Current Reading - December 2020

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Current Reading - December 2020

Editado: Dic 6, 2020, 12:34am

I am still struggling through Tudors: The History of England by Peter Ackroyd. It is very interesting especially the discussions on religion, but it is slow reading. I'm also listening to the Audible version of The Vagabonds: The Story of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison's Ten-Year Road Trip by Jeff Guinn and our current car book (my wife reads to me when we travel) is One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson.

Editado: Dic 6, 2020, 1:20am

I don't read a lot of history but would like to read more. Currently reading this one - A Big History of Globalization: The Emergence of a Global World System. They keep trying to compare history to concepts from physics and biology, which I'm suspicious of (which doesn't mean I think what they say is incorrect - I wouldn't know, just suspicious, that's all lol).

Doesn't touchstone.

Dic 6, 2020, 7:51am

Finished up Curse on this Country, a very good examination of the impact of insubordinate soldiers on the course of modern Japanese history.

Dic 6, 2020, 2:51pm

I don't need to read your ad over and over.

Editado: Dic 6, 2020, 2:55pm

>4 MarthaJeanne: I only sent one message to each group. If you are subscribed to more than one of those groups, then my apologies but there is no other way I'm aware of to reach each of those groups other than posting to each one individually. I would welcome any information regarding alternative means.

Dic 6, 2020, 3:56pm

Back at The Ch'ing Dynasty, which had been left on the backburner for a while.

Dic 6, 2020, 11:06pm

Finally finished Tudors: The History of England by Peter Ackroyd, volume two in his history of England. A very interesting book and although I thought I was familiar with the subject, I learned a great deal more. The author approached it mainly from the viewpoint of how religion, and especially the change of religious belief, procedures and obligations, greatly altered the trends of history in England. To quote from the beginning of his last chapter...

We return to the great theme of this volume. The reformation of the English Church was, from the beginning, a political and dynastic matter; it had no roots in popular protest or the principles of humanist reform. No Calvin or Luther would have been permitted to flourish in England. Reformation was entirely under the direction of the king.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about English history beyond the standard approach to the Tudors of six wives, Bloody Mary, the Armada and the Virgin Queen.

Dic 7, 2020, 8:08am

Finished A Big History of Globalization: The Emergence of a Global World System (World-Systems Evolution and Global Futures), but not sure how much I got out of it. Now onto Historiography: Ancient, Medieval, Modern, which I see has a low LT rating, but the Amazon ratings are alright. Low sample size plus some controversy, probably.

Dic 7, 2020, 9:10am

Finished up Searching for George Gordon Meade this morning; a bit slight for my purposes but it certainly works well as a travel book!

Dic 7, 2020, 1:50pm

>9 Shrike58: That looks like kind of an odd, interesting book. I might have to put that on my wishlists.

Dic 7, 2020, 5:25pm

I'm been reading a real gem of a book I picked up at a Goodwill book store, To the Bitter End: A Photographic History of the Boer War 1899-1902 by Emanoel Lee. While it does have quite a number of photographs and a few maps, it is also a shorter but still excellent history of the war. It is unique in some aspects. The author was a Consulting Surgeon in Britain when the book was published in 1985, but he grew up in South Africa so he not only had a local's interest in the war, but also access to sources such as the photographs and he also interviewed some of the surviving participants of the war.

The introduction to the book discusses the state of photography leading up to the war, especially regarding the equipment available to amateurs. As the author notes, the Crimean War and the US Civil War have a great photographic record, but the Boer War was the first to have so many photographs taken by amateurs using various Kodak cameras, including the newly released Brownies, plus those of other manufacturers. Most of the photographs in the book were taken by amateurs and hadn't been seen in published works before.

In the book the author discusses not only the military operations, but also the political and social implications in South Africa and also back in Britain. With the author's interest in medicine, he also discusses areas such as the wounds and their treatment, the medical establishments of the sides and also the instances of epidemics that struck the British army in the field.

It seems to be a very evenhanded look at the war without any obvious bias or antagonism. I highly recommend it.

Dic 8, 2020, 4:35pm

I'm not sure when we lost the original History group, but anyway I'll just add my most recent history read here, dating back to late November:

Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party by Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin

This is a fascinating and (it would seem) comprehensive history of the Black Panther Party that rose quickly to assume a place at the vanguard of the Revolutionary/New Left movement in the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s but disintegrated just as quickly once the political situation in the U.S. changed to make the Panthers' philosophy of armed self-defense untenable rather than attractive to the party's allies.

The authors describe the rise of the Panthers within the context of what many blacks considered the Civil Rights Movement's weaknesses. The Movement had succeeded in defeated institutionalized Jim Crow via the Voting Rights Act and other such legal measures, but ending de facto segregation and repression was another matter. In addition, many blacks living in northern and western ghettos did not feel that the Civil Rights Movement had touched their lives much at all. The Black Panthers Party was started by Bobby Seale and Huey Newton and coalesced around their opinion that a) the black population in America was in fact an colonized nation, occupied and repressed in particular by the brutality of urban police forces that were largely white and extremely hostile, and was entitled to join in the struggle for freedom and self-determination that other colonies across the world, especially in Africa, were engaging in. Seale and Newton insisted that blacks arm themselves, but insisted that those arms should only be used in self-defense. In fact, the official name of the group was the Black Panther Party of Self Defense. Party members were ordered to defend themselves in the event of police raids on party offices and private residents when the police had no warrants, as was almost always the case. The more successful the Panthers became, and the higher their profile, the more frequent and violent such raids became.

However, the Black Panthers expressly rejected the idea of separatism, which was being promoted by other black revolutionary groups. Newton, Seale and other Panther leaders insisted upon the advantages of making common cause with any other groups, including whites, who wanted to take part in efforts to subvert the dominant political and cultural paradigms in the U.S. and globally. Most famously, they teamed up effectively with Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), which had become active on college campuses, primarily as a radical voice against the Vietnam War. It was Seale who urged SDS leaders to expand their protests off of college campuses and onto the streets.

The Black Panthers, from their Oakland beginnings, soon had offices in urban areas across the U.S. The more violent repression they experienced, the more support they got from New Left allies and even more moderate black organizations, such as the NAACP, who disagreed with the Panthers' philosophies but new anti-black violence when they saw it. But as the U.S. involvement in Vietnam War, and, most specifically, the draft, ebbed away, the less firm the Panthers' support from white allies became. And as establishment concessions began arriving, in the form of affirmative action programs and the like (instituted by Richard Nixon!), support from moderate black groups declined as well. In the meantime, the Panthers had instituted social programs in their neighborhoods such as free breakfast programs for children and free bus service to and from prisons (so family members could make frequent visits). As the national Panther leadership was realizing that armed struggle was becoming less and less practical and tried to turn to more political strategies, not all of their membership across the country was willing to act accordingly. Violent confrontations between Party members and police--in defiance of Black Panther leadership policy--became more embarrassing and debilitating to the national efforts, and caused schisms within the Party which it ultimately could not withstand.

This is a book from my friend Kim Nalley's list of essential reading about African American history and race relations, which I've been reading through gradually over the past six months or so. I was just coming of age during the years and events being described here. I turned 13 in 1968 and so have memories of many of the events described. But, being only 13-15, I did not have a full understanding of what was going on. So I was very interested to read this history, and grateful to the authors for illuminating the issues so clearly and comprehensively. Be assured that I have barely scratched the surface of the history present. Black Against Empire puts the Black Panther Party, and indeed much of the fury of the late 60s and early 70s, in excellent perspective. In addition, the themes running through my earlier reading on Jim Crow, this history of the Black Panther movement, and the Black Lives Matter movement are unmistakable. In many crucial ways, things have barely changed at all in the U.S.

Dic 12, 2020, 8:11am

>10 jztemple: It represents one of those cases where the author is good, and achieved what he wanted to accomplish, but it's also not a modern operational history of the sort that, say, the University Press of Kansas would publish, and what was more the sort of thing I was looking for.

Dic 12, 2020, 8:13am

Finished The Field of Blood this morning, where the author tries to put the contingency back into the whole Crusader enterprise, and mostly succeeds.

Editado: Dic 18, 2020, 8:24am

Wrapped up How The West was Drawn, basically an examination of how the cartographic imaginations of the the First Nations of the Trans-Mississippi West compared to that of the U.S. government agents of the "Age of Reconnaissance." It's slanted towards the academic reader but I had some professional reasons to be interested; I'll cheerfully admit that if I wasn't an employee of the U.S. federal government I might not have picked it up.

Dic 20, 2020, 2:42am

>8 Settings: I will be interested in your review on this book. I've been pondering if I need to buy it and read it or not. I spend one day while teaching western civ on historiography and often wonder due to time constraints if I'm missing something really important.

Dic 20, 2020, 5:00am

I've started Ancient China and its enemies by Di Cosmo, about the rise of the Xiongnu Empire and it's relations with China. Seems promising.

Dic 20, 2020, 5:40am

>17 Tess_W:

I haven't read more than a few pages. The Amazon reviews say it's difficult. I'm not fluent in historiography jargon (willing to bang my head against a few books until it sinks in though) and so I expect it'll be slow going.

Dic 20, 2020, 3:27pm

I had several books that didn't get posted on the old list, so I'm going to drop them here from Oct and Nov:

The Magnificent Mountain Women
Rawhide Rawlins Stories
A Time Ago
Philadelphia in motion : a nostalgic view of how Philadelphians traveled, 1902-1940

Now the next time I'm going to put in some railroad books I have been reading this current month.

Dic 20, 2020, 10:01pm

I should mention that I did finish up Fruit from the Sands, basically an examination of what archaeology tells us about Central Asia's roll as a conduit for food stuffs, and Australia 1942, which features Australian writers providing an overview of what the reality of being on the front line of war meant for Australia. I thought both were worth the time invested.

Dic 21, 2020, 2:44pm

I finished What I Think by Adlai Stevenson. This book was not written as history, but it certainly is of significant historical interest to us today.

This is a collection of speeches and print articles delivered/written by Stevenson between his two runs for president in 1952 and 1956, both of which he lost to Dwight Eisenhower. Stevenson was an intellectual and a proud liberal, the former quality perhaps serving as an impediment to winning over the American electorate. His writing was certainly thought-provoking and offers a very interesting window into Democratic thought circa 1955. For one thing, we learn that the negative tactics of the Republican Party are older than we might today suppose. In the mid-1950s, Stevenson was of course concerned greatly with the Cold War and the campaign of ideas against Communist Russia and China for the friendship of newly independent countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Also, the possibilities for atomic warfare weigh heavily in his thinking. He is at his most impressive when he speaks of the changes being wrought on society by technology:

"Indeed, it seems that at mid-twentieth century, mass manipulation is a greater danger to the individual than was economic exploitation in the nineteenth center; that we are in greater danger of becoming robots than slaves. Surely it is part of the challenge of this next quarter-century that industry and government and the society they both support must find new and better ways of restoring scope to that strange eccentric, the individual. . . . But we shall have to learn the art of coexistence with many strange things in the future, some of them perhaps even stranger than Communism. Technology, while adding daily to our physical ease, throws daily another loop of fine wire around our souls. It contributes hugely to our mobility, which we must not confuse with freedom. The extensions of our senses, which we find so fascinating, are not adding to the discrimination of our minds."

Overall I found this collection a very interesting look into the issues and concerns of the day as seen by one the country's leading liberal Democrats. It has made me think about going in search of an Stevenson biography.

Editado: Dic 31, 2020, 10:23am

Here are my December reads so far:

West Chester, the first 200 years: 1799-1999 : bicentennial souvenir, West Chester, Pennsylvania
Rails Around Gold Hill
From Boston to the Berkshires : a pictorial review of electric transportation in Massachusetts
The Rocky Mountain official railway guide February 1906 this is a reprint
Hawaiian Tramways
Passenger trains of Denver : the decade before Amtrak : 1960-1970
Your friend, C.M. Russell : the C.M. Russell museum of illustated letters well done and it is the first time I have read any of cmr's poetry .

I went in to correct something and all my touchstones went away even though the brackets are still there. . . such is life.

31 Dec 2020 Well, well! I logged in and all of a sudden all of my touchstones on this rec started working. Let's see if they stay that way when I save the message!

Dic 26, 2020, 1:06am

I finished Black and British the other day. Despite being subtitled “a forgotten history,” most of what it covers is fairly familiar, but it’s very interesting to see it all in one place and draw some connections. And Olusoga is good at finding the right tone for a mainstream narrative overview without in any way dumbing down what he says.

Dic 26, 2020, 12:43pm

I finished Women, Race & Class by Angela Y. Davis. Davis provides a very effective history of the first half century of the Womens' Movement. Its earliest days, the movement's strongest activists often made common cause with, and in fact intersected with, the Abolitionist Movement. But after Emancipation, the movements diverged, especially when Reconstruction collapsed and Blacks became disenfranchised. Many leaders of the Women's Movement were not in favor of the 15th Amendment, for example, which assured Blacks the legal right to vote. These leaders felt that Blacks as a group should not receive the vote before women did. Soon, strains of racist ideology were creeping into the rhetoric of important Women's Suffrage leaders.

Davis also describes the early Women's Voting Rights movement as essentially middle- and upper-class. Not only did they shy away from supporting Black rights, they also made relatively little common cause with immigrant and other working class women crowded into tenements and sweatshops, much less with poor Black women toiling in Southern cotton fields and sugar plantations. Davis also examines the rise and pervasiveness of lynching and rape in the Jim Crow South, and the ways in which anti-lynching laws became a core goal of Black Women's groups in the North. Most white organizers, on the other hand, kept such issues at arms' length.

Davis' writing is clear and well-organized. I learned a lot, and I do recommend the book.

Dic 26, 2020, 4:00pm

Completed The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister's Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine by Lindsey Fitzharris. Lister's work in antiseptic methods is detailed as well as its use in surgeries, so the book may not be for the squeamish, but it is a well written and readable account.

Dic 29, 2020, 1:01am

Finished Florida in the Spanish-American War by Joe Knetsch and Nick Wynne. A relatively short book, which despite its title is probably only half about the activies in Florida during this time, the rest being about the lead up to the war. Still, there is some interesting information about the camps set up around the state for the departing troops and the conditions encountered in the overcrowded city of Tampa which was the main departure point. There is also a good discussion of the impact of the immigration of Cubans into the Sunshine State prior to the war.

Dic 30, 2020, 10:36pm

Finished Life in a Medieval Village by Francis Gies. Life in the village of Elton in the Midlands of Central England. Information was gleaned from court records and the Doomsday book. Lots of "isolated" facts and vocabulary. Long on agriculture and the economy and short on the Church and the plague. This is one of the most popular books assigned to students during their first Western Civ class at college.

Dic 31, 2020, 10:24am

Take a look at >23 ulmannc: above. All the touchstones started working! Happy New Year.

Dic 31, 2020, 10:25am

I should probably also post here Kearny's Dragoons Out West, which is as much civil affairs and politics as it's military history; the authors did their footwork but they wound up with an antiquarian conglomeration that needed more structure.

Dic 31, 2020, 1:39pm

I finished Trails of the Smoky Hill last night. It went over the race for gold toward Denver and then the early cattle shipping business of Texas cattle coming to Kansas until they were banned from the state. It also goes over the Indian issues involving the trails and the railroads through this area. The writing style makes this a read that keeps you interested.

Dic 31, 2020, 3:26pm

>31 ulmannc: Thanks for posting about this book. A few years ago I started collecting the more obscure Western Americana books about subjects that aren't the usual staple of the popular histories. I've added this book to my wishlists.

Dic 31, 2020, 4:29pm

// >32 jztemple: Do you know anyplace that has digital copies of the magazine Arizona Highways? In my travels I picked up some copies and started looking at them. I certainly didn't expect to find an article by J. Frank Dobie in the May 1942 issue. I stumbled across another article about a WPA writer but the problem it is a two part article and I don't have the June 1942 issue. Any ideas? //

Editado: Dic 31, 2020, 10:31pm

>33 ulmannc: How about this? Arizona Highways Online. And direct link to June 1942 issue

Update: It doesn't appear that there is a second part to the article in the June edition. I looked at the May 1942 issue and that article by J. Frank Dobie is split into two parts, the first near the front of the magazine. It continues on page 40 and concludes on page 42.

Ene 1, 3:00pm

I finished (on the last day of 2020!) Free France Magazine - June 15, 1945 from my stack of old magazines, this fascinating publication is the June 1945 edition of an English-language periodical that was published in New York City during the years of World War Two by "the French Press and Information Service (an agency of the Provisional Government of the French Republic)." In other words, the American propaganda office of the Free French who, by the time this edition came out, were in control in France under the leadership of De Gaulle. The magazine is a compendium of official government releases and excerpts from newspaper and magazine reports. This edition came out post V-E Day, and there is a great photograph of the V-E Day celebration on the Champs Elysee. But the war was still going on in Asia, and part of this edition consists of reports on the ways in which French forces were in action against the Japanese, as well as an account of the battles fought by French land and naval forces to get the last German divisions out of France, in a piece titled, "The Victory at Royan."

The magazine also includes reports on French programs for the administration of their African and Asian colonies and planned efforts towards (as they tell it) preparing those colonies for independence. Dakar and Madagascar get the most detailed treatment.

There is a fascinating section of reports about "The Syrian Affair," which I had to look up but which was a very big deal at the time. Violence erupted in Syrian over French efforts to reestablish control over the country, which had been a French Mandate between the wars. It got to the point that the English Army was sent in to get between the two sides, causing a rift between De Gaulle and Churchill. The French explanations of the ways in which their actions had been misunderstood, of their good and ultimately benign intentions toward the Syrians, and their confusion over why they shouldn't have the same rights over their former Mandate as the English were enjoying in their own makes for interesting "this is what they were saying at the time" reading for the historically minded.

Finally, there is an unexpectedly interesting section entitled "France and the San Francisco Conference." This is a series of short reports about the French participation in the series of conferences aimed at creating a new worldwide organization to replace the League of Nations, but this time with American participation. This aborning organization had not yet been named the United Nations. Part of this section has to do with France's efforts (this is actually a theme that runs throughout the magazine) to reassert itself as one of the world's major powers. The most interesting to me was the initial article in this section: Trade Unions and the Conference. It seems that France had backed the claims of what was then called the World Trade Union Conference to take official part in these organizational deliberations. According to the article, every other major power said no. I'm guessing that the French position had mostly to do with De Gaulle's desire to signal his support to French labor unions, and thereby receive their support for his government in return. One can hardly imagine the major capitalist countries like the U.S. and England going along with this idea. I assume Russia and China would have thought odious giving voice/power to an independent, international Labor group, as well, and anyway officially redundant, being, anyway, utopian workers' states, as they were. It would be nice to think of a world where the major national powers would actually say, "Well, dang, we can't set up a world peace organization without giving the workers their say." Maybe in some alternate universe!

The magazine is full of interesting black and white photos.