Thursday, October 31, 2019

Stephen F. Knott's "The Lost Soul of the American Presidency"

Prior to accepting his position at the Naval War College, Stephen F. Knott was Co-Chair of the Presidential Oral History Program at the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia. He also served for seven years as an Associate Professor in the Political Science Department at the United States Air Force Academy. His books include The Reagan Years; Alexander Hamilton and the Persistence of Myth; Secret and Sanctioned: Covert Operations and the American Presidency; At Reagan’s Side: Insiders’ Recollections from Sacramento to the White House; Rush to Judgment: George W. Bush, the War on Terror, and His Critics; and Washington and Hamilton: The Alliance That Forged America.

Knott applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Lost Soul of the American Presidency: The Decline into Demagoguery and the Prospects for Renewal, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book briefly discusses the destructive presidency of Andrew Johnson and contrasts it with the underrated presidency of Ulysses S. Grant, who along with Abraham Lincoln, took halting, but nonetheless significant steps toward fulfilling the principles of the Declaration of Independence. Andrew Johnson was motivated by racism and resentment, lacked any sense of magnanimity, and practiced the politics of divisiveness. In short, Johnson, one of the most prominent demagogues to hold the office, was patently unfit for the job of president. By glimpsing at page 99, the reader would get a partial sense of the gist of my book, which traces the descent of the presidency into an office frequently inhabited by demagogues like Johnson. Flattering the majority and ostracizing an unpopular minority is standard practice for demagogues, as is the absence of magnanimity and humility in their character.

The Lost Soul of the American Presidency is a clarion call for the restoration of the founders presidency. The president was to serve as a head of state who stood above the partisan fray, representing the entire nation. The president would act as a check on public passions, prevent the tyranny of the majority, and promote the rule of law. But today we prefer presidents who are "passionate" and excite their "base" by practicing, as Alexander Hamilton put it, “the little arts of popularity.” This is a complete reversal of the intentions of the framers of the Constitution. Throughout our nation’s history, this type of presidential leadership imposed costs on racial and political minorities -- a phenomenon utterly predictable to the founders, who would have warned that a president’s primary obligation was to the rule of law, to the Constitution – not to public opinion.

The American presidency envisioned by George Washington and Alexander Hamilton was to serve as a source of national pride and unity. Instead, the office has devolved into a force for division and discord. The manner in which presidents conduct themselves affects the entire body politic. Presidents can choose to unite or divide, to appeal to something higher or practice "the little arts of popularity." But presidents cannot do this alone. The effort to restore the presidency will require Americans to move beyond the parochial, beyond the immediate, and reject the siren call of those who appeal to their base instincts. It will be difficult to recover the lost soul of the American presidency, but we can take solace from the fact that the past offers an alternative to the debased presidency of the present.
Learn more about The Lost Soul of the American Presidency at the University Press of Kansas website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Anne Nelson's "Shadow Network"

Anne Nelson is an author and lecturer in the fields of international affairs, media and human rights. As a journalist she covered the conflicts in El Salvador and Guatemala, and won the Livingston Award for best international reporting from the Philippines. She served as the director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. In 1995 she became the director the international program at the Columbia School of Journalism, where she created the first curriculum in human rights reporting.

Since 2003 Nelson has been teaching at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), where her classes and research explore how digital media can support the underserved populations of the world through public health, education and culture.

Nelson applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Shadow Network: Media, Money, and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right, and reported the following:
From page 99:
"Liberals in the media failed to defeat you," he added. "now they will use carrots and sticks to tempt and to intimidate you. They will define any betrayal of your coalition as a sign of 'growth.' Don't fall for that nonsense."

Your constituency is the coalition. Avoid the filter of the media. It was a winning formula. The CNP could turn to the NRA for a prototype for face-to-face social networking that would be emulated by other organization. In the future the NRA would pioneer new technologies to link Blackwell's trainees and leverage their political activism. The NRA had come a long way from the gentlemen's shooting club cofounded by Mr. Conant in 1871, and it was in good company.
Page 99 is the end of a chapter, so it only contains one paragraph. That said, the paragraph isn't a bad summary of the techniques developed by Morton Blackwell and others connected to the Council for National Policy, to create a multi-pronged political movement to advance the Radical Right in Washington. The National Rifle Association was one of the early organizations to be co-opted. Fundamentalist churches, the Koch brothers donor networks, and the DeVos family are other major players in the movement.

Later chapters of Shadow Network describe how these forces came together with the support of fundamentalist broadcasters, sophisticated data platforms and apps to mobilize millions of conservative voters in swing states. They have effectively installed minority rule, and are seeking ways through judicial appointments and state law to make their position permanent. Along the way, this movement is rolling back LGBT civil rights, women's access to health care, and foiling gun control legislation.

Page 99--quoting a letter from a strategist to a newly elected Congressman--illustrates the way this movement bypassed the professional news media in favor of creating self-contained social networks. As a result, the current political playing field is far from level. Shadow Network lays out the strategy and the mechanics that have made it work. The next year will tell whether it will be ultimately successful.
Visit Anne Nelson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 28, 2019

Stuart Schrader's "Badges without Borders"

Stuart Schrader is Associate Director of the Program in Racism, Immigration, and Citizenship and Lecturer at Johns Hopkins University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Badges without Borders: How Global Counterinsurgency Transformed American Policing, and reported the following:
Re-reading page 99 of Badges Without Borders was fun. Revising a text for years is almost like leaving a water-based solution out in the sun. The liquid evaporates, leaving dense residue behind. You encounter strong arguments here, but the urgency or even ire that inspired them is gone. Two arguments appear on this page, which is in chapter 3.

Page 99 examines debates within the national security bureaucracy over how to allocate resources for overseas counterinsurgency at the outset of the John F. Kennedy administration. I focus on a speech about guerrilla warfare given to soldiers (from the United States and elsewhere) by modernization theorist Walt W. Rostow at Fort Bragg.

First, I’m arguing that, among scholars, the widespread identification of counterinsurgency with U.S. army special forces, who would engage in offensive guerrilla warfare and covert operations, does not withstand empirical scrutiny. These efforts certainly occurred, but, as inaugurated globally by the Kennedy administration, counterinsurgency entailed a much wider set of operations that focused on preventive methods that used local civilian policing and development assistance. There were two reasons: first, offensive guerrilla operations did not work (e.g., the Bay of Pigs invasion); second, after these guerrillas lost actual battles, the officials pushing the tactics lost bureaucratic battles. The winner, instead, was National Security Council staffer Robert W. Komer, this chapter’s prime mover. This is one of the key arguments of the book.

Second, I’m arguing counterinsurgency was not the product of modernization theory as formulated by the likes of Rostow per se, but counterinsurgency experts and lower-ranking security officials influenced Rostow and even shaped his ideas. Scholars of both modernization and counterinsurgency have emphasized the contributions of Rostow (among other intellectuals), but I am suggesting here that the causal arrows might run in the other direction, away from the primacy of the intellectuals. I was reading a good deal of intellectual history, particularly of modernization, when I started to work on this project, but the book veers away from that subfield, except in this and the final chapter.

Instead of intellectuals, Badges Without Borders highlights the policymaking influence of a more hidden stratum of security and law-enforcement figures. I must say that I did relish finding that Komer shaped Rostow’s widely reprinted 1961 speech, which contains the misleading but incandescent description of communists as “scavengers of the modernization process.” Rostow was a good writer. Rostow was learned. But Rostow was a dilettante when it came to guerrilla warfare. The speech is typically read as signaling Kennedy commitment’s to special forces, but Komer’s pugnacity meant that the bureaucracy was moving in another direction by the time Rostow gave it, toward the foreign police assistance program that is a focus of my book.
Visit Stuart Schrader's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Kari Marie Norgaard's "Salmon and Acorns Feed Our People"

Kari Marie Norgaard (non-Native Professor of Sociology/Environmental Studies at University of Oregon) has engaged in environmental justice policy work with the Karuk Tribe since 2003. She is author of Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions and Everyday Life and other publications on gender, race, and the sociology of emotions.

Norgaard applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Salmon and Acorns Feed Our People: Colonialism, Nature, and Social Action, and reported the following:
Page 99 comes in the second chapter, “The Ecological Dynamics of Settler-Colonialism: Smokey Bear and Fire Suppression as Colonial Violence.” On this page in particular I am in the middle of an in-depth account of U.S. Forest Service views on Indigenous fire management. Page 99 showcases Forest Service documents from 1928 through 1950 to illustrate how language of “malicious motives” and “uncivilized” were used to discredit the sophisticated Indigenous ecological systems of fire management that the Forest Service had recently disrupted through their policy of fire suppression. Here I draw on research compiled by a number of my colleagues, especially Dr. Frank Lake whose doctoral dissertation provides a detailed review of early documents, alongside interviews with Karuk elders:
Lightning ignitions were an “act of nature” which could not be prevented or controlled like incendiarism, described as “selfish or malicious motives.” ... The incendiary problem, however, is not a fire hunt but a man hunt; not fire, but the owner of the hand that lights it, is the public’s enemy.... The hand of the incendiary is set against the public welfare and it is the duty of every citizen to help apprehend those who willfully set fires and to see that they are punished as they justly deserve (Klamath National Forest 1928:14–15). (Cited in Lake 2007, 273)
A second passage from the 1928 report illustrates not only the need the agency felt to defend the policy of fire exclusion but also the use of scientific rhetoric and discourses of “practicality” rooted in a Taylorist managerial mind-set of efficiency to justify their actions: “The existing policy of the Forest Service in fire prevention and suppression has not been reached on the basis of guesswork. It represents continuous and critical study of forest fires. Fire exclusion is the only practical principle on which our forests can be handled, if we are to protect what we have and insure new and more fully stocked forests for the future (Klamath National Forest 1928:17–18)” (cited in Lake 2007, 302). Note that it was not only a military structure but also the rhetoric of Western “science” that has been used to enact and justify state actions. Seth Suman (2009) writes, “The idea that science and technology were among the gifts that Western imperial powers brought to their colonies was an integral part of the discourse of the ‘civilizing mission,’ one vaunted by both proponents and critics of the methods of colonialism” (373, see also Adas 1989). While many advocates of indigenous burning practices now make use of Western scientific frameworks, the Western ideas of ecology that justified fire exclusion have themselves been instruments of colonialism. By 1938, the extent of burning had declined: “It is reported that in the past it was a general practice to burn timber and browse lands with the expectation that annual burnings would promote grass growth. Although this practice has been discouraged and is rarely followed now, there is still a degree of sentiment in its favor. It is believed that much of the browse cover has developed as the result of fires, and that most of the brush areas would eventually produce a fine stand of fir timber if fires were prevented and suppressed and grazing properly managed” (1938 report, quoted in Huntsinger and McCaffrey 1995, 62). Indigenous use of fire was nonetheless ongoing in the decades that followed, and this activity was a continued source of consternation for the Forest Service. The 1950 Six Rivers General Inspection Report included a focus on what they term the “Indian Incendiary Problem” and included this passage regarding the issue:
One problem area exists; the “river strip.” ... There is a fairly large Indian population here and the area is still “west of the Pecos.” The State has apparently not yet decided to take fire control laws across the river. Previous attempts brought a threat of bloodshed.... It looks as if we will have to live with this problem a while longer—until the area becomes more civilized, lending the State any assistance needed in developing an attitude toward protection among the local people. Perhaps the burning of basket grass areas and doe pastures would do the job. (USDA, Six Rivers National Forest 1950: 27–28, cited in Busam 2006, 60)
This page is certainly representative of one of the major themes in the book, namely the ways that colonialism is ongoing today through land management policies, and more specifically how profoundly negative characterizations of Indigenous sciences and management practices form justifications for fire suppression. So yes, readers would get a decent view of the book as a whole from this page. This page is less representative of other important aspects of the book in that it doesn’t have any quotes from Karuk people, or any descriptions of either the social impacts of present-day Western land management, or of the many actions Karuk people are taking to create change. First person accounts of both present circumstances and the many positive ways people are moving forward are also major parts of the book.

Nor would readers know that the book as a whole is a call to action for sociology and the other social sciences to better engage Indigenous peoples’ perspectives. To that end, another key ongoing theme concerns the relationships between racism, colonialism, capitalism, patriarchy, and environmental degradation—especially as theorized within sociology.
Learn more about Salmon and Acorns Feed Our People at the Rutgers University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 25, 2019

Malcolm Fairbrother's "Free Traders"

Malcolm Fairbrother is a professor of sociology at Umeå University, Sweden, and the University of Graz, Austria. He is also a researcher at the Institute for Futures Studies, Stockholm.

Fairbrother applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Free Traders: Elites, Democracy, and the Rise of Globalization in North America, and reported the following:
For Free Traders, the Page 99 Test performs weakly, though not terribly. Page 99 describes some core issues in the negotiations that established the 1989 Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, and later the 1994 NAFTA (with Mexico). The book is certainly about those negotiations, but it's also about a lot more.

To be specific, page 99 includes this:
The NAFTA investment chapter (Chapter 11) brought together commitments that had never been combined before. First, Chapter 11 stipulated the elimination of many regulations that Mexico had previously used to shape the behaviors of foreign investors, such as local content rules and foreign exchange balancing requirements. The definition of investment for the purposes of Chapter 11 would be very broad, and parties could never introduce any new performance requirements. The Americans wanted to eliminate any sectoral restrictions on foreign investment in Mexico, and also to encourage the privatization of state-owned enterprises; the Mexicans insisted on excluding the energy sector, for the most part, but otherwise they excluded very few sectors. Given their enthusiasm for free markets (see Chapter 4), as one of them said, “It’s hard to think of any sector in which foreign investment had no reason to be.”
There are nods here to some of the book's broader themes. NAFTA's contents were unprecedented for an agreement spanning developed and developing countries, and it reflected a dramatic recent change in Mexico's whole economic development strategy. That change came from a newfound enthusiasm for free-market policies on the part of the country's (evolving) political elite. U.S. officials, on the other hand, were asking for much the same kinds of things they had been trying to get from developing countries for decades--but which the latter had previously denied them.

In a sense, all of this historical material about NAFTA's creation is a means to another, broader end: explaining the rise of economic globalization generally, and identifying the people and ideas behind it. To what extent should we think about globalization as a project of elites? And (given that the book mostly argues globalization was an elitist project) how were elites able to get their way? How were different kinds of free-trader elites able to cooperate, given that (the book shows) there were subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle conflicts among their priorities and worldviews?

Page 99 does show how Free Traders relies a lot on quotes from people who were directly involved in creating NAFTA (plus all kinds of official and unofficial archival records about what they did, said, and thought). Existing academic research on globalization has tended to be either quite stylized and abstracted, or atheoretical and specific to individual countries. What I tried to do in the book was to highlight gritty details that were telling about the bigger forces at work, while emphasizing patterns and building a big-picture theory of globalization's history (with implications for the future).
Visit Malcolm Fairbrother's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 24, 2019

W. Caleb McDaniel's "Sweet Taste of Liberty"

W. Caleb McDaniel is an Associate Professor of History at Rice University, where he also serves as magister of Duncan College. His first book, The Problem of Democracy in the Age of Slavery, won the Merle Curti prize from the Organization of American Historians and the James Broussard Prize from the Society of Historians of the Early American Republic.

McDaniel applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America, and reported the following:
Sweet Taste of Liberty tells the story of Henrietta Wood, a woman who was born enslaved in Kentucky, freed in Cincinnati before the Civil War, and then kidnapped and reenslaved in 1853 by a man named Zebulon Ward, who soon sold her away to Mississippi. In 1869, after being freed again, this time by the Thirteenth Amendment, Wood returned to the Cincinnati area, where she filed a lawsuit against Zeb Ward. Finally, in 1878, she won a judgment of $2,500 from a federal jury, perhaps the largest such sum ever awarded by a U.S. court in restitution for slavery.

The Page 99 Test doesn't work perfectly for Sweet Taste of Liberty because that page does not talk about Henrietta Wood at all, but it does give readers an impression of her adversary Ward. It introduces a major theme of the book: the intertwined histories of slavery and incarceration. And it also relates to a major question raised by the story: despite Wood's extraordinary victory in court, did Zebulon Ward actually get off cheap in the end?

In 1855, not long after he enslaved Wood, Zebulon Ward became the keeper of the Kentucky state penitentiary in Frankfort. As in many other state prisons at the time, Kentucky's state prisoners were held in isolation at night but forced to work during the day. They manufactured goods for sale---mostly hemp products such as the bagging used to bale cotton. And instead of paying the keeper of the prison a salary, the state allowed him to organize the convicts' work and then keep as much as half the profits from their labor. By the time Zeb Ward started the job in 1855, the position was known, as one newspaper put it, as "the most lucrative one in the State of Kentucky."

Ward came to Frankfort as a fortune-seeker, too. One of his prisoners was an abolitionist named Calvin Fairbank who had been convicted of aiding fugitive slaves, and Fairbank remembered a frank speech given by Ward shortly after his inauguration as keeper. "I came here to make money," Ward told the inmates, "and I'm going to do it if I kill you all."

From page 99:
The result was what Fairbank described as a "rigorous, murderous rule."
Though he had his problems with Craig as a keeper, too, Fairbank concluded that Ward "cared nothing for human life. Money was his religion." The abolitionist remembered being flogged "never less than twice" a day, usually with the kind of strap "commonly used by overseers of slaves." To avoid the punishing pace of work, more than one prisoner cut off his own hand, preferring to be sent to the infirmary as a partial amputee. Before Ward had even completed a year in the new post, thirteen convicts had died by the keeper's own report---a startling and unprecedented increase. In sum, Fairbank wrote, the lease by which Ward obtained control of the inmates "was virtually a sale, with very little difference between the condition of the prisoner and that of an actual slave."

An "actual slave" might have questioned the comparison, but Ward might not have refused it. By July 1856, he was the owner of four slaves, seven by the following year---a rising number that signaled his increasing wealth. Zeb was growing accustomed to earning his bread from other men's sweat. The keeper and his employees also seemed to specially delight in persecuting antislavery convicts such as Fairbank or James Blackburn, a married "mulatto" man who had been convicted of assisting slaves to run away and who was identified in the register of inmates by the lash marks on his back. Thomas Brown, an alleged abolitionist who had moved from Cincinnati to Kentucky in 1850 and was sent to prison on May 8, 1855, later recalled being "stripped, and flogged" with a cat-o'-nine-tails, all while the guards joked that "'Old Brown had worn himself out stealing negroes, and would not work.'" Brown also recalled something Ward himself had said upon his arrival at the jail. "The head keeper was extremely glad to get another 'Abolitionist,' as he called him, in his power, expressing with an oath, a wish to be permitted to hang all such."
After the Civil War, Ward also took over prisons in Tennessee and Arkansas, serving as an architect of the convict leasing systems that those and other southern states used to force emancipated slaves into what Douglas A. Blackmon has described as "slavery by another name."

By the end of his life, Ward's use of convict labor had helped him build an estate worth at least \$600,000, making him a multi-millionaire in today's dollars. It was a fortune built, as Page 99 begins to show, by a man who valued making money more than human life.
Visit W. Caleb McDaniel's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Carol Faulkner's "Unfaithful"

Carol Faulkner is Professor of History at Syracuse University. She is author of Lucretia Mott's Heresy: Abolition and Women's Rights in Nineteenth-Century America and Women's Radical Reconstruction: The Freedmen's Aid Movement.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Unfaithful: Love, Adultery, and Marriage Reform in Nineteenth-Century America, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Lyman Case’s generosity extended to other men. Although a twice-married man, he was an opponent of the institution. According to another habitué of the Unitary Home, Case “not only did not believe in marriage as an institution, but professed to be entirely free from the selfishness which prompts men to claim the exclusive right of the affection and person of the women they love.” When Henry Clapp Jr. brought his Saturday Press partner Edward Howland—a southerner, former cotton merchant, and a Harvard man—to the Unitary Home, Marie was smitten. After Edward and Marie danced, Lyman told her “Marie, you have met your destiny.” When she responded, “I thought I had met my destiny,” he replied, “No lying, Marie. You have met the man of all men whom you need.”

Not everyone remembered Case’s treatment of Marie so positively. In a later attempt to undermine Case’s reputation, William S. Andrews, Stephen Pearl’s son, wrote that Case made a mockery of his marriage. To prove his “extreme liberality,” Case invited the teenage William “to sleep with his wife, in her presence, and told her that she must initiate me into the delights and mysteries of love (or words to that effect).” William Andrews did not take him up on the offer, and Marie apparently told him that “Mr. Case did not mean what he said. . . . he desired to lead her into some indiscretion that would enable him to obtain a divorce.” Case, William Andrews concluded, “was utterly devoid of moral sense.”

Given Marie’s warm memories of Lyman Case, William Andrews’s record of this exchange, particularly Lyman’s intent to manufacture grounds for divorce, is questionable. Marie and Lyman did divorce, but his benevolence was evident in this act as well. The Cases’ marriage ended in New York on July 11, 1865. With adultery the only possible cause, Marie’s complaint detailed her husband’s disregard for the “solemnity of the marriage vow” and charged him with having “carnal connections” with “several persons to this plaintiff unknown” as well as with a prostitute named Antoinette Muller. Two attorneys investigated this charge, interviewing Muller and a man named Leon Whiting, who had apparently accompanied Lyman Case to the brothel. The open marriages at the Unitary Home should have provided ample evidence for adultery, so it is likely that Lyman Case cooperated in constructing this particular incident.
Page 99 works well for my book because it gives readers an example of an “open” marriage, one of the novel romantic arrangements favored by the subjects of Unfaithful. In the nineteenth century, radicals like Lyman and Marie Case (later Howland) tried to reimagine the institution of marriage. With approximately twenty-five other journalists, utopians, bohemians, and free lovers, they lived in a Manhattan brownstone called the Unitary Home. In this utopian domestic experiment, the residents slept in private apartments but shared the public rooms and expenses. Even married members of the Unitary Home, such as Lyman and Marie Case, had love affairs with other residents and visitors. They allowed their affections to be their guide.

My book traces this broad movement to reform marriage from its origins in the 1830s through the Beecher-Tilton scandal of the 1870s. In restrictive New York State, where adultery was the only cause for divorce, Lyman and Marie Case manufactured a charge of adultery so that Marie could marry her true love. For these activists, love was more powerful than any law. A variety of activists, including feminists, spiritualists, and free lovers, redefined adultery as a way to reimagine marriage as more voluntary, equal, and loving. These critics launched public attacks on marriage and divorce laws, viewing them as an obstacle to individual freedom and happiness.
Learn more about Unfaithful at the University of Pennsylvania Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Agustín Fuentes's "Why We Believe"

Agustín Fuentes is the Edmund P. Joyce C.S.C. Professor of Anthropology and chair of the department of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Why We Believe: Evolution and the Human Way of Being, and reported the following:
Opening to page 99 of Why We Believe introduces you to one of the key conclusions of the book: belief shapes our biology and our mind.

On this page, we learn that from birth we are “immersed in the details of the beliefs of our home community and…of the places and peoples we encounter. Throughout our lives, our minds and bodies are shaped by all of these experiences.” The results of this experience are not “external features mapped onto the biological base of our bodies. They are materially real parts of us, embodied in our neurobiology.” In short, “Neuroanatomy makes experience material—Cultural concepts and meanings become anatomy.”

This means that our “gut” sense of right and wrong, and our facility to deeply feel, physically and emotionally a religious commitment or a political stance is not just about an opinion. It is literally part of our anatomy.

The page 99 test works for Why We Believe, it sets the stage perfectly.

Pages 1-98 and 100-114 fill in all the rest of the back-story. Our place in nature, our evolutionary history, our cultural and biological complexity, and the ways all of these come together to give humans the capacity to believe. Then, from pages 115 till the end of the book, I illustrate how this capacity plays out in the areas of religion, economies and love, ending with a few notes on the dangers of belief and a glimpse of hope for the future.

The premise of the book is that believing is our ability to draw on our range of cognitive and social resources, our histories and experiences, and combine them with our imagination. It is the power to think beyond what is here and now in order to see and feel and know something— an idea, a vision, a necessity, a possibility, a truth—that is not immediately present to the senses, and then to invest, wholly and authentically, in that “something” so that it becomes one’s reality.

The point is that beliefs and belief systems permeate human neurobiologies, bodies, and ecologies, and structure and shape our daily lives, our societies, and the world around us. We are human, therefore we believe, and this book tells us how we came to be that way.
Learn more about Why We Believe at the Yale University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Race, Monogamy, and Other Lies They Told You.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 21, 2019

John Gilbert McCurdy's "Quarters"

John Gilbert McCurdy is Professor of History at Eastern Michigan University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Quarters: The Accommodation of the British Army and the Coming of the American Revolution, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Quarters: The Accommodation of the British Army and the Coming of the American Revolution discusses the arrival of the Quartering Act in America in the summer of 1765 and the specific provisions of the law.

Does the page 99 test work for Quarters?

Indeed it does! Quarters is a book about finding places for British soldiers to sleep, eat, and store their effects (quartering) in the two decades before the American Revolutionary War. Quartering was a controversial practice because, historically, soldiers were placed in people’s homes.

To regulate quartering in the American colonies, the British Parliament passed the Quartering Act in 1765. The law is often cited as a cause of Revolution and many historians have mistakenly argued that the law forced British soldiers into Americans’ homes. However, I argue that this is a blatant misreading of what the law actually said and how it was enforced.

To wit, page 99 of Quarters makes this point clearly. On this page, I explore the language of the law which makes it clear that soldiers were not to be quartered in people’s homes, but rather barracks, taverns, or uninhabited buildings. Moreover, the law included punishments for officers who violated the law.

One may legitimately ask why I needed to write a book to make the point I just made in less than 150 words. Quarters is about more than one law. I also explore the long history of quartering from ancient times to the present.

Quarters is also about place. Scholars have investigated ideas of place in recent years, asking about why certain places have the meanings we give them. My book situates this question in the era of the American Revolution with a particular focus on military geography. In effect, I believe that American colonists were debating how to answer the question “where do soldiers belong?” They agreed that troops did not belong in their homes, but then where should they be quartered? In the 1750s, Americans built barracks in every major city, but this changed the city. Soon colonists began to argue that troops belonged on the frontier, and consequently, they imagined their cities as places of peace. Ultimately, they concluded that America was a distinct place from the rest of the British Empire and decided on independence.
Learn more about Quarters at the Cornell University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Citizen Bachelors: Manhood and the Creation of the United States by John G. McCurdy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Ulrich Baer's "What Snowflakes Get Right"

Ulrich Baer was educated at Harvard and Yale and has been awarded John Simon Guggenheim, DAAD, Paul Getty, and Alexander von Humboldt Fellowships. He is University Professor at New York University, and has published, among other books, Remnants of Song: The Experience of Modernity in Charles Baudelaire and Paul Celan, Spectral Evidence: The Photography of Trauma, The Rilke Alphabet, 110 Stories: New York Writes After September 11 (editor), Beggar's Chicken: Stories from Shanghai, We Are But a Moment, and, as editor and translator, The Dark Interval: Rilke's Letters on Loss, Grief and Transformation, and Rainer Maria Rilke: Letters on Life (Modern Library). His podcast, Think About It, is devoted to in-depth conversations on powerful ideas, including freedom of speech, and language that changes the world.

Baer applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, What Snowflakes Get Right: Free Speech, Truth, and Equality on Campus, and reported the following:
From page 99:
An Unholy Alliance:

What Liberals and Conservatives Mean When They Defend Free Speech in the University
If it is a world you want, then strict justice is impossible. And if it is strict justice you want, then a world is impossible.
B’reshit Rabba (300–500 c.e.) 49: 20
In the many debates about free speech on college campuses, free speech absolutists from both sides of the political spectrum have united to defend a great American ideal. Both conservatives and progressives, from Fox News to New York magazine, and from neo-Nazis to The Atlantic Monthly, advocate absolute speech rights on campus against what they view as the encroachment of this right by overly sensitive students and censorious, timid administrators. Universities should be obligated to uphold this bedrock principle of American democracy at any cost, self-styled absolutists maintain, except when it incites imminent violence. In a period when the proverbial aisle between political factions seems like an unbridgeable chasm, it is reassuring that people of divergent political stripes rally around this foundational right, often viewed as the wellspring for all other liberties. Behind the apparent consensus, however, lurk two quite different conceptions of speech rights. In order to settle speech issues in universities in a coherent and consistent way, it is critical to understand the difference between these underlying principles.
Fortuitously, page 99 of What Snowflakes Get Right offers a great view of the book’s argument that both conservatives and liberals get something wrong when defending free speech as an absolute principle. Conservatives defend an idea of personal liberty and autonomy rooted in a belief that there is something like the soul or conscience which needs protection. Liberals defend an idea of reason as a principle which will inevitably lead to better outcomes, and the idea that tolerance will always defeat intolerance. This is an unholy alliance indeed, since conservatives and liberals both say “free speech is absolute” but don’t mean the same thing and also don’t want the same outcomes. The quote from Scripture tells us that absolute principles are incompatible with human existence (which is too complex, beautiful and infinite in its variety for a single explanation), even though we hope for such absolutes to guide our lives.

What Snowflakes Get Right explains how an absolutist position on free speech misunderstands the term “absolute” (it doesn’t mean it applies everywhere and in all cases but that it does not depend on other principles to be valid), how our courts consistently regulate speech they deem overly offensive and detrimental to various public goods (child pornography; libel; deliberate falsehood in advertising, etc. are all regulated), and how the speech debates on campus are not missed opportunities and unresolvable crises but teach us how to handle free speech in a democracy. They remind us that our democracy’s founding principle is equality, and that there is a way to balance speech and equality rather than set these two legal and moral principles on a collision course.

Ah yes, the book also exposes the fact that the current attacks on science and the truth go hand-in-hand with attacks on the university as politically correct, overly concerned with ‘feelings’ and run by hapless administrators beholden to out-of-control students. What's really being attacked in the speech crises is the role of the university as an arbiter of the truth that parallels the function of a free press in a democracy. We can now see that speech crises are generated in order to undermine the university rather than strengthen it.
Visit Ulrich Baer's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 18, 2019

Nicholas Lemann's "Transaction Man"

Nicholas Lemann's books include the prizewinning The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Transaction Man: The Rise of the Deal and the Decline of the American Dream, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Transaction Man is actually about half a page: it's the end of a section of the book. Therefore it's meant to be something of a cliffhanger, a way of introducing a topic that I'll take up later, but not immediately. On page 99, it's the early 1970s, and the ultimate white-shoe Wall Street firm, Morgan Stanley, whose history I have been tracing from its founding in the mid-1930s, has just appointed a new, youngish president, a man named Bob Baldwin, who wants to shake things up--at Morgan Stanley and on Wall Street generally. What this will mean is a great explosion of trading, merging, acquiring, and growing by financial firms that traditionally just planned new stock and bond offerings for large industrial corporations. And, in turn, these changes helped blow up the post-World War II political economy, which was built around corporations that offered generous pay, job security, health care, and retirement pensions to those lucky enough to work for them. Just after page 99, the next section will profile an economist who was the intellectual godfather and head cheerleader for many of these changes, Michael Jensen. Then, in the following section, I pick up the thread of the Morgan Stanley story, which concludes with the firm's near-extinction in the 2008 financial crisis.

The book as a whole traces the organization of the American economy through three stages: institution-oriented, transaction-oriented, network-oriented. In each stage there is a profile of a leading thinker and doer, and in between I revisit a series of places to show what the transitions from stage to stage mean for them. In addition to Morgan Stanley, they are a blue-collar neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago, and the government agencies in Washington that regulate the economy. The net result is the kind of profoundly unequal and politically volatile society we have today.
Learn more about Transaction Man.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Robert B. Talisse's "Overdoing Democracy"

Robert B. Talisse is W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University. His central research area is democratic theory, where he pursues issues concerning legitimacy, justice, and public political argumentation.

Talisse applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Overdoing Democracy: Why We Must Put Politics in its Place, and reported the following:
On page 99, readers will find the conclusion of a discussion of political polarization. Commentators from across the political spectrum lament the polarized state of contemporary democracy, but they infrequently explain what they mean by polarization. Intuitively, polarization is a condition where the middle ground recedes between opposing political camps, leaving no basis for cooperation or compromise. Politics is said to be polarized when the ideological distance between opposing parties is especially broad. But what exactly is meant by “ideological distance” and how is such distance best measured?

It turns out that there are three different senses of “distance” that are relevant for thinking about polarization. One metric looks to the official party platforms; the extent to which these share no common policy objectives is the degree of polarization. Another looks to the political stances of party officials; the extend to which these reflect opposed partisan agendas is the extent of polarization. The third looks neither to party documents nor to candidates and officeholders, but rather to rank-and-file party affiliates, and measures their dislike, distrust, and overall animosity towards affiliates of opposed parties. Page 99 explains this third, “affective” sense of polarization, and notes that polarization in this sense has grown especially intense in the US over the past two decades. This is despite the fact that ordinary citizens are no more divided over crucial policy matters than they were 20 years ago. We have less to fight about, but nonetheless more intensely dislike and distrust the other side.

Page 99 is both a good and poor representative of Overdoing Democracy. It is representative in that the book clarifies the terms we employ in diagnosing the problems with democracy. The argument of the book depends heavily upon the distinctions introduced on pages 98 and 99. Still, page 99 does not provide a good sense of main thesis of the book. My fundamental claim is that, in order to enact democracy well, citizens must do things together in which politics plays no role. Hence, although the book draws on empirical materials, its core argument is normative: I provide an account of what’s going wrong with democracy and how we might try to repair it. This normative thesis is not well represented on page 99. Page 99 comes at the beginning of Chapter 4, which is the second of two chapters devoted to the diagnosis of what’s troubling current democracy. The prescriptive dimension of the book begins in Chapter 5.

It might be helpful, then, to provide a quick sketch of the view developed in the book. Democracy in the US and elsewhere is subject to two forces that serve to separate us from our political opposition. The first is polarization in is various forms. This leads us to see our political rivals as increasingly unhinged, dangerous, and unfit for citizenship. The second is political saturation. This is the name I give to the fact that in contemporary democracies, more and more of our everyday behavior indicates and expresses our political allegiances. Where we shop, the car we drive, what we do on vacation, the kind of neighborhood we live in, the television programs we enjoy, the sports we follow, and much else are all now tightly tied to our politics. The result is that our daily social interactions are increasingly likely to occur only with others who are politically just like ourselves. More and more of what we do is politically intoned yet enacted under politically homogeneous conditions.

I argue that these circumstances are democratically degenerative; they erode our capacities as democratic citizens. To function well as a democratic community, citizens must have the ability to regard their political opponents as nonetheless their political equals. When everything we do together is organized around politics, we lose this ability. In overdoing democracy, we contribute to its undoing.
Learn more about Overdoing Democracy at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Mark S. Ferrara's "American Community"

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

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Anna Curtis's "Dangerous Masculinity"

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

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 14, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 12, 2019

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 10, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Vincent DiGirolamo's "Crying the News"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 7, 2019

Diana Lemberg's "Barriers Down"

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 6, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Beatrice Heuser's "Brexit in History"

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Joe Kraus's "The Kosher Capones"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue