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David WilliamsI Freed Myself: African American Self-Emancipation in the Civil War Era

June 5, 2014

Lincoln was very clear–at least in public–that the Civil War was not fought over slavery: it was, he said, for the preservation of the Union first and foremost. So it’s not surprising that when the conflict started he had no firm plan to emancipate the slaves in the borderland or Southern states. He also knew [...]

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Stephen R. PlattAutumn in the Heavenly Kingdom: China, the West, and the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War

June 3, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in East Asian Studies] Stephen R. Platt’s new book is a beautifully written and intricately textured account of the bloodiest civil war of all time. Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom: China, the West, and the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War (Vintage Books, 2012) is a deeply international history of the Taiping Civil [...]

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Jace WeaverThe Red Atlantic: American Indigenes and the Making of the Modern World, 1000-1927

June 3, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Native American Studies] For all the incisive work published in Native American and Indigenous studies over the past decades, troubling historical myths still circulate in both academic and popular discourse. One of the most persistent is how we tell the story of the Atlantic world as a set of unidirectional processes dominated [...]

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Geoffrey WawroA Mad Catastrophe: The Outbreak of World War I and the Collapse of the Habsburg Empire

May 27, 2014

When I was in graduate school, those of us who studied World War One commented regularly on the degree to which historians concentrated their attention on the Western front at the expense of the other aspects of the war. In the years since then (I won’t say how many), historians have worked hard to remedy [...]

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Marwa ElshakryReading Darwin in Arabic, 1860-1950

May 23, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Science, Technology, and Society] The work of Charles Darwin, together with the writing of associated scholars of society and its organs and organisms, had a particularly global reach in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  Marwa Elshakry’s new book offers a fascinating window into the ways that this work was read and [...]

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Paula A. MichaelsLamaze: An International History

May 16, 2014

The twentieth-century West witnessed a revolution in childbirth. Before that time, most women gave birth at home and were attended by family members and midwives. The process was usually terribly painful for the mother. Beginning in the nineteenth century, however, doctors started to “medicalize” childbirth. Physicians began to think of ways to ease the pain of childbirth. [...]

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Barry Rubin and Wolfgang G. SchwanitzNazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East

May 11, 2014

This book tells a remarkable and–to me at least–little known but very important story. In Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East (Yale UP, 2014), Barry Rubin and Wolfgang G. Schwanitz trace the many connections between Germany–Imperial and Nazi–and the Arab world. Their particular focus is on a fellow named Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of [...]

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Richard WeikartHitler’s Ethic: The Nazi Pursuit of Evolutionary Progress

May 3, 2014

For many years now, historians have wondered whether Hitler had any sort of consistent ideology. His writings are rambling and confusing. His speeches are full of plain lies. His “table talk” reflects a wandering, impulsive mind distinguished by a remarkable disconnection from reality. There are obvious themes: strident German nationalism, radical racialism, vicious anti-semitism, and [...]

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Donald T. CritchlowWhen Hollywood Was Right: How Movie Stars, Studio Moguls, and Big Business Remade American Politics

April 27, 2014

It seems that everyone in Hollywood is on the political Left. “Seems” is the operative word here, because there are actually Republicans in pictures, at least according to this website. (NB: I have no idea whether the folks who created this list know what they’re talking about, so beware.) Nonetheless, it’s pretty certain that most–the [...]

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Anna FishzonFandom, Authenticity, and Opera: Mad Acts and Letter Scenes in Fin-de-Siècle Russia

April 17, 2014

Pretty much everyone understands what is called the “Cult of Celebrity,” particularly as it manifests itself in the arts. It’s a mentality that privileges the actor over the act, the singer over the song, the painter over the painting, and so on. The Cult of Celebrity’s essence is a fanatical and even irrational devotion to [...]

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