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California is often used as a synecdoche for the United States itself - America in microcosm. Yet, California was, is, and will always be, Native space. This fact is forcefully argued by Damon Akins and William J. Bauer, Jr. in We Are the Land: A History of Native California (University of California Press, 2021). Akins, an associate professor hist…
 
Since the mid-nineteenth century, Americans have known the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York as a site of industrial production, a place to heal from disease, and a sprawling outdoor playground that must be preserved in its wild state. Less well known, however, has been the area's role in hosting a network of state and federal prisons. A Pri…
 
Gospel music evolved in often surprising directions during the post-Civil Rights era. Claudrena N. Harold's in-depth look at late-century gospel, When Sunday Comes: Gospel Music in the Soul and Hip-Hop Eras (U Illinois Press, 2020), focuses on musicians like Yolanda Adams, Andraé Crouch, the Clark Sisters, Al Green, Take 6, and the Winans, and on t…
 
During the years of the Early Republic, prominent Native leaders regularly traveled to American cities--Albany, Boston, Charleston, Philadelphia, Montreal, Quebec, New York, and New Orleans--primarily on diplomatic or trade business, but also from curiosity and adventurousness. They were frequently referred to as "the Chiefs now in this city" durin…
 
Emma Rothschild’s new book, An Infinite History: The Story of a Family in France over Three Centuries (Princeton University Press, 2021) (see the book’s accompanying website here: https://infinitehistory.org), is a beautiful work that, by following the lives of one obscure family over five generations, weaves together a history of France through th…
 
Between the decriminalization of contraception in 1969 and the introduction of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982, a landmark decade in the struggle for women's rights, public discourse about birth control and family planning was transformed. At the same time, a transnational conversation about the "population bomb" that threatened global f…
 
For most of the eighteenth century, British protestantism was driven neither by the primacy of denominations nor by fundamental discord between them. Instead, it thrived as part of a complex transatlantic system that bound religious institutions to imperial politics. As Katherine Carte argues, British imperial protestantism proved remarkably effect…
 
At the dawn of the 1950s, a promising and dedicated young painter named Helen Frankenthaler, fresh out of college, moved back home to New York City to make her name. By the decade's end, she had succeeded in establishing herself as an important American artist of the postwar period. In the years in between, she made some of the most daring, head-tu…
 
Every good story needs a villain, and some of the early chroniclers of the pilgrim and puritan settlements found all they needed for this type of character in Thomas Morton. Peter C. Mancall tells the story in The Trials of Thomas Morton: An Anglican Lawyer, His Puritan Foes, and the Battle for a New England (Yale UP, 2019), in what reads perhaps l…
 
A new approach to puritan studies has been emerging in recent decades, but until now, no single volume has tried to gather in a comprehensive way the new histories of this literature. In A History of American Puritan Literature (Cambridge UP, 2020), edited by Kristina Bross and Abram Van Engen, eighteen leading scholars in the field help to mark a …
 
Twelve companies of American missionaries were sent to the Hawaiian Islands between 1819 and 1848 with the goal of spreading American Christianity and New England values. By the 1850s American missionary families in the islands had birthed more than 250 white children, considered Hawaiian subjects by the indigenous monarchy and U.S. citizens by mis…
 
Most music students have been taught that the New World Symphony was the first piece of classical music written in an American national style which Antonín Dvorák invented when he utilized influences from Black music in the second movement. The impression most textbooks leave is that this innovation was instantly approved by composers and critics a…
 
Despite enormous advances in medical science and public health education over the last century, access to health care remains a dominant issue in American life. U.S. health care is often hailed as the best in the world, yet the public health emergencies of today often echo the public health emergencies of yesterday: consider the Great Influenza Pan…
 
The title of Edward Westermann's new book, Drunk on Genocide: Alcohol and Mass Murder in Nazi Germany (Cornell University Press, published in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2021), suggests that it is about the use of alcohol by perpetrators of the Holocaust. And it is. Westermann documents extensively how alcohol serv…
 
Todd H. Weir and Hugh McLeod, two leading historians of religion, have teamed up to edit a volume in the Proceedings of the British Academy that explores how conflicts between secular worldviews and religions shaped the history of the 20th century. With contributions considering case studies relating to Judaism, Christianity, Islam, atheism and com…
 
Plato and the Mythic Tradition in Political Thought (Harvard UP, 2020) is an ambitious reinterpretation and defense of Plato’s basic enterprise and influence, arguing that the power of his myths was central to the founding of philosophical rationalism. Plato’s use of myths—the Myth of Metals, the Myth of Er—sits uneasily with his canonical reputati…
 
In 1976, the San Francisco Giants headed north of the border and became the Toronto Giants - or so the sportswriters of the time would have you believe. In The Giants and Their City: Major League Baseball in San Francisco, 1976-1992 (Kent State UP, 2021), the journalist and scholar Lincoln Mitchell explains how the team and the city narrowly avoide…
 
Edited by Dr. Cécile Fromont, Afro-Catholic Festivals in the Americas: Performance, Representation, and the Making of Black Atlantic Tradition (Penn State University Press, 2019), demonstrates how, from the beginning of the Atlantic slave trade, enslaved and free Africans in the Americas used Catholicism and Christian-derived celebrations as spaces…
 
Artwork as opposed to experiment? Engineer versus artist? We often see two different cultural realms separated by impervious walls. But some fifty years ago, the borders between technology and art began to be breached. In Making Art Work: How Cold War Engineers and Artists Forged a New Creative Culture (MIT Press, 2020), W. Patrick McCray shows how…
 
Holocaust and Genocide historians have spent much time and effort recently considering the connections between the experiences and ideas of colonialism and subsequent mass atrocity violence. Jonas Kreienbaum's recent book A Sad Fiasco: Colonial Concentration Camps in Southern Africa, 1900–1908 (Berghahn Books, 2019) is an important contribution to …
 
In the 1970s, American curator Donna Stein served as the art advisor to Empress Farah Diba Pahlavi, the Shahbanu of Iran. Together, Stein and Pahlavi generated an art market in Iran, as Stein encouraged Pahlavi’s patronage of the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art. Today, the contemporary section of the Iranian National Collection―most of which cont…
 
During the mid-sixteenth century, English reformers invited a group of continental Protestant refugees to London and surrounding provinces. The ecclesiastical authorities allowed them liberty to establish their own churches with relatively little oversight by the English church. These "Stranger Churches," many of whom still maintained close ties to…
 
Matthew Karp is a historian of the U.S. Civil War era and its relationship to the nineteenth-century world. He received his Ph.D. in History from the University of Pennsylvania in 2011 and joined the Princeton faculty in 2013. The piece we are talking about is The Politics of a Second Gilded Age, published in February 2021 in The Jacobin. His first…
 
Today we are joined by Martha Moffitt Peacock, Professor of Art History at Brigham Young University about her new book, Heroines, Harpies, and Housewives: Imaging Women of Consequence in the Dutch Golden Age, out in 2020 with Brill. In Heroines, Harpies, and Housewives, Peacock provides a novel interpretive approach to the artistic practice of imag…
 
In his pioneering study, Men in Metal: A Topography of Public Bronze Statuary in Modern Japan (Brill, 2020), Sven Saaler examines Japanese public statuary as a central site of historical memory from its beginnings in the Meiji period through the twenty-first century. Saaler shows how the elites of the modern Japanese nation-state went about constru…
 
Exploring the concepts of collaboration, resistance, and postwar retribution and focusing on the Chetnik movement, Jelena Đureinović's book The Politics of Memory of the Second World War in Contemporary Serbia (Routledge, 2019) analyses the politics of memory. Since the overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, memory politics in Serbia has undergon…
 
Welcome to The Academic Life. You are smart and capable, but you aren’t an island, and neither are we. So we reached across our mentor network to bring you podcasts on everything from how to finish that project, to how to take care of your beautiful mind. Wish we’d bring in an expert about something? Email us at cgessler05(at)gmail.com or dr.danama…
 
In recent years Americans have experienced a range of assaults upon the truth. In The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth (Brookings Institution Press, 2021), Jonathan Rauch describes the various ways in which our understanding of truth has come under attack, and the mechanisms that exist to fight back. As Rauch explains, the challenge of…
 
In his follow-up to the Pulitzer Prize–winning The Metaphysical Club, acclaimed scholar and critic Louis Menand, Professor of English at Harvard University and staff writer at The New Yorker, offers a new intellectual and cultural history of the postwar years. The Cold War was not just a contest of power. It was also about ideas, in the broadest se…
 
Pirates and Publishers: A Social History of Copyright in Modern China (Princeton University Press, 2019) is a detailed historical look at how copyright was negotiated and protected by authors, publishers, and the state in late imperial and modern China. In Pirates and Publishers, Fei-Hsien Wang reveals the unknown social and cultural history of cop…
 
From yaks and vultures to whales and platypuses, animals have played central roles in the history of British imperial control. The contributors to Animalia: An Anti-Imperial Bestiary for Our Times (Duke UP, 2020) analyze twenty-six animals—domestic, feral, predatory, and mythical—whose relationship to imperial authorities and settler colonists reve…
 
In recent years the phrase “revisionist history” has emerged as a label for politically-correct reexaminations of an unalterable understanding of our past. As James M. Banner, Jr. demonstrates in his book The Ever-Changing Past: Why All History Is Revisionist History (Yale UP, 2021), such a definition ignores how historical knowledge in the West ha…
 
Judith Surkis's Sex, Law, and Sovereignty in French Algeria, 1830-1930 (Cornell UP, 2019) traces the intersection of colonialism, law, land expropriation, sex, gender, and family during the century after the French conquest of Algeria in 1830. Seeking to assimilate Algerian land while differentiating Algerian Muslims from European settlers, colonia…
 
Martin Luther - monk, priest, intellectual, or revolutionary - has been a controversial figure since the sixteenth century. Most studies of Luther stress his personality, his ideas, and his ambitions as a church reformer. In Luther, Conflict, and Christendom: Reformation Europe and Christianity in the West (Cambridge UP, 2018), Christopher Ocker br…
 
In his majestic and magisterial new book Law, Empire, and the Sultan: Ottoman Imperial Authority and Late Hanafi Jurisprudence (Oxford UP, 2020), Samy Ayoub examines and demonstrates the entanglement of Islamic law and imperial political authority in the early modern period. Focused on the incorporation of Ottoman imperial authority and edicts in t…
 
Suzanne L. Marchand's new book Porcelain: A History from the Heart of Europe (Princeton University Press, 2020) balances several histories at once through the story of a single commodity. Rather than a history of art or aesthetics per se—though it certainly touches style and artists— Porcelain is at once a business history of mercantile productions…
 
Eric Schluessel’s Land of Strangers: The Civilizing Project in Qing Central Asia (Columbia UP, 2020) looks at what happened when, at the end of the Qing, Chinese Confucian revivalists gained control of the Muslim-majority region of Xinjiang and sought to transform it. Yet this is not a book about high politics or discourse — far from it. This is a …
 
Today I talked to Nelson Johnson about his new book Darrow's Nightmare: The Forgotten Story of America's Most Famous Trial Lawyer (Rosetta Books, 2021) In 1911 the 26-year-span in which Clarence Darrow took on capital punishment, advocated for civil rights, and handled the Scopes trial was still before him. Those accomplishments might never have ha…
 
The clash between scholarship and politics—between truth and propaganda— had always been a conflict of great importance. In the 1920s the Commission for the Collection, Study, and Publication of Materials on the October Revolution and History of the Communist Party (Istpart, in abbreviated Russian) was formed. Istpart’s historians were tasked with …
 
Nate Holdren is the author of Injury Impoverished: Workplace Accidents, Capitalism, and Law in the Progressive Era, published by Cambridge University Press in 2020. Injury Impoverished looks at the history of U.S. workplace injuries in the late-19th and early-20th Centuries. As the workers, employers, and reformers attempted to tackle the drastical…
 
The predominantly secular focus of socialism can often obscure the parts of its ideology that reflect the elements it inherited from Western religious thinking. In Socialism as a Secular Creed: A Modern Global History (Lexington Books, 2021), Andrei Znamenski shows how this religious inheritance created elements within it that were closer in form t…
 
Edward M. Almond belonged to the generation of US Army officers who came of age during World War I and then ascended to senior command positions during World War II. During WWII, Almond led the 92nd Infantry Division, one of only two African American divisions to see combat in the war. Yet, alongside his achievements, including a command during the…
 
In the first half of the twentieth century, urban elevated highways were much more than utilitarian infrastructure, lifting traffic above the streets; they were statements of civic pride, asserting boldly modern visions for a city’s architecture, economy, and transportation network. Yet three of the most ambitious projects, launched in Chicago, New…
 
For most of the eighteenth century, the format, size, and price of the earliest novels meant that they would have been sold and bought alongside Protestant religious texts. In When Novels Were Books (Harvard UP, 2020) Jordan Alexander Stein brings the insights of book history into conversation with literary criticism. He explores the antecedents th…
 
At almost any international sporting event in which the US competes, it is now common (and appropriate) to remark on the composition of the American team’s ethnic and racial diversity. It is now accepted that a competitor with “USA” on their jersey/uniform does not have to “look” a certain way in order to represent the country . They can be African…
 
Bringing strategy, foreign policy, domestic and imperial politics together, this book challenges the conventional understanding as to why the British Empire, at perhaps the height of its power, lost control of its American colonies. Critiquing the traditional emphasis on the value of alliance during the Seven Years' War, and the consequences of Bri…
 
Poetry has long dominated the cultural landscape of modern Iraq, simultaneously representing the literary pinnacle of high culture and giving voice to the popular discourses of mass culture. As the favored genre of culture expression for religious clerics, nationalist politicians, leftist dissidents, and avant-garde intellectuals, poetry critically…
 
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