Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Robert Perkinson's "Texas Tough"

Robert Perkinson is currently a professor at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. He was awarded a Soros Justice Fellowship in 2006.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Texas Tough: The Rise of America's Prison Empire, and reported the following:
Page 99 spotlights the most abusive—and profitable—regime of criminal punishment in American history: convict leasing. After the abolition of slavery, some four million people suddenly entered the legal system not as property but as people. Yet they weren’t treated equally. Rather, law enforcement and the judiciary, which remained under the control of dispossessed slave holders, swiftly turned many freedpeople into felons, convicting them overwhelmingly of trifling offensive like stealing a pair of shoes or refusing to sign a labor contract. These felons were then hired off, or leased, to the highest bidder—mostly railroads, mining companies, and planters.

Because the lessees of convicts widened their profit margins by wresting maximum toil from their judicially bonded laborers while spending as little as possible on their upkeep, the practice produced unspeakable suffering: hundreds of thousands of prisoners over the course of four decades—the lion’s share of them black—were housed in filthy barracks by night and driven to exhaustion by day, often without adequate food or proper clothing. Tens of thousands of them perished and were then exchanged for fresh convicts, as promised by their contracts. As one lessee glibly remarked, “Before the war, we owned the Negroes…But these convicts, we don’t own ‘em. One dies, get another.”

Page 99 points out that the system wasn’t a “barbarous relic,” as historians have maintained. Rather, like slavery before it, convict leasing “played a vital role in assembling the infrastructure of what boosters would call ‘the New South.’” This was especially true in Texas, where leasing achieved unrivaled scale. In the 1880s, impressed convicts revitalized the sugar industry, which had collapsed after emancipation, and helped Texas become the nation’s leader in railroad construction. In addition, lease payments provided a major source of state revenue, “more than $300,000 a year by the 1880s.” The grandest beneficiary was Edward Cunningham, a former slaveholder and ruthless businessman who used this new form of unfree labor to build a gigantic and hugely profitable sugarcane enterprise outside of Houston that became Imperial Sugar Company, which in the late twentieth century made the Fortune 500 list. The system of convict leasing, then, not only reinforced white supremacy and victimized African Americans; perversely, it was an engine of economic growth.

Later in the book, it becomes clear that this regime of racial subjugation and labor exploitation didn’t fade away with the abolition of convict leasing. Rather, when Texas and other southern states resumed management of their penal systems during the Progressive Era, they often took over lessees’ plantations and maintained their personnel and praxis, thus transporting the lifeways of slavery deep into the twentieth century. In the North, a rehabilitative model of criminal justice dominated, but in the South, retribution, racism, and labor exploitation always held sway. A central argument of Texas Tough is that this harsher model of southern justice became a template for the nation during the conservative resurgence of the post civil rights era. The result is that America’s penal system, the largest in the world, is largely a southern penal system.
Read an excerpt from Texas Tough, and learn more about the book and author at the Texas Tough website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 29, 2010

Marion Blute's "Darwinian Sociocultural Evolution"

Marion Blute is Professor Emerita of Sociology, University of Toronto at Mississauga.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Darwinian Sociocultural Evolution: Solutions to Dilemmas in Cultural and Social Theory, and reported the following:
But to turn to oogamety and more familiar gender differences, what if the consumption and production functions of one gender, say females, are more costly than those of males so that the naturally selected equilibrium is with females/eggs at a lower frequency than males/sperm “packets” (the number of sperm required for a single egg to be fertilized; Noë and Hammerstein 1994, 1995)?
Page 99 is not representative of the book because the book is about sociocultural evolution. However, this section delves into evolutionary biological theories of gender differences and relations as part of a general discussion of the relationship among competition, conflict and cooperation in evolutionary processes. It includes a (minor?) mistake which I will correct here. Surprisingly to non-biologists, the most widely accepted evolutionary biological theory of gender differences implies that males/sperm are parasites which cannot explain why females do not revert to cloning, to mating with other females, or to choosing males who contribute equally and do not exploit them. In this section of the book I proposed a different theory - that there are ecological differences between genders (e.g. that proto-males eat more/produce more potential offspring while proto-females digest more and produce more potential grand-offspring) so that sex primordially is a form of cooperation, specialization and trade engaged in for mutual benefit (they probably trade to reduce risk).

What one gender does ecologically is likely to be more beneficial (or less costly) than what the other does (e.g. eating/producing more would be more beneficial under uncrowded circumstances relative to resources while digesting/re-producing more would be more beneficial under crowded circumstances) resulting in a biased “sex allocation” i.e. numbers times the amount spent on each of the one kind relative to the other. Additionally, competition would also ensue on both sides for the most/best of what the other side has to offer - called “sexual” as opposed to “natural” competition and selection since Darwin’s time. Moreover, sexual competition would be more intense among the proto-gender with the higher rather than the lower naturally-selected sex allocation and would therefore be a “contest” (involving contact and aggression) among the former as opposed to a “scramble” among the latter - all other things being equal, re-balancing the scales to an equal sex allocation.

The mistake I made on p. 99 was to imply that sexual competition and selection takes place among the latter because it takes place among the former - not so, it just would, although less intensely. Note that sexual competition and selection in either gender is antagonistic to the other which would ‘prefer’ that time and energy of partners/potential partners be spent on satisfying their needs instead, and is generally damaging to the population as a whole as well. Interestingly, this theory combines a conservative and a radical view of gender differences and relations.
Read an excerpt from Darwinian Sociocultural Evolution, and learn more about the book and author at the Cambridge University Press website as well as Marion Blute's faculty webpage and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 27, 2010

David Laskin's "The Long Way Home"

David Laskin has written books and articles on a wide range of subjects, including history, weather, travel, gardens, and the natural world. His The Children’s Blizzard won the Washington State Book Award and the Midwest Booksellers’ Choice Award for Nonfiction. His other titles include Braving the Elements: The Stormy History of American Weather, Partisans: Marriage, Politics and Betrayal Among the New York Intellectuals; A Common Life: Four Generations of American Literary Friendship and Influence; and Artists in their Gardens (coauthored with Valerie Easton).

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Long Way Home: An American Journey from Ellis Island to the Great War, and reported the following:
I love the idea of the Page 99 Test and it just happens that my new book The Long Way Home passes with flying, or at least vivid, colors. The book unfolds the immigrant experience in the First World War by following 12 men born in Europe who emigrated to America and returned across the Atlantic in uniform to fight with U.S. armed forces – and page 99 just happens to zero in on two of the guys at the moment their lives intersected with the sinking of the Lusitania on May 7, 1915.

In one of those narrative coincidences that make authors’ eyes twinkle, one of my guys, a Russian-Jewish plumber by the name of Meyer Epstein, actually emigrated on the Lusitania (in steerage) in 1913. How amazing that two years later the torpedoing of the fabled steamer by a German U-boat should bring Meyer’s adopted country to the brink of war.

Page break. I pick up with Andrew Christofferson, my one Norwegian immigrant, a slim, good-natured young fisherman who emigrated in 1911 in the hopes of homesteading in Nebraska. After an ecstatic Christian conversion at a Midwestern camp meeting, Andrew eventually found free land to homestead in the harsh short-grass prairie of eastern Montana – and that’s where he was when the Cunard liner flagship went down. Andrew’s daughter told me her father got all his news, a few days late, from a Norwegian-language paper called the Decorah-Posten. So I dug up the relevant issue and found someone to translate the account that Andrew read on May 11, 1915: “When the ship had vanished, the sea was filled with hundreds of persons struggling to stay afloat, and the air was filled with their cries for help and their calls to loved ones, bidding them farewell.”

Page 99 ends with a nod at how the German-American press covered the sinking: they blamed the tragedy on England and its American sympathizers, the idea being that if you were stupid enough to cross the Atlantic on an English steamer when the ocean was seething with German U-boats, well, you pretty much had it coming.

All in all, a pretty good snap shot of my book – and of the high-tension atmosphere that gripped the nation when the world’s fastest ocean-liner was torn asunder by a torpedo on a spring afternoon in 1915.
Read an excerpt from The Long Way Home, and learn more about the book and author at the official The Long Way Home website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Roger E. A. Farmer's "How the Economy Works"

Roger E. A. Farmer is Professor and Chair of the Economics Department at UCLA. The author of numerous books and journal articles, he is a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research and of the Centre for Economic Policy Research. He is a contributor to the Financial Times Economists' Forum and, in 2000, received the University of Helsinki medal in recognition of his work.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, How the Economy Works: Confidence, Crashes and Self-Fulfilling Prophecies, and reported the following:
I had two major goals in writing How the Economy Works: Confidence, Crashes and Self-fulfilling Prophecies. The first was to provide a jargon-free, concise and understandable history of economic thought from 1776 to the present day that would stand the test of time as a reference guide both for the general reader and those with a specialist knowledge of economics. The second was to provide a new theory and policy, that if widely adopted, could prevent future financial crises and the accompanying human misery of mass unemployment from reoccurring in the future. The technical details of my theory are explained in a companion book, Expectations, Employment and Prices.

Economic literacy is as important to citizenship as literacy in mathematics and the physical sciences. It is more important than ever that the public understands how economists’ beliefs influence the government policies that are now having such an profound impact on their everyday lives.

Why is there so much disagreement over the causes of recessions? What went wrong in 2008, and how can we fix it? Who was Keynes, and why are his ideas relevant today? What is the role of the Federal Reserve and other central banks around the world and how do they affect your life? Does it really make sense for governments to spend hundreds of billions of taxpayers’ money that they don’t have? I answer all of these questions and I illustrate the answers with examples.

Page 99 drops the reader right in the middle of a chapter that describes how economists explain the persistence of unemployment. This is the most challenging chapter in the book for the general reader to comprehend but is central to my argument about unemployment and economic theory. I have made the book as easy to read as possible but I have not been patronizing with the reader by trivializing hard ideas. Page 99 is a good example of this approach.

One of my favorite pieces of scientific literature is the book QED by Richard Feynman. In it, he explains the theory of quantum electrodynamics to the layman in simple English. In How the Economy Works: Confidence, Crashes and Self-fulfilling Prophecies, I have tried to do for modern macroeconomics what Feynman did for modern physics. You, the general reader, must be the judge of whether or not I have succeeded.
Learn more about How the Economy Works at the Oxford University Press website and at Roger E. A. Farmer's website, where you will find five video trailers of the author's description of the book's contents.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

J. Donovan's "Juries and the Transformation of Criminal Justice in France in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries"

James Donovan is associate professor of history at Pennsylvania State University at Mont Alto.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Juries and the Transformation of Criminal Justice in France in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, and reported the following:
On page 99 of the book there is a table showing that in nineteenth century France the conviction rate for recidivists tried for felonies was much higher than the conviction rate for first-time offenders. This was evidently because, as stated on the page, in “nineteenth-century France, as in eighteenth century England, the character of the accused person had a significant influence on the jury verdict…” In this sense, page 99 is representative of the book, which shows how in the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries juries (introduced in 1791) influenced the transformation of the French criminal justice system from one which tried the crime to one which tried the criminal, or toward an individualization of punishment. The panels exhibited much independence from the judicial and political authorities. Sometimes juries nullified the law in cases where social norms conflicted with its letter. More often, the panels acquitted accused persons or convicted them on reduced charges because jurors found the punishments too harsh.

The book uses evidence derived from Ministry of Justice reports and statistics and the writings of many contemporary jurists to show how juries played an essential role in bringing about penal reforms in France. Legislators responded to juror resistance to the harsh and inflexible punishments in the Napoleonic Penal Code by gradually enacting laws lowering penalties for certain crimes or giving jurors legal means to reduce them. But the ultimate outcome was paradoxical. Because of persistently high acquittal rates, governments eventually found means to reduce the powers of juries by removing many cases from jury trial and finally by destroying the independence of the panels in 1941.
Learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 22, 2010

Paul D. Halliday's "Habeas Corpus"

Paul D. Halliday is Associate Professor of History at the University of Virginia.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Habeas Corpus: From England to Empire, and reported the following:
Margaret Symonds laughed in church. So local leaders jailed her. But in 1629, anyone who thought herself wrongly jailed might use a writ of habeas corpus to have her case reviewed. And so it was that England’s greatest court freed Margaret Symonds.

Margaret’s story, found on page 99, opens the chapter concerned with how judges made judgments using habeas corpus. She was just one of thousands who used the writ from the sixteenth century to the nineteenth to ask whether they had been confined contrary to law. Using the writ effectively required a powerful judge, one who could compel obedience from all who might detain others, whether a jailer, a military officer, or a violent husband, and whether in England, or ultimately, across the English king’s many imperial dominions. But at its core, the writ’s history contains a paradox: the making of empire would spread habeas corpus across the globe, and the making of empire would generate the anxieties that would constrain the writ and the judge who made it work. Legislation, including that produced by quasi-representative legislatures in Britain, her colonies and former colonies, and the U.S., would do as much as anything else to shut down the judge who made the writ great.

No book’s possibilities can be fully revealed in the words of one page, any more than the whole of any aspect of past human experience—for instance, the use of a revered legal device—can be found in one story. But by reading Margaret’s tale along with thousands of others, we can consider anew how our law has and has not helped us accomplish our collective moral aspirations. We can explore how law has worked, and how it has not, when political crises and social dislocations have generated anxieties that have prompted us to lock up those who scare us most—sometimes with good cause, sometimes without. At its best, habeas corpus has helped us to see the difference. Margaret Symonds learned that in 1629.
Read an excerpt from Habeas Corpus, and learn more about the book at the Harvard University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Susan Douglas's "Enlightened Sexism"

Susan J. Douglas is the author of Where the Girls Are, The Mommy Myth, and other works of cultural history and criticism. She is the Catherine Neafie Kellogg Professor of Communication Studies and chair of the department at the University of Michigan, where she has taught since 1996. Her work has appeared in The Nation, The Progressive, Ms., The Village Voice, and In These Times.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message that Feminism's Work Is Done, and reported the following:
I lucked out on this assignment—which, like many of the other authors, I was wary about, given the randomness of the page number—because when you open Enlightened Sexism to page 99, you find yourself at the end of the chapter titled “Warrior Women in Thongs,” and so there are concluding paragraphs that summarize the book’s themes. Enlightened Sexism provides a somewhat irreverent tour through the changing media images of girls and women from the 1990s to the present, and lays out what I found to be a striking irony. With of all those super heroines, high-powered female attorneys, surgeons, judges, and police chiefs in prime time, not to mention prominent news anchors, reporters and pundits, much of the media have come to overrepresent women as having made it—completely—in the professions, and having achieved a level of financial success and comfort enjoyed primarily by the Tiffany’s-encrusted doyennes of Laguna Beach. So there is a rather large gap between how the vast majority of girls and women live their lives and what they see—and don’t see—in the media.

What the media have been giving us then, are fantasies of power. They assure girls and women that women’s liberation is a fait accompli, and that we are stronger, more successful, more sexually in control, more fearless, and more held in awe than we actually are. Because full equality allegedly has been achieved, it’s now acceptable to resurrect sexist stereotypes of girls and women because supposedly they can’t undermine us anymore. Thus, what has emerged is a new, subtle, sneaky form of sexism that seems to accept—even celebrate—female achievements on the surface, but is really about repudiating feminism and keeping women, especially young women, in their place. Girls and women are torn between impossibly contradictory images of the importance of femininity on the one hand and empowerment on the other. Lurking in most of this media fare is the message that feminist politics is no longer necessary, is even dangerous to women, when a host of issues from pay inequity, poverty and violence still affect millions of us.

“Warrior Women in Thongs” is about the rise in the 1990s of the sexy, mouthy, butt-kicking heroine—think Buffy, Xena, Lara Croft, et al. at the height of the “girl power” movement. Here’s an excerpt from p. 99 (with a few sentences from the bottom of p. 98 so it makes sense).
The warrior women in thongs insisted that females could, and should, combine force and aggression with femininity and sexual display. On the one hand, this was welcome, given how often our culture emphasizes that female sexuality is dangerous and shameful. On the other hand, they also reaffirmed the sexual objectification of women and girls, and suggested that women could be as strong as any man as long as they were poreless, stacked, and a size two. No matter how strong we got, it was more important to be slim and beautiful and to know how to deploy femininity as a weapon. And for most of the warrior women, their sexuality got them into trouble with the wrong men and even endangered those closest to them.

Finally, and obviously, these female heroes could only be kick-butt strong in fantastical other worlds either in some mythic past, in a place over a Hellmouth, or in a nether world or parallel universe of spying. In the real world, there’s the question of whether it’s all that great for girls to feel empowered primarily through the use of physical violence against others. But it was precisely because the settings of warrior women fare were mythological that they provided ideal metaphorical realms for exploring the increased fluidity and uncertainty of gender roles in the 1990s and beyond.

Warrior women were both transgressive and conformist. They fought like Jackie Chan but cried over romantic betrayal or injury done to others; they were physically dominating yet caring. While they suggested, on the one hand, that with enough Tae Kwon Do lessons women could reduce the differences between the sexes even further, their form-fitting, skin-baring outfits made clear that gender differences were here to stay. In addressing, however campily, our culture’s anxieties about changing gender scripts at the turn of the century, the warrior women in thongs asserted that to exert power, women had to be a lot more like men (hardly the feminist hope of the 1970s) and, at the same time, true to their socialized female selves that were not like men at all. They insisted that women were and could be comprised of a complicated, daunting bundle of roles, skills and emotions that drew from both sides of the old gender divide. In particular, increased physical strength matched by a defiant rhetorical toughness might be necessary now for women, but the traditional male emotional repertoires of aloofness and insensitivity were not. This was a very different and more complicated and ambiguous kind of female persona from those on Dallas, thirtysomething, or Touched by an Angel.
Learn more about the book and author at Susan Douglas's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 19, 2010

Khalil Gibran Muhammad's "The Condemnation of Blackness"

Khalil Gibran Muhammad is Assistant Professor of History, Indiana University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America, and reported the following:
The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and Modern Urban America brings to life one of the most transformative periods in U.S. history. The book tracks the racial limits of liberalism during the Progressive era in search of an historical explanation for the enduring notion of African Americans as a distinctive criminal population outside of the South.

One of the least explored areas of the period that gave birth to modern American liberalism is how ideas about crime shaped new patterns of racial segregation in the urban North. Although European immigrants were targets of anti-immigrant hysteria and nativist violence, they were not criminalized in the same way or with the same intensity as African Americans in Chicago, New York, or Philadelphia. Indeed for northern progressives, immigrant crime was treated as a symptom of class oppression whereas northern black crime was treated as a symptom of black pathology, as a legacy of slavery.

Southern chain gangs and lynch mobs were unmatched in terms of racist criminal justice practices, to be sure. But the story told here is far more revealing of where we are today in our post-Civil Rights, “color-blind” crime rhetoric than the Jim Crow, Bull Connor story of the Deep South.

In my opinion page 99 passes the test. It captures in microcosm how black culture then as now legitimized separate liberal understandings and treatments of blacks as “criminals.” It reveals why influential progressives chose not to chart a path of crime prevention, social reform, and antipoverty activism for African Americans that might have steered the nation away from a course leading to discriminatory mass incarceration policies today.

Page 99:
Like Frances Kellor’s publications, Franz Boas’s 1905 article would signal a new “scientific presumption” that “the Negro has the inherent capacity for progress, for civilization.”

With Boas’s rejection of biological determinism, a fresh set of perspectives on black criminality and new arguments for racial advancement entered the race-relations discourse. Boas’s interest in attacking biological racism was motivated in part by his primary concern with nativism in the urban North and related policy debates on restricting immigration. The assimilation of southern and eastern European immigrants was ultimately his central focus, as it was for the vast majority of Progressive era reformers. Yet his 1911 treatise, The Mind of Primitive Man, undoubtedly opened the door for blacks to be accepted as full participants in America. Along with some of the most influential and outspoken northern progressives, Boas argued that black inferiority was not innate but was a temporary state perpetuated by whites’ “social neglect.” The Mind of Primitive Man thus marked a crucial transition moment for new cultural explanations of black criminality.

As white racial liberals, Boas and those he influenced made great strides toward justifying racial equality in the urban North. In contrast to white racial Darwinists, including southern sociologists (or apologists), they constructed an alternative stage on which crime among blacks could be seen as a social problem rather than a biological one, as something temporary and reformable rather than innate and fixed. In light of modern capitalism’s contradictory forces of expanded economic opportunities and social freedoms as well as new forms of misery and blight, these northern liberals brought blacks closer to their pro-immigrant structural critiques. For example, they recast black juvenile delinquency and prostitution partly as social dramas shaped by white racism and white privilege.

Still, they stopped short of where they went for white immigrants. They used culture as both a salve and a sieve, to mediate the line between racial oppression based on hereditarian theories of black inferiority and unambiguous color-blind appeals for social, economic, and political reform. Facing institutional racism and intensifying segregation and discrimination by the public at large, many racial liberals ultimately capitulated.
Learn more about The Condemnation of Blackness at the Harvard University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Japonica Brown-Saracino's "A Neighborhood That Never Changes"

Japonica Brown-Saracino is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Loyola University Chicago. In August she will join the faculty of Boston University. She is the author of articles on gentrification, culture, and ethnography and is the editor of a forthcoming book, The Gentrification Debates (Routledge 2010).

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, A Neighborhood That Never Changes: Gentrification, Social Preservation, and the Search for Authenticity, and reported the following:
Ten years ago I began a comparative study of urban and rural gentrification. I conducted ethnographies of two Chicago neighborhoods – Argyle, or “Little Saigon,” and once-Swedish Andersonville, which was experiencing an influx of lesbian and other middle class professionals – and two small New England towns: Portuguese fishing enclave turned gay resort of Provincetown, Massachusetts and Dresden, Maine, a farming village to which professionals and retirees were moving.

A pattern unrelated to the original research question immediately emerged. Namely, all sites contained gentrifiers who spoke and behaved in ways previous work did not predict. Scholarship suggested that all gentrifiers, with the exception of those at risk of displacement, are indifferent toward long-timers and supportive of gentrification. Yet more than half the gentrifiers I interviewed worried about the consequences of their presence, specifically that changes they fueled would lead to long-timers’ displacement. Furthermore, they articulated anxiety that displacement would strip their neighborhood or town of “authenticity” they valued – an authenticity deeply connected to the sustained presence of certain long-timers. Many engaged in practices aimed at preventing displacement or thwarting gentrification.

My book, A Neighborhood That Never Changes: Gentrification, Social Preservation and the Search for Authenticity, pursues this unexpected finding, revealing a range of orientations and practices among gentrifiers. As page 99 reveals, the book primarily attends to those I term social preservationists: gentrifiers who move to live near long-timers with whom they associate “authentic” community, and who work to preserve the local social ecology. For social preservationists, who like most gentrifiers tend to be affluent, a place’s value is contingent on the presence of certain long-timers, such as Provincetown’s Portuguese fishermen, Andersonville’s Swedes, Argyle’s Vietnamese merchants, and Dresden’s farmers. Thus, they deploy political, symbolic, and private strategies to prevent displacement.

Page 99 [inset, click to enlarge] details preservationists’ criticism of their own participation in gentrification and affluence – a central claim of the book. This self-criticism borrows from longstanding and widespread concern about the threat affluent people pose to “authentic” people and places as well as from heightened public awareness of gentrification’s consequences.

Beyond page 99 the book explores long-timers’ reactions to social preservation and why preservationists work to preserve some – but not all – long-timers. It reveals the daily lives of four very different places and details how diverse groups negotiate local change. Cumulatively, A Neighborhood That Never Changes demonstrates how distinct ways of thinking about place and change play out in gentrifying neighborhoods and towns.
Learn more about A Neighborhood That Never Changes at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Timothy Stanley's "Kennedy vs. Carter"

Timothy Stanley is Leverhulme Research Fellow, Royal Holloway College, University of London, and coauthor of The End of Politics: Triangulation, Realignment and the Battle for the Centre Ground.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Kennedy vs. Carter: The 1980 Battle for the Democratic Party’s Soul, and reported the following:
Kennedy vs. Carter offers a re-evaluation of the career of Edward Kennedy and the liberalism he espoused. It argues that he was a serious contender for the presidency in 1980, and was regarded as a shoe-in as late as November 1979. What doomed his candidacy, and prevented him taking the nomination from incumbent president Jimmy Carter, was a series of historical accidents. The hostage crisis in Iran and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan revived Carter’s administration and gave him some early crucial primary victories. But as the contest dragged on, Kennedy forged a unique coalition of angry whites and dispossessed minorities to win states as diverse as New York, California, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Arizona. I argue that the Kennedy coalition is a model for Democratic strategists, while Carter’s shoddy treatment of core liberal constituencies is an example of what not to do in office. Arguably, Obama is repeating many of the Georgian’s mistakes - failing to set an agenda, reneging on promises made and playing by political rules set by the right.

Page 99 discusses Kennedy’s ability to pull together bits of the old Democratic electoral coalition. “This was linked to the Senator’s unique personality and the glamour of his name. But it was also an expression of the healing potential of ‘universalist’ ideas.” Universalist goals that offered full employment or comprehensive health insurance to all - goals that Kennedy defended boldly and without equivocation - helped reunite a Democratic base that had been divided by cultural issues like abortion, race and sexuality. In that narrow sense, page 99 gets to the heart of the argument - liberalism, well sold, has something to offer everybody.

But this page has wider relevance too. It talks about Jerry Brown, then governor of California, who also ran in 1980. Back then Brown was on the “no-growth” right of the Democratic Party and offered himself as a fiscally conservative alternative to Kennedy. He was “right-on” on social issues and enjoyed the support of celebrity beatniks Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden. But he called the 1970s an “age of limits” and argued - with soaring deficits, taxes and inflation - that the poor would have to suffer as much as the rich if America were to recover. Brown is running again for office right now. This time round his message is purposefully vague - but Brown has always been a ruthless Dominican at heart: charitable, yes, but frugal and quick to judge too. I hope that the voters of California realise what they’re in for.
Learn more about Kennedy vs. Carter at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 15, 2010

Elizabeth Rose's "The Promise of Preschool"

Elizabeth Rose is a historian with interests in women, children, education, and social policy, and is also the author of A Mother’s Job: The History of Day Care, 1890-1960 (Oxford University Press, 1999). She has taught at Vanderbilt University, Trinity College, Wesleyan University, and Central Connecticut State University, and is the director of the American Voices project at Central Connecticut State University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Promise of Preschool: From Head Start to Universal Pre-Kindergarten, and reported the following:
The Promise of Preschool tries to answer the question of how the United States moved from seeing preschool as a way to give the nation’s poorest children a “head start” to the goal of providing preschool for all children as the beginning of public education. I investigate how policy choices in the past forty-five years – such as the creation of Head Start in the 1960s, efforts to craft a child care system in the 1970s, and the campaign to reform K-12 schooling in the 1980s – helped shape the decisions that policymakers are now making about early education. Looking at the roots of today’s movement for universal preschool, I examine how history both inspires and constrains change in this important area of policy.

Conveniently enough, Page 99 concludes a chapter about the separate strands of public programs for young children during the 1980s: Head Start, child care, and preschool education:
By the end of the decade, the question of public responsibility for young children was being intently debated within the separate policy worlds of K-12 education reform and child care. The education reform movement of the 1980s drew preschool closer to the world of public education, making school readiness a central part of school reform. States launched pre-kindergarten programs; leading reformers and education groups called for a coherent system of early education for disadvantaged children; and federal policymakers seemed united behind expanding Head Start. At the same time, child care, which had been largely invisible as a political issue since the mid-1970s, briefly became a focus of national politics as Congress wrestled with competing approaches. In neither education nor child care were the policy responses adequate to address the need: state pre-kindergarten programs, Head Start, and subsidized day care served only fractions of the poor families who were eligible, while the needs of middle-class families were not directly addressed at all. But these new commitments to young children’s care and education strengthened the different strands of policy for young children, creating the possibility that they might later be woven together.
This is a sort of turning point in the book, as it moves from previous chapters’ discussions of the origins of Head Start and child care policy to set the stage for an account of how advocates and policymakers started creating universal pre-kindergarten programs and ultimately built a movement for “preschool for all.” The tensions between the separate strands of policy discussed here, as well as questions about the extent of public commitment to young children, were carried into these new efforts to expand preschool education, and continue to shape the policy landscape today.
Learn more about the book and author at the official The Promise of Preschool website and the Oxford University Press webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Paul Thagard's "The Brain and the Meaning of Life"

Paul Thagard is Professor of Philosophy, with cross appointment to Psychology and Computer Science, Director of the Cognitive Science Program, and University Research Chair at the University of Waterloo, Canada. His many books include Mind: Introduction to Cognitive Science and Hot Thought: Mechanisms and Applications of Emotional Cognition.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Brain and the Meaning of Life, and reported the following:
Page 99 of this book is about emotion, which is a central part of my account of how brain operations generate human needs that can be satisfied by the pursuit of love, work, and play, which therefore constitute the meaning of life. In philosophy and psychology, there have been two main competing theories of emotion. The oldest theory takes an emotion to be a kind of judgment in which people evaluate a situation with respect to how well it accomplishes their goals. Then emotions are cognitive appraisals. A newer, more biological theory takes emotions to be responses to bodily changes such as increases in heart rate, so that emotions are physiological perceptions. I defend an integrated view of how emotions occur in the brain through processes that combine both cognitive appraisal and physiological perception, providing a synthesis of the two previously competing theories.

This view of emotion has many important implications about decision making, wisdom, and the meaning of life. People are sometimes told to be rational, not emotional, but attention to psychological and neurological processes shows that even the best decision making is inherently emotional. Wisdom is knowing what matters, why it matters, and how to achieve it; all these kinds of knowledge are imbued with emotion. My defense of the claim that the meaning of life is love, work, and play is based on psychological studies of people’s activities and values, and also on neural accounts of how the brain’s emotional operations generate needs for relatedness, competence, and autonomy. The pursuit of love, work, and play helps to satisfy these needs, which are biological as much as psychological.
Read an excerpt from The Brain and the Meaning of Life, and learn more about the book at the Princeton University Press website.

Visit Paul Thagard's faculty webpage and blog for Psychology Today.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Charles A. Kupchan's "How Enemies Become Friends"

Charles A. Kupchan is professor of international affairs at Georgetown University and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He served on the National Security Council during the Clinton presidency and is the author of The End of the American Era (Knopf).

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, How Enemies Become Friends: The Sources of Stable Peace, and reported the following:
What is happening on page 99 of How Enemies Become Friends? Let’s start with the beginning of the first full paragraph: “As the first decade of the 1900s progressed, a third concept emerged alongside this discourse of friendship and common heritage – the notion that armed conflict between the United States and Britain was becoming unthinkable. Statements to this effect were appearing in Britain by 1904.”

This sentence represents a snapshot of the book as a whole – a still photo of the dynamic process through which Great Britain and the United States moved from being hardened adversaries to trusting friends. The story in chapter 3 begins about a decade earlier. By the middle of the 1890s, Britain confronted the prospect of strategic overextension – which was only growing worse over time due to the ongoing rise of the United States, Japan, and Germany. In response, London decided to make a run at befriending the United States – a move ultimately intended to enable Britain to remove the U.S. from the enemy column and free up the resources that London was committing to the western Atlantic and North America.

The courtship began when London in 1896 acquiesced to Washington’s demands concerning a dispute over the border between Venezuela and British Guiana. The United States then responded in kind, agreeing to bring to arbitration a disagreement with Britain over sealing rights in the Bering Sea. Soon thereafter, Washington and London amicably settled disputes over U.S. intentions to build the Panama Canal and over the border between Alaska and Canada. Britain was the only European power to support the United States in the Spanish-American War (1898), and London went on to welcome America’s imperial expansion into the Pacific.

After diplomacy dampened rivalry, elites on both sides of the Atlantic sought to recast popular attitudes through ambitious public relations campaigns. Arthur Balfour, leader of the House of Commons, proclaimed in 1896 that, “the idea of war with the United States carries with it some of the unnatural horror of a civil war.” In a speech at Harvard in 1898, Richard Olney, U.S. secretary of state from 1895 to 1897, referred to Britain as America’s “best friend,” and observed “the close community ... in the kind and degree of civilization enjoyed by both.”

Fast forward to page 99. The long quote at the top of the page makes clear that Anglo-American affinity had spilled into the broader public through publications like the Atlantic Monthly and Scribner’s. In the United States, decision makers and ordinary citizens alike were embracing the view that Britain was a benign power – indeed a member of the family. The view was reciprocated on the other side of the Atlantic.

It was this gradual transformation that set the stage for the belief that “armed conflict between the United States and Britain was becoming unthinkable.” And, as the last paragraph on page 99 makes clear, it was this firmly held belief that then enabled the former adversaries to stop planning for war with each other – and to embark on the strategic partnership that has lasted to this day.

The rest of the book, through an additional 19 historical cases, explores these themes -- how peace breaks out and when and how nations are able to turn enmity into amity.
Read an excerpt from How Enemies Become Friends, and learn more about the book at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Columba Peoples’ "Justifying Ballistic Missile Defence"

Columba Peoples is Lecturer in International Relations in the Department of Politics at the University of Bristol.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Justifying Ballistic Missile Defence: Technology, Security and Culture, and reported the following:
The Page 99 test works particularly well when applied to Justifying Ballistic Missile Defence I think. As luck would have it page 99 is the first page of Chapter 4, which briefly recounts the previous arguments set out in the previous chapters and in the process also gives a pretty good snapshot of the overall intellectual structure of the book. Justifying Ballistic Missile Defence charts the presence of two parallel narratives within justifications used for ballistic missile defence systems in the United States from the immediate aftermath of World War II up to the present: one built around an association of technology with progress, where the argument is made that technological innovation can provide a defence against nuclear-armed ballistic missiles (or ‘instrumentalism’ as it is termed in the book); and the other built around a kind of technophobia (or ‘substantivism’), which locates concerns about the proliferation of nuclear technology within broader fears about technology ‘out of control’ (the ‘substantive’ impact of over-reliance on technological systems). The early chapters of the book set out this conceptual framework – which draws on critical and cultural theories of technology – in more detail, and the opening paragraph of page 99 re-establishes its main contours:

[From Page 99]
…the common sense appeal of instrumental theory is rarely unaccompanied by its substantivist opposite: the view that technology is not just something to be used, but has a determinative impact on social life […] The frequent corollary of the substantivist view, then, is that technology, far from being an instrument of human control, has gotten out of control; it now controls us.
The book argues that these two forms of justification, although ostensibly contradictory, are in fact co-present in arguments for missile defence historically: in arguments for Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) systems in the 1960s, for the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) or “Star Wars” in the 1980s, and in contemporary justifications for national Ballistic Missile Defense. Couplets of chapters analyse the presence of instrumentalism and substantivism respectively in relation to missile defence advocacy during these three periods. Chapter 3 catalogues instrumentalist arguments for ‘Defence in the missile age’, and Chapter 4, which begins on page 99, consequently
…illustrates the occurrence of [the] substantivist strain in early debates on missile defence in the United States. It does so by highlighting substantivist understandings and accounts of key issues in relation to missile defence in the period leading up to the ABM treaty of 1972 – the launch of Sputnik and reactions to it, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara’s attitude towards missile defence, and broader attitudes towards the nuclear arms race. The Chapter shows how these more substantivist interpretations relate to the early case for missile defence, and by way of conclusion it attempts to outline how and why instrumentalist and substantivist elements, though contradictory, began to be combined in discourse promoting missile defence during this period.
By investigating the presence of these two forms of justification, the book aims to provide a deeper insight into one of the most challenging, costly and controversial, but also one of the most persistent, goals in US security policy.
Read an excerpt from Justifying Ballistic Missile Defence, and learn more about the book at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 8, 2010

Jenny Gardiner's "Winging It"

Jenny Gardiner is the author of the novel Sleeping with Ward Cleaver. Her writing has appeared in Ladies Home Journal, the Washington Post, and NPR’s Day to Day, and she has a column of humorous slice-of-life essays that runs in the Charlottesville, VA Daily Progress. Gardiner lives in central Virginia with her husband, three kids, two dogs, one cat, and one gregarious parrot.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who's Determined to Kill Me, and reported the following:
Ack--I hate the page 99 test, so I'm making it the page 59 test--I think this more accurately reflects the humor in the book. It was the 1st page of a chapter, so I gave you the next page too:
Once Graycie became a reality in our lives, we had to figure out a proper moniker for her. The problem was, Scott and I were a bit name-weary by then. We’d just been through the whole name game during my pregnancy and had struggled mightily to reach a consensus.

“We should call him Tucker,” I announced one day while we were sifting through baby name books once we knew we were expecting a boy.

Scott arched his eyebrow at me and shook his head no. “Yeah, I can hear the taunting on the playground already. Tucker the—”

“Fine. How about something Gaelic? I love Irish names. Like Seamus.” I know. It’s sort of odd to slap an ethnic name like that on a kid who bears little connection to the motherland. Although in my defense, I have a smattering of Irish branches in my family tree.

Scott didn’t even deign to respond but instead just rolled his eyes.

“Matthew?” I suggested. “You can’t go wrong with that name. It’s one of the most popular names of the century!”

“Most popular means most common,” Scott said, shaking his head again. “Besides, Matt? That’s a sound, not a name.”

After going through four books, disputing the finer details of the Latin derivations of the names, and dissecting each one ad nauseam, we narrowed it down to Kyle, Tyler, or Ryan. It just so happens that in 1989, those names weren’t particularly popular, although shortly thereafter they became about as common as, well, Matthew.

So there we were, named out, and faced with the task of figuring out what to call our parrot. And the challenge was much more daunting than naming our previous pets, since we were told the creature could live for up to ninety years. (That’s right. Ninety years.) We didn’t want to give her a lame name and have her stuck with it for nearly a century.

Obviously Polly was out of the question. It was far too cheesy. Chaco was out, too, because the only Chaco we knew personally at the time was a frightening sociopath, and I didn’t want to taint our parrot with any of that bad bird mojo. Besides, Chaco seemed a cliché name, as apparently every parrot in the history of pirating was named that.

It took about a month after Graycie’s arrival for her name to finally come to us. As with everything else Graycie-related, this development involved pain. Traditionally, house-kept parrots’ wings are clipped to keep
Watch a video of Gardiner discussing Winging It and another of Graycie performing, and learn more about the book and author at Jenny Gardiner's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Beth Bailey's "America’s Army"

Beth Bailey is Professor of History at Temple University. A social/cultural historian of the 20th century United States, her research has focused on the history of gender and sexuality and on war and society/military institutions in US history.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, America's Army: Making the All-Volunteer Force, and reported the following:
Is it absolutely necessary to call it a “test”? I fear that page 99 of America’s Army may have earned a borderline grade: it doesn’t capture the book as a whole, outline a key argument, or show off any of my favorite passages. It’s mainly a transition page. I wind up a section on the 1973 debate over whether or not the army should simply resign itself to the workings of the labor market, which at that point meant filling its ranks with a huge number of “Cat IV” soldiers (a category roughly equivalent to an IQ between 82 and 91). And then I introduce a new character: Bo Callaway, Nixon’s Secretary of the Army.

On the other hand, page 99 begins with one of the multitude of wackily wonderful comments that politicians and government officials offered when called upon to discuss the new all-volunteer force; language matters in cultural history, and I had a lot of fascinatingly odd comments and analogies to work with. And because I believe that the past is shaped by individual actions and decisions as well as by larger social forces, I spent time on my characters, trying to show that each person came to this story already shaped by a range of experiences and emotions. I’ll confess, as well, that I’m fond of this page for reasons that have nothing to do with my readers. Like Callaway, I’m from Georgia, and my family used to vacation at Callaway Gardens. And I very clearly remember writing this page; it was during the summer of 2008 and I was sitting on the landing of the house my husband and I had rented in Penestanan, Bali, looking out over the rice fields.

I’ll share the full page below, but first a bit of set-up. America’s Army is the story of the nation’s all-volunteer force, from the draft protests and policy proposals of the 1960s through the Iraq war. It is also a history of America in the post-Vietnam era. One of my key arguments is that the army, of necessity, confronted the legacies of the social movements and struggles of the 1960s and early 1970s. This chapter, “Race, ‘Quality,’ and the Hollow Army,” is about how the army struggled over the role of race in the all-volunteer force.
[market]place most easily supplied. So despite DoD disapproval--“How many Viet Cong riflemen had Ph.D.s?” was the exact and slightly contemptuous phrasing--the Army began giving recruiters specific “sub-objectives” for skilled MOSs and denying them credit for recruits who scored in the bottom half of Category IV.

To many of the most fervent supporters of the AVF in the Nixon administration, this action seemed a clear sign of resistance. Many of them had never believed the Army was really on board with the move to a volunteer force. Westmoreland, despite his firm public commitment to the AVF when he was chief of staff of the army, had expressed serious concerns in a private letter to Nixon as he left the position, and General Abrams, his successor, was a traditionalist who had little use for the term “Modern Volunteer Army” and pretty much despised the phrase “Today’s Army Wants to Join You.” But not even the most suspicious had been able to point to direct evidence of “sabotage”–until now. Even Army analysts admitted that it would be harder to meet recruiting objectives if standards were higher. Did Army officials think, some began to ask, that a quick and decisive failure would deliver the larger victory?

In May 1973, as induction authority moved into its last weeks, Nixon appointed a new secretary of the army. Howard H. Callaway, known to everyone as “Bo,” was an interesting choice. Graduated from West Point in 1949, he “knew how to salute” even though he’d not chosen a military career. He was a Republican from Georgia back when they were fewer and further between, a man who’d joined the Goldwater bandwagon in 1964 and won election as Georgia’s first Republican congressional representative since Reconstruction. In 1966, the self-proclaimed conservative had run against Democrat Lester Maddox for the governorship of Georgia. Lester Maddox was an unreconstructed racist who had never graduated high school. He was best known for brandishing an axe handle in defense of his right to choose who to serve–and not to serve–in the Pickrick Cafeteria, his Atlanta restaurant. Callaway, in contrast, came from a wealthy family that Georgians knew best as the owners of Callaway Gardens, a vacation resort not far from FDR’s Warm Springs. Though Callaway won the plurality of the popular vote he did not claim a majority, and the almost completely Democratic state legislature voted Maddox in. Many of Georgia’s better-educated citizens, appalled at the vulgarity of the new governor, proposed amending the state constitution to require
Read an excerpt from America’s Army, and learn more about the book at the Harvard University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 5, 2010

Thomas Kavanagh's "Enlightened Pleasures"

Thomas M. Kavanagh, the Augustus R. Street Professor of French and department chair at Yale University, is the author of Dice, Cards, Wheels: A Different History of French Culture.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Enlightened Pleasures: Eighteenth-Century France and the New Epicureanism, and reported the following:
My page 99 focuses on how contemporary critical reactions to the works of the painter François Boucher exemplify the French Enlightenment’s defining celebration of pleasure while foreshadowing the shift in values that would lead to pleasure’s condemnation. Charles-Nicolas Cochin may have been nothing less than ecstatic before what he describes as Boucher’s ability to capture “the flesh of Apollo and of these women in all their tenderness and delicacy.” For Denis Diderot, however, Boucher’s celebration of painting as an art evoking pleasures that speak directly to the senses would prompt his prim condemnation of him as a “man who has everything, except truth.”

The truth in whose name Diderot damned Boucher has nothing to do with the quality or verisimilitude of his images of embodied beauty. What Diderot demands of painting instead is the moral truth he so admired in Greuze’s vignettes of secular piety and familial virtue. For Diderot, a painting was far less an image that spoke to the eye than the encapsulation of a narrative that reformed the soul. Diderot’s discomfort with Boucher’s frankly materialist and sensationist esthetics of pleasure would assume a far broader and more virulent cultural form in the religion of sentiment ushered in by Rousseau’s Julie. That novel’s extolling of sentiment as the foundation of truth, virtue, and morality would relegate Boucher’s direct address to the senses as an espousal of the corrupt, the jaded, and the inhuman.

This opposition between sensual pleasure and sentimental happiness is crucial to the eighteenth century. Pleasure was private and personal; happiness will be public and collective. Pleasure involved an esthetics of the senses; happiness will impose an ethics refashioning the individual as citizen. Pleasure prompted a narrowing of consciousness to the delights of the senses; happiness will expand the consciousness of each to the welfare of all by enlisting the citizen within the morality of the common good.

Enlightened Pleasures challenges the prevailing interpretations of eighteenth-century France as a preparation for the Revolution. It argues instead that the literature, philosophy, and art of the period set the experience, refinement, scientific study, and multiplication of pleasure at the center of its cultural agenda. This new Epicureanism provided the impetus for a new epistemology, a new ethics, and a new esthetics. Knowing the world, experiencing pleasure, and creating beauty became the complementary components of a materialist cosmology, a secular morality, and a sensationalist esthetics. The Revolution abolished this age of pleasure as the Terror imposed a new and virulent religion of civic happiness sanctioned by the general will and enforced by the state.
Learn more about Enlightened Pleasures at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Jack Weatherford's "The Secret History of the Mongol Queens"

Jack Weatherford holds the DeWitt Wallace Chair of Anthropology at Macalester College in Minnesota and an honorary position at Chinggis Khaan University in Mongolia. In 2007 he received the Order of the Polar Star, the highest award for service to the Mongol Nation for writing Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World., He is also the author of Indian Givers, Native Roots, Savages and Civilizations, and The History of Money.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire, and reported the following:
At first thought it seemed so strange, but when I read the page I realized how well it works. Page 99:
DiPlano Carpini, the first European envoy to Mongolia, seemed surprised both that she had a court of her own and that the tent could contain such an enormous entourage. Guyuk, Toregene’s son, “sent us to his mother where a court was solemnly held, and when we had arrived there, so great was the size of the tent which was made of white fabric, that we reckon that it could hold more than two thousand men.” In addition, each of the khan’s wives maintained her own court as well. Guyuk’s “wives had other tents, however, of white felt which were quite large and beautiful.”

Emirs, governors, and grandees jostled along the same roads as princes and kings. The Seljuk sultan came from Turkey, as did representatives of the caliph of Baghdad, and two claimants to the throne of Georgia: David, the legitimate son of the late king, and David, the illegitimate son of the same king. The highest- ranking European delegate was Grand Prince Yaroslav II of Vladimir and Suzdal, who died suspiciously just after dining with Toregene Khatun in the fall of 1246. Even after Toregene installed Guyuk as Great Khan, he initially showed little interest in his position. As Juvaini wrote, “He took no part in affairs of state, and Toregene Khatun still executed the decrees of the Empire.” Within a short time, however, he decided to consolidate his power, and a disagreement arose between them concerning Fatima, his mother’s close confidante.

Guyuk wished to remove Fatima, and he sent soldiers to arrest her at his mother’s court. Toregene refused to surrender her.

Toregene had twice been married to foreign men whom she had not chosen. Each time, she complied with the demands the world put upon her to be a wife, mother, and queen. With Ogodei, her second forced marriage, she had produced and reared five sons, and despite their incompetence and frequent defiance and disregard for her, she had promoted their interests. Against all odds and the express wishes of his father, she had made Guyuk emperor, but she had received no thanks from her sons or anyone else.

Now in her old age, she found some solace in an emotional attachment to Fatima. Willing to forgo political life, the two women
In 1246 The Empress Toregene had ruled the world's largest empire for five years. Her word was law from the Pacific to the Black Sea, but as she passed power to her son Guyuk, he prepared a campaign against her that would be the end of female power among the Mongols for the next two hundred years.
Read more about The Secret History of the Mongol Queens at the publisher's website, and learn more about Jack Weatherford at his faculty webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Philipp Ziesche's "Cosmopolitan Patriots"

Philipp Ziesche is Assistant Editor of the Papers of Benjamin Franklin at Yale University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Cosmopolitan Patriots: Americans in Paris in the Age of Revolution, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Cosmopolitan Patriots covers an incident, which encapsulates the predicament of the book's protagonists: Americans in revolutionary Paris, who were trying to export American political principles and practices to the "sister republic" and/or explain events in France to an American audience.

Beginning with the convening of the Estates General in 1789 and ending with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the book follows Gouverneur Morris, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Joel Barlow, and others as they grappled with the contradiction between their belief that America offered a universal model for other nations to emulate and their conviction that each nation had to develop according to its own particular manners and customs. (A paradox that has vexed Americans for the past two hundred years.)

The page falls within chapter 4, which focuses on James Monroe, the future fifth president, who between 1794 and 1796 served as the American minister in Paris.

Monroe, a well-known sympathizer of the French Revolution, arrived in Paris two weeks after the downfall of Robespierre. The Terror had provided conservatives in the United States with ammunition to attack both the French republic and its American supporters. In order to prevent the French disorders from further compromising his own party in America (the Republicans who had formed in opposition to the reigning Federalists), Monroe denounced the Jacobins and applauded the repressive policies of the French government for restoring law and order. Monroe genuinely believed that in France the government had to restrain the people, whereas in America the people had to curb the power of the federal government. The achievement of universal republican ends required the exact opposite means in each particular case. However, Monroe's paradoxical strategy backfired when his Federalist superiors published his dispatches to justify their own attacks on popular political societies that they regarded as French-inspired, Republican-sponsored factions. As I explain on page 99, Federalists like Fisher Ames "savored the irony of Monroe's inadvertent support for the government's censure of opposition parties. He hoped that more papers would reprint the letter and reveal its author, as 'it would greatly assist the antidote, to know that it was sent from one who had swallowed the poison and was cured. Strange, that Monroe should warn us against Jacobins! So the world turns round.'"
Read more about Cosmopolitan Patriots at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 1, 2010

John David Lewis' "Nothing Less than Victory"

John David Lewis is visiting associate professor of philosophy, politics, and economics at Duke University, and senior research scholar in history and classics at the Social Philosophy and Policy Center at Bowling Green State University. He is the author of Solon the Thinker: Political Thought in Archaic Athens and Early Greek Lawgivers.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Nothing Less than Victory: Decisive Wars and the Lessons of History, and reported the following:
Nothing Less than Victory begins with an observation: that the very idea of victory in war has fallen into disuse today. Despite over 100,000 dead, the United States has not won an unambiguous military victory in a war since 1945.

Many people today think that winning a victory over an enemy—and dictating the terms of the peace that follows to the defeated nation—will bring us to another war within a generation. But history suggests otherwise. Nothing Less than Victory takes a hard look at seven events from history—in six wars, stretching from ancient Greece and Rome to the American Civil War and World War II—in which a long-term, violent conflict that killed thousands or millions of people ended decisively, leaving long-term peace in its wake. Why, I ask, did each war end so decisively, and why did the peace that followed last as long as it did?

Following an introduction, each of the seven chapters deals with one of these major events, in an essay-length narrative. I have written this for anyone interested in history, not merely for experts, and I will consider it s great compliment if readers who are not historians find excitement, and value, in it.

Here is the opening paragraph to chapter one, dealing with the Greco-Persian Wars (490 BCC and following). This gives a flavor of my style, the kind of questions that interest me, and my overall approach to them:
It was the summer of 480 BC, and the Great King Xerxes, ruler of the mighty Persian Empire, son of Darius and heir to the Achaemenid throne, King of Kings and beloved of the deity Ahura Mazda, stood at the head of his army, looking down on the object of his revenge: the Greeks. He had every reason to be pleased, and to anticipate swift victory over a ragtag enemy. For months, the largest military force ever seen had marched and rowed to his command, drinking the rivers dry as city after city sent tokens of tribute and submission. The last of his Greek enemies would soon be ground under his feet. Yet within weeks everything had changed: the king was in full retreat, his dream in ruins, his navy scattered, and his army facing annihilation. It was as if all the energy of empire, once pushing forward in an unstoppable juggernaut, had stopped and turned inward on itself. Greece would never submit to this king’s will, and no Persian king would ever again invade Greece. Why this sudden turnaround? And, most important to the future of the Western world, why was it permanent?
Page 99 comes at the end of Chapter 3, which deals with the Second Punic War (218-201 BC). This was the second major war between ancient Rome and Carthage, in which the Carthaginian general Hannibal invaded Italy, and the great Roman general Scipio Africanus ended the bloodshed by defeating Carthage on Africa. The result was over fifty years of peace, in which Carthage renounced all further aggression and lived in peace with Rome.

This is not the war in which Rome destroyed Carthage—that was the Third Punic War, 149-146 BC, which was a dishonorable, unnecessary and horrific massacre of the people of Carthage by the Romans. A proper military victory was achieved in the Second Punic war, not in the Third.

The first paragraph of page 99 is consistent, in content and style, with the rest of the book. Here I note that one of the reasons why Carthage surrendered so quickly and completely when the Romans landed in Africa was because their commitment to the war was far less than the commitment of the Romans. Here is that paragraph:
In the end, the Carthaginians at home never cared enough about Spain itself to apply the force needed to keep it in subjection—and they did not reinforce Hannibal enough in Italy to demonstrate an all-out commitment to his war. No Carthaginian fleet sailed into [the Roman port] Ostia to support Hannibal. In contrast, Romans of all types cared deeply about Italy; its loss would be the loss of everything, and they were willing to expend all of their resources to defend it. There was literally no place else to go. This fact set the bar very high for Hannibal; Rome itself would have had to be defeated, solidly and unambiguously, its leaders dead and its allies broken. Such a feat was beyond the capacity of Hannibal to achieve without serious support from Carthage, and from foreign allies.
The rest of the page, however, departs from the approach of the rest of the book. On page 99 I take issue with a prominent historian, Donald Kagan, over his interpretation of the Second Punic War. The departure here is that I am elsewhere rarely concerned with comparing my own conclusions with those of other historians. The rest of the book is my own narrative of events, and my interpretation of them. Of course I am deeply indebted to specialists in these periods, without whom I could not have produced my book—but my approach throughout has been to present my case, not either to elevate or to shoot down the conclusions of others.

It is a measure of my respect for Professor Kagan that I made an exception in this case, and presented (very briefly) his view, and stated my disagreement. I did so because my own views could be mistaken for his, and I decided that this clarification was necessary.
Read an excerpt from Nothing Less than Victory, and learn more about the book and author at John David Lewis' website.

--Marshal Zeringue