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).
To mark our 2000th review we have a special Somme centenary piece, centred around a reappraisal of Martin Middlebrook’s classic The First Day on the Somme.
How is that that a Lincolnshire poultry farmer changed the course of Somme historiography with his first book? In the first of a two-part centenary article on the bibliography of the 1916 Battle of the Somme, Ross Davies shows how Martin Middlebrook ‘prised open a window’ upon a battle that for a century has haunted the British and their Commonwealth allies. Himself haunted by the close-packed Somme military cemeteries, Middlebrook turned to the survivors with the-then novel idea of interviewing them rather than relying solely upon the accounts of the politicians and the generals, and the Somme veterans depicted an ‘almost indecipherable chaos’ on the opening day of the vast British infantry assault. This review explains the significance of this book and its approach in terms of the evolving historiography of the battle, and will be followed by a detailed overview of Somme centenary publications.
We start this week with Brian Copenhaver’s Magic in Western Culture: From Antiquity to the Enlightenment, as Francis Young hails a towering achievement in the field of intellectual history (no. 1999).
Then we turn to Confederate Cities: The Urban South During the Civil War Era, edited by Andrew Slap and Frank Towers. David Silkenat believes this book provides a balanced and diverse exploration of how the Civil War era transformed urban spaces in the American South (no. 1998, with response here).
Next up is Constructing Kingship; The Capetian Monarchs of France and the Early Crusades by James Naus. Niall Ó Súilleabháin is frustrated by an over-brief book which fails to live up to its potential (no. 1997).
Finally we have Thomas Ahnert’s The Moral Culture of the Scottish Enlightenment. Tim Stuart-Buttle tackles a work which uses the Scottish Enlightenment as a case study to understand the wider intellectual history of the eighteenth century (no. 1996).
You can also search and browse all 1999 reviews here – do please let me know if you have any problem navigating the site or finding what you’re interested in.
We commence this week with Goals and Means: Anarchism, Syndicalism, and Internationalism in the Origins of the Federación Anarquista Ibérica by Jason Garner. Vlad Solomon and the author debate an engagingly-written account of a neglected yet important topic in the history of the Spanish labour movement (no. 1995, with response here).
Next up is Eighty-Eight Years: The Long Death of Slavery in the United States, 1777-1865 by Patrick Rael. John Craig Hammond and the author discuss a book which goes a long way to reforging the history of slavery (no. 1994, with response here).
Then we turn to Lars Magnusson’s The Political Economy of Mercantilism, and Andrew McDiarmid reviews a book which makes a valiant attempt at clarifying a widely used but problematic term (no. 1993).
Finally we have Death and Survival in Urban Britain: Disease, Pollution and Environment 1800-1950 by Bill Luckin. Jim Clifford tackles this collection from one of the most important urban environmental historians of London (no. 1992).