Tuesday, May 31, 2016

C. M. Woolgar's "The Culture of Food in England, 1200-1500"

Christopher Woolgar is professor of history and archival studies at the University of Southampton and editor of the Journal of Medieval History.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Culture of Food in England, 1200-1500, and reported the following:
From page 99:
In addition to sugar itself in its different forms, there were also sweet confections and preserves. A group of these — signalled by the suffix -ade — originated from the Mediterranean and arrived in England already in boxes and pots. Among them were pinionade (a confection made with pinenuts), festucade (made with pistachio nuts), citrinade, ‘gingerbrade’, that is, gingerbread (found made with green ginger and with white ginger), pomade (made with apples) and succade — simply a confection made with sugar. Dame Katherine de Norwich acquired boxes of pinionade, festucade and gingerbrade in 1336-7. Citrinade appears towards the end of the fourteenth century, at a great price: 2 lbs. bought for Henry, Earl of Derby, cost 56s.; and it also appears, along with pomade, succade and coinade, a quince preserve, bought for the household of Thomas of Lancaster, Duke of Clarence, in 1418-21. By the mid-fifteenth century, citrinade was used as a cosmetic as well, as a sweet-scented powder, possibly also for the colour it gave. This transition in use was also to be made by pomade.

Preserves were made in England, as well as imported, by the mid-fifteenth century. In the first instance the confections were prepared using honey, which was more abundant than sugar: ‘char de quince’, preserved quince flesh, sometimes mixed with that of warden pears, was made in this way. Comfits, prepared sweetmeats (although sometimes simply a sweet sauce), and compotes were never common, but they began to establish themselves in ways that suggest they had a distinctive place in food culture. On the one hand these might appear, like electuaries, as palliative medicines; but they also featured in dining, among the foods that might come with spice plates at the conclusion to a meal, or for distribution on special occasions, such as funerals. John Grandisson, Bishop of Exeter, in his will of 1368, instructed that there should not be a drinking with spices around his body in the choir, but allowed that it might happen in the chapter house or elsewhere. When the body of the Duke of Clarence was brought back to England for burial in 1421, his household spent £1 3s. 3d. in London on confections for the day of his burial.

Spices, sugars and preserves were of great importance for the food culture of medieval England. They connected individuals to commodities that had travelled half-way round the globe, commodities that were fabulous in their reputation and price; they fuelled the literary imagination and the vocabulary of sensory devotion; and they brought exotic tastes — and a passion for them — to the country. It is perhaps no wonder that moralists saw them as symbolic of exaggerated expenditure, as a harbinger of perdition; but they also saw in them heavenly qualities, qualities that inspired religious imagination.
Food and drink mattered to medieval people in many ways, not simply in terms of diet and nutrition. We can learn much about their daily lives and mentalities from looking at the connections that came with growing food, preparing it for consumption, and eating and drinking — which took up major parts of their time, effort and resources. A key element in their food culture were the sauces, spices, sugars and preserves, around which a chapter (and page 99) centre. These were highly desirable exotic goods of great value, which had a profound impact on medieval life — it was, after all, the quest for sea routes to the spice islands that drove the European voyages of discovery of the second half of the fifteenth century.

But to start the story where it should begin: by the twelfth century there was a cuisine that was common to the elite across Europe. Based on sharp, acidic sauces and highly flavoured with spices, it had probably evolved as a response to one of the great practical problems of the Middle Ages: the preservation of food. Salt solutions — sauces (in Latin, salsa) — contained other elements as well, herbs and spices, which were a subtle way of shaping flavours. Sauces and spices stimulated the appetite and continued to operate as food was digested, heating it and assisting in the process. Spices from the east had started to arrive in southern Europe by 1000 AD, and the trade expanded greatly through the Middle Ages. Sugar, treated as a spice, was cultivated in the Middle East and increasingly across the islands of the Mediterranean, in southern Spain and on the islands of the Atlantic. It brought a sweetness to foods in northern Europe that had only before been available from honey and fruits.

To some, spices of great price were both an extravagance and an undesirable sensory stimulation that would lead to perdition. But of course many people did not see it that way. Strewn on food as it was served at elite meals, sweetmeats and spices were also presented for consumption at the close of the meal (perhaps as we would eat chocolates), or taken separately.
Learn more about The Culture of Food in England, 1200-1500 at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 30, 2016

Carol Wayne White's "Black Lives and Sacred Humanity"

Carol Wayne White is Professor of Philosophy of Religion at Bucknell University. She is the author of Poststructuralism, Feminism, and Religion: Triangulating Positions and The Legacy of Anne Conway (1631–1679): Reverberations from a Mystical Naturalism.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Black Lives and Sacred Humanity: Toward an African American Religious Naturalism, and reported the following:
On page ninety-nine of Black Lives and Sacred Humanity, I discuss James Baldwin’s complex relationship with structured religion, exploring why he continued to be fascinated with it even as he remained a harsh critic of its perceived limitations.

One passage encapsulates this discussion:
In select writings, Baldwin targets both dominant white Christian culture and the black holiness tradition of his youth, which he saw as permeated by problematic ideological aspects of the former. In both systems of meaning, Baldwin identified a root problem, manifest in various ways and on different levels: systematic vilification of blackness. Key religious ideas functioned (either explicitly or implicitly) in a racist culture essentially to devalue black bodies as unworthy and inherently inferior to white ones, and they generated deeply embedded black self-loathing among many African Americans. In To Crush a Serpent (1987), one of his final published essays, Baldwin sums up a theme that he had addressed throughout many earlier ones: “Race and religion, it has been remarked, are fearfully entangled in the guts of this nation, so profoundly that to speak of the one is to conjure up the other. One cannot speak of sin without referring to blackness, and blackness stalks our history and our streets.”
Ford Madox Ford’s maxim that in reading page ninety-nine of a book, the quality of the whole will be revealed to one, remains enigmatic to me. What is clear to me, however, is that my discussion on page ninety-nine is neither representative of the fuller chapter on Baldwin, nor the book as a whole. First, the chapter illustrates Baldwin’s efforts during the mid-twentieth century to enhance race relations in the United States with an expanded view of humanity and our capacity to love each other.

Second, Black Lives and Sacred Humanity explores a new religious ideal within African-American culture that emerges from humanistic assumptions and is grounded in religious naturalism. Identifying African-American religiosity as the ingenuity of a people constantly striving to inhabit their humanity and eke out a meaningful existence for themselves amid culturally coded racist rhetoric and practices, it constructs a concept of sacred humanity and grounds it in existing hagiographic and iconic African-American writings.

The first part of the book argues for a concept of sacred humanity that is supported by the best available knowledge emerging from science studies, philosophy of religion, and the tenets of religious naturalism. With this concept, the book features capacious views of humans as dynamic, evolving, social organisms having the capacity to transform ourselves and create nobler worlds where all sentient creatures flourish, and as aspiring lovers of life and of each other. Within the context of African-American history and culture, the sacred humanity concept also offers new ways of grasping an ongoing theme of traditional African-American religiosity: the necessity of establishing and valuing blacks’ full humanity. In the second part, the book traces indications of the sacred humanity concept within select works of three major African-American intellectuals of the early and mid-twentieth century: Anna Julia Cooper, W. E. B. Dubois, and James Baldwin. The theoretical linkage of select ideas and themes in their writings with the concept of sacred humanity marks the emergence of an African-American religious naturalism.

As an alternative to theistic models of African American religiosity and spirituality, this study is an unabashed celebration of religious humanism.
Learn more about Black Lives and Sacred Humanity at the Fordham University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Cathryn J. Prince's "American Daredevil"

Cathryn J. Prince is the author of several nonfiction history books, including Death in the Baltic: The WWII Sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff and A Professor, a President, and a Meteor: The Birth of American Science.

Prince applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, American Daredevil: The Extraordinary Life of Richard Halliburton, the World's First Celebrity Travel Writer, and reported the following:
From page 99:
“Halliburton agreeably posed for pictures, granted some more interviews, and mailed copies of the Peruvian newspaper articles to Chambers, who loved the stamps and the “picture of yourself surrounded with dignitaries at whose top-hats I’ve gazed with admiration and awe. I don’t quite make out what’s happened to your hair unless that’s the latest Peruvian style of cut and the beard seems so far to be a moustache–otherwise it’s fine!”

Halliburton led Chambers to believe everything was fine. However, he ended up staying in Lima for three weeks…although not for pleasure. Rather “one blasted thing after another had held me here. I had to go to the hospital for a week for another damned hemorrhoid operation–had been getting worse for months–and decided I’d best get it over with where there was a hospital. Halliburton’s father later deleted Halliburton’s explanation for his extended stay.
Page 99 of American Daredevil finds Richard Halliburton recently arrived in Peru after becoming the first person to swim the length of the Panama Canal (locks included).

At first blush page 99 doesn’t seem to be, as Ford Madox Ford said, “qualitative of the whole.” However, closer scrutiny of the page’s two middle paragraphs actually reveal a great deal about Halliburton’s character, his relationships with those close to him, and the life he led.

These two paragraphs show readers how skillfully Halliburton navigated the fine line between his public persona and private life. It shows how Halliburton managed to wear a smiling, carefree face in public, it was a face and attitude his fans had come to expect and adore. This was the face he presented to the journalists who by now were following him at every turn.

In the letter quoted in the first paragraph readers hear from Halliburton’s long-time editor David Laurence Chambers. His remarks speak Halliburton’s ease with politicians and diplomats. Indeed Halliburton could converse as easily with famous people as he could with ordinary, everyday people. Possessing a great deal of charm, he was as interested in people–no matter their background–as they were in him.

Readers see how Halliburton never gave those outside his intimate circle any inkling of the discomforts he endured while trekking around the globe in search of adventure. He knew his public expected their hero to be attired in neatly pressed trousers, polished walking stick in hand. Halliburton revealed little of his private self to the public for whom he served as an intrepid globetrotting guide during the period in the inter-war period.

The second paragraph contains a letter from Halliburton to his father Wesley. It’s important because it reveals how Halliburton allowed himself to be vulnerable with those closest to him. Yet, it’s important to note this paragraph was not included in a posthumous book of Halliburton’s letters. Wesley Halliburton went to great lengths to hide anything that (from his perspective) might taint his son’s image, be it his son’s occasional health issues or his son’s homosexuality. Indeed as a media darling of the 1920s and ‘30s Halliburton had to hide his homosexuality and continuously burnish his image as a masculine trailblazer.

As I write in American Daredevil, Halliburton was adept at harnessing the media of his day to gain and maintain a widespread following long before our age of the twenty-four-hour news cycle, and thus became the first adventure journalist. He inspired generations of authors, journalists, and everyday people who dreamed of fame and glory to explore the world.
Learn more about the book and author at Cathryn J. Prince's website.

The Page 99 Test: Death in the Baltic.

Coffee with a Canine: Cathryn J. Prince & Hershey and Juno.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Robert Elder's "The Sacred Mirror"

Robert Elder is assistant professor of history at Valparaiso University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Sacred Mirror: Evangelicalism, Honor, and Identity in the Deep South, 1790-1860, and reported the following:
On page 99 of The Sacred Mirror, I wrote:
In the South words were powerful, part of a broader and deeper ‘language’ of symbols and meaning that southerners used to order their world. Outside observers marveled, and some southerners lamented, that in the South the wrong words could end friendships, provoke violence, and even lead to the loss of life, evidence of the close relationship between speech, honor, and identity.... For those who did not understand the thick context that surrounded the act of speaking in the South, the reactions provoked by a veiled implication or a petty slight could seem disproportionate. But to southerners these were vital matters that threatened their control over their very identities.

Women held a special place in such a culture. While a woman’s words could do as much damage as a man’s, women were neither subject to direct reprisal nor permitted to engage in violent defense of their own reputations. This mix of power and powerlessness gave rise to an atmosphere in which women were both lauded and feared. Because of their association with moral virtue, women’s words generally held credence on certain matters of honor and reputation, making a woman with a loose tongue a particularly vexing problem from a male point of view.

The records of local churches reveal both the importance that attached to speech in the church and community as well as the way that the church provided an avenue for (mostly) men to address the problem of their female detractors.
This passage is actually a central and quite representative part of my argument in The Sacred Mirror. Most histories of evangelicalism in the early American South have argued that the South’s honor culture represented one of the primary obstacles to the spread of evangelical religion in the region, especially before 1830. But these histories don’t take into account the depth and complexity of honor as an ethical system that ordered southerners’ lives and shaped their identities in virtually every sphere of life, including their religion. In this passage, I describe how men in evangelical churches sometimes used the mechanism of church discipline to address various forms of (mostly female) speech circulating in their communities. Because it was public, especially so in the democratic Baptist churches, discipline could be remarkably effective in addressing rumors or other types of secret speech that men (and sometimes women) considered detrimental to their honor. At the same time, and again because it was public, church discipline was a fraught avenue to address these concerns due to the risk that an investigation might prove the rumor true and cement dishonor and shame, as indeed sometimes happened. Either way, church discipline was unavoidably part of the manufacture and maintenance of honor in local communities throughout the South, which is part of the The Sacred Mirror’s argument that honor and evangelicalism were intertwined in ways that we haven’t previously understood.

The Page 99 Test works!
Learn more about The Sacred Mirror at The University of North Carolina Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Christine Gilbert's "Mother Tongue"

Christine Gilbert is a writer, photographer, and documentary filmmaker and is the creator of the popular blog Almostfearless.com.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Mother Tongue: My Family's Globe-Trotting Quest to Dream in Mandarin, Laugh in Arabic, and Sing in Spanish, and reported the following:
From page 99:
It only took a few days of sun and watermelon smoothies for the persistent throbbing in my forehead to go away. My sinuses cleared. The eight-hundred-pound gorilla that had been sitting on my chest for the last few months was gone. We took long walks on the Ping River, wearing flip-flops and T-shirts. Cole jumped at the opportunity to play with other kids, making friends with the guesthouse owner's toddler and playing happily in the dirt together with sticks.

At first we didn't talk about Beijing. We remained in a state of shock, making the motions of living - eating Thai food, reading books and playing with Cole - but an endless horizon of the unknown stretched out before us. Now what?

Childhood trauma is a wound that never heals. It scabs over, forms a scar. It fades to just a slivery thin line on your skin, a story you tell, the time that thing happened to you. But unlike physical wounds, it can break open again. I had packed away my childhood for a decade before having Cole. It was my origin story, but it didn't define me. I never used it as a crutch. In fact, I prided myself on most people never suspecting that I went through high school as a ward of the state, living in foster care. I got a little thrill if someone assumed I had an idyllic childhood. All I ever wanted was to fit in, to pass.
I loved this experiment. Page 99 in Mother Tongue caught a more serious tone than most of the rest of the book, which is about my family and I traveling in Beijing, Beirut and Mexico so I can learn to speak Mandarin, Arabic and Spanish. Page 99 hits us just as we are at a crossroads in our journey where we have to make a decision to keep trying this or call it quits and figure something else out entirely. At the time I was honestly ready to tell my publisher I quit. Thankfully I was given time to cool off, which I did.
Visit Christine Gilbert's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Hugh B. Urban's "Zorba the Buddha"

Hugh B. Urban is Professor in the Department of Comparative Studies at Ohio State University, where he studies comparative religion, religions of South Asia, and new religious movements.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Zorba the Buddha: Sex, Spirituality, and Capitalism in the Global Osho Movement, and reported the following:
Zorba the Buddha focuses on the life, teachings, and global religious following of the controversial Indian guru known in his early years as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and in his later years simply as Osho (1931-1990).

It is an interesting coincidence that page 99 of my book contains a long block quote from Rajneesh that was published in 1978 under the title “This is Not a Democracy.” In many ways, this quote strikes to the heart of my book. In this statement, Rajneesh was addressing the complaints of many followers of his community in Pune that violence and abuse had infected the encounter groups and meditation sessions at the ashram. After all, many young Europeans and Americans had come to the Pune ashram in search of a kind of anarchistic, free love utopia, and many found in the community a radically liberating and empowering form of spiritual practice – a “religionless religion” that creatively combined Indian meditation with elements of Western psychotherapy. Yet many were also disturbed to find forms of authoritarianism and violence at work in the community, which shocked even some who had been sympathetic to the group, such as Dick Price, the founder of the New Age spiritual center of Esalen in California. In response, Rajneesh stated quite clearly that “This is not going to be a democracy…Whatsoever I decide is absolute.” If anyone was not comfortable with the sort of boundary-breaking violence and sexual transgression in these encounter sessions, he concluded, they were “free to leave.”

This tension between radical freedom and authoritarian control is central to the Osho-Rajneesh movement from its inception. Known throughout the media as “India’s most dangerous guru” and notorious for his iconoclastic attacks on established religious and political figures such as Gandhi and Nehru, Rajneesh established a remarkably progressive utopian movement that in many ways embodied a form of post-national sodality or global community. Yet, almost from the very beginning, the movement was also frequently criticized for its seeming authoritarian tendencies, its commercialism, and its embrace of capitalism. These tensions between utopian ideals and authoritarian impulses would later come to a head when the group relocated to the United States in the 1980s and established a huge community in the Oregon desert. While remarkably progressive and ahead of its time in terms of organic farming, recycling, and land reclamation, the Oregon community quickly descended into a series of increasingly bizarre criminal activities.

These tensions have resurfaced in recent debates surrounding the current Osho movement in India and around the globe, which has been divided by intense arguments over Osho’s legacy and rights to his name, writings, meditations, and properties.

It is precisely this tension between progressive utopian ambitions and disturbing authoritarian tendencies that I think runs throughout this complex movement; and it is this deep ambivalence within this and other charismatic religious movements that I tried to highlight in my book.
Learn more about Zorba the Buddha at the University of California Press.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 20, 2016

Katherine A. Mason's "Infectious Change"

Katherine A. Mason is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Brown University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Infectious Change: Reinventing Chinese Public Health After an Epidemic, and reported the following:
Page 99 illustrates one of the central motifs that appears throughout my book: the generational split between the old guard of local Chinese public health bureaucrats who spend most of their time banqueting and doing sanitation inspections of highly questionable efficacy, and the young upstarts who seek to replace them by doing what they referred to as “real science.” It also includes a quite illustrative example of the ill-fated attempts of some of these young upstarts to interfere with the banqueting rituals that their older colleagues insisted on engaging in.

The story that begins the page actually starts on page 98. A measles vaccination team from a city public health institution in southeastern China is visiting a residents’ committee head at the local level to try to enlist her help in implementing a measles vaccination campaign. Despite the fact that the residents’ committee head is in charge of managing the health primarily of members of the so-called “floating population” of rural-to-urban migrants, who are nearly impossible to keep track of, she nevertheless promises her visitors that she will achieve a 100% vaccination rate. One of the younger members of the city vaccination team, whom I call Dr. Feng, then has the audacity to challenge this claim,. Page 99 begins with what happens afterwards to the unfortunate Dr. Feng:
At the banquet that followed, the department head made certain that Feng enthusiastically toasted those who would have to repair the relationship that he had threatened. The young man ended up drinking until he collapsed in the bathroom outside the banquet hall and had to be carried home.
This might sound a little extreme, especially for a bunch of officials who are supposed to be setting an example for good public health. But binge drinking was a pretty standard way for public health officials in China to both show their commitment to each other and ultimately to achieve public health goals.

I then go on:
Feng had threatened the guanxi ritual by trying to open the black box in which public health projects took place. For any given project, the procedures by which collaborating partners obtained the numbers they did were purposefully obscured. In fact, the nontransparency of the guanxi web was helpful in reaching campaign goals, because if city CDC leaders could not see how the numbers were produced, they could not verify that anything was not ‘true’…

To carry out any public health projects … my informants had to accept the numbers that the black box spit out and had to act as if they assumed that these numbers reflected what had actually been observed or completed – an assumption that Feng had refused to make. Although the older CDC members did not seem bothered by this disconnect, the younger ones found the obvious unreliability of the numbers immensely frustrating. They took the poor quality of the numbers as a personal affront to their status as scientists and an unethical rejection of their colleagues’ obligation to serve the interests of the professional common.
This last part gets at the heart of the generational split that is explored in this chapter and throughout the book – the newer, younger public health officials considered themselves to be scientists and were deeply dissatisfied with the seemingly unscientific numbers the old ways of doing things were producing. They were also in some cases deeply uncomfortable with the banqueting rituals that were used to produce these numbers. They instead wanted to establish a new set of professional norms that would do away with banqueting and insist that collaborators produce ‘true’ numbers, even if those numbers were not politically expedient. The book shows how these efforts, at least as of the time I was writing it, had largely failed. Without a new ethical system in place to replace guanxi, public health campaigns seemed to be even less capable of produced the ‘truth’ without banqueting rituals than they were with them.
Learn more about Infectious Change at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Nathan H. Lents's "Not So Different: Finding Human Nature in Animals"

Nathan H. Lents is professor of molecular biology and director of the biology and cell and molecular biology programs at John Jay College of the City University of New York. His work has been published in at least a dozen leading science journals, including the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Molecular Cell, and the American Journal of Physiology, as well as the science education journals the Journal of College Science Teaching and The Chronicle of Higher Education. He is on the editorial board of The Journal of Phylogenetics and Evolutionary Biology and maintains The Human Evolution Blog.

Lents applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Not So Different: Finding Human Nature in Animals, and reported the following:
On page 99 of Not So Different, I discuss how some species of fish have three male genders, that is, three versions of the male body type with different markings, different size, different behaviors, and different strategies for being successful at their ultimate goal: reproduction. This is a perfect window into one the themes of the book: when it comes to how animals live, there is much more than meets the eye. As stated on page 99, "Experienced anglers can easily tell the difference between males and females [in bluegill sunfish]. Or so they think. Many of the fish they identify as females are actually helper males. In sunfish, the alliance-forming ritual between large [males] and helper males is a courtship dance that includes genital contact. Quite often, when a female joins the picture to contribute the eggs, the sex is a three-way affair."

At the same time, page 99 is not very representative because it speaks of fish, when most of the book is about birds and mammals, especially primates. Not So Different explores the emotional and social lives of other animal species to reveal how closely their behavioral programs mirror our own. Other animals understand fairness, feel love, grieve their dead, and communicate with rich vocabularies. The cognitive and emotional differences between humans and other animals are only in degree, not in kind.
Visit Nathan H. Lents's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 16, 2016

Manisha Sinha's "The Slave's Cause"

Manisha Sinha is a professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities among several others. She is the author of The Counterrevolution of Slavery: Politics and Ideology in Antebellum South Carolina.

Sinha applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Slave's Cause: A History of Abolition, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Abolitionist pamphlets and images transformed the African Slave Trade from a cog in the imperial machine to an exemplary instance of cruelty and inhumanity. They sought to render the enslaved African visible to the widest possible audience. The plan of the “regulated” slave ship Brooks with its decks of packed humanity, first composed by William Elford and the Plymouth abolition committee and elaborated by the London Committee, became the most circulated broadside of British abolitionism. Mirabeau called it a living coffin. This single image evoked the Middle Passage as experienced by Africans and centered it in abolitionist discourse. In portraying the victimization of Africans by the slave trade and slavery, abolitionists did not render them passive. The iteration of it in 1794 included a shipboard rebellion. Abolitionist art blossomed in the nineteenth century from anonymous depictions to carefully delineated humanistic portraits. In the 1820s, the British Quaker abolitionist Elizabeth Heyrick transformed the the image of the kneeling slave to that of an upright black man with the emphatic statement, “I am a man and a brother.” The Brooks diagram lives on in the modern black artistic imagination.
This paragraph from page 99 of The Slave’s Cause captures well the central arguments of the book even though it presents a snapshot of the long history of abolition, from the colonial era to the Civil War, detailed in it. The book is a movement history of American abolition narrated in a transnational context. It tells the story of not only American abolition but also of British abolition, the Haitian Revolution, the European Revolutions of the 1830s and 1848, and African emigration schemes. In situating the history of abolition in an international context, it uncovers its wide ranging and eclectic radicalism. Recapitulating the history of abolition in the longue duree and told in the broadest setting possible, this book reveals aspects of the movement and its unknown members that remain hidden from history until today. A movement perspective also allows us to uncover the significance of the history of abolition for contemporary activists, who fight against various forms of racial and economic injustice.

The Slave’s Cause argues that slave resistance, rather than bourgeois liberalism, lay at the heart of the abolition movement and inspired black and white abolitionists alike. Abolitionists, pace conventional historical wisdom, were not racial paternalists and economic conservatives but men and women, black and white, free and enslaved who created a radical, interracial social movement that pushed at the boundaries of American democracy. They found common ground in causes ranging from feminism, utopian socialism, pacifism, and anti-imperialism to vindicating the rights of labor, Native Americans, and immigrants. Rather than single issue “monomaniacs” and “fanatics,” as their conservative critics called them, most abolitionists understood that the cause of the slave was linked to a host of other causes. The abolitionist vision, the book illustrates, ultimately linked the slave’s cause to the struggle to redefine American democracy and human rights across the globe.
Learn more about The Slave's Cause at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Janet M. Davis's "The Gospel of Kindness"

Janet M. Davis is Associate Professor of American Studies, History, and Women's and Gender Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of The Circus Age: Culture and Society under the American Big Top, as well as the editor of Circus Queen and Tinker Bell: The Life of Tiny Kline. Her opinion pieces have been published in the New York Times and Newsday.

Davis applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Gospel of Kindness: Animal Welfare and the Making of Modern America, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Gospel of Kindness: Animal Welfare and the Making of Modern America includes a discussion of slaughter practices and a new section on the ways in which animal advocates participated in civil rights struggles. The page begins with journalist W. Joseph Grand praising the efficiency of modern livestock slaughter at Chicago’s Union Stock Yards in 1896. He glowingly describes the spectacular size and scale of the facility’s holding pens, the moving masses of animals, and the assembly-line process of slaughter as a form of modern spectacle, which captivated thousands of tourists who visited the Yards each year. By contrast, the next paragraph turns to muckraking journalists, animal advocates, and labor organizers, who condemned the Yards as a horrifying “colossus of cruelty.” George Angell, the president of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, recounts how he disguised himself as a laborer to gain access to the inner regions of the Yards out of public view, where he could bear intimate witness “to the inhumane conditions, and plead for those who were dumb yet keenly suffered.” Upton Sinclair is also here, coupling the destruction of animal and laboring human bodies at Packingtown as a scathing indictment of capitalism.

Sinclair’s sentiments segue to the next section, “For Justice and Fair Play,” which explores how animal advocates extended their concern for “the least among us” to fight for human equality. They denounced race riots and lynching, as well as everyday instances of racism—from San Francisco’s Chinatown to the Deep South. They also built humane education programs in public schools, Sunday Schools, and youth groups, some of which were led by people of color during the Jim Crow era.

Page 99 of The Gospel of Kindness captures a fundamental goal of the animal protection movement during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: to promote a wholesale project of stewardship and compassion for animals and people alike. The page also acknowledges the movement’s tensions: in a pluralistic, animal-powered society, anticruelty laws often unwittingly targeted immigrants and laboring people whose livelihood and cultural rituals depended on animals. Consequently, Ford Madox Ford’s insights regarding the power of page 99 to reveal “the quality of the whole” apply beautifully here to a complex and far-reaching American social movement.
Learn more about The Gospel of Kindness at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Paula S. Fass's "The End of American Childhood"

Paula S. Fass is professor of the Graduate School and the Margaret Byrne Professor of History Emerita at the University of California, Berkeley. The author of Kidnapped and Children of a New World, she recently edited The Routledge History of Childhood in the Western World.

Fass applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The End of American Childhood: A History of Parenting from Life on the Frontier to the Managed Child, and reported the following:
Childhood and parenting have changed in significant ways in the United States over the course of the two hundred years examined in my new book on the subject, The End of American Childhood. Early in their history, Americans set a cultural norm that emphasized individualism and the autonomy of the young. Today, that belief has faded and is in retreat.

The change in attitudes was becoming evident by the turn of the twentieth century. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century one of the most dramatic and consequential sources for this change resulted from the demography of child survival. In the nineteenth century, almost every household could expect to lose one or several of its children and all American parents, including those as prominent as Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain, were familiar with the uncertainty and sorrow that accompanied this loss. These American parents never lived with the illusion that they could control their children’s future. By the first two decades of the twentieth century, however, child mortality was radically reduced with notable consequences for parenting.

On page 99, I discuss how this revised expectation profoundly influenced the nature of parenting advice. From providing advice aimed at child survival such as proper diet, sleep, bathing, etc., child-rearing advisers began to shift their attention to developmental and psychological matters and to enlist parents in a campaign for child improvement. Once children could be expected to survive, “the stage was set for the dramatic spike of interest in childrearing advice aimed at emotional health and sound personality development that came in the decade of the 1920s." Parents were now set on the path of becoming more self-conscious and self-critical. Over the course of a century, this has led to a rise in parental oversight, increased anxiety about children’s welfare, more medical interventions, and a gradual decline in an earlier American commitment to treating children as independent and resourceful beings. Parents today often emphasize control as the drive toward perfection has become a middle class obsession.
Learn more about The End of American Childhood at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Michael N. Barnett's "The Star and the Stripes"

Michael N. Barnett is the University Professor of International Affairs and Political Science at George Washington University. His many books include Empire of Humanity and Dialogues in Arab Politics.

Barnett applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Star and the Stripes: A History of the Foreign Policies of American Jews, and reported the following:
The first question we ask when taking a test is: did I pass? If no, then the natural follow-up is, how badly did I fail? If yes, then it is how decisive? I can report that I passed, probably with flying colors.

Page 99 lands in the middle of an extended discussion of the ideas turn-of-the century American Jews held about trying to be both particular and universal – and at a time when Jewish nationalism and Zionism were emerging as important political ideologies. The dilemma was the following: American Jews were attempting to integrate into American society – which meant demonstrating that they understood and practiced quintessential American values. Many American Jews insisted that this did not require a herculean effort because Jewish values and American values were nearly one and the same. So, American Jews highlighted the universalistic and cosmopolitan strands of Judaism, and especially the prophetic tradition. And then here came Jewish nationalism and Zionism, which suggested that Jews really are a separate people, a separate nation deserving their own state. These political ideologies, then, potentially undermined the attempt by American Jews to portray Judaism as universalistic and capable of easily integrating into American society.

Yet Jewish nationalism and Zionism had one very important redeeming feature: they reminded Jews that they were Jews. If taken to its logical conclusion, universalism left little reason to remain Jewish. If Jews were just like everyone else, then why go through the bother of remaining Jewish? Universalism, in other words, opened the door to assimilation. Jewish universalism could lead to the disappearance of the Jews. A little nationalism, or tribalism, then, was not such a bad thing – it could keep American Jews from committing cultural suicide.

So, the intellectual, political, and theological challenge confronting American Jewish elites was how to have both universalism and tribalism, which often required interpreting both nationalism and cosmopolitanism in ways that were consistent with each other, not an impossible task, but requiring a lot of work. It would mean fixing an image of the American nation as pluralistic and open, and a Jewish identity that that could retain some vestige of the particular in a sea of the universal.
[Sentence begins on page 98]. He [Raymond Bourne, drawing from the political thought of Horace Kallen, an esteemed sociologist who figured prominently in the debates among American Jews and the broader question of the nature of American society] criticized the melting pot metaphor for several reasons: it would transform a vibrant ‘American population into a colorless, tasteless, homogeneous mass of WASPs’…A hyphenated America would…guard against blandness…

A defining feature of the Zionism of Brandeis, Kallen, and many other American Zionists was its rejection of tribalism and embrace of the prophetic tradition, which allied them with Mordechai Kaplan’s idea that Jews are a civilization…One reason why Kaplan preferred to see the Jews as a civilization rather than a nation is because the prevailing definition of the nation required a state; in contrast, [now on page 100] Kaplan argued, Jews are a transnational and diasporic people whose sense of peoplehood does not require a state.”
American Jews have been wrestling with the relationship between the universal and the particular for nearly two hundred years. The terms of the debate, and their answers, have changed with the times. But, as page 99 suggests, arguably the dominant strain is to find a universal that allows space for the particular – and to avoid a particular that dominates the universal.

But now that I know I have passed, I have to ask: is this a good thing? We are usually happy when we pass a test. Sometimes it means good things will happen – I get my driver’s license. Sometimes it means we get to avoid bad things – I don’t have to take my driver’s test again. Is it good that I passed the Ford Madox Ford “page 99 test”? I suppose the good news is that the central themes of the book can be found on a random page. This suggests a general consistency of narrative. I suppose the not so good news is that the book is overly predictable, perhaps even repetitive. Taking this test left me even more deeply unsure about how I feel about my book.
Learn more about The Star and the Stripes at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 9, 2016

Pamela Haag's "The Gunning of America"

Pamela Haag earned a Ph.D. in history from Yale after attending Swarthmore College. She has worked as director of research for the American Association of University Women and as a speechwriter, and has written for the American Scholar, the Christian Science Monitor, the Michigan Quarterly Review, the Huffington Post, and NPR, among others. She has held fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Mellon Foundation and a postdoctoral fellowship at Brown University. Her books include Consent, Voices of a Generation, and Marriage Confidential: The Post-Romantic Age of Workhorse Wives, Royal Children, Undersexed Spouses, and Rebel Couples Who Are Rewriting the Rules.

Haag applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Gunning of America: Business and the Making of American Gun Culture, and reported the following:
As luck would have it, page 99 of The Gunning of America points the reader right toward my biggest authorial challenge in the book—but also one of its singularities and unique contributions.

The first half of the page describes the demise of Benjamin Tyler Henry, the embattled genius inventor of the fearsome repeater rifle that, before too long, will be renamed from the “Henry” rifle to the now-iconic “Winchester” rifle, in honor of its capitalist and manufacturer rather than its maker. Like other aspiring mechanics and Yankee inventors of his day, Henry had been “’wealthy several times,’ his obituary notes, and poor just as often.” But here, on this page, we’re seeing how the power is shifting in 1866 from the creative inventor with creative talent but no capital toward the industrialist, Oliver Winchester, who had capital but not creative talent.

The second half of the page toggles from this public world of the Winchester business enterprise into the very intense, private world the Winchester family. Both the rifle and the family are the foci of this book, and here we continue the story of Sarah Winchester, Oliver’s daughter-in-law. According to legend, she would gradually come to believe that she was being haunted by the ghosts of all those killed by Winchester rifles (and that’s a lot of ghosts). In this passage, on page 99, Sarah’s personal misfortunes begin: her daughter has just been born, but will live only a month.

My book weaves together these two stories, which are almost never told as one: The story of the Winchester business and the story of the Winchester counter-legend to the gun legends, the ghost story of Sarah Winchester. While this was a challenging project as a writer, I’m delighted that my book weaves together two disparate stories, one about ambition and the other about conscience.

Oliver and Sarah Winchester are rarely written about or discussed in the same story, or breath. But they both inhabited intimately the same family, and fate. And they are both part of our gun legacy.
Learn more about the book and author at Pamela Haag's website.

The Page 99 Test: Marriage Confidential.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Daniel Capper's "Learning Love from a Tiger"

Daniel Capper is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion at the University of Southern Mississippi and the author of Guru Devotion and the American Buddhist Experience.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Learning Love from a Tiger: Religious Experiences with Nature, and reported the following:
Page 99 does not really highlight the overall quality of Learning Love from a Tiger: Religious Experiences with Nature, although it offers a start. Page 99 is a half-page that begins a chapter by telling about how the ancient literary hero Gilgamesh nearly married the Babylonian lion-goddess Ishtar. This story creates the ambience for discussing religious relationships with nature that occur following family-relations templates, as the bulk of the chapter presents my field work at a Hindu center where cows, holy basil plants, and rivers are venerated as sacred mothers. I study the contours, limits, and outcomes of these Hindu intimate religious relationships with nature, as I do with the religions found throughout the rest of the book, including chapters on Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Mayan, folk Tibetan, and folk Chinese religiosities, as well as the religious life of the American naturalist John Muir. While we commonly think of human approaches to nature in terms of economics, politics, or the physical sciences, I show that the effects of religions must be considered, too, as human experiences with the natural world both shape and are shaped by religions, with some powerful real-world results. Along the path of this interdisciplinary exploration, which employs original field work at a Buddhist monastery and a Christian pet blessing ceremony in addition to my field experience at the Hindu ashram, I offer copious stories of religious encounters with nature, like the story of Gilgamesh and Ishtar. Drawing on traditions from around the world, this storytelling makes the narrative lively, vivid, and inviting for all readers, not just academic ones. In the end I gently ask readers to reconsider the long-held, easy-answer myth of human supremacy to nonhumans, as this culturally-shaped worldview can limit the beneficial functioning of religion, the positive pursuit of knowledge, and the wholesome treatment of nonhuman entities in the natural world.
Learn more about Learning Love from a Tiger at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 5, 2016

James W. Cortada's "All the Facts"

James W. Cortada is the author of over two-dozen books on the history and use of information and computing in American society, including The Digital Flood: The Diffusion of Information Technology Across the U.S., Europe, and Asia. He is a Senior Research Fellow at the Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota.

Cortada applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, All the Facts: A History of Information in the United States since 1870, and reported the following:
Page 99 perfectly illustrates what this book is about. On that page you find out quickly that big companies could only be large if they could collect and share information across the organization to control operations. On this page, we learn that accounting—the language of business—becomes a big deal in the late 1800s and across the entire twentieth century. We are introduced to the kind of information needed for the first time by manufacturing companies, insurance firms, and other types of enterprises.

The book is about an even bigger story: how Americans used greater amounts of information after the American Civil War (1861-65) than ever before in all aspects of their lives: work, play, raising kids, religion, politics, hobbies, and vacations. I argue that they could do this more than in most countries because it seemed almost everyone learned how to read, beginning in the 1700s, except slaves and Indians. Americans created a strong economy that made collecting, storing, and using information affordable. The Constitution made the movement of information legal, such as your point of view in a newspaper or book. The U.S. Post Office was everywhere delivering letters, newspapers, magazines, and books since the 1790s. Americans invented new ways to collect and move around information, including the telephone, typewriter, adding and calculating machines, television, PCs, smart phones, and computers. Other countries dabbled with these, but Americans went over the top sooner in using every new form of info-technology.

My book tells the story of how that all happened. I found it amazing that everyone seemed involved, including kids as young as 2 years old with their favorite websites, Cub Scouts with their manuals, women with their cookbooks and others about how to raise babies, sailors with 800-page “how to be a sailor” type books, and so it goes on. The topic goes into every corner of American life.

But I wrote this book so that you can read it in pieces—no law says you have to go cover-to-cover. I don’t even do that with other people’s books. I wrote it so that it would also be a good read. Enjoy!
Learn more about All the Facts at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Steve Viscelli's "The Big Rig"

Steve Viscelli is currently a visiting assistant professor of sociology at Swarthmore College.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Big Rig: Trucking and the Decline of the American Dream, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book includes the following paragraphs:
Leviathan and companies like it recruit and train workers completely unfamiliar with the trucking industry. As a result, these workers don’t know any other way to truck. When difficulties arise and their company does not bend, these drivers are likely to see problems as inherent in their company, or in trucking more generally, and not as being about the kind of freight they haul, the customers they service, or the organization of the labor process in that segment of the industry. In part this is simply because these inexperienced workers have no experience with any alternative, and the company does not present itself as a particular kind of trucking company.

The implicit and explicit messages from companies like Leviathan are that they are the result of market forces freed by deregulation, they are the leaders of the industry, the cutting edge, the future. If you are entering the trucking industry and want to have a successful career, they are your future. If there are alternatives, they are not long for this world. You need to be flexible, because this is the way trucking is.
This section focuses on how long-haul truck drivers are trained. It took me years to trace the full implications of the rather simple idea of this section– that the first company a trucker drives for determines much of how he sees the industry. The goal of my book is to explain the remarkable transformation of the trucking industry over the past four decades. Once dominated by well-paid union jobs, trucking is now populated by hundreds of thousands of independent contractors with terrible pay and working conditions. This transition relied on trucking companies’ ability to shape how employees understand their work, the industry, and their role within it.

The book is based on a ton of interviews, but also on some pretty intense fieldwork including 6 months I spent training and then working as a long-haul trucker. I experienced entrance into the industry the way most people do, through a training program run by a major trucking carrier. That carrier taught me what trucking was and how I should do it. And at first, that was the only framework I had for understanding the industry. Then I started the interview phase of my research and heard the perspectives of more than 100 other truckers, some were rookies like me, but many were far more experienced. Those interviews put my experience into a whole different light.

Experienced drivers had a very different (much more critical) take on the job I had done. Being employees’ introduction to the industry allows companies to shape the expectations of new workers and consequently get them to accept a combination of low pay and bad working conditions (e.g. being away from come for weeks at a time and living out of truck) that experienced drivers would never accept.  - in my case working almost 14 hours per day for 12 or 19 days at a time. Companies indoctrinate new workers, presenting their job conditions as the inevitable outcome of natural market forces. The pseudonym for my own employer, Leviathan, was intended to capture this notion. Later I came to realize that this kind of conceptual leadership – which I viewed through Antonio Gramsci’s theory of hegemony - was a critical part of a coordinated set of labor strategies that companies have developed since the trucking industry was deregulated in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Today, those strategies end by convincing many of workers to take on the risk and cost of leasing a truck and becoming an “owner-operator” in pursuit of the American Dream.

In later chapters, I discuss how employers, trucking media and consultants have convinced countless truckers to lease a truck and become an independent contractor by completely reworking what it means to be self-employed, tailoring it to the advantage of firms and turning long-haul trucks into rolling sweatshops. All of this starts with the training process discussed on page 99.
Visit Steve Viscelli's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Emily D. Edwards's "Bars, Blues, and Booze"

Emily D. Edwards is a professor of media studies at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. She began her media writing career as a journalist, reporting for ABC and NBC affiliates in Alabama and Tennessee. She has written and produced news stories and documentaries for both radio and television. In the early 1970s when employees in small and medium market stations wore many hats, Edwards wrote, produced, and directed television news, commercials, and public service programs. In 1984 she earned a Ph.D. in journalism and mass communication at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and moved back to Alabama to direct the broadcasting program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In 1987, she joined the faculty at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro where she is now a professor in the Department of Media Studies.

Edwards applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Bars, Blues, and Booze: Stories from the Drink House, and reported the following:
I had not heard about the page 99 test before, so it was interesting to open the book to page 99 and see part of the interview with Bob Baskerville and Penny Zamagni where they describe the enthusiasm for blues music in Europe and the seeming disregard for that same music in American sports bars. Does page 99 represent the entire book? It does represent an important theme but the book reflects the experiences of many different people -- it's a joyous romp through American bars, joints, and drink houses as told by musicians, fans, and the bar owners who experienced them.
Visit the official Bars, Blues & Booze website.

Writers Read: Emily D. Edwards.

--Marshal Zeringue