Friday, October 31, 2014

Gary Krist's "Empire of Sin"

Before turning to narrative nonfiction with The White Cascade and City of Scoundrels, Gary Krist wrote three novels--Bad Chemistry, Chaos Theory, and Extravagance--and two short-story collections--The Garden State and Bone by Bone.

Krist applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Empire of Sin involves one of the more brutal episodes in the book, a citywide manhunt in July of 1900 that eventually escalates into a horrific race riot. The episode occurs in the middle of what I characterize as New Orleans’ other civil war – a decades-long effort by the city’s wealthy Anglo-American elite to suppress the “disruptive elements” in the notoriously unruly city. Part of this effort involved the imposition of Jim Crow laws on the city’s heterogeneous black population. This created great friction in New Orleans -- a place previously known for relatively fluid race relations – until finally, on one hot summer night, a young black man named Robert Charles is pushed too far. A scuffle with a New Orleans policeman turns violent, and soon Charles is on the run, leaving two dead policemen in his wake. For several days, he eludes one of the most extensive manhunts in New Orleans history. But page 99 finds him holed up with a rifle in the back annex of an uptown house, knowing that he is about to be found but determined not to surrender without a fight. "He didn't have many other options," as I write on that page. "Nor could he have any illusions about how this adventure would end. A black man who had killed two white policeman in the New Orleans of 1900, no matter what the circumstances, would never be allowed to explain himself in court."
Learn more about the book and author at Gary Krist's website.

The Page 69 Test: The White Cascade.

Writers Read: Gary Krist (May 2012).

The Page 99 Test: City of Scoundrels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Cara Caddoo's "Envisioning Freedom: Cinema and the Building of Modern Black Life"

Cara Caddoo is Assistant Professor of American Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Envisioning Freedom: Cinema and the Building of Modern Black Life, and reported the following:
On page 99, a battle rages between two of Chicago’s most powerful black men: Reverend Elijah Fisher and Robert T. Motts, a kingpin of Chicago’s underworld. At stake is control of the three-block stretch of city streets on Chicago’s South Side that will soon be known as “The Stroll.” Motts has announced plans to transform his saloon on 27th Street into a “high-class theater.” To lend an air of legitimacy to his new venture, he’s even struck a deal with Ida B. Wells, who has agreed to host a high-society event at the theater. Fisher and fellow man of the cloth, Archibald Carey, are furious. They’re certain the theater is a guise for another of Motts’ dens of iniquity. The ministers have launched a crusade against the venture. It doesn’t help that Fisher’s church is located directly across the street from the site of Motts’ new theater.
It was in this venerable district, near the intersection of State and Twenty-Seventh streets, where Fisher and Robert T. Motts first clashed in 1905. At that time, the Olivet Baptist Church and the Motts Theatre had only recently ventured into the neighborhood, and their fate there was far from certain. (p. 99)
As the campaign against Motts continues, there will be fiery speeches, pointed insults, and one very memorable, impassioned oath. The allegiances of black Chicago will split. Within a decade, one of these men will mysteriously die—choking, it may seem, on his own words.

This conflict occurs midway through the book. In previous chapters, we’ve witnessed the rise of black American cinema. Hundreds of African Americans, starting in the 1890s, exhibited and produced motion pictures for black audiences. Although Fisher and Carey’s responses might seem to suggest otherwise, these black film pioneers were often ministers and church leaders. In fact, black churches were among the first places to show films for African American audiences.
Yet all of this changed with the rise of the colored theater. Suddenly ministers turned a suspicious eye on motion pictures, which they blamed for drawing away their congregants. Thus the skirmish between Fisher and Motts foreshadowed tensions that would eventually erupt across the nation. Black church leaders and colored theater proprietors went head-to-head over the motion pictures. But like all battles, the repercussions are not as simple as they seem. What appeared a loss at one moment might transform into a victory in another. As the chapter continues, we witness the rise some of the era’s most celebrated centers of black cultural life spring from the ashes of these struggles.
Learn more about Envisioning Freedom at the Harvard University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Barton A. Myers's "Rebels against the Confederacy"

Barton A. Myers is Assistant Professor of Civil War History at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. He is the author of Executing Daniel Bright: Race, Loyalty, and Guerrilla Violence in a Coastal Carolina Community, 1861–1865 as well as numerous articles and book reviews.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Rebels against the Confederacy: North Carolina's Unionists, and reported the following:
Based on groundbreaking new research on the American Civil War, Rebels Against the Confederacy asks readers to set aside their previous understanding of the American South from 1861 to 1865 in order to observe the Confederacy from the perspective of hundreds of Southern-born unionists, white and black, men and women, who fought the new Southern nation from within.

The Page 99 Test highlights a central theme of my book. Southern-born unionists were faced with a potentially deadly decision in 1861. These people woke up one morning and encountered a new Confederate world around them. Many of the same people they had known all of their lives were now enemies, who might kill them because of their own life-long adherence to the Union of American States. Page 99 is part of Chapter Three entitled “Resistance,” which closely follows the various methods of opposition that men and women used against the Confederacy. It specifically falls in the section on hostility to Confederate symbols and heroes. Unionists celebrated the death of Confederate leaders, rejected Confederate currency, rejoiced at Northern victories, and despaired over southern battlefield successes. In particular, Southern-unionists hated Confederate General Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson, the great military mind, who was accidentally shot by his own troops at Chancellorsville in May 1863. Unionist James Hawkes “rejoiced when he heard of the death of Stonewall Jackson.” Confederate Julia Gwyn of highland Caldwell County, North Carolina fretted in July 1863 that local Unionists had organized a military company to “march under an old dirty United States rag!” and celebrated “the death of Genl. [Stonewall] Jackson.”

The page also begins the section of the chapter examining “Aid and Comfort to Confederate Enemies” by recounting the story of six escaped U.S. prisoners of war incarcerated at the Florence, South Carolina stockade, who were subsequently supported in their daring escape by southern Unionists living along the border between North and South Carolina.

While the Page 99 Test captures the heart of one chapter of the work, the equally important questions of who southern-unionists were, how their resistance transformed into guerrilla conflicts across the Confederacy, and subsequently, what that violence means for the all-important question of why the Confederacy lost the war in 1865, are addressed in other areas of the book. Readers will find the life and death struggle of Southern Unionists an exciting new foray into enduring questions of Civil War America.
Learn more about Rebels against the Confederacy at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Kurt Lampe's "The Birth of Hedonism"

Kurt Lampe is a lecturer in the Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Bristol.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Birth of Hedonism: The Cyrenaic Philosophers and Pleasure as a Way of Life, and reported the following:
This book is about the Cyrenaics, an ultra-hedonistic school of ancient Greek philosophy that flourished in present-day Libya about 2400-2250 years ago. In it I’ve set myself two overlapping tasks. First, since the evidence is really difficult, I’m trying to establish some basic facts. Second, I’m trying to communicate to a non-specialist audience what it was really like to live and breathe this philosophy.

Page 99 is only typical of the first task, and only partly so. It comes in the middle of a chapter in which I’m responding to existing scholarly interpretations. These interpretations make the Cyrenaics out to hold obviously weak positions. For example, the Cyrenaics seem to care only about whatever they’re feeling at the present moment (like the pleasure of sex), excluding any interest in forward planning. My investigation in the previous chapter shows this just isn’t true. (I think Cyrenaic philosophy has serious flaws, but this isn’t one of them!)

But in most ways this chapter, which is only nine pages long, is far from typical. Generally I relegate controversies to the footnotes and appendices. Instead I focus on questions like the following: How can philosophers who are so devoted to enjoyment also be committed to “serious” studies, the development of theory, and the cultivation of wisdom and virtue? If we pull together all the pieces of evidence, can we form a picture of Cyrenaicism as a complex, rational, purposeful way of life? Beginning with classical philosophy’s most extreme commitment to bodily pleasure, Cyrenaics soon drifted into its only clear example of pessimism and one of few instances of atheism. What is the meaning of this trajectory from radical hedonism into pessimism and atheism?

Meaningful answers to these questions require not only analysis of concepts and arguments but also appreciation of cultural history. More recent literature and philosophy can also help us to imagine how these theories and practices fit together. In this book I’ve drawn on all of these resources in an effort to understand and evaluate these little-known lovers of luxury.
Learn more about The Birth of Hedonism at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Andrew Needham's "Power Lines"

Andrew Needham is associate professor of history at New York University, where he teaches classes on recent U.S. urban, environmental, and Native American history.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Power Lines: Phoenix and the Making of the Modern Southwest, and reported the following:
When you flip to page 99 of Power Lines, you find postwar businessmen dreaming Phoenix’s future. In the moment in time captured on the page, Paul Fannin, a local propane dealer but eventually Arizona’s governor and senator, envisioned the development of a place called “the Valley of the Sun,” a place where people living in booming subdivisions would be employed by “light industries.” At the time Fannin spoke, in 1947, he actually still lived in the “Salt River Valley,” a valley where fields of cotton and citrus trees surrounded Phoenix, a city of little more than 100,000 residents.

How could this change occur? Page 99 shows Fannin and the other members of the Chamber of Commerce’s Industrial Development Committee aiming to transform local politics. “Industry,” Fannin told the Arizona Republic, “must have the assurance it will receive a fair deal from the locality in which it locates.” In the years that followed, Fannin and other businessmen ensured that industry would receive these assurances by entering into politics, dominating Phoenix’s City Hall and Arizona’s state house, and helping initiate bedrock principles of conservative economic policy: cutting business taxes, attacking state regulation, and pursuing public policy generous to business but parsimonious toward the unfortunate.

“Light industry” required more than just public policy, however. As much of the rest of my book demonstrates, companies that moved to Phoenix like Honeywell, General Dynamics and Raytheon also required energy. So too did the millions of people who moved to the new subdivisions of the Valley of the Sun. Burgeoning demand for electricity from Phoenix’s new industries and subdivisions quickly overwhelmed local supplies. Soon, it also outstripped the generating capacity of Hoover and Glen Canyon Dams. By the late 1950s, Phoenix’s businessmen, along with sympathetic officials at the Department of the Interior in Washington, began eyeing coal supplies located on Indian land in northern Arizona. By the mid-1970s, five coal-burning power plants and two massive strip mines marked those lands, sending power to Phoenix, Albuquerque, Los Angeles, and other growing cities in the Southwest.

Paul Fannin’s quest to attract light industry that appears on page 99, then, is one element of a larger story of how Phoenix’s metropolitan development helped create underdevelopment and environmental destruction on Indian lands, as well as setting the stage for today’s coal-fired climate crisis.
Learn more about Power Lines at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Kara Cooney's "The Woman Who Would Be King"

Kara Cooney is an associate professor of Egyptian art and architecture at UCLA in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures. In 2005, she was co-curator of Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Cooney produced a comparative archaeology series with her husband, Neil Crawford, entitled Out of Egypt, which aired on the Discovery Channel and is streaming on Netflix.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut's Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt, and reported the following:
I got lucky; Page 99 is the beginning of a new chapter entitled THE CLIMB TOWARD KINGSHIP – a clean break in Hatshepsut’s story, an obvious step forward her narrative of power consolidation – except that Hatshepsut’s story is anything but tidy and clear. It’s a mess of humanity and nuance as I conjecture the modus operandi of a woman dead 3500 years.

The chapter opens with the obvious: This is a man’s world. It was in antiquity, and it largely is today. There were few female rulers of any kingdoms or regional states in the ancient world, but Egypt’s system of divine kingship allowed more women at the pinnacle of authority than anywhere else in the Mediterranean. But those women that did rule the land – like Merneith of the very first Egyptian dynasty – did so only as placeholders for the males around them. Merneith ruled on behalf of a son too young to rule; she was never named with a title of any official authority because her son was the rightful king (even if he was too young to do the job). Other Egyptian women stepped into power only when they were the last of their dynasty, when their father, brothers, and sons were all dead, the last gasp of a dying family lineage. Their reign was always short and died with them.

Hatshepsut must have known that she was fighting a rigged battle, that her own sex was working against her, that her womb and breasts with all their capability of producing new life were her greatest liabilities, that her biological inability to impregnate a harem of wives with potential kings would forever limit her to the confines of internal court spaces. But then her young husband died unexpectedly, and a baby king was consecrated, her nephew, unable to rule on his own for fifteen years if he lived past two. Hatshepsut was the most capable and best placed person for the job, man or woman; she worked to see her nephew educated and became the true mother of her family’s young dynasty. But then she decided to take a larger leap, to see her power formally recognized, to be called King, not just king’s wife. This was a formidable woman who could plug into a matrix of power with will and strategy, moving the pieces of a political game that controlled lesser mortals. Should we be surprised that all evidence of her reign as king was later erased with impunity, that few today can even pronounce her name? The game was rigged a long time ago…
Visit Kara Cooney's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 24, 2014

Ran Zwigenberg's "Hiroshima: The Origins of Global Memory Culture"

Ran Zwigenberg is Assistant Professor of Asian Studies and History at Pennsylvania State University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Hiroshima: The Origins of Global Memory Culture, and reported the following:
Hiroshima and the Rise of Global Memory is an examination of the history of atomic bomb commemoration in Hiroshima, and its global implications. The book compares and connects the experience of Hiroshima to the commemoration of the Holocaust in Israel and beyond. The manuscript was originally a comparative project but quickly evolved into a much bigger examination of the interactions and entanglements of the different histories of commemoration. One underlying theme in both commemoration cultures and many related sites was the importance of survivors and “victim narratives.” Although their voices and testimonies were almost completely absent in the immediate postwar, by the late fifties and early sixties the survivors of the Holocaust and Hiroshima emerged as powerful moral authorities. Page 99 is part of a section that explains that choice for Hiroshima.

Gensuikyō, the Japan Council against Atomic & Hydrogen Bombs, was at the heart of the Japanese anti-bomb movement. The section describes Gensuikyō’s rise and its (tortured) politics and ideological positions. Gensuikyō was a “big tent” movement that included diverse groups. It sought to represent a “sacred Japanese duty for peace” based on the unique national experience of victimization. Using survivor testimonies to galvanize crowds was a big part of Gensuikyō’s emphasis on victim narratives. This focus on victims amounted to nationalizing what was until then the localized and private pain of the survivors. On page 99, some of the details of this move are examined. Immediately preceding it is a section on the role of mothers’ organizations in Hiroshima.

From page 99:
Many men in the movement actively sought to include women in the movement. Their participation suited the agenda of those…who sought to align the anti-nuclear movement with their a-political, inclusive vision. The reference to mothers’ “pure” wish for peace was a potent tool in the arsenal of such men….Yasui wanted the petition effort to be a “purely national people’s movement.” As the title of his first pamphlet, “The Masses and Peace” (Minshū to Heiwa) indicates, belief in the redemptive power of the masses was fundamental for Yasui. He had a clear vision of the Japanese people united as a pacifist nation and cared much less for Japan’s past aggression or present political concerns. Yasui consciously sought to depoliticize the movement and to wrench the anti-nuclear cause from its association with left wing politics.
Gender politics and peculiar ethnocentrism (in the guise on nuclear universalism) played a crucial role in this effort to move the movement away from the left. This had crucial implications to the rise of survivors as “martyrs for peace” in Japan and the subsequent coming together of such practices with these of Holocaust commemoration, with its own peculiar brand of Jewish victim narratives and ethnocentrisms. These connections are examined in the following chapters, which take on specific cases of “entanglement” between Hiroshima and the Holocaust, as in the case of PTSD research, and the decades-long efforts of the little known Hiroshima-Auschwitz Committee to connect the two tragedies. In these cases, both solidarity and competition among victims drove historical developments, which, together, contributed to the rise of a global memory culture out of different local strands.
Learn more about Hiroshima: The Origins of Global Memory Culture at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ryan K. Smith's "Robert Morris's Folly"

Ryan K. Smith is associate professor of history, Virginia Commonwealth University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Robert Morris's Folly: The Architectural and Financial Failures of an American Founder, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Robert Morris’s Folly starts with a letter written by an American woman in London, who was requesting details on a fantastic house she had heard about under construction in Philadelphia. In 1794 – just before the project began going badly – she wrote,
“Mr. Morris is building a palace, do you think Monsieur l’Enfant would send me a drawing of it? Merely from curiosity, for one wishes to see the plan of a house which it is said, will cost, when finished £40,000 Sterling.” This figure translated to nearly $200,000, at a time when Philadelphia laborers earned perhaps $300 yearly and could rent a small brick dwelling for under $80 a year.
The page then follows through with the ramifications of this particular bit of gossip as it circulated. In the letter’s query, the house was tied directly to its patron, the wealthy “financier of the American Revolution,” Robert Morris, and his storied architect, Major Peter [Pierre] C. L’Enfant. Aside from the sheer enormity of the rumored cost of the house, it was a peculiar thing to call an American house a “palace” – a residence for a king or aristocrat, certainly not a citizen of the new American republic. As a line down the page states, this wealthy woman “seemed mildly entertained by the idea, but what of, say, members of the Philadelphia militia companies?” Or other laboring residents?

At the end of the page, the story shifts to related happenings that summer in London, including Morris’s friend John Jay’s arrival as part of treaty negotiations with Britain, and also a lover’s scandal there involving one of Morris’s sons. It all points up to Morris’s many follies – his oncoming public humiliations and entrance into debtor’s prison.

So I do think page 99 is representative. The book is an “architectural biography,” showing how politics, finance, and art intertwined in the life of a key figure in the early American nation. And I think the story has an uncanny resonance today.
Learn more about Robert Morris's Folly at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Amy Bentley's "Inventing Baby Food"

Amy Bentley is Associate Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. She is the author of Eating for Victory: Food Rationing and the Politics of Domesticity and the editor of A Cultural History of Food in the Modern Era.

Bentley applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Inventing Baby Food: Taste, Health, and the Industrialization of the American Diet, and reported the following:
The consumption of food is an extraordinarily social activity, laden with complex and shifting layers of meaning. Not only what we eat, but how and why we eat, tell us much about society, history, cultural change, and humans’ views of themselves. What, when, and how we choose to feed infants and toddlers—the notion of “baby food” as opposed to “adult food,” whether these foods are nourishing and satisfying, as well as their appearance, texture, aroma, and taste—reveal how mass production, consumption, and advertising have shaped our thinking about infancy and our corresponding parenting philosophies and practices.

My book, Inventing Baby Food: Taste, Health, and the Industrialization of the American Diet first establishes the relationship between solid food and the decline of breastfeeding; second, contends that mid-twentieth-century infant feeding practices helped shape the American industrial palate; and third, highlights the constant maternal anxieties over infant feeding even as advice and practices shift, throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first.

A key theme in the book is how being a mother and being a consumer are intertwined, and how shifting ideas about what is best for baby play out in different eras. In the 1950s, for example, being a “good mother” meant formula feeding one’s baby and starting her on solids between four and six weeks (vastly different from the advice and practice today). Yet by the 1970s, as a result of changing social mores, and scientific studies casting doubt on the healthfulness of commercial baby food, there emerged a consumer backlash against the big baby food companies. Page 99 of Inventing Baby Food discusses this backlash, and goes on to document Gerber’s attempt to quell the stream of unfavorable press about the quality of its products by holding a pro-baby food seminar at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City. The passage below illustrates the fierce debate between the commercial producers of baby food and its critics:
“I would ask you,” began the new Gerber CEO John Swerth, “as you listen today and in the weeks to come, to evaluate the food industry information on the basis of fact rather than temporary popular, emotional appeal.” Journalist Raymond Sokolov noted the context in which the seminar was being held: “The press in months past had lapped up reports of dangerous food additives, of injuriously high salt levels in baby food and the perils of MSG. Gerber was trying to strike back at the ecology activists with some expert testimony of its own, most of it given either by Gerber employees, food industry professionals or residents of Michigan.”
Learn more about Inventing Baby Food at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Martin J. S. Rudwick's "Earth’s Deep History"

Martin J. S. Rudwick is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of California San Diego, and an Affiliated Scholar in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge. He had a first career as a paleontologist before turning to the history of science, which he taught in Cambridge, Amsterdam, Princeton and San Diego. He has published several books on the history of the Earth sciences, among them Bursting the Limits of Time and its sequel Worlds Before Adam.

Rudwick applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Earth's Deep History: How It Was Discovered and Why It Matters, and reported the following:
Earth’s Deep History tells how our planet’s long and eventful pre-human history was first discovered. It’s written for people who may know little of either the scientific or the historical background, and it’s illustrated with lots of images reproduced from contemporary sources. It starts in the 17th century with the scholars who tried to piece together an accurate summary of human history, based on multicultural (including biblical) documentary evidence. James Ussher dated the original Big Bang at 4004 BCE, but he was expressing what seemed to them all to be common sense; they were not creationists in the modern mold. Also in the 17th century, naturalists complemented this kind of historical research, when they began to think of nature itself as having a history, which could be reconstructed by treating rocks and fossils, mountains and volcanoes, as nature’s own documents and archives.

Page 99 finds my story in the later 18th century, when several newer lines of evidence made it seem likely that the Earth’s timescale was far lengthier than earlier generations had imagined. But it was not until the 19th century, during the most creative period in the entire history of the Earth sciences, that this enlarged timescale was combined effectively with the idea of nature itself having a history. The Earth’s deep past then turned out to be not only unimaginably lengthy but also unexpectedly eventful; and there was an equally eventful history of life to match, with occasional mass extinctions and with the human species only appearing as it were at the last moment. And all this could be reconstructed reliably and in increasing detail, as the scope of geological exploration and debate expanded beyond Europe.

In the 20th century the newly discovered phenomena of radioactivity became the basis for a more precise timescale, which not only enlarged its magnitude still further but also showed, for example, that for most of the Earth’s history its life forms had all been microscopic in size. By the early 21st century the Earth’s deep history was being treated as just one among many diverse planetary histories, within the Solar System and probably beyond it, however unusual the particular history of our home planet seemed likely to have been.

One final point is worth emphasizing. Those who reconstructed the unexpectedly eventful deep history of the Earth and its life (at different times they called themselves “savants”, naturalists, scientists) have in each century included many who were devoutly religious people, as well as many who were not. In this book I dismiss the persistent myth – for such it is – of perennial conflict between “Science” and “Religion” on this issue. The modern creationists, who flatly deny the scientific reconstruction of the Earth’s deep history, are no more than a bizarre sideshow, and one largely confined to the US.

Page 99 [with bits from pages 98 and 100, to make it read coherently]:
The possibility of a hugely extended history of the Earth, almost all of it probably pre-human, was most convincing to those naturalists who had seen for themselves, in the field, the sheer scale of the piles of rock formations and the size of the great volcanoes. Their growing suspicion that vast spans of time must be involved generally remained both implicit and unquantified. This was not for fear of criticism from church authorities, but for the much stronger reasons that they had no reliable way to measure the time involved, and that they had no wish to be thought merely speculative. Yet their unpublished informal remarks (where any have survived in the historical record) show that by the later 18th century many of them were thinking – openly, routinely and almost casually – in terms of at least hundreds of thousands of years, or even millions, for the accumulation of the piles of strata and of the still more recent volcanoes. . . . Such an amount of time may seem pitifully inadequate to modern geologists, but it does show that their predecessors in the later 18th century had already taken the crucial imaginative step of thinking of the Earth’s own history in terms that vastly exceeded the traditional few millennia. At the time, imagining even hundreds of thousands of years had just as great an impact as imagining billions would have had. . . . Never in the subsequent history of this kind of science did those with the relevant field experience doubt that the Earth’s timescale must dwarf the totality of recorded human history; in contrast, the opinions of the general public, who lacked this first-hand knowledge, often remained quite different. . . . From now on, any savant who proposed or inferred a very long timescale, or just took an extremely ancient Earth for granted, was pushing at an open door (it is a modern misconception that this crucial change of perspective had to wait for the geology of the early 19th century, or even for Darwin’s evolutionary theory still later in that century).
Learn more about Earth's Deep History at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue