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Reviews in History


New reviews: online manuscripts, slave relations, WW1 and Mughal secretaries

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gerwarthWe start this week with a review of a digital resource from Sheffield’s Humanities Research Institute, Manuscripts Online: Written Culture 1000-1500, with Hannah Lilley and the editors debating a useful starting point for researchers of medieval textual culture (no. 2047, with response here).

Next up is Sergio A. Lussana’s My Brother Slaves: Friendship, Masculinity, and Resistance in the Antebellum South. Craig Friend and the author discuss a new book on the development of enslaved manhood and homosocial relationships (no. 2046, with response here).

Then we turn to The Vanquished: Why the First World War Failed to End, 1917-1923 by Robert Gerwarth. Alex Burkhardt enjoys an unusually engrossing history book which invites us to rethink our assumptions about the First World War (no. 2045).

Finally Samyak Ghosh praises a well-written revisionist analysis of a literary archive, as he tackles Writing Self, Writing Empire: Chandar Bhan Brahman and the Cultural World of the Indo-Persian State Secretary by Rajeev Kinra (no. 2044)

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Reviews in History – 20th Anniversary Special (part 3)

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accountingThis week sees our final batch of anniversary reviews, starting with Craig Muldrew’s seminal The Economy of Obligation: The Culture of Credit and Social Relations in Early Modern England. Jonathan Healey praises a brilliant and thought-provoking book, which should profoundly influence the way we feel about early modern England and its economy (no. 2043).

Next up is Crossing the Bay of Bengal by Sunil Amrith, as Madhumita Mazumdar explores the enduring significance of this masterful rendition of a difficult story with its messy edges and elusive trails (no. 2042).

Then we turn to Antoine Lilti’s The World of the Salons: Sociability and Worldliness in Eighteenth-Century Paris. Elena Russo and the author disagree strongly over this ambitious book, originally published in French in 2005 (no. 2041, with response here).

Finally Anjana Singh revisits a seminal book which encompasses 600 years of global history, After Tamerlane: The Global History of Empire since 1405 by John Darwin (no. 2040).

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Reviews in History – 20th anniversary special! (part 2)

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israelWe start off this week with Thomas Munck’s  The Enlightenment as Modernity: Jonathan Israel’s Interpretation Across Two Decades, as he and the author discuss 20 years of work on the Enlightenment and the origins of modern concepts of democracy, equality and freedom (no. 2039, with response here).

Next up is John Iliffe’s The African AIDS epidemic: a history. Annamarie Bindenagel Šehović returns to a book which remains a cornerstone of literature in understanding the African AIDS epidemic, providing rich contextual detail and giving voice to human experience (no. 2038).

Then we turn to Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Aftermath of World War II by John Dower. Martyn Smith revisits a richly researched, beautifully illustrated and elegantly written account of the period of the US-led occupation of Japan (no. 2037).

Finally we have Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. Tom Lawson asks if this book succeeded in its author’s aim to change our understanding of the Bloodlands (no. 2036).

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Reviews in History – 20th anniversary special! (part 1)

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balkanismWe have a treat for you today – the first part of a special issue to mark the 20th anniversary (and bear in mind that in digital resource years that makes us at least 200) of Reviews, for which we have asked our Editorial Board to recommend some of the most influential / significant history books of the last 20 years.

Some suggested themselves, some commented that the task itself was impossible (‘Ha ha sure that’s straightforward Danny, name the best history book out of what – only a million or so contenders!’), but I think we came up in the end with a good spread of books, and nice spread of approaches to revisiting a ‘classic’.

Anyway, here are the first four (I don’t know what it says that we didn’t review any of them when they first came out! I wasn’t in charge then of course…).

We start off with Imagining the Balkans by Maria Todorova, as Hannes Grandits goes back to a book which became an instant must read on its publication in 1997 (no. 2035).

Then we turn to Randall Packard’s The Making of a Tropical Disease A Short History of Malaria. Maureen Malowany looks back over a timely overview of the history of one of the most complex and ancient of all diseases (no. 2034).

Next up is Which People’s War?: National Identity and Citizenship in Wartime Britain 1939-1945 by Sonya O. Rose. Laura Beers tackles a book which, more than a decade after its publication, remains a model for students interested in contemporary cultural history (no. 2033).

Finally, we have Christopher Bayly’s Empire and Information: Intelligence Gathering and Social Communication in India, 1780-1870, and Ricardo Roque revisits a book which made him travel to places and explore ideas that he would not otherwise had considered (no. 2032).

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New reviews: unbelief, Charleston Syllabus, Wessex Danes and ancient wisdom (again)

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luther

Martin Luther, as ever the life and soul of the party…

First up this week we have Dominic Erdozain’s The Soul of Doubt: the Religious Roots of Unbelief from Luther to Marx, as Charlotte Methuen and Dominic Erdozain discuss a fascinating study of the ways in which religious faith could open the door to doubt (no. 2031, with response here).

Then we turn to the Charleston Syllabus: Readings on Race, Racism, and Racial Violence, edited by Chad Williams, Kidada E. Williams and Keisha N. Blain. Lydia Plath praises an innovative crowdsourced response to the tragic events of Charleston (no. 2030).

Next up is Danes in Wessex : the Scandinavian impact on southern England, c.800-c.1100, edited by Ryan Lavelle and Simon Roffey. Jeremy Haslam reviews an edited collection which should provide all students of the period with material to ponder and enjoy (no. 2029).

Finally, we also have a lengthy response by Dmitri Levitin to our earlier review of Ancient Wisdom in the Age of the New Science: Histories of Philosophy in England, c1640-1700, which you can read here.

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New reviews: Benjamin Franklin, medieval popes, Arthur Balfour and race and the American Revolution

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Benjamin Franklin in London

Our reviews this week kick off with George Goodwin’s Benjamin Franklin in London: The British Life of America’s Founding Father. Angel-Luke O’Donnell and the author discuss an immersive biography, useful for anyone interested in 18th-century sociability (no. 2028, with response here).

Next up Benedict Wiedemann reviews two different but equally valuable approaches to the medieval papacy, Popes and Jews 1095-1291 by Rebecca Rist and Pope Innocent II (1130-1143): The World vs the City, edited by John Doran and Damien J. Smith (no. 2027).

Then we turn to Balfour’s World: Aristocracy and Political Culture at the Fin de Siècle by Nancy W. Ellenberger. Andrew Hillier praises a fresh and illuminating perspective of what would otherwise be familiar territory (no. 2026).

Finally we have Robert G. Parkinson’s Common Cause: Creating Race and Nation in the American Revolution. Jonathan Wilson recommends an account that deserves attention from any historian studying early American national identity, racism, western expansion, or print culture (no. 2025).

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New reviews: smallpox, history of philosophy, wonder and the Somme

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Dr. Donald A. Henderson (right), who led the World Health Organization effort to eradicate smallpox, examines a child's vaccination scar in Ethiopia.

Dr. Donald A. Henderson (right), who led the World Health Organization effort to eradicate smallpox, examines a child’s vaccination scar in Ethiopia.

We start this week with The End of a Global Pox by Bob H. Reinhardt, as Susan Heydon and the author discuss a valuable contribution to the literature on smallpox eradication (no. 2024, with response here).

Next up is Dmitri Levitin’s Ancient Wisdom in the Age of the New Science: Histories of Philosophy in England, c1640-1700. William Bulman enjoys a book full of subtly analyzed, elaborately contextualized, extensively detailed, and often interrelated examples (no. 2023).

Then we turn to Keagan Brewer’s Wonder and Skepticism in the Middle Ages, as Stephen Spencer praises a thought-provoking discussion of wonder, skepticism and marvels (no. 2022).

Finally Ross Davies marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the Battle of the Somme with the second part of his bibliography (no. 2021). Don’t forget to check out this Somme-related blog post by my BBIH colleague Simon Baker as well – http://blog.history.ac.uk/2016/09/the-battle-of-the-somme-have-you-seen-the-big-push-films/.

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New reviews: Federal Writers’ Project, the Philadelphians, Barbarossa and American Myth

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5 Writers Exhibit State FairWe begin this week with Catherine A. Stewart’s Long Past Slavery: Representing Race in the Federal Writers’ Project. David Cox and the author discuss a superbly researched, engaging, and insightful book (no. 2020, with response here).

Next up is Jane Lead and her Transnational Legacy, edited by Ariel Hessayon. Liam Temple reviews a valuable and timely collection of essays that offers new direction to those concerned with studying the Philadelphians (no. 2019).

Then we turn to John B. Freed’s Frederick Barbarossa: the Prince and the Myth. Thomas Foerster believes that this book will become the standard work in English on Frederick Barbarossa and 12th-century Germany (no. 2018).

Finally we have Exploring the Next Frontier: Vietnam, NASA, Star Trek and Utopia in 1960s and 1970s American Myth and History by Matthew Wilhelm Kapell. Kendrick Oliver thinks that a more polished and persuasive book would have better explored these worthwhile themes (no. 2017).

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Reviews in History US election special!

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Hillary-Clinton-2016-FacebookLess than a week to go until the US elections, and, thanks to the hard work of our editorial board member Daniel Peart, we are able to present an election special – four books showing the ways in which the current generation of American politicians use history to promote their own brand of politics.

We start with the current frontrunner and potential first-ever woman president, Hilary Clinton, and her Hard Choices. Karen Heath believes this memoir will be of particular interest to students of the political uses of history (no. 2016).

Next up is former Governor of Louisiana Bobby Jindal’s American Will: The Forgotten Choices That Changed Our Republic. David Tiedemann poses some big questions for the former presidential hopeful (which to be honest he is unlikely to answer… no. 2015).

Then we turn to God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy by another Republican White House wannabe, Mike Huckabee. Roy Rogers discerns, through Huckabee’s frustrations, some useful insights on the state of American conservativism in the age of Donald Trump (no. 2014).

Finally we turn to Ron Paul’s The Revolution: A Manifesto. Kenneth Owen questions whether the fundamental values this libertarian Republican espouses are closer to those of the Founding Fathers or to Austrian School economists (no. 2013).

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New reviews: US early democracy, medieval merchants, opium trade and Roosevelt

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shaysrebellionWe start this week with Commons Democracy: Reading the Politics of Participation in the Early United States by Dana Nelson, as Mark Boonshoft and the author discuss a book which offers a coherent paradigm for understanding an important part of the early American democratic tradition (no. 2012, with response here).

Next up is Medieval Merchants and Money: Essays in Honour of James L. Bolton, edited by Matthew Davies and Martin Allen. Chris Dyer recommends a volume which is a tribute to the ingenuity of historians (no. 2011).

Then we turn to Ashley Wright’s Opium and Empire in Southeast Asia: Regulating Consumption in British Burma, which Jim Mills believes to be another significant contribution to the revisionist movement in the history of narcotics in modern Asia (no. 2010).

Finally we have Franklin D. Roosevelt: The War Years, 1939-1945 by Roger Daniels, and Alan Dobson is disappointed by a biography focusing on Roosevelt’s spoken words (no. 2009).

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