We 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).
We 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).
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.
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).
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).
We 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).
Less 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).
We 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).
We start this week with The Ministry of Nostalgia by Owen Hatherley, as Charlotte Riley recommends a compelling exploration of one way in which the British political establishment and the British public (mis)interpret, (mis)remember, and (fail to) engage with history (no. 2008).
Next up is Matthew Strickland’s Henry the Young King 1155-1183 by Matthew Strickland. David Crouch praises a book whose study of the Young King is carried off with thoroughness and an enviable mastery of the chronicle and literary sources (no. 2007).
Then we turn to what I am sure the reviewer won’t mind me gently saying is a slightly overdue review (the sequel is already out!) – Twilight of the Belle Epoque: The Paris of Picasso, Stravinsky, Proust, Renault, Marie Curie, Gertrude Stein, and Their Friends by Mary Sperling McAuliffe. Charles Sowerwine praises a great read for professional historians and the educated lay reader alike (no. 2006).
Finally we have a review article covering The New Deal: A Global History by Kiran Klaus Patel and Great Exception: The New Deal & The Limits of American Politics by Jefferson Cowie. Gabriel Winant believes that in the distance between these two books, a range of new questions to debate for years ahead emerges (no. 2005).
We start this week with The Radical Right in Late Imperial Russia: Dreams of a True Fatherland? by George Gilbert, as Geoffrey Hosking and the author discuss a good general guide (no. 2004, with response here).
Next we turn to Jonathan Hogg’s British Nuclear Culture: Official and Unofficial Narratives in the Long 20th Century. Richard Brown recommends the first major contribution to what promises to be a significant sub-field of British nuclear history (no. 2003).
Then we have John Owen and English Puritanism: Experiences of Defeat by Crawford Gribben, as Elliot Vernon praises a fluent biography of a difficult historical figure (no. 2002).
Finally Ronan Fanning’s Eamon de Valera: A Will to Power is reviewed by Brian Girvin, who believes this book sets the bar high for any future assessments of de Valera (no. 2001).