Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sunday Book Roundup

Jotwell has posted a review of Eliga H. Gould's Among the Powers of the Earth: The American Revolution and the Making of a New World Empire (Harvard Univ. Press). In it Christina Duffy Ponsa writes "the book makes you feel like you’re looking at history through a 360-degree lens. A legal, diplomatic, and intellectual history spanning from the mid-18th century to the declaration of the Monroe Doctrine in 1823, the book situates the Revolution in the context of the evolving law of nations in a strikingly rich and detailed account. Everything, it seems, is in there."

The September issue of The Federal Lawyer is out and has reviewed several books of note: The Law of Armed Conflict: An Operational Approach (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business) by Geoffrey Corn, Victor Hansen, Chris Jenks, Richard Hackson, Eric Talbot Jenson, and Hames Schoettler Jr; Rebels at the Bar: The Fascinating, Forgotten Stories of America's First Women Lawyers (NYU Press) by Jill Norgren; Out of Order: Stores from the History of the Supreme Court (Random House) by Sandra Day O'Connor; as well as David O. Stewart's The Lincoln Deception (Kensington). Of the last book, reviewer JoAnn Baca provides an intriguing introduction:
"Lawyer and award-winning author David O. Stewart has written three nonfiction books—on Aaron Burr, Andrew Johnson’s impeachment, and the men who drafted the Constitution. But what happens when a historian comes across a story that cannot be proven by any fact he can uncover, yet it sparks his imagination? For Stewart, the answer is to leave his comfort zone and write a novel, allowing him to theorize and extrapolate, far from established facts, about a part of our history that fascinates many as much today as it did in 1865: the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The Lincoln Deception is the result of Stewart’s need to explore to his own satisfaction a vague suggestion of duplicity as yet undiscovered in the assassination of the President."
H-Net has added many reviews of interest to this week's roundup readers including several books that extend beyond the American context, such as David Lemmings's Crime, Courtrooms, and the Public Sphere in Britain, 1700-1850 (Ashgate) here; and a review of two books including Adam Roberts and Timothy Garton Ash's Civil Resistance and Power Politics: The Experience of Non-violent Action from Gandhi to the Present (Oxford University Press) and Sean Scalmer's Gandhi in the West: The Mahatma and the Rise of Radical Protest (Cambridge University Press). Elizabeth F. Thompson's Justice Interrupted: The Struggle for Constitutional Government in the Middle East (Harvard University Press) is also reviewed. Seth Offenbach writes of Thompson's work:
"In the nearly three years since the Arab uprisings began, the expertise of Middle East historians has been in demand like almost never before, as observers attempt to understand the historical roots underlying the seemingly sudden popular challenges to long-standing authoritarian regimes. The result has been a surge in publications that are broad in their scope and appeal but limited in the depth of their analysis and historical insight. A strong exception to this trend is the recent work of historian Elizabeth F. Thompson, whose study on the rise of constitutionalism in the Middle East swiftly dispenses with the facile explanations of the Arab uprisings, instead offering readers a comprehensive yet nuanced look at the lasting impact of efforts to enshrine and institutionalize the language of justice across the region during the last two centuries. While the study is bookended by a discussion of the implications that these developments hold for the contemporary calls for universal rights, its substantive chapters provide a perceptive and deeply contextualized look at the common thread underlying a struggle that dates back to the premodern era."
For the Washington Post Johnathan Yardley reviews Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities by Craig Steven Wilder. Also in the Post is a review of Gerald R. Ford: An Honorable Life (University of Michigan) by James Cannon.

The Guardian reviews Churchill's Bomb: How the United States Overtook Britain in the First Nuclear Arms Race (Faber & Faber) by Graham Farmelo.

Maya Jasanoff reviews River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom (Harvard University Press) by Walter Johnson in the New York Review of Books. She finds:
"The artistry of River of Dark Dreams lies in the close-up—in Johnson’s mesmerizing attention to the “material” in historical-geographical materialism. In the pointillist style so dexterously displayed in his reconstruction of the New Orleans slave market, Soul by Soul, Johnson zooms in on the “nested set of abstractions” that made the Cotton Kingdom run: money, markets, maps, labor. “If you looked more closely,” he observes, “you would see that each abstraction stood at odds with the physical properties of the object it sought to represent.”River of Dark Dreams delivers spectacularly on the long-standing mission to write “history from the bottom up”: from the soil tangy and pungent with manure, and the Petit Gulf cotton plants rooted into it, and the calloused fingers plucking its blooming, sharp-edged bolls. This is a history of how wilderness became plantations that became states, nations, and empires—of how an overseer’s lashes sliced into a slave’s back turned “into labor into bales into dollars” into visions of America’s future in the world."
This week readers can also listen to the New Books in History Podcast for a discussion with Tevi Troy, author of What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched, and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House (Regnery History).

On HNN, reviewer Bernard von Bothmer finds that American Umpire (Harvard University Press) by Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman "offers a sweeping, wide-ranging, and remarkably in-depth overview of the history of American foreign relations." HNN also reviews Thurston Clarke's JFK's Last Hundred Days (Penguin).

Salon has published an excerpt from Front Porch Politics: The Forgotten Heyday of American Activism in the 1970s and 1980s (Hill and Wang) by Michael Stewart Foley.