Sunday, December 7, 2014

Sunday Book Roundup

Being the first week of December, the first of the annual "best of 2014" lists are out. Here are a few: "100 Notable Books of 2014" in the  New York Times, the "Holiday Book Guide 2014: Nonfiction" in the Los Angeles Times, and "The best politics books of 2014" in The Guardian. And to commemorate his time as a book reviewer at the Washington Post and his retirement, Jonathan Yardley's favorite books can be found here.

Tocqueville’s Nightmare: The Administrative State Emerges in America, 1900-1940 (Oxford University Press) by our very own Dan Ernst is reviewed over on the U.S. Intellectual History Blog.
"Ernst unfolds his answer in measured, elegant prose, through two interrelated stories—one technical, for specialists, the other accessible, and of interest to all historians of American political ideas.
The technical story first. As a legal matter, the challenge of the administrative state can be understood as a problem of judicial review. Many American lawyers and statesmen were great fans of administration, at least in principle. The corporate bar liked the way it took complicated decisions away from corrupt legislatures and gave them to trained commissioners. Administration could be expert and predictable, by contrast with idiosyncratic and inefficient common-law adjudication. The legal issue, then, wasn’t to make the case for administration, but to reconcile it with a Diceyist commitment to judicial supremacy."
Of course H-Net also has several new reviews up this week. There is a double review of Stephen L. Longenecker's Gettysburg Religion: Refinement, Diversity, and Race in the Antebellum and Civil War Border North (Fordham University Press) and Timothy L. Wesley's The Politics of Faith during the Civil War (Louisiana State University Press). Also up is a review of Kim Murphy's I Had Rather Die: Rape in the Civil War (Coachlight Press):
Kim Murphy’s I Had Rather Die is the first book-length project examining sexual violence during the Civil War. In it she levels some rather damning although not unwarranted charges against historians who argue that the conflict was a low-rape war. Murphy persuasively asserts that focusing on the number of rapes stems from a misguided assumption that calculations reveal something meaningful about wartime sexual violence. By reframing rape as a crime of power, she attempts to sidestep the numbers game in order to expose a seemingly genteel and restrained Victorian society that in reality provided few protections for white and black rape victims and often freed convicted rapists.
H-Net also provides a review of Dana Cooper's Informal Ambassadors: American women, Transatlantic Marriages, and Anglo-American Relations, 1865-1945 (Kent State University Press).

Victor Pickard is interviewed by New Books in History about his new book, America’s Battle for Media Democracy: The Triumph of Corporate Libertarianism and the Future of Media Reform (Cambridge University Press).

Public Books has a review of several works on Harlem, including Farah Jasmine Griffin's Harlem Nocturne: Women Artists and Progressive Politics During World War II (Basic Civitas), Carla Kaplan's Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance (Harper), Camilo Jose Vergara's Harlem: The Unmaking of a Ghetto (University of Chicago Press), and Edward White's The Tastemaker: Carl Van Vechten and the Birth of Modern America (Farrar, Straus & Giroux).
"After all this time, we still have Harlem on our minds. Close to a century after the first waves of mass migration from the American South into uptown Manhattan, movements to, from, and around Harlem continue to stir scholarly inquiry. We tend to think of these journeys in large-scale terms: African Americans searching for better livelihoods; slumming white bohemians descending upon cabarets; migrants departing the West Indies. But within these group histories are the individual journeys, some stranger than fiction, that remind us of the exceptional singularities that make up any Great Migration."