Monday, October 2, 2023

Steve Tibble's "Templars: The Knights Who Made Britain"

Steve Tibble is a graduate of Cambridge and London Universities, and is a research associate at Royal Holloway College, University of London. He is one of the foremost academics currently working in the field of the crusades, and is the author of the warfare and strategy chapters in both The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades and The Cambridge History of the Crusades (2023).

His recent publications have been critically acclaimed and include The Crusader Armies (2018) and The Crusader Strategy (2020, short-listed for the Duke of Wellington's Military History Prize).

Tibble applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Templars: The Knights Who Made Britain, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Templars - The Knights Who Made Britain is about something close to all our hearts, for good and bad - income tax.

In particular, it discusses the way in which the English crown under Henry II began to raise taxes in the 1180s in response to the increased and unremitting threat posed to the crusaders by Saladin and his hugely powerful cavalry armies.

The content on page 99 is ostensibly very specific, but the test works rather better than one might imagine - it acts, in a way, as a metaphor for the role adopted by the Templars, and the almost sublime strategy they used to fulfill that role.

The Templars were created as a way of defending the Holy Land and its local Christian communities. They did this with a twin-track strategy - being a standing army in the East, and marshalling aid from the West. This meant, ironically, that while they were masters of war in the Holy Land, they were also masters of peace and stability in Europe - undistracted kings and more productive states were needed to better support the crusading movement.

The Templars were thus committed to helping the development of taxation and banking in England (in order to get money sent to the east) and to ingratiating themselves within Henry II's administration (in order to persuade the king and his men to go on crusade).

Ultimately, the Templars wanted to operate within effective, stable societies. Such societies could generate more resources to be sent to the East (to help bolster up the crusader states). A far-reaching consequence of this surprisingly internationalist agenda, however, was to help create more modern instruments of government on a provincial level. The interests of the order were fundamentally their own – but those interests often coincided with those of a stabilising and centralising monarchy.

This was not an ideal world. However frustrating it might be, the local monarchies (such as the kings and queens of England and Scotland) almost invariably put their own interests first. But the Templars, and their papal masters, generally strove for improvement rather than perfection. They made the best of what they found. And they tried to make it better.
Visit Steve Tibble's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Russell Neuman's "Evolutionary Intelligence"

W. Russell Neuman is Professor of Media Technology at New York University. A founding faculty of the MIT Media Laboratory, he served as Senior Policy Analyst in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. His recent books include The Digital Difference: Media Technology and the Theory of Communication Effects.

Neuman applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Evolutionary Intelligence: How Technology Will Make Us Smarter, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Evolutionary Intelligence falls in the middle of a cautionary chapter about the perils of artificial intelligence and digital omnipotence entitled “There Be Dragons.” The book’s concern is not that a malevolent robot will try to kill us but that Big Tech has strong incentives to invade our privacy and manipulate our attention. In the middle of page 99 there is pause…
Wait. What? This section began under a heading of “personal privacy.” What is all this dissertating about just the opposite—systematically making personal information available to other entities? Actually, I believe that is entirely the point. Intelligent personal privacy makes it routinely convenient for each of us to take control of our personal information. If you don’t want anybody to know of your weakness for fine chocolates, so be it. When you purchase fine chocolates or download a recipe for chocolate truffle ganache, you keep your identity contractually private and happily forfeit the financial benefit or discount.
The book goes on to argue that “intelligent privacy” can allow those inclined to actually profit personally from making their market-relevant information available to marketers while others opt out of the financial benefit and keep personal information personal. It is an example of using smart technology to empower the individual. As page 99 says: “that is entirely the point.”

The public is justifiably concerned that evolving AI promises to be a powerful tool. Evolutionary Intelligence is a book about how the locus of control of that power can be in the hands of the individual rather than the big corporations.

The idea of evolutionary intelligence interprets evolving AI as the next stage of human evolution as our capacities co-evolve with the technologies we create. The wheel made us more mobile. Machine power made us stronger. Telecommunication gave us the capacity to communicate over great distances. Evolutionary intelligence will make us smarter.
Learn more about Evolutionary Intelligence at the The MIT Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 30, 2023

Kim Akass's "Mothers on American Television"

Kim Akass is Professor of Radio, Television and Film at Rowan University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Mothers on American Television: From Here to Maternity, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book concludes Ruth Fisher’s narrative journey in Six Feet Under which, at first glance, seems to disprove the page 99 theory. However, at the end of this page I quote E. Ann Kaplan (from her book Motherhood and Representation: The Mother in Popular Culture and Melodrama) and that beautifully sums up the aims of the book as a whole: ‘the Mother offers a possible way to break through patriarchal discourses since she has not been totally appropriated by dominant culture’ (11). Following this quote, I argue that the death of the patriarch in the pilot episode of Six Feet Under allows representations of mothering, especially the middle-aged mother of adult children, to become reconfigured which problematizes many assumptions about maternity and motherhood along the way.

In many ways the Page 99 Test works as my book focuses on how mothers and mothering are represented in a selection of quality American television series and argues that what we see onscreen reveals much about societal hostility towards mothers and motherhood as well as how women continue to be linked with, and oppressed by, their biology - as the overturning of Roe vs Wade confirms. By closely analyzing series like Sex and the City, The Sopranos, Deadwood, The Handmaid’s Tale and Big Little Lies (among others) what is revealed is that, unless feminism gets to the bottom of how mothers are (dis)regarded, women will never achieve equality in a modern world. Looking at the way mothers are represented onscreen; my book offers a pathway through patriarchal discourses by utilizing feminist psychoanalytic theories revealing how the unconscious of neoliberal patriarchal America works.”
Follow Kim Akass on Twitter and Facebook.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 29, 2023

Danielle N. Boaz's "Voodoo: The History of a Racial Slur"

Danielle N. Boaz is an Associate Professor of Africana Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where she offers courses on human rights, social justice, and the law. She has a Ph.D. in history with a specialization in Africa and the African Diaspora; a J.D. with a concentration in International Law; and a LL.M. in Intercultural Human Rights. She is Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Africana Religions. Boaz's research focuses on the intersection of racism and religious intolerance, with an emphasis on discrimination and violence against devotees of African diaspora religions.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Voodoo: The History of a Racial Slur, and reported the following:
Page 99 provides background information about the political situation in Haiti in the 1970s and 1980s which led thousands of Haitians to seek asylum in the United States. It also describes the changes to refugee laws and policies during this time period which resulted in very few Haitians being granted asylum.

Page 99 is part of Chapter 5, which is titled “‘Sacrifices at Sea’ and Refugees in the 1980s.” This chapter is about several cases in which boats full of Haitian refugees arrived in the United States in the early 1980s and the passengers claimed that the leaders of the voyages had sacrificed people in “voodoo” rituals during the journeys. It explores how these tales of “voodoo” sacrifices were manipulated in media reports about the status of Haitian refugees– in debates about whether they should be granted asylum and in descriptions of the terrible conditions in which they were being detained. Page 99, therefore, provides essential background information about this chapter but does not get into the meat of the argument (of both this chapter and the book in general) about public understandings of “voodoo” and how they shifted over time.

As the book title suggests, the core argument is really about one thing– “voodoo” is a racist term. It developed during the mid-to-late 19th century to question whether Black people should be emancipated and if they were fit for citizenship and voting rights. In the early 20th century, tales of “voodoo” practices were used to argue that Black people in Haiti and Cuba could not govern themselves. In the mid-20th century, the precursor to the Nation of Islam was denounced as a “voodoo cult.” Essentially, the book is about encouraging the reader to think about where the term “voodoo” comes from before flippantly calling something “voodoo science” or “voodoo economics” and to get the reader to question why popular understandings of “voodoo” (and African diaspora religions more generally) are so negative.
Learn more about Voodoo: The History of a Racial Slur at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 28, 2023

George Pavlich's "Thresholds of Accusation"

George Pavlich holds a Henry Marshall Tory Chair and is Professor in the Department of Sociology and the Faculty of Law at the University of Alberta. He received his BA and BA (Hons) degrees from the University of the Witwatersrand (Johannesburg, South Africa), an MA from Simon Fraser University (Vancouver Canada), and a PhD from the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada). Pavlich's research interests include the overlapping areas of social theory, socio-legal studies, restorative justice, the sociology of law and critical criminology.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Thresholds of Accusation: Law and Colonial Order in Canada, and reported the following:
Applying Ford Madox Ford's test to Thresholds of Accusation places readers at a description of a report recommending that the Dominion of Canada use both military and civil power to instate settler-colonial social orders across the prairies. The Dominion government independently commissioned two intelligence officers, William Butler and Patrick Robertson-Ross, to evaluate how planned colonial settlement might be secured without provoking local wars. Page 99 forms part of a discussion around Robertson-Ross’ report and is thus rather too specific to give a fulsome or accurate rendering of the book’s overall arguments on criminal accusation. As such, the Page 99 Test is not a good one for the book’s theoretical ambitions, offering instead some contextualising background to what follows.

Even so, page 99 evokes some recurring themes. We see how Robertson-Ross' ‘intelligence’ — like Butler’s before it — drew upon an imperial sociopolitical logic to frame a cursory reconnaissance of the ‘west’. It concluded that a sustainable paramilitary force (with civil and military components) would be needed to assert Dominion sovereignty and legal jurisdiction. That force was calculated as part of dispossessing plans for settler colonialism, to overhaul a ‘primitive state of society in the province’ while quelling potential resistance. Page 99 intimates how Robertson-Ross’s empire-biased personal impressions largely ignored Indigenous appraisals of a changing ethos. Such preconceptions were recast as impartial intelligence that recommended both civil (law-and-order) and military forces be deployed to curtail Indigenous opposition to settlement. This force was to be sufficient to bring colonial order to supposedly ‘lawless’ lands — a deeply flawed view given the presence of age-old Indigenous legal systems. The report’s recommendations (and others) coincided with the Dominion’s creation of a Northwest mounted paramilitary police force. The latter was to assert Dominion law and sovereignty over vast prairie lands to which Indigenous Peoples had long-held storied relations and attachments.

Focussing on Alberta in the decade following the Mounties’ local arrival in 1874, this book highlights how Dominion paramilitary policing first set about declaring exclusive colonial jurisdiction over so-called disorderly crimes and criminals. Specifically, it analyzes how colonial criminalization stemmed from overlooked performances of accusation. Such performances were officially authorized to categorise perceived threats to settler-colonial plans via criminalizing idioms. Accusation thus formed thresholds that bridged local information of disorderly actions (relations or people) and legal categories of crime. Those thresholds then provided arenas where the Northwest mounted police could performatively assert criminal jurisdiction and represent the force as instilling colonial law.

To play such roles effectively, officers were trained to arrange, direct, and develop lead-actor characters in theatres and variously to perform criminal accusation in ways that transformed local social lore into colonial vernaculars of criminal law. For example, justices of the peace (often senior police officers) held preliminary examinations to hear information that accused subjects of crime to decide whether there was sufficient evidence to open or close gateways to further criminal trials. Through such performances, they claimed the jurisdiction not only to receive information of ‘crime’ and ‘disorder’, but to adjudicate which matters were criminalizable. Colonial accusations of this sort also reduced complex and divesting socio-political relations to matters of individual culpability. They demanded the creation of individually accused personas who could be held culpable for crime and social disorder — even when both were formed by legal and relational stresses born to settler-colonialism.

More than rendering criminalization possible, such accusatory thresholds formed the inauspicious beginnings of what now exist as massive, repressive, individually focused, and unequally marginalizing criminal justice systems. As is well known, those systems continue to grapple with a tenacious legacy of colonial inequities that afflict both the governors of, and those governed by, legal ideas of crime. This book’s ‘history of the present’ approach highlights a legacy of accusatorial performance as the grounds for a colonial legal and social ordering that proscribed selected individuals as criminal subjects. Holding individuals potentially culpable for legally framed disarray, theatres of accusations commenced processes of criminalization that obscured communal dispossessions unleashed by settler colonization.
Learn more about Thresholds of Accusation at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Melina Sherman's "How We Hurt"

Melina Sherman is a Researcher at Knology in New York City.

She was formerly a Postdoctoral Researcher at NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge and holds a Ph.D. in Communication from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

Sherman applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, How We Hurt: The Politics of Pain in the Opioid Epidemic, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Though this concept [pseudoaddiction] has since been widely disputed in pain management, it is still listed as an “up-to-date” concept under the umbrella of opioid addiction as defined by the Federation of State Medical Boards (Chabal et al., 1998; Greene & Chambers, 2015; Dowell et al., 2013; Vijayaraghavan et al., 2013). In recent years, however, the concept of pseudoaddiction has come under fire for the role it is seen as having played in the upsurges of long-term prescription opioid use that many consider to be the driving force of the opioid epidemic, at least initially. In media accounts of the epidemic, pseudoaddiction is often pointed to as a convenient and disingenuous answer invented by big pharma sympathizers for the many physicians who saw in their pain patients the symptoms of growing tolerance and, in some cases, opioid withdrawal (e.g., Deprez & Barrett, 2017; Kessler, 2017; Radden Keefe, 2017). A concept like pseudoaddiction—especially when presented in the pages of a respected medical journal—also works to legitimate long-term opioid prescribing and encourage the continued sale of opioid products, particularly in cases where it is unclear whether the pain patient’s relationship to that product has soured.

Moreover, it is not insignificant that one of the authors of the paper that introduced the pseudoaddiction concept, Dr. David Haddox, signed on as a paid speaker for OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma shortly after the article’s publication. Haddox has since been promoted to the company’s vice president of health policy and has been paid to travel all over the country and give talks that simultaneously spread the word about pseudoaddiction and promote Purdue’s latest opioid products. Moreover, pseudoaddiction has also made frequent appearances in the marketing materials Purdue released in its promotion of OxyContin, including in educational pamphlets designed to provide physicians and patients with reliable information about the safety of opioids and in the “I Got My Life Back” videos. Thus, while it would be difficult to say, unconditionally, that the understanding of addiction espoused in the concept of pseudoaddiction led to the opioid epidemic, it is certainly the case that such an understanding complemented the interests of the opioid industry, just as it complemented the interests of physicians (most of whom were well intentioned and simply wanted to help their patients find relief) and pain patients (nearly all or all of whom want to be pain free).
If you opened How We Hurt to page 99, it’s likely that you would get a good idea of several key concepts that are central to the entire text. First, you would get an overview of “pseudoaddiction,” an infamous yet widely debunked concept invented by David Haddox to help physicians distinguish pain “patients” from opioid “addicts.” Though Haddox’s intentions coining this concept may have been pure, and though the concept itself may have even been useful to certain gatekeepers of opioids, it’s also the case that Haddox was employed by one of the biggest opioid manufacturers, Purdue Pharma, to promote the concept (and Purdue’s drugs) and that pseudoaddiction appeared to many as an all-too-convenient way of encouraging all patients, regardless of their relationships with opioids, to continue taking these medications. Underlying the question of pseudoaddiction are many of the issues that are central to the opioid crisis as a whole. We see embedded in this concept the deep ties between science and the pharmaceutical industry and the thorny relationship of these two fields that is always at play where opioids are concerned. We also see confusion, and uncertainty – two phenomena which have plagued nearly every major stakeholder in the opioid industrial complex, and which laid fertile ground for the crisis we are currently attempting to manage. Finally, in pseudoaddiction we also see an attempt, repeatedly made by scientists, physicians, pharma reps, regulators, and others, to draw a line that separates opioid patients from opioid addicts. Though, as my book shows, this line is fuzzy at best, the insistence of so many stakeholders to render it more concrete has also shaped the opioid crisis and made it look the way it does today. Ultimately, then, I’d say that while page 99 does not exactly describe the entire book, it does lay down some of the most important ideas that are espoused within it and sets the stage for the more in-depth analyses contained in each of its chapters.
Visit Melina Sherman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Fabian Baumann's "Dynasty Divided"

Fabian Baumann is a visiting postdoctoral researcher at the Research Center for the History of Transformations (RECET), University of Vienna, and holder of a Postdoc.Mobility grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation. Following studies in Geneva, Saint Petersburg, and Oxford, he completed his PhD in history at the University of Basel in 2020. From 2021 to 2022 he was a visiting postdoctoral fellow at the University of Chicago.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Dynasty Divided: A Family History of Russian and Ukrainian Nationalism, and reported the following:
From page 99:
The nexus between politics, business, and private life offers a fresh perspective on Kiev’s Russian nationalists. Dmitrii Pikhno’s professional successes and failures were inseparable from his national-political choices and his family network. His specific brand of agrarian nationalism was rooted both in his academic work as an economist and in his practical experience as a buyer and owner of several estates in right-bank Ukraine. During the political watershed of 1904–1905, Pikhno and his associates radicalized their vision of the Russian nation in reaction to several external threats. As the Russo-Japanese War and the following revolutionary agitation plunged the empire into a deep crisis, Kievlianin launched a powerful counterattack and became the vanguard of a nationalist movement that found fertile soil in an ethnically diverse region. After 1905, Pikhno and his son Vasilii Shul′gin transferred their nationalizing project from Ukraine to the grand political stage of Saint Petersburg. In doing so, the Pikhno-Shul′gins used family connections as a political vehicle—to the point of turning politics into a family business.
To my own surprise, the test works rather well! Page 99 is part of the introduction to the book’s third chapter and introduces readers to one of its main protagonists. Dmitrii Pikhno was a fascinating man: Born as a miller’s son in the Ukrainian countryside, he came to Kiev (now Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine) as a teenager and went on to make a brilliant career in Russian imperial society. Despite his relatively lowly social background, he became an economist, a newspaper editor, and finally, an influential politician in the imperial capital, Saint Petersburg. As the above excerpt states, these successes were intimately linked to his private life (which, frankly speaking, was rather peculiar, involving a long relationship with his stepdaughter and four sons born out of wedlock).

And this brings us straight to the book’s main themes. Dynasty Divided tells the story of a family of politicians, journalists, and intellectuals in nineteenth-century Kiev, a family that split up along national lines. The members of one branch came to think of themselves as Russians, the members of the other branch saw themselves as Ukrainians. Family members went on to become important leaders in both the city’s Russian and Ukrainian nationalist movements. My book argues that in Ukraine’s nineteenth-century intelligentsia, individuals’ nationality was not a matter of ethnic heritage but the result of conscious political choices. And these choices, as the case of Dmitrii Pikhno illustrates, were often connected with family life. Parents and siblings influenced individual activists’ nationalist worldviews, private households were the sites of political socialization, and family networks were exploited for organizational purposes. To find out more about how this ultimately led to a deep fissure in the local intelligentsia – a fissure that is part of the pre-history to Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine – you will have to read more than page 99, I’m afraid.
Learn more about Dynasty Divided at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 25, 2023

Kendra Coulter's "Defending Animals"

Kendra Coulter is Professor in Management and Organizational Studies at Huron University College at Western University and a Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Defending Animals: Finding Hope on the Front Lines of Animal Protection, and reported the following:
Page 99 takes readers into Colombia to hear from the country’s leading forensic veterinarian, Dr. Julio Aguirre. It is very much a real-life example of what you could call “CSI: Animals.” We learn about the motivations for his courageous and path-making work on the front lines and how it connects with the evolution of national animal protection laws.

Page 99 is a good illustration of the texture and significance of the book, and how real people’s stories bring the animal protection landscape in all its diversity to life. Although most of the frontline work highlighted in Defending Animals is in North America, global examples, like the Colombian case, enrich readers’ understandings of how efforts in communities and parliaments can work together to strengthen how animals are protected in powerful ways. Plus, the country’s strategies and the lessons they offer will surprise many! A particularly powerful dimension is that Aguirre’s team provides its expert veterinary forensic diagnostics free of charge to many families who are living in poverty so there can be justice for their animals too. The importance of acting in solidarity with both people and animal is a central theme in Defending Animals.

Defending Animals highlights the remarkable work being done in communities, courtrooms, and boardrooms to build a more humane future. It highlights the accomplishments as well as where we could be building bridges and creating new or better approaches to ensure animals – and people – are treated with greater care. It was truly an honor to write this book and amplify the voices of animals and those at work defending them. I hope that wherever people are in their educational and career journeys, Defending Animals will offer food for thought and action -- and inspiration.
Learn more about Defending Animals at the MIT Press website and follow Kendra Coulter on Facebook, Instagram, and Threads.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Julian Go's "Policing Empires"

Julian Go is Professor of Sociology and Faculty Affiliate of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics & Culture and the Committee on International Relations at the University of Chicago. He is the author of Postcolonial Thought and Social Theory (2016). He is the winner of Lewis A. Coser Award for Theoretical Agenda Setting in Sociology given by the American Sociological Association and former President of the Social Science History Association.

Go applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Policing Empires: Militarization, Race, and the Imperial Boomerang in Britain and the US, and reported the following:
Policing Empires: Militarization, Race, and the Imperial Boomerang in Britain and the US examines the history of police “militarization” in Britain and the US: that is, those moments when police departments adopt the military materials, mindsets and forms. Existing discussions of police militarization see it as a relatively new phenomenon. But Policing Empires reveals that the history of police militarization reaches back to the very beginning of modern policing in the nineteenth century. Furthermore, Policing Empires shows how militarization has been inextricably entangled with empire and racialization. Historically and through the present day, police militarization has occurred as police officials perceived threats of criminality and social disorder from groups they deemed racially foreign and inferior – whether the Irish or freed slaves in the 19th century or African Americans, Chinese, Jamaicans and Muslims in the twentieth. To manage these threats, police officials militarized their forces but they did so by drawing upon the forms, methods and weaponry that were used by colonial police and imperial armies upon racialized peoples in the peripheral zones of empire. Policing Empires thereby shows that police militarization is an effect of the imperial boomerang. Militarization is what happens when the imperial state brings home its armies and military methods from the periphery to thrash imagined barbarians who dare enter the empire’s metropolitan spaces.

On page 99 of Policing Empires, we encounter the following passage: “In New York, the frontier militia that had been so crucial for settler colonialism was influential, and veterans of the Mexican-American War played a role in militarizing the police. The same is true for Savannah. And with Savannah, the influence of slave patrols and coercive forms of settler colonialism was direct and palpable, evidenced in the heavily armed and mounted features of the SPD. For the formation of police in the United States, the London influence was matched if not surpassed by local varieties of the boomerang effect.” This is part of the conclusion to Chapter Two, titled “Cotton Colonialism and the New Police.” The chapter shows how the first police departments in New York, Savannah, Manchester and other cities in the transatlantic sphere were influenced by colonial forms and practices. The passage on page 99 captures something not only of this chapter but also of the larger themes of the book. The Page 99 Test is passed!
Learn more about Policing Empires at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Patterns of Empire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 22, 2023

Feargal Cochrane's "Belfast"

Feargal Cochrane is professor emeritus and senior research fellow at the Conflict Analysis Research Centre, University of Kent. His many books include Northern Ireland: The Fragile Peace and Breaking Peace: Brexit and Northern Ireland.

Cochrane applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Belfast: The Story of a City and its People, and reported the following:
My page 99 focuses on the building of the Titanic in Belfast’s Harland and Wolff shipyard, a subject that sits right at the centre of the book. So from that perspective anyone who opens the book at page 99 will know instantly that it is a book about Belfast.

The Titanic is probably Belfast’s most famous export, and we have constructed a civic brand around the most famous ship to be built since Noah’s Ark. The huge ocean liner was the last word in opulent transatlantic travel and was heralded as the ‘unsinkable ship’ before it did just that on its maiden voyage in the icy waters of the North Atlantic in April 1912. My page 99 focuses on the building of the Titanic and its sister ship the Olympic and the importance of these liners for the prestige of the shipbuilding industry in Belfast and for the economic progress of the city as a whole.

However, what my page 99 doesn’t do (but the book does) is explain the wider economic, political and cultural dimensions of shipbuilding in Belfast. Bluntly put, not everyone got to build the ships as it was an industry dominated by the Protestant/unionist/British community in the east of the city. For most of the 19th and 20th centuries they controlled ship building and dominated the wider political, economic and cultural life of Belfast, while the Catholic/ nationalist/Irish minority were largely excluded. The political and legal system as well as the nature of the public buildings in the city has reflected that reality until very recently.

In addition to shipbuilding, the book also has chapters on the linen industry, the political radicalism of the United Irishmen, the architecture of the city as well as chapters on the political conflict, the tourism and the cultural flourishing of more recent times. These chapters all emphasise the interconnections between politics, economics and culture and the way in which our divided history is woven indelibly into all aspects of the past and present of the city. So, ships are not just ships and buildings are not just bricks mortar and glass, they are history, heritage and part of our divided past –artefacts in our cultural archaeology.

But my page 99 certainly provides a glimpse of the wider themes within the book so I think it passes the test.
Learn more about Belfast at Feargal Cochrane's website.

The Page 99 Test: Northern Ireland.

--Marshal Zeringue