Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sunday Book Roundup

Common-Place has a lengthy review of Nicholas P. Miller's The Religious Roots of the First Amendment: Dissenting Protestants and the Separation of Church and State (Oxford University Press). The reviewer calls the book
"an important contribution to the growing literature on religious freedom and separation of church and state in the colonial era and early republic. Miller argues that previous studies of the rise of these concepts have overemphasized the secular influences on their development. He states his own "quite simple" thesis straightforwardly at the beginning of the book: "Protestant commitments, at least as maintained by some dissenting Protestants, to the right of private judgment in matters of biblical interpretation … led to a respect for individual conscience that propelled ideas of religious liberty and disestablishment in the early modern West. These religious commitments … were a central influence in the official disestablishment of religion in America during the colonial period and the early republic"."

This week, David Brion Davis's The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation (Knopf) is reviewed in The New York Review of Books.
"David Brion Davis has spent a lifetime contemplating the worst of humanity and the best of humanity—the terrible cruelty and injustice of slavery, perpetuated over centuries and across borders and oceans, overturned at last because of ideas and ideals given substance through human action and human agency. He concludes his trilogy by contemplating whether the abolition of slavery might serve as precedent or model for other acts of moral grandeur. His optimism is guarded. “Many humans still love to kill, torture, oppress, and dominate.” Davis does, after all, describe the narrative of emancipation to which he has devoted his professional life as “astonishing.” But even in his amazement, he has written an inspiring story of possibility. “An astonishing historical achievement really matters.” And so does its history."
Two trials are revisited this week in book reviews. Kate Colquhoun's Did She Kill Him? A Victorian Tale of Deception, Adultery & Arsenic (Little) about Florence Maybrick's 1889 trial for poisoning her husband is reviewed in The Guardian. If you're interested in a true crime novel with more recent subject matter, The Washington Post reviews Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery and a Masquerade (Liveright) by Walter Kirn.

H-Net reviews The American South and the Atlantic World (University Press of Florida) edited by Brian Ward, Martyn Bone, and William A. Link. Included in the compilation is a piece by Martha Jones.
"The complicated nature of post-Revolutionary freedom and slavery also lie at the heart of legal historian Martha S. Jones’s illuminating look at the case of Jean Baptiste. Baptiste was an eight-year-old black refugee of the Haitian Revolution eventually settled in Baltimore. Treated as a slave dependent, Baptiste learned that French proclamations in effect during his time in Haiti in the 1790s would have made him a free man. Two decades after his arrival on U.S. shores under threats of removal to southwestern slave markets, he initiated a freedom suit. Baltimore jurists had to contemplate and contest the legal meaning of freedom not primarily based on Maryland law, but on French colonial law and their own reading of overly reified and racialized English accounts of the Haitian Revolution."
Another edited volume is The Loyal Atlantic: Remaking the British Atlantic in the Revolutionary Era (University of Toronto Press) edited by Jerry Bannister and Liam Riordan (reviewed here on H-Net).
"However, over the last decade the growing number of studies about loyalism in the Revolutionary Atlantic world has revealed the importance of loyalists and royalism to a clear understanding of the era. In The Loyal Atlantic: Remaking the British Atlantic in the Revolutionary Era, editors Jerry Bannister and Liam Riordan explore how loyalism became an influential movement in the British Empire, arguing that it fundamentally shaped the British Atlantic and that the true consequences of colonization and the American Revolution cannot be fully understood without first understanding loyalism in the Atlantic world. " 
Also on H-Net is a review of Victoria Vantoch's Jet Sex: Airline Stewardesses and the Making of an American Icon (University of Pennsylvania Press).

The Los Angeles Times discusses The Daphne awards for the best books published in 1963. Those on the non-fiction shortlist include The Making of the English Working Class by E.P. Thompson and Anti-Intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstadter.