Friday, December 4, 2020

Peter Salmon's "An Event, Perhaps"

Peter Salmon was born in Australia but now lives in the UK. His first novel The Coffee Story was a New Statesman Book of the Year. He has written for the Guardian, the Sydney Review of Books, the New Humanist, as well as Australian TV and radio. He has received the Writer's Awards from the Arts Council of England and the Arts Council of Victoria, Australia.

Salmon applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, An Event, Perhaps: A Biography of Jacques Derrida, and reported the following:
From page 99:
… am afraid we are not rid of God because we still have faith in grammar.’ Or, as Baudelaire put it twenty years earlier, ‘God is the only being who, in order to rule, does not even need to exist.’

It is one of the fundamental ‘properties’ of ideal objects is that their interactions must be logical and formal. Their essence must be independent of any set or sets of circumstances. An isosceles triangle, a perfect circle, horseness, cannot be affected by space or time, or they are not ideal. For Husserl, language as spoken is problematic. Elements of expression can only stay non-real because they take place in what he calls the ‘sphere of solitary mental life’ – self-consciousness, immediately and absolutely present to itself. This privileged sphere is abandoned, and its contents contaminated, when they enter the realm of the empirical, the real, circumstance – when they are said out loud.

For example, I may have a meaning-intention in my mind, but it cannot, by definition, be delivered in a pure state to my interlocutor (we will later see this problem re-emerge in Derrida’s argument with the speech act theories of Searle). So Husserl proposes a perfect language in which meaning is absolute and absolutely transparent, and that happens ‘in the blink of an eye.’ This is the interior monologue. Thus, in what Derrida notes is a paradoxical move, Husserl attempts to fix the essence of ex-pression (to press outward) in the unexpressed, in ‘the voice that keeps silence.’ ‘Self-presence must be produced in the undivided unity of a temporal present so as to have nothing to reveal to itself by the agency of signs.’

Two objections present themselves. First, as Derrida has argued, the guarantor of the ideality of language is, in fact, speech. Second, what is this ‘in the blink of an eye’? Husserl is once again seeking a unit of time so small it no longer exists, the absolutely punctual in the flowing thisness of the temporal.

But Derrida is out-phenomenologising Husserl. Is what Husserl is describing what actually happens? Is the experience of absolutely self-present meaning true to our experience in any recognisable sense?

What happens when we speak, in all the ways outlined above, and including the voice in our head? Philosophy, alongside…
I would love it and hate it if the reader opened at this page! First the love - it is all about Husserl, with whom I became obsessed while writing the biography – most of what was cut was about his work. My aim with the book was to present Derrida as a philosopher, that is, doing what philosophers do, trying to explain how complex and interesting life is. He has too often, particularly in the Anglosphere I think, been treated as either a semiotician (ok) or a fraud (not ok) that I wanted to go back to his grounding, and his grounding is Husserl.

But I would hate it because my reason for this approach is to produce a clearer, more quotidian Derrida – in no way to simplify, but hopefully to make more explicable for the general reader. To do that I did have to ask the reader to do a little bit of heavy lifting early on, and this section is right in the midst of that. Frankly, brain-wise, it’s the plum in the middle of the hardest bit – so if you, the reader, are ok with this, the rest of the book is a breeze, frankly.

To attempt to paraphrase myself, Derrida found it odd that philosophy, that great written field of human endeavour, always dissed writing in favour of speech. Husserl took this to a limit where he thought only the voice we have in our head is uncontaminated, and therefore true.

Derrida points out that language is, in its essence, social. The words we use pre-date us, the things we say create thought (rather than capturing it), and if there were no interlocutors, language would not even exist. Every thought you have (right now) is a collegiate experience in many ways.

Thus Husserl, so philosophy. The model of a thinking thing inside us, that produces thoughts, turns them into language, and the transmits them, fully formed and perfect, to another person is bunk. Things are, says Derrida, much, much more complicated than that. And a lot more interesting…
Visit Peter Salmon's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Danilo Mandić's "Gangsters and Other Statesmen"

Danilo Mandić is a Postdoctoral College Fellow in the Department of Sociology, where he lectures on war, forced migration, political sociology and research methods. His research focuses on social movements, nationalism, ethnic relations, civil war and organized crime. He is interested in conceptualizing organized crime as a neglected non-state actor and in understanding the interrelations of states, social movements and illicit flows of people, goods and ideas in regions with separatist disputes.

Mandić applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Gangsters and Other Statesmen: Mafias, Separatists, and Torn States in a Globalized World, and reported the following:
Indeed, page 99 [inset, below left; click to enlarge] is a good page to illustrate the book's themes. It is about the notorious "Yellow House," a site of an organ trafficking ring run by criminal elements within the Kosovo Liberation Army, a separatist movement in the Balkans. Victims were brought to the cottage, their organs were taken out and transported via an elaborate route across the mountains to an airport on their way to Turkey. My book explores how mafias - like the one conducting this organ harvesting - are embedded not just in local communities and cultures, but in the violent ethnic politics that disrupts many regions of the world. Rribe, this village in northern Albania, is a perfect illustration of this. Underlying every successful organized criminal racket is a set of connections - kinship, friendship, tribal, clan, ethnic, etc. - within local communities. Many localities around the world operate on the kinds of fear and coercion that residents of Rribe experienced because their village was terrorized by gangsters.

The "page 99 test" appears to work. Yet I cannot help but wonder if its widespread adoption will further feed into our aversion to long-form and dense prose? If we all start using this test, will our alienation from anything that takes time to read grow? Are we doomed to evaluate books not even by their cover, but by a randomly-selected snippet completely out of context? Would it perhaps have been better if my book had failed this test miserably by having an empty 99th page, leaving the reader no choice but to read the whole thing?
Learn more about Gangsters and Other Statesmen at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Nimisha Barton's "Reproductive Citizens"

Nimisha Barton serves as Director of Equity and Inclusion at an independent school in Los Angeles and as a diversity and inclusion consultant for institutions of higher education. She has published her research in French Politics, Culture and Society and the Journal of Women's History. She has also received awards and fellowships from the Georges Lurcy Charitable and Educational Trust, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Society for French Historical Studies, and the Western Society for French History.

Barton applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Reproductive Citizens: Gender, Immigration, and the State in Modern France, 1880–1945, and reported the following:
When you open my book to page 99, you land a couple of pages into Chapter 4, “Mothers, Welfare Organizations, and Reproducing for the Nation.” Here, I lay out the local welfare terrain in Paris in the 1920s and 1930s, arguing, “most municipal leaders in charge of local welfare bureaus saw a potential payoff in the population boost that large numbers of foreigners afforded a French nation laid low by demographic woes.” After surveying some of the bilateral treaties guaranteeing immigrants from certain states welfare assistance, I then turn to the most significant entitlement that large immigrant families who migrated to France in overwhelming numbers before 1945 received: family allocations.

Browsers using the Page 99 Test would get a fairly accurate picture of the main argument of the book. Reproductive Citizens argues that reproduction served as an all-important avenue to obtaining social citizenship rights based on marriage, child-bearing, and child-rearing in modern France. This was because, at the time, France suffered from a terrible crisis of depopulation worsened by the disastrous bloodletting of World War I, during which 10 percent of the French male population was killed. Moreover, I show how the expansive and supportive French welfare state served as one of the key pillars of reproductive citizenship that many immigrants enjoyed, whether they were formally French citizens or not.

The Page 99 Test works in other ways, though there are some drawbacks. On page 99, I blend an analysis of high-level international laws with local on-the-ground politics, and I demonstrate their overall impact on ordinary people. Indeed, the page closes with a description of how all these welfare laws and their application by bureaucrats affected the Gallners and Tcheskisses, an Austrian family of five and a Russian family of five, respectively, who lived in Paris between the two world wars. In this manner, it is very representative of the book’s approach: one that blends political, legal, urban, and social history in a vibrant story about a melting-pot immigrant neighborhood in Paris.

However, one of the main achievements of the book is that it is among the first to highlight the voices of the hundreds of thousands of immigrant women who migrated to France before 1945, and this is not apparent on page 99. In the past, most scholars of immigration in France have centered immigrant men in their analyses. By contrast, this book uses the stories of immigrant women to drive the narrative. In the process, it demonstrates that immigrant women stood at the crossroads of immigrant families and communities, on the one hand, and state and neighborhood resources, on the other. Through immigrant women, we can see the inner workings of welfare states and understand the potential of reproductive citizenship in modern nation-states.
Visit Nimisha Barton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Michael J. Brown's "Hope and Scorn"

Michael J. Brown is assistant professor of history at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Hope and Scorn: Eggheads, Experts, and Elites in American Politics, and reported the following:
The presence of intellectuals in American political life has elicited strong, frequently opposing reactions, including those indicated by this book’s title: hope and scorn. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.—one of the most visible intellectuals of the 1960s—called forth both.

Page 99 finds Schlesinger weeks into the role for which he was perhaps best known: special assistant to President John F. Kennedy. Schlesinger’s portfolio included Latin American affairs, and he believed the new administration could reset perceptions of United States policy in the region. While maintaining the strong anticommunism characteristic of both Kennedy and Schlesinger in the years before this moment in 1961, the administration could also signal that it was not merely the state apparatus of American business. This tack was the course of Cold War liberalism for which Schlesinger was a notable navigator. On page 99, however, he and Kennedy are headed for the shoals.

Planning for a US-supported landing in Cuba to overthrow Fidel Castro had passed from the Eisenhower administration to the incoming Kennedy one. Though skeptical about the prospects for the operation’s success and its secrecy, Schlesinger was nevertheless responsible for drafting a public statement of the administration’s position on Cuba in the run-up to what would become the Bay of Pigs invasion. “Rather than using intellectual capacities to craft good policy,” page 99 reads, Schlesinger “was in the position of using those capacities to legitimate bad policy.”

Schlesinger communicated his concerns about the operation to the president. At a planning meeting after which he was assigned to draft the public statement, however, Schlesinger felt cowed. While defense officials spoke of concrete military assets, Schlesinger—a writer, historian, and college teacher—had such intangible considerations to raise as the international standing and reputation of the United States. Instead of doing so, he remained quiet.

This episode points to questions that are central to Hope and Scorn: not only what intellectuals do in public life and how people respond to their presence but also what sort of presence—in particular contexts and at specific moments—they are. The planning meeting where Schlesinger “shrank into a chair at the far end of the table,” as he later recalled, was not simply a run-in between an “egghead” intellectual and military brass; it was an encounter between two kinds of intellectual. The military planners were technical experts—they spoke a specialized and, by virtue of that, authoritative language of tides, timetables, and take-offs from secret airfields. Schlesinger, by contrast, was a generalist and a humanistic one at that. The points he had to make were less quantifiable, less practical and therefore, Schlesinger felt, less forceful. They might have sounded like a line from Joe Biden’s recent victory speech: the United States leads by the power of its example rather than the example of its power. And Schlesinger thought the Cuban operation likely to set a very bad example, squandering the diplomatic opening possible in these early days of the Kennedy presidency. In that Cold War moment, however, around that policymaking table, the intellectual-as-defense-expert was so towering a figure that the intellectual-as-generalist did not merely lose the debate; he was incapable of entering it. Given the relish and effectiveness with which Schlesinger participated in ideological battles from the presidency of the second Roosevelt to that of the second Bush, it is a noteworthy silence.

As I look upon it now, page 99 of Hope and Scorn furnishes the browser with an indication, though incomplete, of themes that appear throughout the book. It does less well, perhaps, at giving the browser a sense of why the chapter that includes page 99 is titled “The Moralist and the Mandarin.” The latter was a label applied to Schlesinger by one of his critics later in the 60s: Noam Chomsky. Schlesinger in turn called Chomsky a moralist. Each had in mind with these titles a version of intellectuals’ political role worthy of scorn or at least criticism. Each pointed beyond these labels to a vision of the intellectual that could, instead, be a source of hope or at least help in public life—and which they themselves implicitly represented.
Learn more about Hope and Scorn at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 27, 2020

Bill Hayton's "The Invention of China"

Bill Hayton is an Associate Fellow of Chatham House (the Royal Institute for International Affairs), and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Invention of China, and reported the following:
From page 99:
The question of who was, and was not, Han could be extremely divisive, particularly in Guangdong province, where older inhabitants still remembered the Hakka-Punti war. The compilers of different local-level gazetteers took different positions. For example, two counties, Shixing and Xingning both contained large numbers of Hakka-speakers: the Xingning gazetteer mentioned this fact but the Shixing book did not. The issue came to a head when a writer with revolutionary sympathies, Huang Jie, published his ‘Textbook of Guangdong Local History’.

Huang Jie had co-founded the ‘National Essence Society’ (Guoxue baocun hui) the year before to promote political change, with inspiration from a conservative view of the past. The society’s anti-Manchuism combined revolutionary zeal with the Social Darwinist fear that the Han race had to be preserved from the threat of extinction. This, the society argued, could only be done through the mobilisation of ancient culture. Huang Jie and his fellow National Essence Society members saw an opportunity in the education reforms to transform the thinking of the new generation by providing them with ‘national essence’ textbooks.

Huang Jie’s 1905 Guangdong History textbook stated baldly that, ‘Among the races of Guangdong are Hakkas and Hoklos who are not Cantonese and not of Han racial stock.’ This infuriated Huang Zunxian, then living in quiet banishment in the province, and provoked him into organising, along with fellow Hakka scholar-officials, a ‘Society for Investigating the Origin of the Hakka People’. The society used all its influence to lobby the provincial education authority which, eventually, agreed to have the sentence removed from the book. Huang Zunxian died in March 1905 but his struggle continued. Although other textbooks were published that specifically excluded the Hakka from membership of the Han, by 1907 the provincial authorities had agreed to remove all the offending sections. Thus, in his final act, Huang Zunxian demonstrated the emptiness of the notion of a ‘Han race’ by showing it could be expanded or contracted not by science but by political pressure from influential people. Henceforth, the Hakka and the Hoklo would be Han.

But empty or not, the idea of a Han race became the revolutionaries’ most powerful weapon. It enabled them to create alliances between literate officials and illiterate peasants. It was no longer sufficient to be a cultured Hua, or a member of the ‘yellow race’ – change could only come from the Han
This extract is part of the conclusion of my chapter about ’The Invention of the Han Race’. While many people might assume that the existence of the ‘Han Race’ is a scientific fact or even that everyone in China is a part of it, this chapter shows how it was actually written about for the first time in 1900. I explain how European ideas about the alleged differences between races were transferred to China and adopted by some of the most important thinkers of the day. These ideas were the focus of intense political arguments with reformers arguing for the unity of the ‘yellow race’ while revolutionaries were calling for action by members of the ‘Han race’. It took a few years but the ‘Han Race’ revolutionaries became more successful. However there were then arguments about exactly which groups within China could consider themselves to be ‘Han’. This final argument proves that the idea of a Han Race owes much more to politics than to science.

This is a very typical page from my book. Some of the names and terms might be unfamiliar, but don’t worry because I explain them all in the earlier pages. The whole point of the book is to bring the last 25 years of academic research to a general audience without any specialist knowledge. I examine how China came to think of itself as China in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Apart from race, I look at questions of history, nation, language and territory and show how a small group of intellectuals introduced new ideas to the country following their contacts with European and American thinking. I use the stories of particular individuals to explain how and why this happened. It’s a good read!

I wrote this book to tell the story of modern China in a new way. I wanted to show how it is a hybrid of ‘eastern’ and ‘western’ ideas. So much of our understanding about China today is actually comprised of relatively recent innovations: the name of the country, its ethnic identity, its boundaries and even the idea of a ‘nation-state’ were all introduced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is a lively tale.
Visit Bill Hayton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Helen Fry's "MI9: A History of the Secret Service for Escape and Evasion in World War Two"

Helen Fry is the author of The London CageThe Walls Have Ears, and over twenty books focusing on intelligence and POWs in World War II. She consulted on the docudrama Spying on Hitler’s Army and appeared in BBC’s Home Front Heroes.

Fry applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, MI9: A History of the Secret Service for Escape and Evasion in World War Two, and reported the following:
MI9: the British Secret Service for Escape and Evasion in WWII provides the first history of this secret intelligence service for over 40 years. From page 99:
Back on Avenue Voltaire, Madame Maréchal answered the door to them and was confronted by one of them pulling out a revolver: Madame, the game is up!’ he said. He was in fact a member of the Secret Police. Elsie arrived back home from the Canteen and walked straight into the trap to find eight Geheime Feld Polizei (Secret Field Police of the German army), including the ‘airmen’. Now her interrogation and rough treatment began. They led her to believe that her mother was dead on the kitchen floor. Elsie stalled for time whilst thinking of a strategy of how to warn Nemo. She pretended that she had been to the Black Market and spent all her money. It was 4.30pm and she told them that she had to meet her chief at 5pm at the entrance to a large park. They swiftly bundled her out of the house and got on a tram. In the meantime, her captors had called for back up and extra Secret Police were waiting in the shadows near the alleged meeting point. As time marched on and there was no sign of the chief, the men became restless. After nearly 2 hours of waiting, they took Elsie to Gestapo headquarters where she underwent interrogation and was badly beaten.

Airey Neave learned about what had happened to Elsie because of the many reunions after the war and at a time when personal stories were shared. Many of the personalities who had worked with MI9 became a close-knit community and the ties which had bound them in the war continued in friendships afterwards. Neave wrote in his autobiography: ‘Under the portrait of [the head of the German air force] Hermann Goering, the bastards beat eighteen-year old Elsie until she was covered in bruises and unable to lie on her back for weeks. All night long the inmates of the prison of St Gilles could hear her heart-breaking sobs. I thought of her when, as an official at the Tribunal at Nuremberg, I met Goering in his cell three years afterwards.’

A few hours later Elsie’s father was brought in. He had returned home from work in Flanders to find the Secret Field Police in his home. He and Elsie were taken to St Gilles Prison where, at an opportune time, he whispered to her to say nothing and hold on.
MI9 has become the forgotten secret service of the Second World War and today members of the public have never heard of it. Therefore it is interesting to see if the Page 99 Test actually works to illuminate this unknown history. Page 99 showcases one of the strongest themes of the book, and that is the courage and sacrifice of thousands of ordinary women and men who led the escape lines and acted as couriers, helpers and guides across Western Europe. Page 99 tells the story of the betrayal of Elsie Maréchal, one of the last surviving veterans of the Comet Line, an escape line that operated from Belgian through France to the Pyrenees and into Spain. In 2019, I travelled to Belgium to interview 98-year old Elsie, a survivor of two concentration camps. Until that moment, the research had been quite academic and consisted of amassing data and stories from declassified files, but Elsie’s interview enabled me to get to the heart of the human stories and to understand the special relationship between MI9 and the people who risked their lives in occupied Europe when they could have chosen a different path. Most significantly in relation to the Page 99 Test, it was Elsie’s interview which was the transformative moment for my research. The airmen and soldiers who were rescued, if caught again by the Germans, would be sent back to prisoner of war camps; but helpers like Elsie faced a different fate – they and their families were shot or sent to concentration camps. Page 99 is the moment when Elsie and her family were betrayed in 1942 with devastating consequences and arrested by the Gestapo in what became known as ‘The Maréchal Affair’. Elsie’s spirit of defiance against the Nazis was still evident when I interviewed her over 75 years later. I was able to ask her why she risked her life at the age of only 16 to shelter Allied airmen whilst working for the Comet Line. Page 99 works for my book precisely because it lands at the point that transformed my writing and understanding of this history. This is where the book is taken to another level, intellectually and emotionally.
Visit Helen Fry's website.

The Page 99 Test: The London Cage.

The Page 99 Test: The Walls Have Ears.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Haggai Ram's "Intoxicating Zion"

Haggai Ram is Associate Professor of Middle East History at Ben Gurion University. He is the author of Myth and Mobilization in Revolutionary Iran (1994) and Iranophobia: The Logic of an Israeli Obsession (2009).

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Intoxicating Zion: A Social History of Hashish in Mandatory Palestine and Israel, and reported the following:
From page 99:
The desire of the [Egyptian] fellahin to hashish was, he [Russell Pasha] claimed, not a self-perpetuating force of nature. Nor was it a product of changeless racial and cultural attributes. It was a provisional and potentially short-term problem, one that would be resolved once their bodies stopped hosting debilitating diseases. Indeed, like many others within and outside the League of Nations, including the subcommittee experts, Russell was an avid advocate of modern science. Optimism, he thought, was not naiveté on his part; rather, it was a realistic assessment supported by recent history. “Thirty-five years ago,” he said, “drug addiction in the villages was practically unknown ... and the fellah ... did his twelve hours day without thinking of or needing a stimulant.”

Russell was also blunt with respect to [Dr. Joules] Bouquet’s broad generalizations about “Arabs.” Egyptians and Tunisians were not one and the same people, he insisted. On the contrary, they were “of totally different characters and habits.” Bouquet contended that lower-class Tunisians got high because they were irredeemably indolent—“laziness [being] the basic element in the character of Muslims,” and added: “They love doing nothing and musing the hours away.” Russell strongly opposed this view, saying that it did not apply to Egyptian peasants. “In point of fact, the fellahin of Egypt were a sober race, who did not touch alcohol.... The Egyptian fellah was on the whole an industrious person, did not drink alcohol, seldom nowadays had more than one wife and was fond of his children.”
Page 99 of the book, located at the very end of Chapter 4, is part of my exploration of colonial knowledge about cannabis produced in the interwar years. In particular, it relates to the debates about the drug that took place at the League of Nations Subcommittee on Cannabis in the years 1934-1939. Subcommittee experts engaged in lively and, at times, contentious debates about the nature of hashish and its psychoactive effects in the colonies and the metropoles. Even as they tried in earnest to add to previous outdated knowledge about the drug, they kept running into a thick ceiling of taken-for-granted class, racial, gendered and Orientalized ideas which ensured that the knowledge they produced could not catch up with changing global realities.

Page 99 is a convenient departure point for discussing my entire work. Having been primary recipients of this knowledge, Jews in Mandatory Palestine tended to steer clear of hashish, considering its use a form of "backwardness" linked to the realities of living among Arabs in the Middle East. Yet, while hashish was seldom used by Jews in Mandatory Palestine, the drug did attract new—Arab—devotees in the county. This hashish fever can be traced back to unprecedented global and regional controls over opiates and cannabis established in the interwar years. To overcome these obstacles, new circuits of exchange linked Palestine, and later Israel, to illicit supply chains in the Levant stretching from Lebanon, the producing country in the north, to Egypt, the consuming country in the south. With extensive, crafty trafficking operations carried out across its territory, a significant increase in hashish use occurred among Palestine's urban working-class Arab population. Hence, by the 1930s hashish smoking ran rampant throughout Palestine's urban centers, and many Palestinian Arabs could be seen wandering the streets intoxicated.

Following 1948, Jews had joined the local hashish scene due to new demographic and political realities—i.e. the expulsion of the Arab population of Palestine in the Nakba, and the country's massive repopulation by Jews from the Middle East and North Africa (aka Mizrahim). Some of these Jews used hashish in their countries of origin, and brought the habit with them to Israel. Other Mizrahim were not hashish smokers but had picked up on the habit in Israel owing to their increasing socio-economic and ethnic-cum-racial marginalization. This turned hashish into a Jewish "problem" where formerly it was considered an Arab one. Although the number of hashish smokers did not exceed a few thousand in the 1950s and 1960s, the habit concretized and dramatized the dominant Ashkenazi classes' anxieties about over-Levantinization. At the same time, it exacerbated the marginalization and criminalization of the Mizrahi underclass in Israeli society.

Page 99, which illustrates the ways in which colonial knowledge about cannabis was accommodated in Palestine-Israel, also showcases the transnational approach applied in the book. Exploring the transition from the Mandatory period to the post-1948 era through the perspective of hashish, the book examines the ways in which Palestine-Israel was situated in the region and the wider world, and how the latter two reached deep into it, penetrating and shaping it in matters concerning the commodity chains, consumption, and understandings of the drug itself. To paraphrase Sebastian Conrad, although the book does not seek to abandon national history altogether, it seeks to “transnationalize” it.
Learn more about Intoxicating Zion at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 23, 2020

Stephen Bates's "An Aristocracy of Critics"

Stephen Bates is an associate professor in the Greenspun School of Journalism and Media Studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, An Aristocracy of Critics: Luce, Hutchins, Niebuhr, and the Committee That Redefined Freedom of the Press, and reported the following:
Broadly, my book is about the press and democracy, and page 99 is representative. It discusses whether you have a meaningful right of free speech if you can’t afford media machinery and if other people won’t share theirs. In essence, the issue is whether freedom of speech in a technological society is limited to rich people.

My book focuses on the Commission on Freedom of the Press, a committee of intellectuals convened in 1943 to ponder the contemporary meaning of free speech. Archibald MacLeish, a Pulitzer-winning poet who was serving as FDR’s Librarian of Congress, maintained that at the time of the First Amendment’s ratification in 1791, anyone who wanted to reach a mass audience could do so at modest expense by starting a newspaper or publishing a pamphlet. (Some historians say it wasn’t as cheap as MacLeish thought.) In the 1940s, by contrast, starting a metropolitan newspaper cost millions of dollars. Therefore, under MacLeish’s argument, freedom of speech had lost its original meaning.

He was touching on the concept of public access to the press. A right of access rests on what has been termed the positive First Amendment, a theory calling on the government to expand opportunities for free speech. As I explain in the Atlantic, the positive First Amendment is popular in academia, but it hasn’t made inroads in the courts, with the exception of broadcast regulation.

MacLeish didn’t spell out the policy implications of his argument. He may simply have wanted the Commission on Freedom of the Press to say that in an age of exorbitantly expensive media companies, owners must open their facilities to a variety of views; otherwise, the First Amendment can’t function as originally intended.
Learn more about An Aristocracy of Critics at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Elizabeth A. Williams's "Appetite and Its Discontents"

Elizabeth A. Williams is professor emerita of history at Oklahoma State University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Appetite and Its Discontents: Science, Medicine, and the Urge to Eat, 1750-1950, and reported the following:
Everyday experience shows that appetite is influenced by a multitude of factors, including our emotional state or desire to look a certain way, traditional family and regional preferences, and many others. Yet when scientists first began investigating the nature and workings of appetite in the later eighteenth century, they often tried to trace the spur of appetite to a single influence or mechanism. Page 99 of Appetite and Its Discontents concerns the effort made by experimentalists of the early nineteenth century to trace control of ingestion and digestion to the action of what were then called the “pneumogastric” (vagus) nerves. The experimental operation used was called “vagotomy,” and it was performed repeatedly in leading research centers. This page of the book looks at competing approaches taken by physiologists in Germany and France, two countries in which experimenting on live animals had become accepted procedure. In typical fashion, the German researchers tended to focus on the question of whether severing the vagus nerves would interrupt digestion – something that could be demonstrated physically by examining the products of the digestive process – whereas the French investigators sought, more broadly, to determine if their experimental animals ate, after the operation, “as before and with equal appetite.” Although in both settings these experiments yielded inconclusive results, they continued to be avidly pursued in Germany, France, and elsewhere.

The “page 99 test” does, I think, give a good idea of some of the main concerns and aims of this book. It indicates how appetite, once a matter of ordinary experience, came into being as a scientific “object.” This is a theme historians of science have pursued recently in relation to widely varying phenomena from dreams to monsters to walking. It also takes up the matter of long-term differences in approach evident in the work of German and French scientists. Both used vivisection (despite angry criticism in both countries of the “torture” of live animals in laboratories). But German investigators tended to adopt a more rigorously materialist view (could results be shown in straightforward physical terms?) whereas French researchers allowed greater scope for exploring immaterial phenomena such as desire (did post-operative animals really want to eat?). Finally, this discussion points both to the contested nature of the experimental results in question and to the persistent hope of researchers that improved technique would yield more uniform and reliable results.

A central theme that appears only obliquely on page 99 is the shift later in the nineteenth century to enhanced interest in the psychology of appetite. This move reflected not only the emergence of new “sciences of mind,” but, especially, the work of practitioners who observed troubled appetite in individuals suffering from psychic disturbance. Thus the latter parts of the book trace a new contest that unfolded in Europe and the U.S. between psychic and somatic approaches to appetite. The book ends with an Epilogue that looks at biomedical thinking about appetite in the present. In it I suggest that turning the tools of science on appetite, while yielding knowledge of value to a range of disciplines, has at the same time caused people to distrust their own appetite and to experience as a result uniquely modern anxieties about eating.
Learn more about Appetite and Its Discontents at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 20, 2020

Libra R. Hilde's "Slavery, Fatherhood, and Paternal Duty"

Libra R. Hilde is professor of history at San Jose State University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Slavery, Fatherhood, and Paternal Duty in African American Communities over the Long Nineteenth Century, and reported the following:
A reader opening to page 99 of Slavery, Fatherhood, and Paternal Duty, would be dropped into the midst of an anecdote from the nineteenth century narrative of George Henry, a man whose successful escape from slavery entailed leaving a family behind.
Unlike many men who expressed emotional pain after escaping alone, Henry openly acknowledged his reasoning. He did not want his labor to maintain a slaveholder, even if that labor involved caring for kin. A wife and children who legally belonged to another person were, to Henry, “your woman and her children,” and not his own. Supporting them meant supporting slavery. Henry represents the opposite response to the catch-22 of slavery and paternal duty. He exerted his manhood by focusing on himself and refusing to provision enslaved family members.

Patriarchal authority and legal marriage mattered, and as a free man, Henry became a devoted husband, father, and provider to his second family. After escaping, Henry married a widow with two young children. He and his wife lost two babies as infants, and Henry endeavored to care for his stepchildren, who he referred to as his children. … Individualized manhood in the context of slavery did not mean a person would continue that behavior in freedom.
The page-99 test offers important clues, but fails to provide a full representation of the book’s main arguments and breadth. The anecdote points to the agonizing dilemmas faced by enslaved fathers. Although escape offered a path to manhood through heroic resistance, George Henry stands out as anomalous because men who escaped alone usually lived with a palpable sense of guilt. Lone escapees reveal how slavery “brutally partitioned” (146) the masculine sense of duty to self from duty to family. More importantly, a greater number of enslaved men chose to prioritize love of family over personal needs, as the anecdote on the previous page illustrates.

This anecdote hints at the several masculine identities expressed by enslaved men. Here, Henry is more diagnostic in that he adopted different modes of manhood depending on context, moving from individualism in slavery to caretaking in freedom. Henry’s struggle to support his second family foreshadows the last two chapters, which explore the lives of African American fathers in freedom and the continued constraints on patriarchal authority as a result of discrimination and the ongoing subordination of Black masculinity.

The final paragraph of page 99 begins, “Slaveholders often manipulated enslaved men’s sense of responsibility and love of family for economic gain,” and goes on to note the contradictions between pro-slavery rhetoric and the actual actions of slaveholders. This reflects a key argument about the public and private nature of Southern masculinity. Enslaved men were occasionally allowed to exhibit masculinity within the private realm of the slave quarters, but unlike white men could not publicly display traits of manhood. This now implicit masculine hierarchy still influences contemporary attitudes toward Black men.

While a reader would get a flavor of the book, they would miss central points, including the ways enslaved fathers bypassed the constraints of slavery by provisioning ideologically, often significantly influencing their children’s sense of self. Caretaking was a subtle form of resistance that has been obscured by the denial of open patriarchal privilege to enslaved and freedmen. A reader would also miss the two chapters on sexual exploitation, white fathers of enslaved people, attitudes towards these men, and what this meant for family formation and identity.
Learn more about Slavery, Fatherhood, and Paternal Duty at the University of North Carolina Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Geoffrey F. Gresh's "To Rule Eurasia’s Waves"

Geoffrey F. Gresh, professor of international relations at the National Defense University, Washington, D.C., is the author of Gulf Security and the U.S. Military: Regime Survival and the Politics of Basing.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, To Rule Eurasia’s Waves: The New Great Power Competition at Sea, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Since the end of the Cold War, especially since the 2000s, Russia and Egypt primarily bonded over shared disagreement regarding U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East—from the first and second Iraq Wars to U.S. support for the Arab uprisings in Egypt and elsewhere. In fact, during the Gulf War of 1991, Russian sources arguably claim the war resulted in about $40 billion in political and economic losses. Russia also historically supported the Palestinian cause, in addition to fighting the spread of violent extremism and terrorism. Most importantly, Egypt is again at the geostrategic center of a competition between Russia, China, India, and the West in their attempts to influence or dominate the sea lanes of communication running through the Suez Canal. Egypt has welcomed the growing focus on its geostrategic location and is trying to leverage more of an “Egypt First” foreign policy that seeks greater independence while regaining its historic and regional prestige. Nonetheless, Russia is trying to demonstrate its utility and allegiance to Egypt. Similar to China, Moscow has growing geoeconomic interests and investments that, until recently, have focused mainly on Egypt’s energy sector and trade, but that is now morphing into a desire to bolster military and security ties.

Beginning in 2014, President Putin and Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi began discussions over their many shared interests. Since then, their bilateral ties have flourished across a multitude of sectors from energy to trade and national security. In 2017, Russia’s exports to Egypt hit a record high of $6.2 billion, compared with about $505 million in Egyptian exports to Russia. In the same year, Russian investments in Egypt totaled around $4.6 billion, including eighty Russian delegation visits to Egypt over the year. Of this number, about 60 percent fell under the oil and gas sectors.
Readers who turn to page 99 do indeed get a good glimpse into the contours of the book’s larger arguments, albeit through the lens of one case. In this excerpt from chapter 4, “Anchoring the Seas of Southwest Asia”, one witnesses the burgeoning relationship between Russia and Egypt. I also cite the growing maritime competition between Russia, China, and India, which is the main thrust of the book. Geoeconomics is showcased here as well and throughout as a primary driver of this bigger maritime competition. The only thing where this test falls short, however, is in mapping out the growing navalism that we also see emerging across Eurasia’s strategic sea lanes of communication. This aside, Russia has only just started pushing farther south from Egypt into the Indian Ocean from the Suez Canal, but this is presumably a trend that will continue moving forward. Russia continues to bolster ties with Egypt, Sudan, Somaliland, and other Gulf nations. As it moves deeper into the Indian Ocean, Russia will no doubt be confronted with balancing against India and Pakistan, as well as China.

Though this chapter focuses primarily on the Red Sea, Arabian Sea, and Persian Gulf, the rest of the book is one of the first to take a comprehensive look at Eurasia from a saltwater perspective. The book’s chapters are organized by regional seas, beginning first with the Baltic and Black Seas and moving from there to the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean, and Pacific Asia. The final chapter examines the northern frontier of the Arctic and the growing interests of both Russia and China. Even India has begun to point toward greater strategic assets in the High North. Though the United States, as an established global military and economic power, is not forgotten in the book’s larger analysis, the intent here is to provide a non-U.S.-centric worldview on the shifting seas of Eurasia, and thus the emergence of a new world order.
Learn more about To Rule Eurasia’s Waves at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Toby Musgrave's "The Multifarious Mr. Banks"

Toby Musgrave is a plants and gardens historian, independent scholar, and consultant. He is the author or coauthor of many books, including The Plant Hunters, An Empire of Plants, The Head Gardeners, Paradise Gardens, Heritage Fruits and Vegetables and The Garden.

Musgrave applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Multifarious Mr. Banks: From Botany Bay to Kew, The Natural Historian Who Shaped the World, and reported the following:
From page 99:
[Chapter title:] HMS ENDEAVOUR 

… forbearance and congeniality of both men, who came to be genuinely fond of one another and developed a warm personal friendship. The Endeavour was a happy ship, too, and Cook is due full credit for running a tight yet generally content company. Sailors were renowned for being rough folk, and while Cook had to carry out his fair share of punishment floggings for misdemeanours including drunkenness and theft (especially at Tahiti where, as we have seen, iron nails were used as currency for sexual favours), the officers and men were inspite of this genuinely fond of their captain and followed him between ships. But perhaps too, albeit inadvertently, Banks and Solander contributed to this positive atmosphere. Generally cheerful, easy-going and even-tempered, they ensured that Cook did not become annoyed, exasperated or infuriated with ‘the gentlemen’, and therefore had no frustrations or anger to vent on his officers and crew. Indeed, among their shipmates ‘the gentlemen’ were much liked.

NEW ZEALAND 

Land! The anticipated New Zealand (or what in 1642 its discoverer Abel Tasman, thinking it was part of South America, had called ‘Staten Landt’) was sighted at last by Nicholas Young early in the afternoon of 6 October [1769]. From the masthead at sunset Banks himself gazed at what he and ‘all hands’ were certain was ‘the Continent we are in search of’. But Banks at least should have known better: he was travelling with a copy of Dalrymple’s Chart of the South Pacifick Ocean, Pointing out the Discoveries made therein Previous to 1764, which clearly shows a part of the east coast of New Zealand at the same latitude (albeit with a slightly more westerly longitude position of the sighted land). The Endeavour sailed closer through the 7th, and on the evening of 8 October Banks first set foot on what transpired to be New Zealand’s North Island. The place, known to the indigenous Māori as Te Oneroa, was named Poverty Bay by Cook, ‘because it afforded us no one thing we wanted’.

It disappointed Banks too, who bemoaned the fact that he had collected ‘not above 40 species of plants’. In fact, according to an unpublished checklist-index to Solander’s similarly unpublished Primitiae Florae Novae Zelandiae (1770), the actual tally of taxa collected between 8 and 11 October was sixty-one species …
Page 99 is a small vignette of a key component of the book, Joseph Banks’s participation as naturalist aboard HMS Endeavour during Lieutenant James Cook’s first circumnavigation (1768-71). This was one of Britain’s and science’s most significant of voyages of discovery one which resulted in an increased Western interest in the Pacific and its islands, and ultimately the British colonisation of Australia. The page also reveals something of Banks’s character, the relationship between him, his scientific second-in-command, Dr Daniel Solander, and Cook, and his passion for botany. However, page 99 is not representative of the book because it divulges nothing of the long term impact of the Banksian paradigm for conducting natural history research during such voyages. Nor does it tell anything of the diverse roles performed and significant works undertaken by Banks in the 49 years between his return to terra firma and his death in 1820. I would therefore judge the page not a good test of the work as a whole but it is perhaps an intriguing teaser that leaves the browser wanting to discover more.

Banks was born to a rich family but used his wealth wisely for the advancement of science and Britain, not himself. He was an incredibly charasmatic man, perennially enthusiastic and desirous to learn, and a born organiser. The ‘more’ of his professional work includes pivotal roles as an Enlightenment figure, close friend of King George III and champion of Iceland during the Napoleonic Wars. Banks was an influential promoter of colonial expansion and the ‘father of Australia’. He was a renowned scientific panjandrum who funded his own ‘research institute’ at his London home, corresponded globally with a network over 300 scientists, pioneered a scientific component to voyages of discovery, and established the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew as a scientific institution. Here he organised professional plant hunting expeditions and economic plant transfers, and as such was indirectly responsible for the ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’. He was President of the Royal Society for an unequalled 42 years, a driving force behind the first Ordnance Survey mapping of Britain and founder of various learned societies including the Royal Horticultural Society. Lastly, his ‘aqusition’ of Merino sheep from Spain for the British and indirectly the Australian national flocks revolutionised the wool industry. Yet today he is an overlooked figure.
Visit Toby Musgrave's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Erica De Bruin's "How to Prevent Coups d'État"

Erica De Bruin is Assistant Professor of Government at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. Her work has been published in Journal of Peace Research, Journal of Conflict Resolution, and Foreign Affairs.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, How to Prevent Coups d'État: Counterbalancing and Regime Survival, and reported the following:
Browsers opening to page 99 would get a good sense of what the book was about. The page describes the February 1966 coup in Ghana, which removed President Kwame Nkrumah from power:
Officers viewed these plans as evidence that Nkrumah was seeking to replace them. In late 1966, he sought parliamentary authorization to form a new popular militia. While the stated rationale for the militia was to aid Rhodesian independence, it would also have been “separate from the army and designed as a counter to it.” Meanwhile, rumors that Nkrumah planned to enlarge the POGR yet again began to circulate.

It was in this context that a coalition of Gã-Ewe officers in the military and police service staged the February 1966 coup that ousted Nkrumah from power. The coup attempt began when Colonel Emmanuel Kotoka, commander of the army’s Second Brigade in Kumasi, north of the capital, began to move his troops toward Accra. It was timed to coincide with Nkrumah’s trip abroad to Vietnam. The Chief of Defense Staff and other top officers were also abroad in Addis Ababa for Organization of African Unity business. Coup forces quickly captured the presidential palace, as well as the Ministry of Defense, the radio station, and the post office. In a speech explaining the coup, Police Commissioner John Harlley noted that Nkrumah had raised a “private army of his own at an annual cost of over half a million pounds in flagrant violation of a constitution which him himself had foisted on the country to serve as a counterpose to the Ghana Armed Forces.” He also complained that Nkrumah had armed the POGR “with the most modern and lethal weapons while the national army was neglected. Later, he decided secretly to disband [the] national army and replace it with a militia formed from fanatics.”
The book examines one of the most common strategies that rulers use to prevent coup d’etat: establishing presidential guards, militia, and other security forces to “counterbalance” the military. It shows that coups are more likely to fail where rulers counterbalance. In that sense, counterbalancing works. Yet it is not without risk: the resentment that counterbalancing generates among regular military officers can provoke new coup attempts, even as it creates obstacles to their execution.

The specific coup attempt discussed on page 99 is an example in which efforts to counterbalance backfired spectacularly. In the years prior to the coup attempt, Nkrumah had sought to expand a preexisting presidential guard regiment, called the President’s Own Guard Regiment (POGR), and to establish a new national militia to counterbalance the military. Army officers feared that these were the first steps in a plan to abolish the military, and resented the diversion of resources and recruits to other forces. To preserve their status, they staged the February 1966 coup that ousted Nkrumah.

Nkrumah’s experience thus serves as a cautionary tale about the unintended consequences of counterbalancing. It also raises a new question: why are some rulers able to establish counterweights without provoking coups, while others are not? The rest of the chapter that this excerpt is a part of tackles that question by comparing Nkrumah’s failed attempt to counterbalance to more successful efforts by rulers in similar political and economic circumstances.

While page 99 doesn’t showcase what I think of as the central empirical contribution of the book—the new dataset it compiles on counterbalancing across the globe—it does emphasize one of the book’s central take-aways: while counterbalancing can prevent successful coups, it is a risky strategy to pursue, and one that may weaken regimes in the long term.
Visit Erica De Bruin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Emily J. H. Contois's "Diners, Dudes, and Diets"

Emily J. H. Contois is Chapman Assistant Professor of Media Studies at The University of Tulsa. Her research explores the connections between food, the body, health, and identities in contemporary U.S. media and popular culture.

Contois applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Diners, Dudes, and Diets: How Gender and Power Collide in Food Media and Culture, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Men’s diet programs promoted dude food: foods considered irrefutably masculine and decidedly anti-diet. Men’s diet programs emphasized the flavor, satisfaction, and quantity that dieting tends to curtail. … Alongside images of hot dogs, chicken wings, mac and cheese, ice cream sandwiches, and steak kabobs, Weight Watchers assured male dieters, “Seriously—no food is off-limits. You can eat anything you want. You’ll just learn to do it a whole lot smarter.” Diet programs assured men that their appetites need not be restrained in order to lose weight. They promoted and protected dude food—and by extension masculinity itself—from the feminine encroachment of dieting. With Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, or Jenny Craig, men did not need to fear the assumed gustatory dissatisfaction of “healthy” foods, framed as the opposite of tasty and hearty dude food.
Opening Diners, Dudes, and Diets to page 99 throws the reader into Chapter Four and the central thesis of my book, which shows how the food, marketing, and media industries deployed “the dude” to sell feminized food fare to men during the Great Recession era. Celebrating the slacker guy, the dude provided a way to engage men in food, but from such a cool and insincere distance that it didn’t impinge their overall masculinity. As this page shows, commercial diet programs like Weight Watchers did this, in part, by promoting not typical diet food, like salads or low-calorie shakes, but through the nutritional exaggeration and gendered status of dude food, a masculinized culinary genre that I define and explore in Chapter One. That also explains the book’s cover image: the iconic burger.

It’s also pretty perfect that page 99 takes readers to where this project first began for me personally. I wrote my undergraduate honors thesis on the early 2000s diet industry that targeted women, work that I expanded for my MLA thesis in Gastronomy at Boston University, where I focused specifically on men and masculinities. When I started my PhD at Brown, I thought the entire book would be about dieting, but I ended up focusing on gender across the food mediascape, from restaurant menus and food advertising to Pinterest boards and Instagram posts and all that lies in between. Nevertheless, this chapter that includes page 99 was the first one I wrote. It now appears at the end of the book, culminating earlier chapters that explore cookbooks, Food Network star Guy Fieri, and diet sodas and yogurts, all specifically targeted to men since 2000. As the book documents, dude food abides—and in my case, the page 99 test works wonders!
Visit Emily Contois's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 13, 2020

Judith G. Coffin's "Sex, Love, and Letters"

Judith G. Coffin is Associate Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of The Politics of Women's Work and articles on radio, mass culture, and sexuality and coauthor of four editions of Western Civilizations.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Sex, Love, and Letters: Writing Simone de Beauvoir, and reported the following:
This page actually does get to the heart of the book; page 99 is a great test.

Sex, Love, and Letters is based on a virtually unknown archive of readers’ letters to Simone de Beauvoir. On page 99, as it happens, I cite exactly the passage from Beauvoir’s work that readers most often copied out in their letters to the French philosopher. It comes from her 1960 autobiographical volume, The Prime of Life. “What I wanted,” Beauvoir says, "was to penetrate so deeply into the lives of others that when they heard my voice they would have the impression they were speaking to themselves.” It’s a remarkable phrase, one that captures how much Beauvoir cared about how her writing landed -- and why so many readers responded to her. They felt she had called on them to recount their experience of reading her work, the thrill of books, their appetite for introspection, and the challenges of thinking seriously about their lives and decisions. They wrote to her about an extraordinary range of subjects and in an unusually intimate tone. As I also point out, that dialogue often got out of hand. One reader, also quoted on page 99 responds dramatically: "You speak of 'penetrating into the lives of others.' You have reached this goal, and it gives you responsibilities, and speaking for myself, I can no longer consider you a stranger… [ those] reactions may be unpleasant, and you had not envisioned them. But it is not my fault.” Reaching into the lives of others was bound to foster expectations that would be disappointed and demands that no writer could meet. It also sparked resistance and anger. Some of these dynamics cannot help but remind us of psychoanalysis, and the popularization of Freud is part— though only part -- of the cultural background to the story I am telling. Page 99 is a particularly revealing glimpse of the intense, demanding, and emphatically reciprocal relationship between Simone de Beauvoir and her readers.

I’ve taken this intimate relationship, which lasted for decades and across generations of readers, as an invitation to write a new kind of cultural history of the postwar decades. I follow Beauvoir and her readers as they work through the aftermath of the Second World War and the harrowing memories that kept resurfacing, the equally disconcerting revelations about torture and brutality as the French army tried to repress an anti-colonial revolution in Algeria. It gives us an inside and often dark view of an economic boom that rearranged the economy and family life, often intensifying the burdens of work and the strains of marriage. These weren’t simply French developments; readers from around the world wrote about them in their letters. These were the decades in which sexuality came to the forefront of cultural life, and we see how ordinary people dealt with constantly multiplying theories of sexuality and its psychological dimensions and also how they struggled with categories of sexual identity that did not fit their desires. Men and women wrote to Beauvoir as if she were a marriage counselor. Men and women came out to her. They came on. Their letters show that feeling is part of thinking. They highlight the emotional dimensions of politics –anti-war, anti-colonial, gay liberation, and feminism. They take us inside the inner turmoil of a tumultuous age. Of course they also show the global reach of this French existentialist and feminist and the charisma of her person and ideas. But these readers mattered to Simone de Beauvoir as much as she mattered to them.
Follow Judith Coffin on Twitter, and learn more about Sex, Love, and Letters at the Cornell University Press website. 

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Juan José Ponce-Vázquez's "Islanders and Empire"

Juan José Ponce Vázquez is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Alabama.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Islanders and Empire: Smuggling and Political Defiance in Hispaniola, 1580-1690, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Islanders and Empire is the second page of chapter 3, which starts with a vignette from 1598 about a Spanish judge on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola who had been prosecuting contraband cases. He was assaulted by a group of Spanish and French smugglers, who robbed him and destroyed all the documentation of his proceedings. Ambushed while he was resting, the judge was barely able to escape with his shirt. From page 99:
Sáez de Morquecho believed that the attack he suffered at the hands of a mixed French and Spanish force was proof that the northern residents of Hispaniola were actively working against their king and natural lord, his ministers, and their embodiment of the true Catholic faith. If the crown did not act, the loss of the island to the hands of European heretics and rivals of Spain was only a matter of time. In the words of Captain Diego Paredes Carreño, a local resident, the foreign merchants “brought a great quantity of heretical books to spread their sect in this island, and they give them to everyone who wants them.” Sáenz de Morquecho’s comparison of the people of Hispaniola with moriscos situated them for his contemporary Spanish readers as marginal subjects whose loyalty was questionable and whose behavior demanded a prompt response by the crown to enforce acceptable Christian behavior and to maintain its dominion.
Who are the moriscos, you may ask? That’s also on page 99!
On the Iberian Peninsula, moriscos were men and women who had converted from Islam to Christianity either voluntarily, or in the case of those living in the Kingdom of Granada after 1492, by force after the royal edict of 1502 compelled all Muslims who wanted to stay in Castilla to convert or leave the kingdom. The mass conversions that ensued raised suspicions among established Christians (who referred to themselves as “old Christians”) about the sincerity of these converts, while the Inquisition policed the public and private behavior of these new Christians searching for any hint of heresy. The Second War of the Alpujarras (1568–71), in which moriscos rebelled against the suffocating pressures of the crown upon their lives and customs, only exacerbated such fears. Moriscos were seen as disloyal and rebellious. By the late sixteenth century, they were sometimes believed to be a fifth column, working secretly for the Ottoman Empire and North African corsairs from inside the Iberian Peninsula.
This page summarizes one of the main arguments of the chapter: in the eyes of the Spanish crown, contraband trade was not only an act of economic defiance to the monopoly that the monarchy was trying to uphold in its American colonies, it was also an act of religious subversion, since most of the foreign smugglers were (or at least were perceived to be) Protestants. The Spanish crown feared that the interaction of its Catholic subjects and these so-called “Lutherans” would lead to the loss of the souls of the people of Hispaniola, who would become false Christians, just like the moriscos.

Such a grave interpretation of contraband trade in both economic and religious terms led the crown to order the removal of the entire population of the north and west of Hispaniola only a few years later (1605-06), destroying villages and forcing inhabitants to relocate to newly erected towns near Santo Domingo, closer to the watchful gaze of Spanish colonial bureaucrats and the church. This chapter analyzes this entire process of depopulation, which had significant consequences for the history of the island, the Caribbean, and the entire Atlantic world. The origins of the French colony of Saint-Domingue (which would later become the independent black republic of Haiti) in Western Hispaniola was possible in part because of the 1605 depopulations.

Page 99, and the rest of chapter 3 portray a turning point in the history of Hispaniola. While before 1605, local smugglers were able to make illicit deals in remote bays and beaches on the island, in the aftermath of the depopulations they were forced to practice their business under the shadow of Spanish colonial institutions. To this end, they had to gain the trust and complicity of Spanish bureaucrats, who were often happy to fill their pockets while serving in a Caribbean borderland like Santo Domingo. Islanders and Empire, therefore, offers a ground-up reconstruction of trans-imperial and interregional illicit trade networks and the politics that fueled them. It shows a progressive institutionalization of smuggling at the highest levels of colonial governance, the growing influence that local residents had in manipulating colonial administrators, and, by extension, the designs of the Spanish monarchy in the Caribbean during the seventeenth century.
Learn more about Islanders and Empire at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Elizabeth L. Swann's "Taste and Knowledge in Early Modern England"

Elizabeth L. Swann is Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Literary Studies at Durham University. She is co-editor of Sensing the Sacred in Medieval and Early Modern Europe (2018), and has published essays on topics including scepticism, self-knowledge, and the divine senses.

Swann applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Taste and Knowledge in Early Modern England, and reported the following:
A reader opening my book at page 99 would not encounter a block of text, but rather a full-page image, reproducing an anonymous painting commissioned by the anatomist and surgeon John Banister in the late sixteenth century. The painting shows a dissected dog and pig, skin flayed to reveal the tangle of viscera, alongside a cache of sinister-looking surgical instruments. What interests me, however, is the presence of another animal, one who has evaded the absent anatomist’s knife: an ape, who calmly surveys the scene whilst simultaneously munching on a piece of fruit.

The text on the preceding page, which is part of the conclusion to Chapter 2, offers an interpretation of this odd image. “Most obviously,” it acknowledges, “the monkey is present as another potential object for anatomical dissection, or possibly vivisection... So far, however, it has escaped its fate, and – given the absence of a human figure – the proprietorial air with which it surveys the scene suggests that the ape stands in as a temporary substitute for or double of the anatomist himself. What are we to make of this?” I go on to suggest that the ape functions here as a traditional iconographical representative of the sense of taste; as such, it “serves as a reminder of the ways in which anatomy is bound up with gustatory appetites.”

Taken along with the interpretation, page 99 serves as a good indication of some of the concerns of Chapter 2, which argues (amongst other things) that the sense of taste played an important role in early modern surgery and medicine: a physician, for instance, might taste discharge from a wound as part of the diagnostic process. It also demonstrates my commitment to interdisciplinary methods: although my work is rooted in literary scholarship (this particular chapter opens with a discussion of a poem by John Donne, for instance), it also draws on wide range of more unusual historical sources, including Renaissance dietary advice, joke books, and etiquette guides, as well as medical textbooks and the visual arts.

In chapter 1 of my book, however, I quote a couple of anonymous sixteenth- and seventeenth- century poems that complain about readers who flick and skim, rather than giving a work their sustained attention. And on the whole, a reader turning to page 99 of my book and going no further would not get anything like a full or accurate ‘sense’ of the project’s central aim, which is to offer a history of the neglected and denigrated sense of taste in the English Renaissance, with a particular focus on the relationship between physical experiences of eating and ‘taste’ as a metaphorical term associated with discrimination and understanding.

This aim goes well beyond Chapter 2’s focus on anatomical dissection. Thus, Chapter 1 establishes that in early modern period the language of literary and aesthetic ‘good taste’ possessed a literal dimension: literary judgement was closely tied to physical experiences of tasting, in ways that had the potential to democratize critical authority. Chapter 3 explores taste’s problematic moral status, pointing out that in the Christian tradition taste has a role to play both in humankind’s fall from grace (as Adam and Eve tasted the forbidden fruit), and in our redemption (through participation in the Eucharistic ritual). Chapter 4 investigates the work of early experimental scientists, showing how such figures attempted to use taste to develop medicines and technologies that could undo the effects of Adam and Eve’s catastrophic act. And finally, chapter 5 addresses a pervasive association of erotic pleasure with sweetness in Renaissance poetry, arguing that this association forges links between sensuality and non-rational knowledge, reconceptualising sexual desire as a source of understanding, and contributing to an increased acceptance of eroticism in the seventeenth century.

Page 99, then, is pretty inadequate as a test of my book overall. But Banister’s gruesome painting might just, I hope, be intriguing enough to whet readers’ appetites for more…
Learn more about Taste and Knowledge in Early Modern England at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Michael Geheran's "Comrades Betrayed"

Michael Geheran is Assistant Professor of History and Deputy Director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Comrades Betrayed: Jewish World War I Veterans under Hitler, and reported the following:
Comrades Betrayed examines the generation of Jewish men who fought for Germany in World War I. It looks at their experiences in the trenches of the Great War, how they responded to the rise of Hitler, how they coped under Nazi persecution, and why many believed that Germany would never betray them, even as the Holocaust unfolded around them.

In many ways, Page 99 gives readers a good sense of the book. It discusses the impact of the so-called Nuremberg Laws of 1935 on Jewish veterans. This legislation not only stripped Jews of their basic rights as German citizens but was part of a larger Nazi effort to erase everything Jewish soldiers had achieved and sacrificed. It sought to destroy their identity as Germans, as soldiers, as well as the high status they had earned as veterans of the Great War, upon which their sense of German identity rested. Yet as the rest of Chapter 4 makes clear, Jewish war veterans were able to discredit the claims of Nazi propaganda in a highly public manner, using evidence of wartime military service to obliterate antisemitic stereotypes of the un-German, un-manly “Jew.” This strategy generated ambivalence among a German public that saw former soldiers as persons to be respected, regardless of race or background, a path not available to Jewish men who had been too young or too old to have served in World War I.

Page 99 is unlike the rest of the book, however, because it is part of a shorter section that delves into the minutiae of antisemitic legal ordinances the Nazis passed in the mid-1930s. Missing here are the numerous first-hand accounts by victims, perpetrators, eyewitnesses, and other people who experienced the events recounted. Drawing on never-published letters and diaries from private family collections and interviews with survivors and their family members, Comrades Betrayed throws light on little-known individuals such as Otto Lewin, perhaps the last Jewish soldier to openly serve in the Wehrmacht, and Hugo Gutmann, who had been Hitler’s commanding officer in World War I. It frames the persecution and murder of Jewish veterans as a human drama, allowing the voices of these victims to be heard once again.
Learn more about Comrades Betrayed at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 9, 2020

Steven Fielding, Bill Schwarz, and Richard Toye's "The Churchill Myths"

Steven Fielding is Professor of Political History at the University of Nottingham. He is the author of a number of books, including A State of Play: British Politics on Screen, Stage and Page, from Anthony Trollope to The Thick of It (2014), and is currently writing The Labour Party: from Callaghan to Corbyn.

Bill Schwarz is Professor of Modern Literature and History at Queen Mary University of London. He is completing a three-volume study for Oxford University Press, Memories of Empire, the first volume of which received the Longman/History Today prize in 2013, and has been an editor of History Workshop Journal since 1989.

Richard Toye is Professor of Modern British History at the University of Exeter. His books include Lloyd George and Churchill: Rivals for Greatness (2007), Churchill's Empire: The World That Made Him and the World He Made (2010), The Roar of the Lion: The Untold Story of Churchill's World War II (2013), and Winston Churchill: A Life in the News (2020).

Toye applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, The Churchill Myths, and reported the following:
I co-authored The Churchill Myths with Bill Schwarz and Steve Fielding so no-one page can be absolutely typical; we each have our distinct approaches and styles of writing. However, page 99 – which in fact was written by me – certainly does reflect the core theme of the book. As we emphasise right at the start, the book is not about Churchill the man, but rather about the ways in which others have made use of his image and reputation in the years since his retirement and death. There is a Churchillian ‘core image’ that has remained fairly constant. But the ways in which he has been debated and portrayed have evolved in response to new revelations about his record and in reaction to changing political conditions. Page 99, then, finds politicians in 2019 wrangling over Churchill’s legacy. The then Labour Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell had described Churchill as a ‘villain’. The Conservative Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg hit back. As the book describes it:
He claimed that ‘the Second World War would not have been fought by us without Churchill, everyone else in the British Establishment was ready to seek peace terms.’ Given that Rees-Mogg wanted to present himself as anti-elitist, despite being a public school–educated Tory MP and the son of a Times editor, casting the aristocratic Churchill as an anti-Establishment figure was a useful move.
However, what politicians say is only part of the story. The book also covers how Churchill has been represented in popular culture: in plays, on TV, and in films such as Darkest Hour. These help reinforce Churchill as a symbol of Britishness, which means that real or perceived criticisms of him are likely to trigger strong feelings and even a sense of affront. In writing The Churchill Myths our major purpose was to explore this emotional terrain.
Learn more about The Churchill Myths at the Oxford University Press website. 

The Page 99 Test: Churchill's Empire.

My Book, The Movie: Churchill's Empire.

The Page 99 Test: Winston Churchill: A Life in the News.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Maria Sobolewska and Robert Ford's "Brexitland"

Maria Sobolewska is a Professor of Political Science, and Deputy Director of the Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research, at the University of Manchester, and a Specialist Adviser to a House of Lords Select Committee on electoral registration. She is co-author of The Political Integration of Ethnic Minorities in Britain (2013).

Robert Ford is Professor of Political Science at the University of Manchester. He is an expert on immigration, public opinion, and party politics in Britain. His first book, Revolt on the Right (2013), was named Political Book of the Year in 2015. He writes regularly on British electoral politics for national and international media outlets.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Brexitland: Identity, Diversity and the Reshaping of British Politics, and reported the following:
When we open Brexitland on page 99 we are taken back in time from Brexit, to the spring of 1968, when Conservative politician Enoch Powell made his infamous “Rivers of Blood” speech, in which he attacked the demographic changes being driven by immigration from Britain’s former imperial colonies in the Commonwealth.. Powell’s intervention was the first instance of a leading British politician taking such an openly anti-immigrant stance, and while it provoked a negative reaction from the political elites, costing Powell his post in the government of Edward Heath, it received a huge amount of public support. At this point of the book we are building up the picture of how this famous intervention mobilised voters threatened by immigration and rising ethnic diversity behind the Conservative party Powell’s speech helped give his party a decades-long electoral advantage on the issue of immigration control. It was not until David Cameron’s Prime Ministership in early 2010s that this advantage dissipated, opening the door to the radical right UK Independence Party’s surge, and ultimately to the EU referendum of 2016.

In many ways the Page 99 test works well for Brexitland. It is a book about how political parties, public opinion and social norms have all changed in reaction to the demographic changes Britain has experienced in the last 60 years. Page 99 has it all: we show the party political side of Powell’s infamous speech; the disconnect between mainstream political elites and the average British voter, which Powell exploited; we show the electoral power of Powell’s divisive anti-immigration stance; but also the power of anti-racism norms – violating them cost Powell his career in government. This page showcases our effort to take a very broad look at the causes of Brexit by delving deep into British political history to trace the roots of parties’ reputations and choices, and how history can repeat itself, with, for example, uncanny parallels between the debates over post-colonial immigration in Powell’s time and more recent arguments about EU accession migration from Central and Eastern Europe since 2004.

Perhaps the only element of the book which is not directly present on page 99, but frames the background to the events it discusses, and which we discuss elsewhere in the book, is demographic and value change that Britain has experienced within a lifetime. Powell’s speech is a response to one of the main demographic changes we discuss in the book, ethnic diversity. The other element, missing from page 99 but covered elsewhere in the book, is the mass expansion of higher education, which resulted in a fundamental shift in the social and political values of the younger, better educated generations. Educational expansion has driven changes in how ethnic diversity is assessed, encouraging stronger commitment among younger Brits to upholding the anti-racism social norm, and encouraging more expansive definitions of intolerant behaviour which violates this norm. This value change is something that will go on influencing British politics beyond Brexit, for decades to come.

The parallels between the social and value changes discussed in Brexitland, and wider trends elsewhere are not accidental. The power of the conflicts over ethnic diversity and immigration can be felt in other European countries and in US politics too.
Learn more about Brexitland at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue