusion intended to reconcile France's aristocratic society and monarchical state with the needs and risks of international commerce. The Seven Years' War proved the weakness of this model, and after this watershed reforms that could guarantee shared prosperity at home and in the colonies remained elusive. Once the Revolution broke out in 1789, the contradictions that attended the growth of France's Atlantic economy helped to bring down the constitutional monarchy.

Drawing upon the writings of philosophes, diplomats, consuls of commerce, and merchants, Cheney rewrites the history of political economy in the Enlightenment era and provides a new interpretation of the relationship between capitalism and the French Revolution.
Read an excerpt from Revolutionary Commerce.

Monday, March 29, 2010

"Entangling Alliances"

New from NYU Press: Entangling Alliances: Foreign War Brides and American Soldiers in the Twentieth Century by Susan Zeiger.

About the book, from the publisher:
Throughout the twentieth century, American male soldiers returned home from wars with foreign-born wives in tow, often from allied but at times from enemy nations, resulting in a new, official category of immigrant: the “allied” war bride. These brides began to appear en masse after World War I, peaked after World War II, and persisted through the Korean and Vietnam Wars. GIs also met and married former “enemy” women under conditions of postwar occupation, although at times the US government banned such unions.

In this comprehensive, complex history of war brides in 20th-century American history, Susan Zeiger uses relationships between American male soldiers and foreign women as a lens to view larger issues of sexuality, race, and gender in United States foreign relations. Entangling Alliances draws on a rich array of sources to trace how war and postwar anxieties about power and national identity have long been projected onto war brides, and how these anxieties translate into public policies, particularly immigration.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

"A Nation Forged in War"

New from the University of Tennessee Press: A Nation Forged in War: How World War II Taught Americans to Get Along by Thomas A. Bruscino.

About the book, from the publisher:
World War II shaped the United States in profound ways, and this new book—the first in the Legacies of War series—explores one of the most significant changes it fostered: a dramatic increase in ethnic and religious tolerance. A Nation Forged in War is the first full-length study of how large-scale mobilization during the Second World War helped to dissolve long-standing differences among white soldiers of widely divergent backgrounds.

Never before or since have so many Americans served in the armed forces at one time: more than 15 million donned uniforms in the period from 1941 to 1945. Thomas Bruscino explores how these soldiers’ shared experiences—enduring basic training, living far from home, engaging in combat—transformed their views of other ethnic groups and religious traditions. He further examines how specific military policies and practices worked to counteract old prejudices, and he makes a persuasive case that throwing together men of different regions, ethnicities, religions, and classes not only fostered a greater sense of tolerance but also forged a new American identity. When soldiers returned home after the war with these new attitudes, they helped reorder what it meant to be white in America.

Using the presidential campaigns of Al Smith in 1928 and John F. Kennedy in 1960 as bookend events, Bruscino notes a key change in religious bias. Smith’s defeat came at the end of a campaign rife with anti-Catholic sentiment; Kennedy’s victory some three decades later proved that such religious bigotry was no longer an insurmountable obstacle. Despite such advances, Bruscino notes that the growing broad-mindedness produced by the war had limits: it did not extend to African Americans, whose own struggle for equality would dramatically mark the postwar decades.

Extensively documented, A Nation Forged in War is one of the few books on the social and cultural impact of the World War II years. Scholars and students of military, ethnic, social, and religious history will be fascinated by this groundbreaking new volume.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

"Weapons of Mass Migration"

New from Cornell University Press: Weapons of Mass Migration: Forced Displacement, Coercion, and Foreign Policy by Kelly M. Greenhill.

About the book, from the publisher:
At first glance, the U.S. decision to escalate the war in Vietnam in the mid-1960s, China's position on North Korea's nuclear program in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and the EU resolution to lift what remained of the arms embargo against Libya in the mid-2000s would appear to share little in common. Yet each of these seemingly unconnected and far-reaching foreign policy decisions resulted at least in part from the exercise of a unique kind of coercion, one predicated on the intentional creation, manipulation, and exploitation of real or threatened mass population movements. In Weapons of Mass Migration, Kelly M. Greenhill offers the first systematic examination of this widely deployed but largely unrecognized instrument of state influence. She shows both how often this unorthodox brand of coercion has been attempted (more than fifty times in the last half century) and how successful it has been (well over half the time). She also tackles the questions of who employs this policy tool, to what ends, and how and why it ever works.

Coercers aim to affect target states' behavior by exploiting the existence of competing political interests and groups, Greenhill argues, and by manipulating the costs or risks imposed on target state populations. This "coercion by punishment" strategy can be effected in two ways: the first relies on straightforward threats to overwhelm a target's capacity to accommodate a refugee or migrant influx; the second, on a kind of norms-enhanced political blackmail that exploits the existence of legal and normative commitments to those fleeing violence, persecution, or privation. The theory is further illustrated and tested in a variety of case studies from Europe, East Asia, and North America. To help potential targets better respond to-and protect themselves against-this kind of unconventional predation, Weapons of Mass Migration also offers practicable policy recommendations for scholars, government officials, and anyone concerned about the true victims of this kind of coercion—the displaced themselves.

Friday, March 26, 2010

"Franklin Pierce"

New from Times Books: Franklin Pierce by Michael F. Holt.

About the book, from the publisher:
The genial but troubled New Englander whose single-minded partisan loyalties inflamed the nation's simmering battle over slavery

Charming and handsome, Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire was drafted to break the deadlock of the 1852 Democratic convention. Though he seized the White House in a landslide against the imploding Whig Party, he proved a dismal failure in office.

Michael F. Holt, a leading historian of nineteenth-century partisan politics, argues that in the wake of the Whig collapse, Pierce was consumed by an obsessive drive to unify his splintering party rather than the roiling country. He soon began to overreach. Word leaked that Pierce wanted Spain to sell the slave-owning island of Cuba to the United States, rousing sectional divisions. Then he supported repeal of the Missouri Compromise, which limited the expansion of slavery in the west. Violence broke out, and "Bleeding Kansas" spurred the formation of the Republican Party. By the end of his term, Pierce's beloved party had ruptured, and he lost the nomination to James Buchanan.

In this incisive account, Holt shows how a flawed leader, so dedicated to his party and ill-suited for the presidency, hastened the approach of the Civil War.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


New from The Penguin Press: Quicksand: America's Pursuit of Power in the Middle East by Geoffrey Wawro.

About the book, from the publisher:
An unprecedented history of our involvement in the Middle East that traces our current quandaries there-in Iraq, Israel, Iran, Afghanistan, and elsewhere-back to their roots almost a century ago.

Geoffrey Wawro approaches America's role in the Middle East in a fundamentally new way-by encompassing the last century of the entire region, rather than focusing narrowly on a particular country or era. The result is a definitive and revelatory history whose drama, tragedy, and rich irony he relates with unprecedented verve. Wawro combed archives in the United States and Europe and traveled the Middle East to unearth new insights into the hidden motivations, backroom dealing, and outright espionage that shaped some of the most tumultuous events of the last one hundred years. Wawro offers piercing analysis of iconic events from the birth of Israel to the death of Sadat, from the Suez crisis to the energy crisis, from the Six-Day War to Desert One, from Iran-contra to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the rise of al- Qaeda. Throughout, he draws telling parallels between America's past mistakes and its current quandaries, proving that we're in today's muddle not just because of our old errors, but because we keep repeating those errors.

America has juggled multiple commitments and conflicting priorities in the Middle East for nearly a century. Strands of idealism and ruthless practicality have alternated- and sometimes run together-in our policy. Quicksand untangles these strands as no history has done before by showing how our strategies unfolded over the entire century and across the entire region. We've persistently misread the intentions and motivations of every major player in the region because we've insisted on viewing them through the lens of our own culture, hopes, and fears. Most administrations since Eisenhower's have adopted their own "doctrine" for the Middle East, and almost every doctrine has failed precisely because it's a doctrine-a template into which events on the ground refuse to fit. Geoffrey Wawro's peerless and remarkably lively history is key to understanding our errors and the Middle East-at last- on its own terms.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

"Hitler’s Generals on Trial"

New from the University of Kansas Press: Hitler’s Generals on Trial: The Last War Crimes Tribunal at Nuremberg by Valerie Geneviève Hébert.

About the book, from the publisher:
By prosecuting war crimes, the Nuremberg trials sought to educate West Germans about their criminal past, provoke their total rejection of Nazism, and convert them to democracy. More than all of the other Nuremberg proceedings, the High Command Case against fourteen of Hitler’s generals embraced these goals, since the charges—the murder of POWs, the terrorizing of civilians, the extermination of Jews—also implicated the 20 million ordinary Germans who had served in the military. This trial was the true test of Nuremberg’s potential to inspire national reflection on Nazi crime.

Its importance notwithstanding, the High Command Case has been largely neglected by historians. Valerie Hébert’s study—the only book in English on the subject—draws extensively on the voluminous trial records to reconstruct these proceedings in full: prosecution and defense strategies; evidence for and against the defendants and the military in general; the intricacies of the judgment; and the complex legal issues raised, such as the defense of superior orders, military necessity, and command responsibility. Crucially, she also examines the West German reaction to the trial and the intense debate over its fairness and legitimacy, ignited by the sentencing of soldiers who were seen by the public as having honorably defended their country.

Hébert argues that the High Command Trial was itself a success, producing eleven guilty verdicts along with an incontrovertible record of the German military’s crimes. But, viewing the trial from beyond the courtroom, she also contends that it made no lasting imprint on the German public’s consciousness. And because the United States was eager to secure West Germany as an ally in the Cold War, American officials eventually consented to parole and clemency programs for all of the convicted officers, so that by the late 1950s not one remained imprisoned.

Superbly researched and impeccably told, Hitler’s Generals on Trial addresses fundamental questions concerning the meaning of justice after atrocity and genocide, the moral imperative of punishment for these crimes, the link between justice and memory, and the relevance of the Nuremberg trials for transitional justice processes today. Inasmuch as these trials coined the vocabulary of modern international criminal law and set an agenda for transitional justice that remains in place today, Hébert’s book marks a major contribution to military and legal history.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

"The Politics of Trafficking"

New from Stanford University Press: The Politics of Trafficking: The First International Movement to Combat the Sexual Exploitation of Women by Stephanie A. Limoncelli.

About the book, from the publisher:
Sex trafficking is not a recent phenomenon. Over 100 years ago, the first international traffic in women for prostitution emerged, prompting a worldwide effort to combat it. The Politics of Trafficking provides a unique look at the history of that first anti-trafficking movement, illuminating the role gender, sexuality, and national interests play in international politics.

Initially conceived as a global humanitarian effort to protect women from sexual exploitation, the movement's feminist-inspired vision failed to achieve its universal goal and gradually gave way to nationalist concerns over "undesirable" migrants and state control over women themselves. Addressing an issue that is still of great concern today, this book sheds light on the ability of international non-governmental organizations to challenge state power, the motivations for state involvement in humanitarian issues pertaining to women, and the importance of gender and sexuality to state officials engaged in nation building.

Monday, March 22, 2010

"The Troubled Empire"

New from Harvard University Press: The Troubled Empire: China in the Yuan and Ming Dynasties by Timothy Brook.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Mongol takeover in the 1270s changed the course of Chinese history. The Confucian empire–a millennium and a half in the making–was suddenly thrust under foreign occupation. What China had been before its reunification as the Yuan dynasty in 1279 was no longer what it would be in the future. Four centuries later, another wave of steppe invaders would replace the Ming dynasty with yet another foreign occupation. The Troubled Empire explores what happened to China between these two dramatic invasions.

If anything defined the complex dynamics of this period, it was changes in the weather. Asia, like Europe, experienced a Little Ice Age, and as temperatures fell in the thirteenth century, Kublai Khan moved south into China. His Yuan dynasty collapsed in less than a century, but Mongol values lived on in Ming institutions. A second blast of cold in the 1630s, combined with drought, was more than the dynasty could stand, and the Ming fell to Manchu invaders.

Against this background–the first coherent ecological history of China in this period–Brook explores the growth of autocracy, social complexity, and commercialization, paying special attention to China's incorporation into the larger South China Sea economy. These changes not only shaped what China would become but contributed to the formation of the early modern world.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

"Performing the Reformation"

New from Oxford University Press: Performing the Reformation: Public Ritual in the City of Luther by Barry Stephenson.

About the book, from the publisher:
The home of Martin Luther for thirty six years and seat of the German Reformation, Wittenberg, Germany is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Wittenberg has long been Protestant sacred space, but since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the city and surrounding region have been developing their considerable cultural capital. Today, Wittenberg is host to two large-scale annual Luther-themed festivals, and is becoming a center for pilgrimage and heritage tourism. In a recent study, Charles Taylor notes that festivity is experiencing a renaissance as "one of the new forms of religion in our world." Festivals and pilgrimage routes are an integral part of contemporary religion and spirituality, and important cultural institutions in a globalized world.

In Performing the Reformation, Stephenson offers a field-based case study of contemporary festivity and pilgrimage in the City of Luther. Welcome to Lutherland, where atheists dress up as monks and nuns for Luther's Wedding; conservative Lutherans work to sacralize the secular, carnival-like festivities; and medieval players, American Gospel singers, and Peruvian pan flute bands compete for the attention of the bustling crowds. Festivals and tourism in Wittenberg include a range of performative genres (parades and processions, liturgies and concerts, music and dance), cut across multiple cultural domains (religion, politics, economics), and effect connections and shifts among identities (religious, secular, American, German, traditional, postmodern). Incorporating visual methodologies and grounded in historical and social contexts, Stephenson provides an on-the-ground account of the annual Luther's Wedding Festival, the Reformation Day Festival, and Lutheran pilgrimage. He also brings his case study into dialogue with important methodological and theoretical issues informing the fields of ritual studies and performance studies.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

"Meaning in Life and Why It Matters"

New from Princeton University Press: Meaning in Life and Why It Matters by Susan Wolf.

About the book, from the publisher:
Most people, including philosophers, tend to classify human motives as falling into one of two categories: the egoistic or the altruistic, the self-interested or the moral. According to Susan Wolf, however, much of what motivates us does not comfortably fit into this scheme. Often we act neither for our own sake nor out of duty or an impersonal concern for the world. Rather, we act out of love for objects that we rightly perceive as worthy of love--and it is these actions that give meaning to our lives. Wolf makes a compelling case that, along with happiness and morality, this kind of meaningfulness constitutes a distinctive dimension of a good life. Written in a lively and engaging style, and full of provocative examples, Meaning in Life and Why It Matters is a profound and original reflection on a subject of permanent human concern.

Friday, March 19, 2010

"Russian Orientalism"

New from Yale University Press: Russian Orientalism: Asia in the Russian Mind from Peter the Great to the Emigration by David Schimmelpenninck van der Oye.

About the book, from the publisher:
The West has been accused of seeing the East in a hostile and deprecatory light, as the legacy of nineteenth-century European imperialism. In this highly original and controversial book, David Schimmelpenninck van der Oye examines Russian thinking about the Orient before the Revolution of 1917. Exploring the writings, poetry, and art of representative individuals including Catherine the Great, Alexander Pushkin, Alexander Borodin, and leading orientologists, Schimmelpenninck argues that the Russian Empire’s bi-continental geography, its ambivalent relationship with the rest of Europe, and the complicated nature of its encounter with Asia have all resulted in a variegated and often surprisingly sympathetic understanding of the East among its people.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

"Why Intelligence Fails"

New from Cornell University Press: Why Intelligence Fails: Lessons from the Iranian Revolution and the Iraq War by Robert Jervis.

About the book, from the publisher:
The U.S. government spends enormous resources each year on the gathering and analysis of intelligence, yet the history of American foreign policy is littered with missteps and misunderstandings that have resulted from intelligence failures. In Why Intelligence Fails, Robert Jervis examines the politics and psychology of two of the more spectacular intelligence failures in recent memory: the mistaken belief that the regime of the Shah in Iran was secure and stable in 1978, and the claim that Iraq had active WMD programs in 2002.

The Iran case is based on a recently declassified report Jervis was commissioned to undertake by CIA thirty years ago and includes memoranda written by CIA officials in response to Jervis's findings. The Iraq case, also grounded in a review of the intelligence community's performance, is based on close readings of both classified and declassified documents, though Jervis's conclusions are entirely supported by evidence that has been declassified.

In both cases, Jervis finds not only that intelligence was badly flawed but also that later explanations—analysts were bowing to political pressure and telling the White House what it wanted to hear or were willfully blind—were also incorrect. Proponents of these explanations claimed that initial errors were compounded by groupthink, lack of coordination within the government, and failure to share information. Policy prescriptions, including the recent establishment of a Director of National Intelligence, were supposed to remedy the situation.

In Jervis's estimation, neither the explanations nor the prescriptions are adequate. The inferences that intelligence drew were actually quite plausible given the information available. Errors arose, he concludes, from insufficient attention to the ways in which information should be gathered and interpreted, a lack of self-awareness about the factors that led to the judgments, and an organizational culture that failed to probe for weaknesses and explore alternatives. Evaluating the inherent tensions between the methods and aims of intelligence personnel and policymakers from a unique insider's perspective, Jervis forcefully criticizes recent proposals for improving the performance of the intelligence community and discusses ways in which future analysis can be improved.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"Encountering Revolution"

New from The Johns Hopkins University Press: Encountering Revolution: Haiti and the Making of the Early Republic by Ashli White.

About the book, from the publisher:
Encountering Revolution looks afresh at the profound impact of the Haitian Revolution on the early United States. The first book on the subject in more than two decades, it redefines our understanding of the relationship between republicanism and slavery at a foundational moment in American history.

For postrevolutionary Americans, the Haitian uprising laid bare the contradiction between democratic principles and the practice of slavery. For thirteen years, between 1791 and 1804, slaves and free people of color in Saint—Domingue battled for equal rights in the manner of the French Revolution. As white and mixed—race refugees escaped to the safety of U.S. cities, Americans were forced to confront the paradox of being a slaveholding republic, recognizing their own possible destiny in the predicament of the Haitian slaveholders.

Historian Ashli White examines the ways Americans -- black and white, northern and southern, Federalist and Democratic Republican, pro— and antislavery -- pondered the implications of the Haitian Revolution.

Encountering Revolution convincingly situates the formation of the United States in a broader Atlantic context. It shows how the very presence of Saint—Dominguan refugees stirred in Americans as many questions about themselves as about the future of slaveholding, stimulating some of the earliest debates about nationalism in the early republic.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"More Perfect Unions"

New from Harvard University Press: More Perfect Unions: The American Search for Marital Bliss by Rebecca L. Davis.

About the book, from the publisher:
The American fixation with marriage, so prevalent in today's debates over marriage for same-sex couples, owes much of its intensity to a small group of reformers who introduced Americans to marriage counseling in the 1930s. Today, millions of couples seek help to save their marriages each year. Over the intervening decades, marriage counseling has powerfully promoted the idea that successful marriages are essential to both individuals' and the nation's well-being.

Rebecca Davis reveals how couples and counselors transformed the ideal of the perfect marriage as they debated sexuality, childcare, mobility, wage earning, and autonomy, exposing both the fissures and aspirations of American society. From the economic dislocations of the Great Depression, to more recent debates over government-funded "Healthy Marriage" programs, counselors have responded to the shifting needs and goals of American couples. Tensions among personal fulfillment, career aims, religious identity, and socioeconomic status have coursed through the history of marriage and explain why the stakes in the institution are so fraught for the couples involved and for the communities to which they belong.

Americans care deeply about marriages—their own and other people's—because they have made enormous investments of time, money, and emotion to improve their own relationships and because they believe that their personal decisions about whom to marry or whether to divorce extend far beyond themselves. This intriguing book tells the uniquely American story of a culture gripped with the hope that, with enough effort and the right guidance, more perfect marital unions are within our reach.

Monday, March 15, 2010

"Hot Stuff"

New from W.W. Norton: Hot Stuff: Disco and the Remaking of American Culture by Alice Echols.

About the book, from the publisher:
Disco thumps back to life in this pulsating exploration of the culture and politics of the glitterball world.

In the 1970s, as the disco tsunami engulfed America, the once-innocent question, “Do you wanna dance?” became divisive, even explosive. What was it about this much-maligned music that made it such hot stuff? In this incisive history, Alice Echols captures the felt experience of the Disco Years—on dance floors both fabulous and tacky, at the movies, in the streets, and beneath the sheets.

Disco may have presented itself as shallow and disposable—the platforms, polyester, and plastic vibe of it all—but Echols shows that it was inseparable from the emergence of “gay macho,” a rising black middle class, and a growing, if equivocal, openness about female sexuality. The disco scene carved out a haven for gay men who reclaimed their sexuality on dance floors where they had once been surveilled and harassed; it thrust black women onto center stage as some of the genre’s most prominent stars; and it paved the way for the opening of Studio 54 and the viral popularity of the shoestring-budget Saturday Night Fever, a movie that challenged traditional notions of masculinity, even for heterosexuals.

As it provides a window onto the cultural milieu of the times, Hot Stuff never loses sight of the era’s defining soundtrack, which propelled popular music into new sonic territory, influencing everything from rap and rock to techno and trance. Throughout, Echols spotlights the work of precursors James Brown and Isaac Hayes, dazzling divas Donna Summer and the women of Labelle, and some of disco’s lesser known but no less illustrious performers such as Sylvester. After turning the final page of this fascinating account of the music you thought you hated but can’t stop dancing to, you can rest assured that you’ll never say “disco sucks” again.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

"Reforming Jim Crow"

New from Oxford University Press: Reforming Jim Crow: Southern Politics and State in the Age Before Brown by Kimberley Johnson.

About the book, from the publisher:
Historians of the Civil Rights era typically treat the key events of the 1950s Brown v. Board of Education, sit-ins, bus boycotts, and marches--as a revolutionary social upheaval that upended a rigid caste system. While the 1950s was a watershed era in Southern and civil rights history, the tendency has been to paint the preceding Jim Crow era as a brutal system that featured none of the progressive reform impulses so apparent at the federal level and in the North. As Kimberley Johnson shows in this pathbreaking reappraisal of the Jim Crow era, this argument is too simplistic, and is true to neither the 1950s nor the long era of Jim Crow that finally solidified in 1910. Focusing on the political development of the South between 1910 and 1954, Johnson considers the genuine efforts by white and black progressives to reform the system without destroying it. These reformers assumed that the system was there to stay, and therefore felt that they had to work within it in order to modernize the South. Consequently, white progressives tried to install a better--meaning more equitable--separate-but-equal system, and elite black reformers focused on ameliorative (rather than confrontational) solutions that would improve the lives of African Americans. Johnson concentrates on local and state reform efforts throughout the South in areas like schooling, housing, and labor. Many of the reforms made a difference, but they had the ironic impact of generating more demand for social change among blacks. She is able to show how demands slowly rose over time, and how the system laid the seeds of its own destruction. The reformers' commitment to a system that was less unequal--albeit not truly equal--and more like the North led to significant policy changes over time. As Johnson powerfully demonstrates, our lack of knowledge about the cumulative policy transformations resulting from the Jim Crow reform impulse impoverishes our understanding of the Civil Rights revolution. Reforming Jim Crow rectifies that.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

"Darwinian Sociocultural Evolution"

New from Cambridge University Press: Darwinian Sociocultural Evolution: Solutions to Dilemmas in Cultural and Social Theory by Marion Blute.

About the book, from the publisher:
Social scientists can learn a lot from evolutionary biology - from systematics and principles of evolutionary ecology to theories of social interaction including competition, conflict and cooperation, as well as niche construction, complexity, eco-evo-devo, and the role of the individual in evolutionary processes. Darwinian sociocultural evolutionary theory applies the logic of Darwinism to social-learning based cultural and social change. With a multidisciplinary approach for graduate biologists, philosophers, sociologists, anthropologists, social psychologists, archaeologists, linguists, economists, political scientists and science and technology specialists, the author presents this model of evolution drawing on a number of sophisticated aspects of biological evolutionary theory. The approach brings together a broad and inclusive theoretical framework for understanding the social sciences which addresses many of the dilemmas at their forefront - the relationship between history and necessity, conflict and cooperation, the ideal and the material and the problems of agency, subjectivity and the nature of social structure.

Friday, March 12, 2010

"Red to Green"

New from Cornell University Press: Red to Green: Environmental Activism in Post-Soviet Russia by Laura A. Henry.

About the book, from the publisher:
Environmental activism in contemporary Russia exemplifies both the promise and the challenge facing grassroots politics in the post-Soviet period. In the late Soviet period, Russia's environmental movement was one of the country's most dynamic and effective forms of social activism, and it appeared well positioned to influence the direction and practice of post-Soviet politics. At present, however, activists scattered across Russia face severe obstacles to promoting green issues that range from wildlife protection and nuclear safety to environmental education.

Based on fifteen months of fieldwork in five regions of Russia, from the European west to Siberia and the Far East, Red to Green goes beyond familiar debates about the strength and weakness of civil society in Russia to identify the contradictory trends that determine the political influence of grassroots movements. In an organizational analysis of popular mobilization that addresses the continuing role of the Soviet legacy, the influence of transnational actors, and the relevance of social mobilization theory to the Russian case, Laura Henry details what grassroots organizations in Russia actually do, how they use the limited economic and political opportunities that are available to them, and when they are able to influence policy and political practice.

Drawing on her in-depth interviews with activists, Henry illustrates how green organizations have pursued their goals by "recycling" Soviet-era norms, institutions, and networks and using them in combination with transnational ideas, resources, and partnerships. Ultimately, Henry shows that the limited variety of organizations that activists have constructed within post-Soviet Russia's green movement serve as a "fossil record" of the environmentalists' innovations, failures, and compromises. Her research suggests new ways to understand grassroots politics throughout the postcommunist region and in other postauthoritarian contexts.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

"The Untold War"

New from W.W. Norton: The Untold War: Inside the Hearts, Minds, and Souls of Our Soldiers by Nancy Sherman.

About the book, from the publisher:
A unique analysis of the moral weight of warfare today through the lenses of philosophy and psychology.

Philosopher, ethicist, and psychoanalyst Nancy Sherman explores the psychological and moral burdens borne by soldiers. By illuminating the extent to which wars are fought internally as well as externally, this book expands the national discussion about war and the men and women who fight our nation’s battles. With close-up looks at servicemen and —women preparing for, experiencing, and returning home from war, Sherman probes the psyche of today’s soldiers—examining how they learn to kill and to leave the killing behind. Bringing to light the moral quandaries soldiers face—torture, the thin line between fighters and civilians, and the anguish of killing even in a just war—Sherman bares the souls of our soldiers and the emotional landscape of soldiering. At the heart of the book are interviews with soldiers, from the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also from Vietnam and World Wars I and II.
Visit Nancy Sherman's website and blog.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

"A Swindler's Progress"

New from Harvard University Press: A Swindler's Progress: Nobles and Convicts in the Age of Liberty by Kirsten McKenzie.

About the book, from the publisher:
In May 1835 in a Sydney courtroom, a slight, balding man named John Dow stood charged with forgery. The prisoner shocked the room by claiming he was Edward, Viscount Lascelles, eldest son of the powerful Earl of Harewood. The Crown alleged he was a confidence trickster and serial impostor. Was this really the heir to one of Britain's most spectacular fortunes?

Part Regency mystery, part imperial history, A Swindler's Progress is an engrossing tale of adventure and deceit across two worlds—British aristocrats and Australian felons—bound together in an emerging age of opportunity and individualism, where personal worth was battling power based on birth alone. The first historian to unravel the mystery of John Dow and Edward Lascelles, Kirsten McKenzie illuminates the darker side of this age of liberty, when freedom could mean the freedom to lie both in the far-flung outposts of empire and within the established bastions of British power.

The struggles of the Lascelles family for social and political power, and the tragedy of their disgraced heir, demonstrate that British elites were as fragile as their colonial counterparts. In ways both personal and profound, McKenzie recreates a world in which Britain and the empire were intertwined in the transformation of status and politics in the nineteenth century.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

"Realigning America"

New from the University Press of Kansas: Realigning America: McKinley, Bryan, and the Remarkable Election of 1896 by R. Hal Williams.

About the book, from the publisher:
The presidential election of 1896 is widely acknowledged as one of only a few that brought about fundamental realignments in American politics. New voting patterns replaced old, a new majority party came to power, and national policies shifted to reflect new realities. R. Hal Williams now presents the first study of that campaign in nearly fifty years, offering fresh interpretations on the victory of Republican William McKinley over Democrat William Jennings Bryan.

In tracing the triumph of gold over silver in this fabled “battle of the standards,” R. Hal Williams also tells how the Republicans—the party of central government, national authority, sound money, and activism—pulled off a stunning win over the Democrats—the party of state’s rights, decentralization, inflation, and limited government. Meanwhile the People’s Party, one of the most prominent third parties in the country’s history, which also nominated Bryan, went down to a defeat from which it would never recover.

Williams plunges readers into a contest that set new standards in financing, organization, and accountability, and he analyzes the transition from the long-dominant “military style” of campaign to the “educational style” that appealed to a savvier electorate. He also presents key players in new light: he views Bryan not simply as a gifted speaker whose “Cross of Gold” speech took the Democratic convention by storm, but as a more calculating politician with his eye squarely on the nomination; he depicts McKinley’s campaign manager Mark Hanna not as the one-dimensional fundraising machine painted by history but rather as a shrewd, insightful politician who understood what was required to get his man elected; and he presents retiring president Cleveland as an increasingly out-of-touch, irrelevant chief executive whom the Democrats repudiated in a way no other party ever had a sitting president.

With the Republicans’ star on the rise and the Democrats banished to the South and the cities, the 1896 election was more than a victory of one party over another, it marked the emergence of new ways of politicking that makes this campaign especially relevant for twenty-first-century readers.

Monday, March 8, 2010

"Freedom Flyers"

New from Oxford University Press: Freedom Flyers: The Tuskegee Airmen of World War II by J. Todd Moye.

About the book, from the publisher:
As the country's first African American military pilots, the Tuskegee Airmen fought in World War II on two fronts: against the Axis powers in the skies over Europe and against Jim Crow racism and segregation at home. Although the pilots flew more than 15,000 sorties and destroyed more than 200 German aircraft, their most far-reaching achievement defies quantification: delivering a powerful blow to racial inequality and discrimination in American life.

In this inspiring account of the Tuskegee Airmen, historian J. Todd Moye captures the challenges and triumphs of these brave pilots in their own words, drawing on more than 800 interviews recorded for the National Park Service's Tuskegee Airmen Oral History Project. Denied the right to fully participate in the U.S. war effort alongside whites at the beginning of World War II, African Americans--spurred on by black newspapers and civil rights organizations such as the NAACP--compelled the prestigious Army Air Corps to open its training programs to black pilots, despite the objections of its top generals. Thousands of young men came from every part of the country to Tuskegee, Alabama, in the heart of the segregated South, to enter the program, which expanded in 1943 to train multi-engine bomber pilots in addition to fighter pilots. By the end of the war, Tuskegee Airfield had become a small city populated by black mechanics, parachute packers, doctors, and nurses. Together, they helped prove that racial segregation of the fighting forces was so inefficient as to be counterproductive to the nation's defense.

Freedom Flyers brings to life the legacy of a determined, visionary cadre of African American airmen who proved their capabilities and patriotism beyond question, transformed the armed forces--formerly the nation's most racially polarized institution--and jump-started the modern struggle for racial equality.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

"The Matthew Effect"

New from Columbia University Press: The Matthew Effect: How Advantage Begets Further Advantage by Daniel Rigney.

About the book, from the publisher:
The old saying does often seem to hold true: the rich get richer while the poor get poorer, creating a widening gap between those who have more and those who have less. The sociologist Robert K. Merton called this phenomenon the Matthew effect, named after a passage in the gospel of Matthew. Yet the more closely we examine the sociological effects of this principle, the more complicated the idea becomes. Initial advantage doesn't always lead to further advantage, and disadvantage doesn't necessarily translate into failure. Does this theory need to be revisited?

Merton's arguments have significant implications for our conceptions of equality and justice, and they challenge our beliefs about culture, education, and public policy. His hypothesis has been examined across a variety of social arenas, including science, technology, politics, and schooling, to see if, in fact, advantage begets further advantage. Daniel Rigney is the first to evaluate Merton's theory of cumulative advantage extensively, considering both the conditions that uphold the Matthew effect and the circumstances that cause it to fail. He explores whether growing inequality is beyond human control or disparity is socially constructed and subject to change. Reexamining our core assumptions about society, Rigney causes us to rethink the sources of inequity.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

"The Crusades"

New from Ecco: The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land by Thomas Asbridge.

About the book, from the publisher:
From a renowned historian who writes with "maximum vividness" (The New Yorker) comes the most authoritative, readable single-volume history of the brutal struggle for the Holy Land.

Nine hundred years ago, a vast Christian army, summoned to holy war by the Pope, rampaged through the Muslim world of the eastern Mediterranean, seizing possession of Jerusalem, a city revered by both faiths. Over the two hundred years that followed, Islam and Christianity—both firm in the belief that they were at God's work—fought for dominion of the Holy Land, clashing in a succession of chillingly brutal wars: the Crusades.

For the first time, this book tells the story of that epic struggle from the perspective of both Christians and Muslims. A vivid and fast-paced narrative history, it exposes the full horror, passion, and barbaric grandeur of the Crusading era, leading us into a world of legendary champions—such as Richard the Lionheart and Saladin—shadowy Assassins, poet-warriors, and pious visionaries; across the desert sands of Egypt to the verdant forests of Lebanon; and through the ancient cities of Constantinople, Cairo, and Damascus.

Drawing on painstaking original research and an intimate knowledge of the Near East, Thomas Asbridge uncovers what drove Muslims and Christians alike to embrace the ideals of jihad and crusade, revealing how these holy wars reshaped the medieval world and why they continue to influence events today.

Friday, March 5, 2010

"Texas Tough"

New from Metropolitan Books: Texas Tough: The Rise of America's Prison Empire by Robert Perkinson.

About the book, from the publisher:
A vivid history of America’s biggest, baddest prison system and how it came to lead the nation’s punitive revolution

In the prison business, all roads lead to Texas. The most locked-down state in the nation has led the way in criminal justice severity, from assembly-line executions to isolation supermaxes, from prison privatization to sentencing juveniles as adults. Texas Tough, a sweeping history of American imprisonment from the days of slavery to the present, shows how a plantation-based penal system once dismissed as barbaric became the national template.

Drawing on convict accounts, official records, and interviews with prisoners, guards, and lawmakers, historian Robert Perkinson reveals the Southern roots of our present-day prison colossus. While conventional histories emphasize the North’s rehabilitative approach, he shows how the retributive and profit-driven regime of the South ultimately triumphed. Most provocatively, he argues that just as convict leasing and segregation emerged in response to Reconstruction, so today’s mass incarceration, with its vast racial disparities, must be seen as a backlash against civil rights.

Illuminating for the first time the origins of America’s prison juggernaut, Texas Tough points toward a more just and humane future.
Read an excerpt from Texas Tough.

Visit the Texas Tough website.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

"Mom: The Transformation of Motherhood in Modern America"

New from the University of Chicago Press: Mom: The Transformation of Motherhood in Modern America by Rebecca Jo Plant.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the early twentieth-century United States, to speak of “mother love” was to invoke an idea of motherhood that served as an all-encompassing identity, rooted in notions of self-sacrifice and infused with powerful social and political meanings. Sixty years later, mainstream views of motherhood had been transformed, and Mother found herself blamed for a wide array of social and psychological ills. In Mom, Rebecca Jo Plant traces this important shift through several key moments in American history and popular culture.

Exploring such topics as maternal caregiving, childbirth, and women’s political roles, Mom vividly brings to life the varied groups that challenged older ideals of motherhood, including male critics who railed against female moral authority, psychological experts who hoped to expand their influence, and women who wished to be defined as more than wives and mothers. In her careful analysis of how motherhood came to be viewed as a more private and partial component of modern female identity, Plant ultimately shows how women’s maternal role has shaped their place in American civic, social, and familial life.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

"Habeas Corpus"

New from Harvard University Press: Habeas Corpus: From England to Empire by Paul D. Halliday.

About the book, from the publisher:
We call habeas corpus the Great Writ of Liberty. But it was actually a writ of power. In a work based on an unprecedented study of thousands of cases across more than five hundred years, Paul Halliday provides a sweeping revisionist account of the world's most revered legal device.

In the decades around 1600, English judges used ideas about royal power to empower themselves to protect the king's subjects. The key was not the prisoner's "right" to "liberty"—these are modern idioms—but the possible wrongs committed by a jailer or anyone who ordered a prisoner detained. This focus on wrongs gave the writ the force necessary to protect ideas about rights as they developed outside of law. This judicial power carried the writ across the world, from Quebec to Bengal. Paradoxically, the representative impulse, most often expressed through legislative action, did more to undermine the writ than anything else. And the need to control imperial subjects would increasingly constrain judges. The imperial experience is thus crucial for making sense of the broader sweep of the writ's history and of English law.

Halliday's work informed the 2008 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Boumediene v. Bush on prisoners in the Guantánamo detention camps. His eagerly anticipated book is certain to be acclaimed the definitive history of habeas corpus.
Read an excerpt from Habeas Corpus.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

"Colonialism and Postcolonial Development"

New from Cambridge University Press: Colonialism and Postcolonial Development: Spanish America in Comparative Perspective by James Mahoney.

About the book, from the publisher:
In this comparative-historical analysis of Spanish America, James Mahoney offers a new theory of colonialism and postcolonial development. The book explores why certain kinds of societies are subject to certain kinds of colonialism and why these forms of colonialism give rise to countries with differing levels of economic prosperity and social well-being. Mahoney contends that differences in the extent of colonialism are best explained by the potentially evolving fit between the institutions of the colonizing nation and those of the colonized society. Moreover, he shows how institutions forged under colonialism bring countries to relative levels of development that may prove remarkably enduring in the postcolonial period. The argument is sure to stir discussion and debate, both among experts on Spanish America who believe that development is not tightly bound by the colonial past, and among scholars of colonialism who suggest that the institutional identity of the colonizing nation is of little consequence.
Read an excerpt from Colonialism and Postcolonial Development.

Monday, March 1, 2010

"Kennedy vs. Carter"

New from the University Press of Kansas: Kennedy vs. Carter: The 1980 Battle for the Democratic Party’s Soul by Timothy Stanley.

About the book, from the publisher:
The late Edward Kennedy’s liberal credentials were unimpeachable, and perhaps never as much on display as when he challenged incumbent Jimmy Carter for the presidency. Most accounts of modern U.S. politics view Ronald Reagan’s landslide election in 1980 as a conservative realignment of the American public—and Kennedy’s defeat in the Democratic primaries as the last hurrah of New Deal liberalism. Now an astute observer of the American scene reexamines those primary battles to contend that Kennedy’s insurgent campaign was more popular than historians have presumed and was defeated only by historical accident and not by its perceived radicalism.

Timothy Stanley takes a new look at how Jimmy Carter alienated his own supporters, why Ted Kennedy ran against him, what the Kennedy campaign has to say about America in the 1970s, and whether or not the 1980 election really was a turning point in electoral history. He tells the story of a struggle for the soul for a party bitterly divided over how to respond to economic decline, cultural upheaval, and humiliation overseas. And in the telling, he offers both a comprehensive narrative of the primaries and a joint biography of the two men who struggled for their party’s leadership.

Stanley’s comprehensive research draws on more than a dozen archives as well as interviews with nearly thirty key historical players—including George McGovern, Walter Mondale, Gary Hart, and Mike Dukakis—and also makes creative use of polling data to recreate the ebb and flow of the election season. What emerges is not only the story of a campaign but also a revisionist history of a misunderstood decade—one most often defined by religious reawakening, chronic inflation, and the tax revolt that revived Republican fortunes. Yet Kennedy’s crusade to rebuild the ailing New Deal coalition of ethnic minorities, blue-collar conservatives, and firebrand liberals was popular enough to suggest that Americans were neither liberal nor conservative but, instead, anxious, angry, and desperate for leadership from any direction.

Kennedy vs. Carter provides a unique analysis of how support shifted from Carter to Reagan right up to election day, with Reagan elected largely because he was not the unpopular incumbent. By showing how Kennedy was a far more popular politician than orthodox historiography has suggested, Stanley argues for a more nuanced understanding of what really determines political outcomes and a greater appreciation for the enduring popularity of American liberalism.