Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Mark S. Ferrara's "American Community"

Mark S. Ferrara is associate professor of English at the State University of New York and author of several books, including Palace of Ashes (2015), Sacred Bliss (2016), and New Seeds of Profit (2019). He lives with his wife in an intentional community dedicated to sustainable living and experiential learning in upstate New York.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, American Community: Radical Experiments in Intentional Living, and reported the following:
From page 99:
The Ruskin colony survived [Julius] Wayland’s departure in 1895. Stockholders turned over the editorship of the newspaper to a former associate of Wayland’s, and circulation held steady for a time. The tumultuous succession of subsequent editors that followed brought to the surface long-simmering tensions among Ruskinites that were reflected in the quality and appearance of the Coming Nation. Subscriptions fell precipitously. In the absence of surviving business records, it is difficult to determine the financial soundness of the colony, but the quality of life at Ruskin certainly fell short of depictions in Bellamy’s Looking Backward. Essentially an undercapitalized town with one major industry (the newspaper), Ruskin colonists mistakenly bought more land than they needed, and some of it fell fallow. They squandered limited capital on mortgaged land that failed to produce income. Houses were also shoddy or left unfinished.

As their fiscal situation worsened, tempers grew short. Ruskinites argued over the status of women, political and economic stewardship, and the latitude for ideological dissent. Attrition took its toll, and the quality of life in the community diminished further. Squabbles between chartered and unchartered members erupted, and litigation began among the colonists that ended finally in dissolution of the community. A court-approved sale on June 22, 1899, liquidated Ruskin Commonwealth Association property, but assets valued at $94,000 brought only about $17,000 at auction. Mortgage settlements reduced that figure to just under $10,600—and court costs, creditor obligations, and attorney fees claimed another $5,200. In the end, 138 stockholding colonists divided approximately $5,400 (meaning they received about $39 of their $500 investment). Most resumed their former lives in the Midwest and West, but a few Ruskinites lingered in the area, and they formulated plans to join a floundering cooperative known as the Duke Colony near Waycross, Georgia.

Founded by the American Settlers Association of Dayton on the site of a former lumber mill and turpentine mill, the property included seventy buildings on 768 acres, only a small portion of which was under cultivation. With both groups facing few viable alternatives for survival, the Ruskinites assumed Duke debts, and Duke colonists dissolved their association to become members of a Ruskin Commonwealth dedicated to principles almost indistinguishable from those of Wayland’s Tennessee colony. Within a few months of the court-approved auction of Ruskin property in Tennessee, 240 Ruskinites and their belongings, packed into four passenger coaches and nine freight cars, and headed for Georgia. Based on their own scout reports, they anticipated finding an ideal settlement, but the new location lacked most of the attractions that made life in Tennessee enjoyable. It was flat as a floor, there was no running water, and wild pigs and alligators periodically wandered through the dusty streets. Lizzy McCoy summed up the general consensus regarding the Georgia settlement describing it as “a HELL of a place.” Making matters worse, sales of the Coming Nation, the only real hope for financially supporting the new cooperative, further slumped.
Page 99 of American Community captures the decline of one out of forty lesser-known intentional communities surveyed therein that shared resources to ensure the wellbeing of all their members. This excerpt nonetheless provides an example of the importance of leadership in the intentional community movement and highlights the readability of this work. Wayland, who had made a modest fortune in the printing industry, founded a short-lived cooperative association in Tennessee named after the enormously influential English art critic and social theorist John Ruskin. Wayland established a bi-weekly periodical called the Coming Age, an eclectic publication that gained 60,000 subscribers during the summer of 1894, and he endeavored to convince readers that socialism was a venerable American tradition, one that stood in stark contrast to the competitive and individualistic values of capitalism.

What the Page 99 Test omits is the broad historical sweep of this work, and the way that many of these social experimentations anticipated paradigm shifts in social consciousness (including emancipation, gender equality under the law, the establishment of social welfare programs for the indigent, and the protection of the environment). Intentional communities provided models for alternate forms of social organization that do not foster injustice and exploitation as a consequence of an economic system based on capital accumulation. Most of the communities in this book rejected capitalism as a vehicle for the transformation of consciousness because it produces inequality, subverts democracy, remains prone to crisis, and is fundamentally at odds with the planet’s ecology. Acute dissatisfaction with the status quo and a refusal to accept the world as they found it unites American communitarians across the centuries. The people who founded intentional communities—like those who joined them—believed that their manner of communal association offered tangible advantages over the existing order, and they tended to demand from life “more fellowship, more pleasure, more learning, more time, more dignity, and more equality.”
Learn more about American Community at the Rutgers University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Anna Curtis's "Dangerous Masculinity"

Anna Curtis is an associate professor of sociology at The State University of New York at Cortland.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Dangerous Masculinity: Fatherhood, Race, and Security Inside America's Prisons, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Dangerous Masculinity is the first page of the conclusion. I spend one of the two paragraphs on this page discussing my final conversation with one of my earliest interviewees, Aeneas. There’s a fairly long quote from him expressing why he thinks it is so difficult to “feel human” in prison. The second paragraph, which bleeds over onto the next page, begins to summarize one of the key arguments of the text: that prison severely limits options to enact masculinity and that correctional officers, prisoners, and the Department of Corrections administration all negotiate what constitutes the uniform and ubiquitous “dangerous masculinity” of the prisoner. Because the paragraph is incomplete, a reader would not get to the second part of the argument; namely, that the singular version of manhood created and reinforced in prison legitimates denying male prisoners’ access to their families.

The Page 99 test is a bit of a mixed bag for Dangerous Masculinity. I do begin to discuss one of the central arguments of the book, but don’t quite manage to finish it. Most of the text of page 99 focuses on a single prisoner and absent the context of the rest of the book, the long quote tells a reader very little.

And yet, page 99 is the start of a set of pages that outline the book fairly clearly. If a reader could read all the way to page 103, they would have a very clear picture of what the book was about. On page 100, I briefly discuss how masculinity influences (and is incorporated into) the shape of dangerous masculinity. I also discuss the ways that the category of “prisoner” is racialized even for white prisoners. Pages 101-103 provide a paragraph summary of each of the chapters.

Additionally, page 99 provides the reader with a pretty clear example of my writing style and the data set. I spent a lot of time infusing the text with the language patterns I use when I teach (minus the curse words) because I wanted this book to be accessible to undergraduates. I conducted an ethnography and one strength of this method is that a researcher can provide extended quotes and discussions of individual people’s experiences in a larger context in order to examine patterns and analyze social practices and norms. Page 99 of my book highlights these strengths.
Learn more about Dangerous Masculinity at the Rutgers University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 14, 2019

Lincoln A. Mitchell's "San Francisco Year Zero"

Lincoln Mitchell is a political analyst, pundit and writer based in New York City and San Francisco.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, San Francisco Year Zero: Political Upheaval, Punk Rock and a Third-Place Baseball Team, and reported the following:
Page 99 of San Francisco Year Zero is the second half of a description of June 25th, 1978, a day when 1978 looked like it was going to be a pretty good year in San Francisco. The page begins with the words “a very different neighborhood” because the previous page describes a doubleheader that the first place San Francisco Giants split with the Atlanta Braves. Page 99 is not about baseball; it is a description of the Gay Freedom Day Parade that was held in San Francisco that day.

The page describes how “(d)rag queens, muscle-bound gay men and women in all manner of costumes, scantily clad men and women enjoying the warm day, and people on motorcycles and roller skates were all part of the festivities.” On this page, I also write about how the upbeat atmosphere was marred by the specter of rising homophobia that would be reflected in Proposition Six, an anti-gay initiative that appeared on the November ballot in California. Defeating Proposition Six was the last big, and successful, political fight of Harvey Milk’s life.

Somebody who just read page 99 of my new book would get a bit of a sense of my book because they would get some insight into what some of San Francisco, in this case LGBT (a phrase that was not used back then) San Francisco was like, and they would also get a sense of some of the political turmoil in the city then. These two themes are central to the book. However, this one page does not capture the full vibe of the book, because there is nothing on page 99 about punk rock or baseball, two subjects that are central to the story I tell about San Francisco.

San Francisco Year Zero is about San Francisco in 1978, a year that was not only tumultuous, exciting and tragic, but that also created the political foundations for the San Francisco of today. Through writing about the nascent punk rock movement and the Giants successful season, I place those political events, including legislative battles, assassinations and the mass murder in Jonestown in the larger cultural and historical context of San Francisco, thus providing the reader an understanding of San Francisco in 1978 and of why the events that year were so central to the making of today’s San Francisco.
Visit Lincoln Mitchell's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Serhii Plokhy's "Forgotten Bastards of the Eastern Front"

Serhii Plokhy (Plokhii) is Mykhailo Hrushevsky Professor of History and director of the Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University, where he also serves on the Executive Committee of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies. He is the author of over a dozen books on the history of Eastern Europe and the Cold War, including Yalta and Chernobyl, which was awarded the 2018 Baillie Gifford Prize (formerly the Samuel Johnson Prize).

Plokhy applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Forgotten Bastards of the Eastern Front: American Airmen behind the Soviet Lines and the Collapse of the Grand Alliance, and reported the following:
On page 99 I discuss by far the most dramatic episode in the entire book, the Luftwaffe attack on the American B-17 Flying Fortresses parked at the Soviet airbase at Poltava on the night of June 22, 1944. The loss in the airplanes was enormous, making the US Air Force commanders to talk about the worst day since Pearl Harbor—never since then the US Air Force had lost so many planes on the ground. But most of those killed were not the Americans but the Soviets. Among them was a famed Pravda reporter Petr Lidov. Below is a scene in which another Soviet reporter Aleksei Spassky recognizes the dead body of his friend.
Spassky took a closer look at the corpses. He soon recognized Lidov’s body—the face of the famous reporter was covered with his military jacket, which lacked shoulder boards—they had been ripped off by the Red Army soldiers who discovered the body. Someone had also removed Lidov’s leather boots, which one of the soldiers evidently considered a trophy. Currency found on the corpses was taken and not passed on to officials—Spassky saw bundles of new five-dollar bills disappearing into the pockets of the female soldiers who searched the bodies. He was in no position to protest, as he himself fell under suspicion of being a German spy and was taken to the air base headquarters. There Spassky was turned over to a counterintelligence officer who had written a report on what had happened to Lidov.
Learn more about Forgotten Bastards of the Eastern Front at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Carlton F.W. Larson's "The Trials of Allegiance"

Carlton F.W. Larson is Professor of Law at the University of California, Davis School of Law.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Trials of Allegiance: Treason, Juries, and the American Revolution, and reported the following:
The Trials of Allegiance tells the story of the law of treason during the American Revolution, focusing primarily on the state of Pennsylvania as a case study. The opening chapters of the book explain the law of treason in colonial Pennsylvania, the disputes over treason that animated both American resistance activities and the British response to them, the trials of disloyal individuals before committees of safety in the year prior to independence, and the eventual adoption of a state treason statute.

Page 99 of my book takes place in early 1778, at a time when the capital city of Philadelphia had been captured by the British, and the state government had fled into exile. Large numbers of Pennsylvanians had aided the British during this invasion, and the unicameral state Assembly was determined to do something about them. It enacted an attainder statute, stating that these people would have a certain period of time in which to return for trial for treason; if they did not, they would be simply be deemed attainted of treason and their estates would be forfeited to the state.

From page 99:
In a highly significant provision, the act also authorized the Supreme Executive Council to issue additional proclamations of attainder for Pennsylvanians who joined the British army ‘within this state or elsewhere.’ This authority did not extend to cases of other forms of assistance to the British, even though such assistance would constitute treason under Pennsylvania law. Nonetheless, the authority was striking in its implications. Under English practice, bills of attainder required an act of Parliament; they could not be issued unilaterally by the king. By contrast, Pennsylvania was delegating this authority to its executive branch. The Council took full advantage of this new power. Between May 8, 1778 and June 15, 1778, it issued three separate proclamations, totaling 332 people. By the time the last proclamation was issued on April 27, 1781, nearly 500 people had been named. Their numbers represented a broad cross section of Pennsylvania society, and included lawyers, bakers, farmers, laborers, hatters, millers, innkeepers, gentlemen, surgeons, peruke makers, dancing masters, Indian traders, and mariners, among others.
I think this is a fairly representative excerpt. It shows how the Pennsylvania government addressed the issue of potential treason during a particularly difficult time, and examines that legislation against the backdrop of English precedents.

In other ways, though, the excerpt is somewhat unrepresentative as it deals primarily with persons named in the proclamations of attainder. For the most part, these people had their property seized, but they did not appear before juries for trial. The property seizures are an important part of the story of treason during the American Revolution, but they are not a primary focus of my book. I am much more interested in trials, with how juries responded to treason defendants, and to how different institutions dealt with the problem of disloyalty. The remainder of the book takes us directly into the nitty-gritty world of criminal trials, through the Revolution and onward to the trials in the 1790s arising from the Whiskey Rebellion and Fries’s Rebellion.
Learn more about The Trials of Allegiance at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Ethan Pollock's "Without the Banya We Would Perish"

Ethan Pollock is Associate Professor of History and Slavic Studies at Brown University. He is the author of Stalin and the Soviet Science Wars.

Pollock applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Without the Banya We Would Perish: A History of the Russian Bathhouse, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Everywhere experts turned, banyas [Russian bathhouses] were failing to serve the functions now envisioned for them. Increased contact with the peasantry contributed to doctors’ skepticism about rural banyas. The “ignorant peasants” simply could not be trusted to forego dangerous practices and learn to integrate modern medical know-how into their ablutions. Urban banyas were often no better, but for different reasons. Profit-seeking owners, poorly paid and syphilitic workers, decrepit and filthy buildings, and a dangerous mix of various social strata, each seemingly drawn to the banya for different unhealthy reasons, all undermined the banya’s potential....

Experts understood that spending time in damp, poorly ventilated spaces with ubiquitous and filthy objects (such as towels, couches, sponges, and laundry in various states of wash) while in close proximity to dozens if not hundreds of other human beings whose bodies housed parasites was not so good for public health.
Page 99 of Without the Banya We Would Perish addresses one of the central themes of the book – the persistent tension between everyday practices and expert prescriptions for proper behavior. For centuries, Russians in the countryside and in cities made a weekly habit of going to a steam bath (banya). They went for spiritual renewal, physical rejuvenation, and communal bonding. By the second half of the nineteenth century, Russian medical professionals began to see the banya, at least in principle, as a ready-made institution that could help rid the population of contagions. Yet when these experts examined the actual banyas of the Russian empire and confronted what bathers were doing in them, they were aghast. Clients shared sponges and buckets, bathhouse attendants (banshchiki) ignored prohibitions on bloodletting and sex, and banya owners shirked on basic upkeep and even sought to make profits on the very behaviors doctors found abhorrent. When the Bolsheviks came to power in 1917 they quickly adapted the medical, instrumentalist view of the banya. The people did not necessarily follow suit.

The book deals with a number of other themes (communal identity, sexuality, politics, and cultural continuities across social and political divides) that are not featured on this page. But page 99 provides a very good browser’s shortcut to the book. In this case, Ford Madox Ford was more or less right.
Learn more about Without the Banya We Would Perish at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Vincent DiGirolamo's "Crying the News"

Vincent DiGirolamo is a member of the History Department at Baruch College of the City University of New York. A former newspaper reporter, editor, and documentary filmmaker, he received his B.A. from the UC Berkeley School of Journalism, M.A. in Comparative Social History from UC Santa Cruz, and Ph.D. in History from Princeton University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Crying the News: A History of America's Newsboys, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book hits the trifecta in tapping musical, journalistic, and artistic sources to examine a forgotten nineteenth-century reform movement aimed at quashing the so-called “Sunday news crying nuisance.”

At the top of the page is a snippet of a drinking song ridiculing New York Mayor Daniel Tiemann’s 1858 ban on Sunday news crying and beer drinking:
He’s stopped the newsboys’ cries, I think on them he’s quite severe,

He says on Sunday we shan’t drink a drop of lager bier.
The beer! The beer! Our spirits for to cheer,

The beer! The beer! We goes in for our lager beer.
The next passage describes how some dailies endorsed the Sabbatarian crackdown while Sunday papers defended the boys’ right to peddle unmolested. The New York Clipper made its case visually with a satirical cartoon reproduced at the bottom of the page. Entitled “War Upon the Newsboys! The Majesty of the Law Signally vindicated!,” it depicts a squad of baton-wielding policemen rounding up a half-dozen newsboys while a churchman rings his bell and lager bier hall patrons revel in the background.

The page gives a good sense of the book as a whole, especially its lavish use of visual evidence (The book contains 178 illustrations, including 33 color plates!) to recover newsboys’ experience as workers and symbols. It comes in the middle of chapter 3, “Johnny Morrow and the Dangerous Classes,” which details the hunger, homelessness, and poverty that characterized newsboy life at midcentury, and follows the efforts of evangelical reformers to ameliorate these conditions by establishing newsboy homes and night schools.

The page’s focus on the “Sabbath Wars” also typifies the attention paid throughout the book to newsboys’ vociferous participation in social movements, which, in this period alone, included abolition, woman’s suffrage, temperance, nativism, spiritualism, and trade unionism. Indeed, the page implicitly conveys a central theme of the book—that newspaper hawkers and carriers were important economic and political actors whose unwaged labor was vital to the subsistence of working-class families and the fortunes of the capitalist press.

On the downside, the page 99 test gives no hint of the book’s national scope or chronological breath spanning the 1830s to the 1930s. Nor does it reflect its inclusive treatment of women, girls, immigrants, and African Americans in the trade, those humble citizens of newsdom whose voices can still be heard echoing down the alleys of history.
Visit Vincent DiGirolamo's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 7, 2019

Diana Lemberg's "Barriers Down"

Diana Lemberg is associate professor of history at Lingnan University in Hong Kong.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Barriers Down: How American Power and Free-Flow Policies Shaped Global Media, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Barriers Down comes at the end of chapter 3, which analyzes how American policymakers responded to global language diversity from the late 1940s to the early 1960s. Chapters 1 and 2 examine how, as it became a superpower in the mid-twentieth century, the United States sought to liberalize cross-border media traffic, or in other words to promote “freedom of information.” However, language diversity was a wrinkle in this plan, for as I point out in the first line of chapter 3, “Information, no matter how freely flowing, was of little use if the people of the world could not comprehend it.” Page 99 discusses how the American response to this issue in the 1960s differed from previous approaches. While both postwar Americans and earlier generations of Anglophone policymakers thought that spreading English globally would solve the problems they associated with multilingualism, their rationales differed. Earlier language reformers tended to “[frame] English as a language of enlightenment” that conveyed specific cultural content—Shakespeare, Milton, etcetera—with some even contending that English was intrinsically superior to other languages. This was especially true of interwar British reformers. By contrast, postwar Americans tended to view the spread of global English in more instrumental terms: They portrayed English as a tool for conveying practical information, first and foremost. As the Johnson administration put it in 1965, “English is a key which opens doors to scientific and technical knowledge indispensable to the economic and political development of vast areas of the world.” Page 99 addresses how language diversity related to development policy as the latter became a key concern for Washington in the 1960s.

Page 99 is idiosyncratic in certain respects and typical of the book in others. I’ll address its representative qualities first. One of my concerns in this book was to situate U.S. global power inter-imperially, especially in relation to the twentieth-century British and French empires. Page 99 relates American interest in global English to earlier British discussions of the same, in the House of Commons and among figures like Julian Huxley, who was UNESCO’s first director-general. Page 99’s attention to the triangular relationship between media and information, language, and development aid is also characteristic of the broader project of the book. For instance, another chapter, chapter 5, addresses predictions that satellite broadcasting—globalized in part through American aid—was going to intensify the spread of English. I show how these predictions in turn helped spur French efforts to reinforce the place of the French language in ex-French Africa.

In other ways, the chapter that page 99 comes from, chapter 3, is a bit unusual. Barriers Down covers various media that the United States tried to diffuse or export after World War II. But the other chapters treat more accustomed media—film, television, satellite broadcasting, etcetera. Chapter 3 is the only chapter to focus solely on language as an information “medium.” If any overburdened readers are seeking a more representative excerpt, I’d point them to page 132, which discusses satellite communications.
Learn more about Barriers Down at the Columbia University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Sarah M. S. Pearsall's "Polygamy: An Early American History"

Sarah M. S. Pearsall teaches the history of early America and the Atlantic world at the University of Cambridge. She is the author of the prizewinning Atlantic Families: Lives and Letters in the Eighteenth Century.

Pearsall applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Polygamy: An Early American History, and reported the following:
A contemporary quotation about “the sparkes of the lusts of pride and passion,” and the relationship between political strategies and family standing, open Page 99. Its focus is on war: specifically, the coming of King Philip’s, or Metacom’s, War in New England in 1675. The page includes a section break. The first part of the page concludes a section about rising tensions between Wampanoags, some of whom had converted to Christianity, and the English in the late 1660s and early 1670s. The quotation about pride and passion comes from Roger Williams, an English observer, who pronounced that these “sparkes” led to the “flame of their warres.” It ends with the dramatic difference between one Wampanoag daughter, Naomi, who had converted to Christianity, and her father, Tuchpoo, who joined the fight against the English. The next section turns to Metacom, or King Philip, himself, and the connection of his polygamy, unrecognized by most who have written on this war, to his larger political ambitions. As I summarize, “Metacom worked hard to rally a range of allies among other Native people. Marriage strengthened his ability to do so.” Both sections highlight the strong linkages between family life and larger politics, and how women shaped them both.

The “lusts of pride and passion” flag the abiding connections between power and lust, politics and passion; such desires motivated many actors in this book. So Page 99 does encapsulate a number of key themes. Every chapter draws out these linkages, considering the interweaving of intimate choices and larger political structures in early America. How colonialism, revolution, and slavery changed families, and how families changed them, form key parts of the analysis, and these points are evident here. This page also includes consideration of women, Naomi and also another sachem, Weetamoo, and her sister, Wootonekanuske, as well as men like Metacom. This, too, is a defining feature of a book which tries to center women’s perspectives, not just on marriage and family but also on colonialism, war, and change. The fact that I name several Indian women, who too often go unnamed in many history texts, is a deliberate choice to ensure that their humanity shines through, even as the lack of first-person accounts by them poses great challenges. Methodologically, this page also highlights a distinctive feature of this book: the use of linguistic material. I include another quotation in the Narragansett language here, and throughout the book, especially the first part, I use indigenous language material to try to get at something like a Native perspective on events, even as it is necessarily imperfect.

Yet of course Page 99 could not entirely convey the broad trajectory of an ambitious book spanning the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries in order to establish how an “infrastructure of monogamy” came to be in place in the modern United States This section focuses on Anglophone material, and well-trodden territory (King Philip’s War). However, this book moves far beyond New England, into many other settings, from Utah to Florida, and into languages beyond English (there is Spanish and French as well as a bit of Native American and even African tongues). Although the lusts of pride are here, other lusts and sexuality, which do receive treatment throughout the book, are less evident, as are vital contexts for the intellectual and religious history of polygamy. Altogether, this book presents an intimate, unusual, and capacious view of both early America and polygamy, one difficult to contain in a single page—or story.
Learn more about Polygamy: An Early American History at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Beatrice Heuser's "Brexit in History"

Beatrice Heuser is an historian and political scientist who is Chair of International Relations at the University of Glasgow.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Brexit in History: Sovereignty or a European Union?, and reported the following:
Page 99 discusses two definitions of “sovereignty” in the late Middle Ages (when the term originated) and in the Renaissance: those of the French philosopher Philippe de Beaumanoir (c.1250–1296) in his late-thirteenth century Coutumes de Beauvaisis who stressed that “the sovereign” had the obligation to defend his land and the right to legislate. The latter point was picked up by Jean Bodin in his Six Books on the Republic of 1576. The following pages describe how the sovereign’s monopoly of the use of force grew out of this, as a measure of sovereignty.

This sets the frame for the discussion of the two poles between which inter-State relations have oscillated in Europe since Antiquity. They were, first, a zone of peace (once described as the pax Romana) where war was outlawed. The Roman Catholic Church aspired to re-create this in Western Christendom during those dark centuries after the fall of Rome. The (Holy) Roman Empire created by Charlemagne and his successors finally managed to re-establish such a zone of peace in 1495.

The snag: not all Christian polities of medieval and early modern Europe were part of the Empire. They defended their independence from it fiercely, preferring a second pattern of inter-polity relations: endless wars among themselves or with the emperor. Larger powers – the emperor, but also Philip II of Spain, Louis XIV of France, Napoleon and Hitler – were seen as tyrants who had to be opposed.

The Reformation destroyed peace within the Empire and exploded the doctrine that, united in the same Church, Christian princes must not go to war against one another. Denying the authority of emperor and pope, many monarchs – even Catholics – now de facto claimed the legitimate authority to go to war if it was in their interest (termed raison d’état, or later national interest). Europe thus suffered endless balance-of-power wars between sovereign princes.

From around 1300, a third solution was put forward repeatedly: the creation of a Europe-wide confederation modelled on the Holy Roman Empire but ruled, not by an emperor, but by a council of the heads of the member-states, who would sort out problems jointly by parley, not by war. The European Communities created in the late 1950s, now called the European Union, eventually realised these proposals. Against this, Brexit is the return to unilateral sovereigntism and “national interest”. (Britain is thus approaching the position of the USA which never quite relinquished its prioritisation of national interest.)
Learn more about Brexit in History at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Joe Kraus's "The Kosher Capones"

Joe Kraus is Chair of the Department of English and Theatre at the University of Scranton. He is co-author of An Accidental Anarchist, and his scholarly and creative work has appeared widely.

Kraus applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Kosher Capones: A History of Chicago's Jewish Gangsters, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book is a photograph – of the gangster Benny “Zuckie the Bookie” Zuckerman – and, looking at it under the page-99-test, it does imply my larger argument.

My book opens with an account of the almost-entirely-forgotten 1944 murder of Zuckerman by a group that most likely included Lenny Patrick. It was big news then, but its implications were clear to only a handful of observers. Zuckerman had emerged as the boss of Chicago’s independent Jewish gangsters, consolidating several smaller gangs from the Jewish Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago’s West Side. He was “independent” in a particular way, though: he owed money to the larger Chicago Syndicate to keep what he termed the “franchise” for running gambling and other illegal activities, but he kept counsel with others who’d emerged from the same rough-and-tumble background.

After Zuckerman’s murder, Patrick emerged as the new boss, but he was clearly a functionary of the larger, Italian-American-dominated Syndicate that grew out of the Al Capone gang. In other words, he jumped when Paul Ricca or Tony Accardo told him to jump.

So, curiously, finding Zuckerman’s photo on page 99 is a lens into the book as a whole. He’s a small man, and he looks dwarfed by his clichéd 1940s gangster clothes. He’s unsmiling with a hat that could be slipping off his head or could be a veiled middle finger to whomever is taking his picture. He’s a man who looks too small for the frame, though, and that’s essentially the argument of the book. Once upon a time, there were gangsters who could, in their limited way, function as independents allied with the fearsome Syndicate. And then, with his murder, there weren’t.

In the book, I work in both directions from Zuckerman’s killing. I look at the gangsters and politicians who preceded him, and then I look at Patrick’s 40-year career running the Jewish neighborhoods as a Syndicate lieutenant. And, as part of that, I look at the way the gangster world changed in response to demographic, legal, and political pressures.

The man pictured on page 99 looks like someone trying to bluff his way into a stronger position than he has. The system of organized crime that made his rise possible was rapidly changing, though, and that meant the Syndicate – in the person of Lenny Patrick – was just about to call his bluff.
Learn more about The Kosher Capones at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Mary Harper's "Everything You Have Told Me Is True"

Mary Harper, the BBC Africa Editor, has reported on Africa and from its conflict zones for a quarter-century. The author of Getting Somalia Wrong? Faith, War and Hope in a Shattered State, she has served as an expert witness and advised the European Commission on the Horn of Africa, and contributes to The Times, Guardian, and Economist.

Harper applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Everything You Have Told Me Is True: The Many Faces of Al Shabaab, and reported the following:
From page 99:
… government to live and visit their hotels, then transform themselves into legitimate targets. We have warned civilians to stay away from such hotels. So it is entirely the fault of the cleaners and other hotel employees if they get killed. They know that we consider as an enemy every person who visits or works at such hotels. We repeat this again and again. If you don’t want to get killed, stay away from such places. Cleaners, guards, cooks and chefs. If they go there, it is their fault for getting killed. Basically, they go there just to die.’

It was time to end the call.

‘Please take care, Mary, especially while driving. Bye bye. Have a lovely weekend.’

The following day I received a WhatsApp message from a friend who works as a journalist in the Somali capital. It said ‘Horrible blasts in Mogadishu yesterday’ and was accompanied by a video. True to my friend’s message, the scenes in the video were of unadulterated horror. Mangled remains of vehicles lay in piles on the street, next to the giant sandbags that formed the perimeter wall of the Sahafi. Bodies, some intact, others in pieces, were scattered around them on the ground, lying in large pools of dark blood. Members of the Somali security services wandered around, seemingly oblivious to the carnage around them. They walked in easy, loping style; there was no sense of urgency or panic. A few of them issued directions, but nobody seemed to be paying much attention. Some of the bodies strewn on the ground started to move. They pulled themselves up slowly with bewildered, dazed expressions on their faces, as if waking from a dream. Some sat up in their own blood; others rolled to one side and stayed there in the dust. Nobody went to help them.

In order to hit high-value targets like the owners of the Sahafi and General Dhagabadan, Al Shabaab needs informants inside the hotels to tell them who is visiting at any particular time. Sometimes the attackers are hotel employees. In one case, a…
I got lucky.

When I turned to page 99, it captured much of the essence of what I had tried to do with the book. To get inside the minds of members of the East African Islamist group, Al Shabaab, which has spread so much terror throughout the region for over a decade; to explain something about the uncomfortable relationship I have with the movement; and to describe the horrors it and other armed groups and individuals have perpetrated in Somalia and the wider region.

The page starts with an excerpt of a conversation I had with an Al Shabaab militant who phoned to inform me about an attack the group had carried out on a hotel in the Somali capital Mogadishu, killing several people including some I knew personally. My book contains many such conversations, the aim to reveal how members of the group think and how they try to justify their actions. It also contains testimonies from people who have suffered under Al Shabaab, who have lost friends and family members, and who have fought or otherwise worked for the group, either voluntarily or because they were forced to do so.

Page 99 also shows how Al Shabaab appears to care for me as a person, despite carrying out so many attacks on innocent civilians and despite my representing so many elements the group despises, such as being a non-Muslim and a Westerner. This time, the militant showed concern about the most mundane of things – the fact that I was driving my car while speaking to him on the phone.

More than half of the page is taken up with a description of the carnage created by the Al Shabaab attack, a central theme of the book which aims to take the reader to the heart of the issue through vivid reportage and lively dialogue. The end of the page offers some analysis of how Al Shabaab operates. This was another major aim of the book, but to always do so by bringing it to a very human, accessible level.

One thing page 99 fails to do is show how some other interest groups, local and foreign, exploit the existence of Al Shabaab for their own profit. But, all in all, it gives a pretty good flavour of the book, its style and its substance.
Visit Mary Harper's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

David Pettinicchio's "Politics of Empowerment"

David Pettinicchio is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto and affiliated faculty in the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Politics of Empowerment: Disability Rights and the Cycle of American Policy Reform, and reported the following:
These four passages on page 99 allude to the larger overarching themes of the book.
Frustrated that disabled Americans still faced gross injustice, six years following the Rehabilitation Act, Williams was searching for policy solutions well beyond Section 504. He thought that the real conflict pitted “big ideas” against immediate programmatic fixes, with the latter only postponing more robust interventions.

Rights entrepreneurs, then, were not naïve. Biaggi observed, ‘We find our- selves still groping to achieve the lofty mandates of the act.... We approach this hearing as advocates of Public Law 94-142. Yet, we do not pledge blind allegiance. We are aware of present day realities.’ Attitudes, particularly among Democrats, were shifting amid the rise of the conservative movement. Reagan’s election looked like a reflection of changing public sentiments about the role of government in solving social problems. Reagan’s famous inaugural address line that ‘government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem’ perfectly encapsulated the moment. Elites both in and out of government bought into this perspective; coupled with tremendous pushback from policy stakeholders, it led many legislators sympathetic to disability rights to soften their position.

that cities and states would not endeavor to integrate children with disabilities into mainstream educational programs.

Opposition to mainstreaming grew more vocal and more organized. School administrators cautioned that legislation would increase the number of students (and parents) seeking special education in regular schools. Teachers and teachers’ unions claimed that accommodating children with disabilities would take away from educating nondisabled students.
Readers get a pretty good idea about how policymakers who acted entrepreneurially to get disability rights onto the legislative agenda then had to worry about backtracking and retrenchment. That’s because page 99 gives readers a small taste of a key theme in the volume which is that despite policy innovations like disability rights, obstacles to entrenching these policies were already making themselves known. The discussion on Page 99 and that entire section of the book foreshadows the more intense efforts to undermine disability rights laws and points to the fact that these policy entrepreneurs - members of Congress - despite believing that the right course of action was to persevere with civil rights for people with disabilities, still recognized that the future of disability rights was in question. It briefly alludes to a specific example of this that I return to later in the book about initial opposition from the educational sector against integrating disabled people into mainstream educational settings. As part of the fourth chapter which focuses on the organizational aspects of the disability rights movement, page 99 provides part of the backdrop motivating the kind of political advocacy and protest (the subject of chapter 5) by disability organizations demanding the government make due on its civil rights promise.
Visit David Pettinicchio's website.

--Marshal Zeringue