Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Meghan K. Roberts's "Sentimental Savants"

Meghan K. Roberts is assistant professor of history at Bowdoin College.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Sentimental Savants: Philosophical Families in Enlightenment France, and reported the following:
If you open Sentimental Savants to page 99, you land smack in the dispute between Charles-Marie de La Condamine and M. Gaullard. La Condamine had long supported the practice of smallpox inoculation, which entailed taking live smallpox matter — that is, the pus from someone else’s pox — and inserting it into an otherwise healthy body, leading to a mild case of smallpox and lifelong immunity from the disease. La Condamine advocated this practice, which he reasoned would save thousands of lives. His critics, represented on this page by M. Gaullard, felt decidedly less sanguine. Gaullard worried that inoculation constituted a risk with no reward: he did not believe inoculated individuals would be immune from the disease. Eager to prove his case, Gaullard challenged La Condamine to submit to a public inoculation. This was an audacious request. As I write,
If La Condamine had chosen to experiment on his body of his own accord, that decision would speak to his confidence in inoculation and would also orient him within the collective group of thinkers who drew on their embodied experience as scientific evidence. Gaullard’s suggestion, however, had the air of a gauntlet thrown. If La Condamine did not experiment on himself, he would look like a charlatan and a coward.
What does this exchange reveal about the book as a whole? Well, you certainly get a sense of how heated and personal debates could be. These weren’t abstract intellectual issues; lives and reputations were on the line. But page 99 is missing a key element of the book: families. Because my book is shorter than the average academic tome, by the time you get to my page 99, you’re just a few pages away from the end of the third chapter and you’re more than halfway through the book. To really get to the heart of the chapter, and the book, you’ll need to go to pages 85-97, when I discuss philosophes inoculating their own children — sometimes with their own hands — so that they could write about their experience and provide public proof that inoculation was a safe and sound choice for parents to make. These intimate experiments represented a dramatic new way of engaging with the public. I sum up this discussion on page 97:
That thinkers would use their families in this way, rather than staging public demonstrations with unrelated individuals, was a bold expansion of intellectual authority into the realm of the domestic. Savants turned the tools of natural inquiry onto the domestic sphere — their domestic sphere— for the first time. They argued that scientific reasoning could and should influence parents’ decisions (as it did theirs). They turned both themselves and their children into ‘living proof’ that validated their ideas.
And that, I would say, nicely encapsulates what the book is about. But hey, page 97 is a pretty close to page 99!
Learn more about Sentimental Savants at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 5, 2016

Andrew Harding's "The Mayor of Mogadishu"

Andrew Harding is a British journalist and author. He has been living and working abroad as a foreign correspondent for the past 25 years. Since 1994 he has been working for BBC News.

Harding has been visiting Somalia since 2000, and was in Mogadishu during the height of the battle against the Islamist militants of Al Shabab and during the famine of 2011. He is one of the very few foreign journalists to have traveled into territory controlled by Al Shabab and met their commanders, or to have visited (twice) the pirate town of Eyl.

Harding applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Mayor of Mogadishu: A Story of Chaos and Redemption in the Ruins of Somalia, and reported the following:
Perfect. Page 99 in the UK edition of The Mayor of Mogadishu is about a wonderful old black and white photograph [inset below; click to enlarge] showing seven young Somalis standing in a field somewhere in the countryside south of the capital city in 1974.

It’s one of those images that reveals itself slowly. The first time I saw it I simply registered the fact that the girl in the back row on the right was obviously Shamis, a key figure in the story I was trying to tell about the life of a Somali family caught up in their country’s spectacular unraveling.

But a few weeks later I looked again at the picture and noticed the girl sitting in front of Shamis. Like the key to a lock, the significance of the photograph was suddenly revealed.

The picture shows five schoolgirls (accompanied by two unidentified young men) on their first trip outside Mogadishu. They were part of a youth “army” dispatched by Somalia’s military dictator Siad Barre, to teach the country’s brand new script to nomads and villagers – a bold, ambitious attempt to drag the nation into the modern era.
.... kneeling in the front row is a girl who seems to have wandered in from another era altogether. Her black curly hair cascades – yes, that’s the right word – down past her right shoulder. She’s wearing a tunic over an elegant long-sleeved shirt and the most enormous, glamorous sunglasses that reflect the sun, the horizon, and a smudge that must be the photographer.

The girl with the curls is Samiya, and as she breaks into a half pout, half smile, the figures around her suddenly seem to catch a glint of that same city swagger. It’s as though everyone in the picture has just woken up, and my eye flits from languidly folded arms, to another fashionable pair of sunglasses, to a hint of flared trousers, to something in Shamis’s casual poise.

They’re “Beizani,” of course. The offspring of Mogadishu’s cosmopolitan elite might have been roughing it on their very first adventure, but they could still flaunt their Italian clothes and urban sophistication.
The photo captures what I hope is the spirit of my book – an attempt to look beyond the clich├ęs about Somalia, and its wretched recent past, to explore the sort of country it once was, and still hopes to be. A while later, I Tweeted the photo with the caption “Meet the Kardashians.... of Somalia. Mogadishu’s bright young things back in 1974.”
Visit Andrew Harding's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Mayor of Mogadishu.

Writers Read: Andrew Harding.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Coll Thrush's "Indigenous London"

Coll Thrush is associate professor of history at the University of British Columbia, where he is also affiliated with UBC’s Institute for Critical Indigenous Studies. Originally from the Seattle area, he lives in Vancouver on unceded Coast Salish territories.

Thrush applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Indigenous London: Native Travelers at the Heart of Empire, and reported the following:
I like to think that every book has a soul. Mine has six, and one of them just happens to start on page 99. That page opens an account of an eleven-year-old boy from the Odawa nation of the Great Lakes who was taken to London as a war captive in 1761. There, his captor General George Townshend held the boy in his Craven Street home and used him as entertainment at evening affairs that included guests such as the famed poet Thomas Gray. Indeed, an account of one such soiree by Gray is the only archival evidence that the unnamed boy ever existed. What makes his story one of the souls of Indigenous London is its form: a free-verse poem built out of archival fragments.

Like the rest of the book, the poem aims to tell a story about Indigenous people who travelled to London, willingly or otherwise, from territories that became Canada, the US, New Zealand, and Australia. Showing how the city has been bound up in Indigenous history from its very earliest efforts at colonialism, Indigenous London focuses on six “domains of entanglement”: knowledge, disorder, reason, ritual, discipline, and memory. In between the chapters sit six interludes, each focused on a different object: an obsidian mirror, a debtor’s petition, a lost museum, a hat factory, a notebook. In the Odawa boy’s case, the object is a pair of atlantes (human figures) holding up a memorial to Townshend’s brother Roger, both of which were modeled on the boy’s body. It is one of many instances in which London is marked by Indigenous presence and the workings of settler colonialism.

To be sure, though, Indigenous London is not solely the story of captives. It is also the story of Mohawk diplomats, Hawaiian royalty, Inuit medicine people, Aboriginal Australian cricketers, Mohegan missionaries, Maori sailors, and many others who came to the city for their own reasons and with surprisingly varied results. Unlike so many other narratives of the vanishing Indigenous, these are stories of survivance - even when the travellers never made it home, many are still remembered in descendant communities today. But for all its emphasis on Indigenous agency, Indigenous London also speaks to the trauma of empire. Written in a way that attempts to circumvent the detached prose of the academic, “Atlantes, 1761” suggests one answer to the question that closes the book: When did we become real human beings?
Learn more about Indigenous London at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 3, 2016

David Welky's "A Wretched and Precarious Situation"

David Welky is the author of The Thousand-Year Flood: The Ohio-Mississippi Disaster of 1937, The Moguls and the Dictators: Hollywood and the Coming of World War II, and other books. He is a professor of history at the University of Central Arkansas.

Welky applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, A Wretched and Precarious Situation: In Search of the Last Arctic Frontier, and reported the following:
The early twentieth-century Crocker Land expedition is an oddity. Incredibly famous at the time, it has since been forgotten by all but a few specialists in Arctic history or in the history of exploration. That’s a shame, because it’s a great, twisty story with an incredible cast of characters.

The expedition revolved around the search for Crocker Land, a previously unknown continent that explorer Robert E. Peary spotted in the polar sea in 1906. Two of his disciples, George Borup and Donald MacMillan, organized a mission to determine the extent of Crocker Land. Becoming the first men to tread on a new continent – the last continent – would no doubt bring them eternal fame and glory. “It would be a fine thing for America if the discovery of Crocker Land could be placed to our credit as a nation,” Theodore Roosevelt said.

As is usually the case with such stories, nothing about the Crocker Land expedition worked out exactly as anticipated. A bid to solve “the last great geographical problem” devolved into a nightmare of shipwrecks, backstabbing, treachery, and even murder. These setbacks, along with the party’s long fight to survive in one of the world’s harshest environments, help drive A Wretched and Precarious Situation.

As luck would have it, page 99 of A Wretched and Precarious Situation catches the narrative at a pivotal moment. It is 9:00 a.m. on November 11, 1912. The party has not yet gone north. Donald MacMillan enters New York City’s American Museum of Natural History, which is sponsoring the expedition, to meet two new members of the team. Museum curator E. O. Hovey introduces geologist Elmer Ekblaw and Navy ensign Fitzhugh Green to both MacMillan and the reader.

There’s a lot happening on this page, and careful readers should sense some foreshadowing. Hovey has made an impulsive, imperious move by hiring two men with no Arctic experience without first consulting MacMillan, the supposed leader of the expedition. MacMillan himself struggles to appraise these new teammates, performing a poor imitation of his mentor Peary, who had a gift for capturing a person’s essence with a single glance. Ekblaw is stolid yet uninspiring. He hardly resembles the classic explorer-hero, indicating that he might face difficulties once the party heads north. Green, on the other hand, is handsome and witty, intelligent and inquisitive. Surely nothing could go wrong with this fine specimen, MacMillan concludes.

Sometimes first impressions can be misleading. As it turns out, none of these men are exactly as they seem, and all of them are in for some rough times. To find out more, read page 100 and beyond!
The Page 99 Test: The Thousand-Year Flood.

My Book, The Movie: A Wretched and Precarious Situation.

Writers Read: David Welky.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 2, 2016

Charles Wohlforth and Amanda R. Hendrix's "Beyond Earth"

Charles Wohlforth is a life-long Alaska resident and prize-winning author of more than ten books. He has won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Sci­ence and Technology, among many other awards. Amanda R. Hendrix is a planetary scientist, worked for twelve years at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She has been a scientific investigator on the Galileo and Lunar Reconnaissance missions, a principal investigator on NASA research and Hubble Space Telescope observing programs, and is the author of many scientific papers. As an investigator on the Cas­sini mission to Saturn, she has focused her research on the moons of Saturn.

Wohlforth applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Beyond Earth: Our Path to a New Home in the Planets, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Intelligence also evolved in numerous lineages on Earth, in animals as unrelated as the elephant, crow, and octopus, creatures with environments and needs that may be as different as those found on different planets. Intelligence would probably arise wherever life has a chance to bloom. As Vermeij said in an e-mail, “Intelligence, like many other traits, is a ‘basin of attraction,’ something so useful under so many circumstances that it is virtually certain to evolve, eventually.”

Musk has thought about all this and repeats Fermi’s disturbing question about it: Why haven’t we heard from anyone? If inhabited planets are all around us in the galaxy, then where are the spacefaring travelers, or even just the radio broadcasts, from all those planets? A habitable planet is probably less than nine light years away, where they would just be discovering Taylor Swift on radio waves from Earth about now.
The exercise of thinking about moving to another planet opens a vast intellectual territory for exploration. As I found with my co-author, planetary scientist Amanda Hendrix, the topic leads beyond space science and technology to politics, culture, evolution, ecology and even big questions about the fundamental nature of humanity.

In Beyond Earth, we created a thought experiment for readers, presenting our scenario for how a space colony could come to pass. Anyone can evaluate the scenario with the evidence we present to agree or disagree with the outcome we reach.

That’s the fun part. But the topic can also be spooky, as this page 99 passage suggests.

Geerat Vermeij of the University of California Davis, studied the machinery of evolution through organisms of the distant past (an amazing feat considering he has been blind since childhood). His conclusion about the likely ubiquity of intelligence suggests species as smart as ourselves should be present on a good number of the millions of habitable planets that we now know are orbiting other stars.

Tech billionaire Elon Musk is famously seeking to put a colony on Mars. Part of his drive comes from an observation Enrico Fermi made decades ago, that if intelligence is everywhere, then it is odd that we haven’t yet heard from anyone living out there. Musk suspects that the reason no aliens have called or visited is because they perished long ago. Perhaps, the reasoning goes, evolution inevitably leads civilizations to destroy themselves before they can move beyond their home planets. Musk hopes to give our species an escape hatch.

But Amanda and I came to another conclusion. To us, it seems equally likely that intelligent life forms elsewhere in the universe are too different from us to communicate. They may not want to be in touch. In fact, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, an organization that has been scanning the skies for decades, still isn’t powerful enough to detect radio waves from a world just like ours.

One of the key lessons of our research informing Beyond Earth is the necessity for humility. We don’t know as much as we think we do. But that also means we have a lot of interesting discoveries ahead of us.
Visit Charles Wohlforth's website and Facebook page, and learn more about Amanda R. Hendrix.

The Page 99 Test: The Fate of Nature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Philippe Girard's "Toussaint Louverture: A Revolutionary Life"

Philippe Girard is a professor of history at McNeese State in Louisiana and the author of four books on Haitian history. A native of the Caribbean, he studied in France and the United States. In 2014, he was a research fellow at the DuBois Institute at Harvard University.

Girard applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Toussaint Louverture: A Revolutionary Life, and reported the following:
Toussaint Louverture: A Revolutionary Life retraces the life of the leader of the Haitian Revolution, the only successful slave revolt in world history. He was possibly the most significant person of African descent ever, yet there has been no modern scholarly biography of him in English until now. The reason is simple: he was an incredibly complicated figure who obscured his innermost thoughts.

When opening the book at page 99, I was taken aback at first: this happens to be one of a handful of pages in the book that doesn’t mention Toussaint Louverture by name! The chapter covers the early months of the French Revolution in 1789, when some white planters toyed with the idea of declaring Haiti’s independence from France. Louverture was still unknown at the time: he had obtained his freedom but he remained on the plantation of his former master, where he worked as a muleteer and a coachman. None of the leading white colonists of Haiti mentioned him in the debates raging in 1789, and so he is barely mentioned in the chapter.

On second thought, however, page 99 does say a lot about Toussaint Louverture, a man who often hid his agenda and preferred to act behind the scenes. Though he did not take part in the political disputes described in the chapter, he must have followed them closely since he lived a couple miles outside Haiti’s main city and often traveled there for work. Louverture was doing what the reader does: he was following the course of events while wondering how long it would take for Haiti’s slaves to revolt. He was in the shadows, taking note of the growing political instability and educating himself on the ideals of the French Revolution, while plotting his next move. This was a key moment in his life, when he had to decide whether to put behind his past as an obedient plantation worker and start a new life as a revolutionary leader.

We learn of his decision ten pages later, when Louverture reappears in the narrative as the mastermind of the great Haitian slave revolt of August 1791. This carefully organized revolt eventually involved 500,000 slaves, one thousand times more than the largest slave revolt in US history. On page 99, Toussaint Louverture was on the cusp of altering the course of history.
Learn more about Toussaint Louverture at the Basic Books website.

My Book, The Movie: Toussaint Louverture.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

J. Michelle Coghlan's "Sensational Internationalism"

J. Michelle Coghlan is Lecturer in American literature and culture at the University of Manchester, UK. Her work has appeared in Arizona Quarterly, the Henry James Review, and Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities.

Coghlan applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Sensational Internationalism: The Paris Commune and the Remapping of American Memory in the Long Nineteenth Century, and reported the following:
Sensational Internationalism tells the story of the Paris Commune’s spectacular afterlife in American literary, visual, and performance culture following the suppression of the seventy-three day uprising in May 1871 and well into the 1930s (and beyond). In refocusing attention on the Commune as a key event in American cultural and political life, the book profoundly shifts our understanding of the relationship between France and the United States in the long nineteenth century as well as the role that a variety of nineteenth and early twentieth century media forms—from touring panorama and big-budget pyrotechnic shows to illustrated weeklies, children’s adventure fiction, and agit-prop pamphlets—played in sustaining the Commune as specter and spectacle in U.S. culture. But it also charts how the Commune provided a vital, if now largely forgotten, site for extra-national feeling and international solidarity that continued to resonate with a variety of American radicals for over five decades.

Page 99 finds us in the third chapter of the book, “Radical Calendars,” which explores the expansive annual role that the Commune occupied in late-nineteenth century U.S. radical print and performance culture, in particular the essays and speeches of three of the most prolific if still under-studied American women radicals of the period: Emma Goldman, Lucy Parsons, and Voltairine de Cleyre. Reading this spectacular annual cycle of commemoration—complete with oratory, tableaux vivants, music and dancing—as at once counter spectacles and radical acts of counter-cultural memory, I show how U.S. radicals reclaimed the crushed Parisian uprising as a living blueprint for revolutionary agitation and a key locus of international feeling rather than as a failed radical past.

From page 99:
The internationalist bent of this [Commune] festival is not surprising. As we’ve seen, cross-national anniversaries were being held across the country since the early 1870s and well beyond the turn of the century, and coverage of later Chicago festivals—for example, reports on the 1891 celebration that ran in the Atchison Champion and Raleigh (North Carolina) News and Observer—similarly observed, “The Paris Commune anniversary was celebrated by half a dozen nationalities in Chicago.” Its inclusion in the volume, however, signals an extra-national affiliation and culture of memory that highlights long before Haymarket and its aftermath how the history of American labor is a story at once within and beyond national borders.
This page encapsulates the argument I make in the chapter, but it also gets at the way that I tell that story. For in order to show how vital the Commune was to U.S. radical calendars and make this vibrant memory and movement culture more audible to American literary studies, I turned not just to the print archive left by radical organizers and publishers but also to the mainstream metropolitan newspapers which anxiously—and with no veiled hostility—telegraphed accounts of these speeches and gatherings across the country and far beyond the reach of radical print networks alone. In so doing, the book reveals both the remarkable aftershocks of the Commune and reverberations of leftwing culture in this period.
Learn more about Sensational Internationalism at the publisher's website.

My Book, The Movie: Sensational Internationalism.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Robert L. Kelly's "The Fifth Beginning"

Robert L. Kelly is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wyoming. He is a past president of the Society for American Archaeology, current editor of American Antiquity, author of The Lifeways of Hunter-Gatherers, and coauthor of two popular textbooks, Archaeology and Archaeology: Down to Earth. He has conducted archaeological research throughout the western United States for more than forty years.

Kelly applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Fifth Beginning: What Six Million Years of Human History Can Tell Us about Our Future, and reported the following:
Page 99 is the last page of The Fifth Beginning’s penultimate chapter, so that tells you something about the book: it’s short. I figured someone might actually read a short book, and having your book read is the point, right?

Page 99 also marks the end of the book’s discussion of four major transitions--I call them beginnings--in humanity’s six-million-year history. And that with “hindsight we can see that dramatic changes in the material record of humanity’s odyssey on earth—stone tools, art and burials, villages, domesticated crops, elaborate tombs, palisades, temples, palaces, and so on—point to equally dramatic changes in how people related to one another.” I then ask: “Is that it? Are we at the end of history?” and propose that the answer lies in whether “another major shift [is] visible from an archaeological perspective.”

The final chapter argues that the material record of the Anthropocene suggests we are indeed in a fifth beginning, a time when, once again, the character of human life will change significantly and irreversibly. This change will be comparable to the origin of technology, culture, agriculture and the state.

All these beginnings are emergent phenomena, the result of evolutionary processes aimed at achieving one lifeway that eventually turn humanity into something completely different. Using an understanding of the first four beginnings as practice, in the final chapter I look at how three processes, the escalating cost of war, the global reach of capitalism, and a global communication network seem likely to result in the replacement of war, capitalism, and the nation-state with new methods of conflict resolution, a new form of economy, and global self-governance. It’s the end of life as we know it. Despite recent events, I take a hopeful view on humanity’s future, focusing not on chaos but on humanity’s great potential.
.Learn more about The Fifth Beginning at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 28, 2016

Stephen L. Moore's "As Good As Dead"

Stephen L. Moore is the author of eighteen books on World War II and Texas history. A sixth generation Texan, he is a graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University.

Moore applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, As Good As Dead: The Daring Escape of American POWs From a Japanese Death Camp,and reported the following:
As Good As Dead is the tale of eleven American POWs who escaped a Japanese camp in the Philippines after their captors elected to annihilate every last prisoner. The manner in which these men survived a brutal gauntlet and persevered through the subsequent manhunt of the Palawan Massacre is almost unbelievable. The fact that eleven survived to tell their stories led directly to assaults on other Japanese camps that freed more than 3,600 Allied POWs.

By page 99 of the book, my readers have experienced a wide variety of horrible treatment administered to the American POWs. Despite the previous starvation, beatings, and cruel torture, page 99 hints that what the American POWs have endured in their first year and a half under the Imperial Japanese Army is about to take a turn for the worse. Palawan’s dreaded military police unit, the Kempei Tai, has just received a new senior officer, Master Sergeant Taichi Deguchi. His arrival foreshadows for the reader that the fate of our heroes will not be kind.

From page 99:
Deguichi became second in command of the Palawan unit, but he was soon number one on the American prisoners’ most-hated list.

Powerfully built and possessing a chilling stare, Deguichi became feared for his irrational and unprovoked outburts, in which he beat prisoners simply for fun. Deguichi was serving as the acting commander of the Kempei Tai when two more Americans tried to escape from Palawan. His handling of the affair was the most horrific war crime that the POWs had yet experienced.
Deguichi’s Kempei Tai recovers the two American escapees, proceeds to torture them for days before the entire camp, and then executes them. Other men had previously broken out of Palawan’s Camp 10-A, but the new policy of the Kempei Tai would put a damper on future efforts.

By December 14, 1944, only 150 American POWS remained on Palawan Island. On that date, their Japanese commanders opted to dispose of every living man, hoping to wipe their existence clean as Allied troops advance through the Philippines under General Douglas MacArthur. Eleven men who simply refuse to give in to their fate will survive an atrocity in what is one of the least known great escape stories of World War II.
Visit Stephen L. Moore's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Battle for Hell’s Island.

Writers Read: Stephen L. Moore.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Hermione Giffard's "Making Jet Engines in World War II"

Hermione Giffard has been a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of History and Art History at Utrecht University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Making Jet Engines in World War II: Britain, Germany, and the United States, and reported the following:
Page 99 is part of my case study of the work done by de Havillands on the Goblin jet engine. Rather than focusing on the titular inventor, it, like the book, emphasizes the other people who worked on early jet engines and the way in which knowledge and resources transferred from a pre-existing technology (piston aircraft engines) to the new engines.

Throughout, the book connects deep technical design decisions and ideas to the previous knowledge of the designer (how the old was the scaffold for the new), in this case Frank Halford, and to institutional concerns (Halford’s company changed from a consulting bureau to a part of an aero-engine company during the war). Here we see in detail how the temperaments and experience of different individuals corresponded to different engineering decisions. Far from understanding invention as the act of an independent individual, we see that invention is influenced by the organizations where it occurs.

This page illustrates well how developing a jet engine fit in with the institutional goals of the existing aero-engine industry. Although rarely mentioned, all of the early jet engines that were used by military air forces (the first in 1944 in Britain and Germany) were produced by existing aero-engine companies, each of which had existing wells of expertise and resources.

Making Jet Engines in World War II uses the case of making jet engines to offer a different way of understanding technological innovation, one that reveals the complicated mix of factors that go into any decision to pursue an innovative, and therefore risky technology. The book shows how the approaches of different nations to the jet engine differed because of each country’s war aims and industrial expertise. Germany, which produced more jet engines than any other nation, did so largely as replacements for more expensive piston engines. Britain, on the other hand, produced relatively few engines—but, by shifting emphasis to design rather than production, found itself at war's end holding an unrivaled range of designs. The US emphasis on development, meanwhile, built an institutional basis for postwar production.

Technology is shaped by many things; it is up to us to recover them if we want to understand the decisions that still shape our world today.
Learn more about Making Jet Engines in World War II at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue