Sunday, July 31, 2022

Aaron Herald Skabelund's "Inglorious, Illegal Bastards"

Aaron Herald Skabelund is Associate Professor of History at Brigham Young University. He is the author of Empire of Dogs.

Skabelund applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Inglorious, Illegal Bastards: Japan's Self-Defense Force during the Cold War, and reported the following:
If someone were leafing through Inglorious, Illegal Bastards and happened to pause at page 99, they would find themselves reading about—of all things—dancing. To be precise, they would be reading about cadets at the Self-Defense Force’s National Defense Academy engaging in social dancing in the late 1950s. And about Tsuji Masanobu, a former Imperial Army colonel, architect of the military’s lightning-fast invasion of Southeast Asia in the opening weeks of the Pacific War and the subsequent Sook Ching killings in Malaya and Singapore and the Bataan Death March in the Philippines, and a member of the national Diet. Dissatisfied with the reconstituted postwar armed forces and its service academy, Tsuji crashed an academy holiday dance party in December 1957 near Tokyo Station and demanded: “What the hell are you teaching these cadets?” A few months later he summoned the academy’s president to a Diet hearing and proceeded to grill him and express outrage that future SDF officers were dancing in a “dimly lit” hall with young women whose bodies were “exposed from their hands to their shoulders.” The cadet’s splendid dancing, he alleged, stood in stark contrast to their mediocre military prowess and poor marching skills.

Reading just this page, a reader would have little idea of the book’s overall argument, but they would be fortunate to enjoy one of those you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up, fact-is-better-than-fiction kind of stories that make history so wonderful. The anecdote does illustrate one of the main themes of the book—that the postwar military was seen, as the book’s title suggests, as illegitimate by wider society, both those on the right and the left as well those in the middle. The force—and its personnel who were overwhelmingly men—were regarded as inglorious, the successor of and similar to or not enough like the imperial military; as illegal, a violation of the peace constitution’s prohibition against “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential;” and as bastards, the shameful offspring of an illicit relationship with the Americans who became mercenaries serving on behalf of the US military. To find out if—and how—they were able to overcome that pariah status, a reader would have to go beyond page 99 and if this page does not hook them, I am not sure what will.
Learn more about Inglorious, Illegal Bastards at the Cornell University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Empire of Dogs.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Andrew Doig's "This Mortal Coil"

Andrew Doig is Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Manchester. He studied Natural Science and Chemistry at the University of Cambridge, and Biochemistry at Stanford University Medical School. He became a lecturer in Manchester in 1994, where he has been ever since. His research is on computational biology, neuroscience, dementia, developmental biology and proteins.

Doig applied the “Page 99 Test” to This Mortal Coil: A History of Death, his first book, and reported the following:
From page 99:
The Blue Death

All that would be required to prevent the disease would be such a close attention to cleanliness in cooking and eating, and to drainage and water supply, as is desirable at all times.
John Snow

Cholera, the most terrifying disease of the nineteenth century, entered Britain for the first time in 1831, brought by ship to the north-east port of Sunderland. While cholera had tormented people in India for thousands of years, it was only when it reached Europe that the key steps were taken to reveal its cause. From 1816, cholera spread from Bengal in seven great waves. The first took four years to cross India, then fanned out, getting as far as Java, the Caspian Sea and China before fading away by 1826. As travel increased throughout the world, the second pandemic of 1829–51 made it further, killing miners in the California Gold Rush, pilgrims in Mecca and survivors of the Potato Famine in Ireland. The most recent pandemic ended only in 1975, though still around 100,000 people get the disease every year, with a few thousand dying. The worst outbreak in recent times followed the earthquake of 2010 in Haiti, which devastated the capital city of Port-au-Prince. In its aftermath, about 700,000 people contracted cholera, and nearly 10,000 died. Cholera was greatly feared and not just for the numbers of deaths it caused. Even in 1832, at the height of the epidemic, it caused only 6 per cent of the total deaths in the UK, with tuberculosis at number one. What was remarkable was the high mortality rate and the short time – perhaps only 12 hours – between good health and death. Before 1831, it was known to be only a matter of time before it made it to Britain. When the inevitable happened, the medical and popular press terrified the public with stories of the unstoppable and deadly new disease.

We now know that cholera is caused by a bacterium called Vibrio cholerae.
Page 99 introduces the chapter on cholera, including John Snow’s pioneering work on how the disease is transmitted by infected water. This is an excellent example of how This Mortal Coil discusses causes of death and how many were defeated.
Follow Andrew Doig on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 29, 2022

Michele Moody-Adams's "Making Space for Justice"

Michele Moody-Adams is Joseph Straus Professor of Political Philosophy and Legal Theory at Columbia University. She is the author of Fieldwork in Familiar Places: Morality, Culture, and Philosophy (1997). Moody-Adams is a lifetime honorary fellow of Somerville College, Oxford, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Making Space for Justice: Social Movements, Collective Imagination, and Political Hope, and reported the following:
Philosophers have made important contributions to debates about the nature of justice, at least since Socrates discussed the question in Plato’s Republic. At the end of the 20th century, the debates were enlivened by influential work from philosophers such as John Rawls (A Theory of Justice) and Robert Nozick (Anarchy State and Utopia). But I argue in Making Space for Justice: Social Movements, Collective Imagination, and Political Hope, that for the last two centuries some of the most important contributions to understanding social justice have emerged from the social criticism and political struggles conducted by progressive social movements.

Many of the relevant movements—including 19th century abolitionism, and the 20th century projects of the civil rights movement and the women’s movement—have sought to reform societies purporting to be already democratic. Other significant movements have sought to create democracy where it did not exist, as in the Velvet Revolution in the former Czechoslovakia and the political projects of the Arab Spring. Making Space for Justice shows that what we learn from both kinds of movements must be taken seriously if we want to understand the nature of justice.

A central insight to be gleaned from social movements is the idea that social justice is humane regard, understood as a combination of robust respect for human agency and compassionate concern to limit unnecessary suffering. As I state on page 98, “social justice is achieved when people are able to constructively exercise their capacity for choice and action without unwarranted interference, coercion, or violence, and when they are also able to live a life that is relatively free from unnecessary pain and suffering.” The reader who opens Making Space for Justice at page 99 will thus encounter a critical part of the answer to a central question in the book: the question of what a society must understand (and then do) to promote social justice.

As part of that answer, page 99 presents two important ideas.

First, page 99 argues that there are five main ways in which a society’s institutions, policies and practices can produce and sustain injustice: (1 ) by the arbitrary exercise of coercive political power and the unwarranted use of state violence; (2) by allowing persistent and poorly addressed threats to physical security and safety; (3) through deliberate or persistently unaddressed environmental degradation; (4) by not alleviating poverty, as well as the economic insecurity affecting many who do not qualify as poor; (5) by sustaining severely limited access to material and cultural conditions of human flourishing.

Second, page 99 urges that eliminating these obstacles to social justice is not a matter of applying a single principle, or finite set of principles, in the hope of fairly ‘distributing’ social benefits and burdens.. A principal aim of Making Space for Justice is to challenge this reductive approach to justice that has shaped influential contributions to contemporary political philosophy—including the work of Rawls and Nozick.

Page 99 thus turns out to be remarkably informative about the fundamental aims and arguments of Making Space for Justice.

Yet what page 99 does not show is that Making Space for Justice is not merely an account of what social movements contribute to theorizing about justice. The book also explores what these movements teach us about the activities required to achieve justice. It is tempting to assume that social movements rely mainly on sit-ins, marches, boycotts, and various public protests. But Making Space for Justice shows that the most effective social movements have recognized the need for additional methods such as narrative activism (as in 19th century slave narratives); language activism (as in the development of the concept of sexual harassment in the 20th-century women’s movement), and aesthetic activism (as in 21st-century efforts of protestors seeking to remove stigmatizing monuments from places of public honor).
Visit Michele Moody-Adams's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Sarah Kay's "Medieval Song from Aristotle to Opera"

Sarah Kay is a Life Fellow of Girton College, University of Cambridge, and Professor Emerita at New York University. She is the author of Animal Skins and the Reading Self in Medieval Latin and French Bestiaries and Parrots and Nightingales.

Kay applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Medieval Song from Aristotle to Opera, and reported the following:
The title of my book is deliberately disorientating in the way it extends its subject matter – medieval song -- to periods well outside the Middle Ages. Page 99 may seem just to add to the confusion! Open the book at this page and you see two pictures of lions, both open-mouthed, as if roaring. Their captions describe them as “breathing the wind” and give their source as medieval astronomy manuscripts: these are no ordinary lions but images of the constellation Leo, which ancient Greek astronomers associated with the hot, July winds. As the surrounding chapter explains, this association is reinterpreted by medieval Christian writers who take Leo as an emblem of God and the winds as his breath and divine word. On the facing page 98 is an extract from another medieval manuscript that actually makes this connection.

These views of Leo contribute to my understanding of a troubadour song whose singer wants to be inspired – literally, to draw in his breath – from the exhalations of a lion. Working through various medieval notions of what a lion is, I argue that the voice in the troubadour song in question – Rigaut de Berbezilh’s “Atressi com lo leos” [Just like the lion] – has qualities of them all. This is a voice whose breath is enabled by the exhalations of an exotic wild beast, a celestial body, and the divine.

One of the most fun aspects of this book was working with a professional singer, Christopher Preston Thompson, on exploring how viable my ideas were; performances by him and his ensemble Concordian Dawn were recorded and are now on the book’s companion website. Christopher’s performance of “Atressi com lo leos” complements page 99 perfectly. You can hear in his voice both the feral and the remote, celestial or spiritual aspects of this song.

Study of this song forms part of a wider argument about the relationships between song, voice, breath, and the kinds of air on which they all depend. Aristotle’s theorization of these relationships was hugely influential throughout the Middle Ages, while the possibility that beasts can sing persists in opera, for example in the figure of the siren. And so, in an admittedly rather convoluted way, page 99 helps to unpack the paradox of my overall title and explore the complex temporality of medieval song.
Learn more about Medieval Song from Aristotle to Opera at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Alice Dailey's "How to Do Things with Dead People"

Alice Dailey is Professor of English at Villanova University. She is the author of The English Martyr from Reformation to Revolution.

Dailey applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, How to Do Things with Dead People: History, Technology, and Temporality from Shakespeare to Warhol, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book falls toward the end of the third chapter, which is a study of Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part I, titled “Dummies and Doppelgängers.” The chapter observes how living characters like Lord Talbot appropriate, script, and puppeteer dead or zombie-like characters as theatrical doppelgängers through whom they conjecture hypothetical and future action. The lengthy paragraph that occupies most of page 99 analyzes an exchange between Talbot and the Countess of Auvergne in which the Countess attempts to entrap Talbot in her castle to end his martial domination of France. Talbot responds to her plot by declaring that she “ha[s] aught but Talbot’s shadow” (2.3.45). “I am but shadow of myself,” he tells her; “my substance is not here” (2.3.48-49). Summoning his army to rescue him, he insists again that “Talbot is but shadow of himself” and posits his men as Talbot’s “substance, sinews, arms, and strength” (2.3.62-63).

My analysis of this scene on page 99 reads Talbot’s dualism—his division of himself into “shadow” and “substance”—in the context of a series of doppelgänger moments in the play in which a character appears as doubled—as self and other-self. The Countess likens the captured Talbot to a portrait she owns of him that she describes as a “shadow”—a dead image whose inert containment in both its frame and her gallery prefigures the impotence and paralysis of the Talbot she has under arrest (2.3.35). The painting, as she describes it, is Talbot’s doppelgänger, prefiguring his death. This version of the doppelgänger is coherent with that aspect of the doppelgänger tradition in which the double (such as the picture of Dorian Gray in Oscar Wilde’s novel) is a figure of the self’s future death—of the dead or decaying self to come. However, an earlier aspect of the doppelgänger tradition is also dramatized in this scene through the appearance of Talbot’s troops, doubles for him whose arrival ensures his transcendence of death. From page 99:
[In his important work on the doppelgänger, Otto] Rank writes, ‘Originally conceived of as a guardian angel, assuring immortal survival to the self, the double eventually appears as precisely the opposite, a reminder of the individual’s mortality, indeed, the announcer of death itself.’ The English soldiers who emerge at the sound of Talbot’s horn to rescue him from the Countess’s plot not only ensure Talbot’s immediate survival but represent the impossibility of subduing him through his physical person. Talbot’s troops are produced as the transcendent doppelgänger or ‘guardian angel’ by which he negates the deadly threat posed by the Countess, proving that Talbot exceeds his mortal body. While the doppelgänger represented in Talbot’s picture associates the double with death, the inverse meaning of the doppelgänger as the immortal part of the human being is also potently operable in this scene, exposing how the double can likewise be a figure of perpetuity.
This is one iteration of the central claim of my book: the dead in Shakespeare’s history plays—and in the transhistorical array of technologies I set in conversation with the plays—are not simply past or still, nor are they merely sites of mourning or nostalgia. They are figures with ongoing potential—material for imagining what is yet possible and for constituting futurity and perpetuity. The argument on page 99 about the doppelgänger’s double figuration as both the dead and the immortal self is a compact iteration of a phenomenon that the book traces through an expansive range of other technologies, such as photographic double exposure, Warholian silkscreening, X-ray imagery, Derridean hauntology, the last video of David Bowie, and my child’s experiments with dress-up. If readers were to open the book to this page, they would indeed glimpse something essential about how the book thinks about how to do things with dead people.
Follow Alice Dailey on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Carolyn J. Eichner's "The Paris Commune: A Brief History"

Carolyn J. Eichner teaches in the Departments of History and Women’s & Gender Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Her books include Surmounting the Barricades: Women in the Paris Commune and Feminism’s Empire.

Eichner applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Paris Commune: A Brief History, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Paris Commune: A Brief History examines the vilification, dehumanization, and ultimate slaughter of insurgents in France’s 1871 revolutionary civil war known as The Paris Commune. It quotes critics Théophile Gautier, who termed the Communards “wild beasts, stinking beasts, venomous beasts…monsters of the heart, with deformed souls,” and Augustine-Malvina Blanchecotte, who rendered them “monsters who should be classified under zoology. They are not men.” The page explains how such debasing language reflected the propaganda proffered by the French state as it struggled to suppress the radically democratic uprising. It then analyzes the logic behind such attacks: “Constructing one’s enemy as devoid of humanity, civilization, and morals, as ‘ferocious’ and ‘monsters,’ makes slaughtering them not only palatable, but also righteous. A method typically used in class-, race-, ethnicity-, and religious-based violent oppressions or population “cleansings,” Thiers and French conservatives did this with Communards.”

The second half of the page outlines the ongoing debate regarding the number of Parisians killed when the French national army swept into the capital and brutally crushed the 72-day insurgency. Asserting the politicized nature of these disputes, page 99 clarifies that
The French military records named and identified almost all of their soldiers killed [approximately 750]. But they were unsystematic in tracking the number of Communard deaths, in part to conceal their own culpability. Thus, the extent of revolutionary casualties remains contested even now. Sixty-six years after the fall of the Commune, left-wing scholars such as Frank Jellinek estimated deaths as high as 30,000. More recently, conservative historian Robert Tombs has argued for a revised number between 6500 and 7500 official deaths, relying on documentary evidence from official government and military sources. In recent decades, most historians have agreed on a range between 17,000 and 25,000, based on a broad array of sources including government reports, qualitative and quantitative population analyses, and firsthand accounts.
Page 99 gives a reader a partial, but important, idea of the overall book. Focusing on the repression of the revolution, and the persistent debates over the extent of that repression, page 99 does not address the uprising itself, its causes, participants, or legacies. As the title indicates, The Paris Commune: A Brief History presents a concise analytical narrative of this short-lived revolution with an enormous legacy. Considered a shining, optimistic moment by the left, and a horrific distortion of order by the right, the Paris Commune emerged as an experiment in radical democracy replete with inversions of class and gender hierarchies. Page 99 focuses on the intensity and persistence of anti-Communard rhetoric and opposition. The book is only 105 pages long (as a brief history). Page 99 thus falls six pages before the book’s end.

I divide the text into three parts: “Illumination” examines the period during which multiple radical politics developed; “Fluorescence” engages the enactment of those socialist, feminist, anarchist, and anti-clerical politics by revolutionary women and men attempting to re-shape their world; and “Explosion” explores the Commune’s brutal repression and its subsequent broad, long, and contentious legacies. Analyzing the extent to which the Commune upended the status quo and threatened dominant hierarchies, the book builds to provide the reader a comprehension of what page 99 shows: the ferocious hostility enacted by anti-Communards, and the ongoing political potency of this world-shaking event.
Follow Carolyn Eichner on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 25, 2022

Sarah Covington's "The Devil from over the Sea"

Sarah Covington is Professor of History at the Graduate Center and Queens College of the City of New York, and the Director of Irish Studies at Queens College. She is the author of The Trail of Martyrdom: Persecution and Resistance in Sixteenth Century England (2003) and Wounds, Flesh and Metaphor in Seventeenth-Century England (2009).

Covington applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Devil from over the Sea: Remembering and Forgetting Oliver Cromwell in Ireland, and reported the following:
Readers who turn to page 99 of The Devil from over the Sea: Remembering and Forgetting Oliver Cromwell in Ireland will glimpse one of the many ways in which Ireland’s great national villain was recalled through the centuries. Oliver Cromwell’s 1649-1658 conquest and colonization of the country left behind a legacy of violence, massive land confiscation programs, forcible population transfers, and the banishment of priests and others to indentured servitude in Barbados. Catholics would remember “Puritan Cromwell” with special bitterness, but less well-known was his reputation among members of the protestant Church of England and Ireland. As a supporter of the execution of Charles I and leader of a regime that outlawed episcopacy and the established Church of England and Ireland, it is unsurprising that Cromwell and his sectarian “rabble” would be vilified in Anglican memory as well.

On page 99, we witness one of these recollections in the work of Richard Mant, the great nineteenth-century Church of Ireland bishop and ecclesiastical historian. Writing his two-volume history of the Church of Ireland in 1839-40, Mant was attempting to bolster his institution during a time of internal and external challenge stemming from the 1801 union of Britain and Ireland and the threat of a muscular new Catholic nationalism. Mant’s treatment of Cromwell required him to tell the story of Church of Ireland bishops who were sent into exile and beleaguered in other ways by the Cromwellian regime; on the other hand, Mant also had to contend with uncomfortable cases where bishops had accommodated themselves to the new puritan regime. Of these men Mant said nothing, which reveals the many ways in which memorializing narratives entail a convenient forgetting as well.

Cromwell’s lasting memory among religious denominations was simply one of the many ways in which he haunted Ireland. My book sets out to recover his ghost in a variety of places: in folklore and literature, ruins and material objects, political polemics and newspapers. So powerful was his malignant charisma that memory of him even “migrated” throughout the world, as I demonstrate in another chapter that treats his afterlife among the Irish diasporic community in the United States. Cromwell was above all a kind of floating signifier, and one that could attach itself to ever-changing historical events and needs. For Gaelic poets, he represented the source of their own loss and dispossession; for Irish nationalists, he was the ogre against whom the country’s heroes were contrasted and forged; for those who lived near wrecked monasteries and churches, he was the origin point for all that was broken. Page 99 touches on Mant’s own bedevilment by Cromwell, as he harnessed memories of persecution to create the story of a church’s tribulations and its ultimate perseverance.
Learn more about The Devil from over the Sea at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Antone Martinho-Truswell's "The Parrot in the Mirror"

Antone Martinho-Truswell is a behavioural ecologist whose work focuses on animal minds and learning, especially in birds and cephalopods, intelligent species whose evolutionary history differs dramatically from that of mammals. He is currently Dean of Graduate House at St Paul's College, Sydney, and a Research Associate of the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford. He was previously Fellow in Biology at Magdalen College, Oxford.

Martinho-Truswell applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Parrot in the Mirror: How evolving to be like birds makes us human, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book is, for better or worse, right between two sections. It is divided almost exactly in half, with the first part concluding a several-page discussion of how different groups of birds raise their young, and why you don’t see baby pigeons (or rather, why you don’t think you do). The second half of the page is the opening paragraph of the next section, which discusses how all birds are classified into a few small groups and one big group, and why that big group (the songbirds) makes talking about birds in general terms a bit tricky. Both are good sections, I just wish page 99 didn’t get so rudely split for this test!

The Page 99 Test is probably not the best way to judge my book! Page 98, which contains the real denouement of my baby pigeon section, and a great photo of a baby pigeon, would be perfect! That section on baby pigeons is really reflective of the book – I try to make the science approachable and engaging for the reader with examples and puzzles from daily life – like why you don’t see baby pigeons and why that is related to how humans raise our own children! The trouble with 99 is that it gets only the final words of that section, which is much more like the bulk of the book, and then the start of the classification section, which is not. That classification section is interesting enough, but it is only about a page and a half long, and is really just doing shovel work to get the reader ready for the big point of Chapter 4 – which is that once you strip away a few small, specific groups of birds, the overwhelming majority share something really important and interesting with us humans: they monogamously mate and both parents rear their babies together.

All that said, my hope would be that page 99 does show the browser two things: first, with the pigeon bit, that the book is engaging and approachable, and filled with interesting questions, and second, with the classification bit, that it is built on good, hard science. So, I like page 99, but I hope readers tackle the whole book!
Visit Antone Martinho-Truswell's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Natasha Warikoo's "Race at the Top"

Natasha Warikoo is Professor of Sociology at Tufts University. A former Guggenheim Fellow and high school teacher, Warikoo is an expert on racial and ethnic inequality in education. Her new book, Race at the Top: Asian Americans and Whites in Pursuit of the American Dream in Suburban Schools illuminates tensions related to achievement and emotional well-being in a suburban, high-income town with a large and growing Asian American population.

Warikoo applied the “Page 99 Test” to Race at the Top and reported the following:
Race at the Top: Asian Americans and Whites in Pursuit of the American Dream in Suburban Schools details social life in a well-off suburb with a large and growing Asian American population, with a focus on parenting and high school life. Page 99 brings readers to a discussion of how school administrators and parents attempted to address their concerns about high school students’ emotional well-being. As I show in the chapter, “Overall, while school staff and parents alike were concerned about students’ emotional lives, the actions the predominantly white school staff took at school to address emotional well-being most frequently aligned with the desired actions of white parents.” This included policies to reduce academic competition, such as ending the naming of class rank and class valedictorian, and a new policy to reduce homework teachers could assign. In contrast, Asian parents more frequently dealt with concerns about their children being overstretched by imploring their children to quit time-consuming extracurricular activities, especially sports. Many of them disagreed with the reduction in homework the policy change demanded. Overall this chapter shows that both Asian and white parents in the town were concerned about their children’s emotional well-being, but they had different strategies for addressing those concerns.
Visit Natasha Warikoo's website.

The Page 99 Test: Balancing Acts.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 22, 2022

Ke Li's "Marriage Unbound"

Ke Li is Assistant Professor of Political Science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the City University of New York.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Marriage Unbound: State Law, Power, and Inequality in Contemporary China, and reported the following:
On page 99, I spotlight a major historic event: on February 26, 1989, in meeting with the U.S. president George H. W. Bush, China’s top leader, Deng Xiaoping, enunciated a new challenge in front of the country’s ruling elites. China’s “overwhelming need is to maintain stability. Without it, everything would be gone, and accomplishments would be ruined,” Deng insisted.

Deng’s claim marked a watershed in the eyes of many studying the People’s Republic of China (PRC) (1949-present). From then on, the PRC has been consolidating a sprawling state apparatus, operating with one overarching imperative: stability maintenance (维稳). In the decades to follow, ordinary Chinese would have to wrestle with this state apparatus, which, in various ways, interferes with their daily lives, including marriage and family life.

The Page 99 Test does not serve me well. My book contains over 300 pages. No single page can nail down what I try to achieve in this book.

To me, page 99 registers a rather illuminating moment in a decade-long research process. As a sociologist who studies Chinese marriage, divorce, and family law, I did not exactly start out in research anticipating that someday I would write about “high politics”—the kind involving top leaders from China or the U.S. After all, neither marriage nor divorce appears intrinsically political; many in the west tend to view them as private matters between two individuals, two families.

Yet, as my research unfolded, it became increasingly clear: in contemporary China, marriage was and has continued to be political, and so is divorce. I say so, because Chinese family has continued to serve as a key vehicle with which the state advances its demographic, socioeconomic, and ideological agendas. In other words, to understand ordinary Chinese’s experiences in marriage and family life, to make sense of their struggles to exit unhappy marriages, we must situate such experiences and struggles in larger social contexts, with a sharp focus on the links between (high or low) politics and citizens’ intimate lives. In that sense, page 99 illuminates something at the heart of my work: the personal is indeed political, and likewise the familial.
Learn more about Marriage Unbound at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Eleana J. Kim's "Making Peace with Nature"

Eleana J. Kim is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Irvine, and author of Adopted Territory: Transnational Korean Adoptees and the Politics of Belonging.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Making Peace with Nature: Ecological Encounters along the Korean DMZ, and reported the following:
If a reader were to open my book to page 99, they would be hard pressed to identify its main themes or key arguments. Nevertheless, they could likely discern the “quality of the whole” in terms of its methods. It employs historical and ethnographic evidence to examine how ecological knowledge about the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) has been produced. Page 99 is located toward the beginning of Chapter 3 (“Birds”), which focuses ethnographically on the conservation efforts of South Korean ornithologist Dr. Kisup Lee who researches the endangered Black-faced Spoonbill (BFS) off the western coast of the Korean peninsula. The page provides some important details about the transnational network of conservationists Dr. Lee is involved with and information about the political and economic changes that have affected spoonbill and other waterbird habitats. I describe how the destruction of wetlands due to urbanization on the South Korean side and the devastating famine of the late 1990s on the North Korean side of the border led to the disappearance of BFS in their traditional breeding sites. I write that, “Ultimately, dramatic changes in the late–Cold War economies of both Koreas (rapid expansion and rapid decline) contributed to the shift of BFS breeding grounds almost exclusively to the islands of the Yellow Sea.

A main argument of the chapter is that, even as migratory birds that cross over the DMZ have been widely appropriated as cultural symbols of peace because of their ability to physically transcend the national division, in actuality, they are deeply enmeshed in human economies and political ecologies. In other words, although the militarization of the DMZ may provide a sort of refuge for them and other creatures, their migratory lifeways reveal that they survive despite militarization, not due to it.

Avian flyways are one of three “alternative infrastructures” I analyze in the book. The other two are small irrigation ponds and landmines and each provides a meeting point of human, nonhuman, and technical relations. These infrastructures provide the basis for challenging a simplistic discourse that has become common in South Korea and internationally: that the DMZ’s biodiversity represents an example of “nature healing the scars of war.” With respect to Chapter 3, I borrow the notion of “strange kinship” from Merleau-Ponty to analyze how flyways are not simply “natural,” but come into being out of an ethics of care on the part of bird researchers and the lifeways of birds, mediated through technologies such as GPS satellite tracking, motion-detection cameras, and black umbrellas, which, on one fieldtrip, the bird researchers and I used to disguise ourselves as goats. That example is rather involved, and space limitations don’t permit me to summarize it here, but the upshot is that in “becoming goats,” we, to some extent, attempted to shed our human forms in order to convince the BFS that we were harmless. In the broader context of Korean unification politics which often relies upon ethnonationalist fictions of biological familialism, this chapter offers an example of decentering those visions by foregrounding relations of care with nonhuman others. The book as a whole argues that militarized ecologies in the DMZ and elsewhere should be taken less as paradoxical “byproducts” of war, and more as provocations to shift our conceptions of peace to extend beyond only human geopolitics.
Learn more about Making Peace with Nature at the Duke University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Sheila McManus's "Both Sides Now"

Sheila McManus is professor of history at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada. They are the author of The Line Which Separates: Race, Gender, and the Making of the Alberta-Montana Borderlands and Choices and Chances: A History of Women in the US West and coeditor of One Step Over the Line: Towards a History of Women in the North American West and The Line Crossed Us: New Directions in Critical Border Studies.

McManus applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Both Sides Now: Writing the Edges of the North American West, and reported the following:
Page 99 is just over halfway through this slim monograph and about a third of the way through Chapter 4 on “Border Enforcement.” The page itself includes the end of the subsection “Stopping Indigenous Movement” and the start of the “Asian Exclusion” subsection, with several references to both the Canada-US and US-Mexico borders, and brief mentions of the contrast between present-day perceptions of racialized migration at the US-Mexico border and the role White nationalism played in creating racialized policies in the nineteenth century North American West. Page 99 therefore gives some excellent hints about several of my book’s key themes. Readers can then be delightfully surprised about the amount of historiographical analysis in the book, as I pay almost as much attention to how historians have written about these two borderlands as to their intertwined histories, as well as other major topics like the on-the-ground resistance of borderlands communities; smuggling; creating and adapting a host of local, ethnic, racial, and national identities; and the ways that gender intersected with race and nationalism to shape how these two borders functioned and how borderlands communities undermined them. A conclusion which boldly embraces presentism and draws connections between North American and global borderlands will be the final unexpected twist!
Visit Sheila McManus's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Matt Waters's "King of the World"

Matt Waters is Professor of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He is the author of Ctesias' Persica and Its Near Eastern Context and Ancient Persia: A Concise History of the Achaemenid Empire, 550-330 BCE, among other works.

Waters applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, King of the World: The Life of Cyrus the Great, and reported the following:
Page 99 contains a photo of one of Cyrus the Great’s royal inscriptions, dating circa 539 BCE, this one from the southern Babylonian city of Ur. Part of the description of the inscription on page 99 runs as follows:
Its elegant orthography and archaizing signs situated Cyrus in a long line of rulers who built and restored the temple of the moon god, Nanna-Suen, where the inscription was found. That fact alone, likewise with Cyrus’ inscription found at the Eanna complex in Uruk, is important. Cyrus’ work, and record of work, done at sanctuaries such as these was expected of a proper Babylonian king.
Page 99 of my book does indeed give a good idea of what the book is about. While Cyrus’ Ur brick inscription is not as well known as the Cyrus Cylinder (which is also discussed at some length in the book), it manifests nicely who Cyrus was and what he did. The Ur inscription in translation reads as follows: “Cyrus, King of the World, King of Anshan, the son of Cambyses, King of Anshan. The great gods have delivered into my hands all the lands and I caused the land to live in peace.”

In a nutshell, Cyrus informs us of his dominion, his origins and lineage, and his right to rule: divine favor via military conquest – a suitable but compelling summary of the whole book. This is only the short version, of course. Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Achaemenid Persian Empire, reigned from 559 to 530 BCE. He ruled territory stretching across the ancient Near East: broadly defined, the widely diverse populations of Iran, Greater Mesopotamia, Anatolia, and the Levant. Within two decades after his death, his successors added Egypt and the Indus Valley, a sprawling empire seldom rivaled in its expanse of territory, its reach, and its staying power. Cyrus the Great remains one of the most pivotal, yet underappreciated, figures in history. For a figure of such historical import, he has not received his due in comparison with, for example, other fascinating leaders who followed in his footsteps, such as Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, or Chinggis Khan. Cyrus may be matched with any of these, though books dedicated to him are far fewer in number than for any of the preceding. Cyrus the Great himself was a transformational figure in world history, who, with few exceptions, was well-regarded in the surviving records of all those peoples whom he ruled: a compelling legacy in itself.
Learn more about King of the World at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 18, 2022

Jon D. Wisman's "The Origins and Dynamics of Inequality"

Jon D. Wisman is Professor of Economics at American University in Washington, D.C. He served as President of the Association for Social Economics in 2002 and has twice been selected by American University as the Outstanding Teacher of the Year.

Wisman applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Origins and Dynamics of Inequality: Sex, Politics, and Ideology, and reported the following:
Ford Madox Ford’s attributed contention, “Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you," seems, if “quality” is broadly understood, applicable to my book. My book is rich in unfolding complex theoretical relationships in the history of inequality, and on page 99, mention is made of a surprisingly large number of these: the dynamics of the adoption of agriculture, the rise of the state and civilization, sources of status and reproductive success, social formations and degrees of subordination and exploitation, workers’ lack of alternatives, fertility, and population density.

It would, of course, be too much to expect that the over-arching theoretical framework from which the whole book flows would be randomly captured on its 99th, as opposed to perhaps its first page. The fundamental theoretical claim advanced and supported in my book is that the struggle over inequality has been the underlying force driving human history’s unfolding. This entails a re-interpretation of human history. Underlying the over-arching theoretical claim are two principal supporting claims. The first is that the origins and dynamics of inequality are grounded in evolutionary psychology, or more specifically, Darwin’s theory of sexual selection. The second concerns the dynamics of ideology in legitimating inequality. Although physical force has often been necessary for establishing hierarchical social structures, ideology has always been the most effective day-to-day political weapon enabling elites to present as fair social orders that provide them with disproportionate shares of wealth, income, and privilege. Only since the democratization of the franchise has it become possible that broad popular understanding of the unfairness of elites’ ideology could peacefully reverse inequality.
Learn more about The Origins and Dynamics of Inequality at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Michelle Karnes's "Medieval Marvels and Fictions in the Latin West and Islamic World"

Michelle Karnes is associate professor of English and the history of philosophy and science at the University of Notre Dame. She is the author of Imagination, Meditation, and Cognition in the Middle Ages and the coeditor of Studies in the Age of Chaucer.

Karnes applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Medieval Marvels and Fictions in the Latin West and Islamic World, and reported the following:
Page 99 focuses on Thomas Bradwardine's fourteenth-century De causa Dei and the views about marvels that he describes there. One-time archbishop of Canterbury, Bradwardine wrote the work to argue that God's power has few limitations. Here, he's describing how the parting of the Red Sea resonates in different stories, and specifically non-Christian ones. He cites Pliny, who tells a story about honorable people who could walk on fire without harm, and then turns to Alexander the Great, who created a barrier to keep Jews on the Caspian mountains. Without drawing connections, Bradwardine suggests that God can open or close pathways as he chooses. He saved the Jews who crossed the Red Sea by parting its waters, as he allowed the Hirpi to cross fire without harm. His enemies, however--and Bradwardine is characteristically antisemitic here--are unable to move forward, stuck on a mountain without egress. Bradwardine compares the parting of the Red Sea only implicitly to these other situations. The unusualness of the marvels, which have nature operating against its instincts because fire does not burn and water does not flow, shows that there are larger forces at play in the world, that nature isn't operating independently.

A reader who only looked at page 99 would be very confused! They'd find themselves in the middle of an 8-page section on Bradwardine, and would probably think that the book is more focused on religious literature than it is. Let's discourage readers from adopting Ford's test. It's the test that's flawed, not my book. Of course.

I do actually love this section of the book, if read in its entirety. I'd been grappling with Bradwardine's dense Latin for a while when I found this section, with dozens of stories that seem unrelated to each other, some fictional and some not, drawn from all sorts of different times and places. I was poring over it when I suddenly realized that all the stories were supposed to be versions of the parting of the Red Sea. I was so happy that I had to take a walk. I was at the Radcliffe Institute at that point, just starting serious research on this book, and I took a little stroll around Cambridge as I tried to figure out what was so exciting about this passage. It was one of the first things I read that I just knew would end up in the book. It shows how the weirdness of marvels invites all sorts of creativity, here with an unintuitive collection of stories that even includes pagans. Bradwardine tells us that Claudia Quinta survived a journey at sea because she carried a statue of the pagan goddess Cybele, and that the vestal virgin Tuccia proved her chastity by carrying a sieve full of water from the Tiber to her Temple without spilling any of it. Both women showed their virtue by completing seemingly impossible journeys. As I write about Tuccia, on page 102 (if I'm allowed to depart from page 99), "The unlikely soundness of the sieve proves the virgin's chastity: herself whole, she makes an object designed to release liquids contain them. Her walk of nonshame is the parting of the Red Sea abstracted." The passage helped me see how the creativity of marvels is reflected in the creativity of those who wrote about them. It's more important that they be surprising than true, and the reader is invited to marvel not just at them but at the cleverness they inspire.
Follow Michelle Karnes on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Nancy Rubin Stuart's "Poor Richard's Women"

Nancy Rubin Stuart is an award-winning author whose nonfiction books focus upon women and social history. Her most recent book is Poor Richard's Women: Deborah Read Franklin and the Other Women Behind the Founding Father. Earlier books include Defiant Brides, named by the Wall Street Journal named one of the best five books on Revolutionary-era women, the acclaimed The Muse of the Revolution, and the national best-seller, American Empress.

As a journalist, Stuart’s work has appeared in the New York Times, Huffington Post, the Washington Post, the New England Quarterly, and national magazines. She serves as Executive Director of the Cape Cod Writers Center.

Stuart applied the “Page 99 Test” to Poor Richard's Women and reported the following:
After opening the book to page 99, a reader will discover Deborah Read Franklin’s obedient attitude to her husband, Ben, her meek acceptance of his approval of his London landlady Margaret Stevenson and her decision to behave politely in her role as the statesman’s wife. Further down the page Deborah again expresses her love for her husband and reveals gritty determination to preserve his reputation despite the ominous advances of a mob towards the Franklin home. In response to that news, Ben wrote “I honor much the spirit and courage you showed, and the prudent preparaitons you made in that {time} of danger.” The page concludes with Deborah’s promise to avoid anything that would cast Ben in a negative light by staying home alone. Nevertheless she does admit “you are not here to make me quite so {happy} and hopes “you are not to stay longer than the spring.”

The test works well in capturing the contradictory threads of Deborah’s personality, a deeply smitten woman pledged to honor her husband but one whose personal strengths enabled her to make decisions during his absence beyond the norm of a colonial wife. These are important events in the major part of the book which focus upon Deborah. However page 99 does not include Ben’s subsequent romances with more independent women who neither allowed nor tolerated the liberties he enjoyed with his wife.

Through the lens of his women’s correspondence with Ben, the book reveals that the founding father’s iconic mage as a man guided by discretion is overblown. Throughout his life he found women as fascinating as electricity – and as shocking and dangerous. Those who read Poor Richard's Women will discover a man who privately struggled with passion and prudence in his private relationships.
Visit Nancy Rubin Stuart's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 15, 2022

Marcus Board, Jr's "Invisible Weapons"

Marcus Board Jr. is an Assistant Professor of African American Studies at Georgetown University. His research focuses on Black radical traditions, Black feminist theories of power, and social justice movements.

Board applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Invisible Weapons: Infiltrating Resistance and Defeating Movements, and reported the following:
Page 99 shows two tables, with Table 3.4 titled “Low Self-Efficacy and Public Support for the Political Status Quo” and Table 3.5 titled “Low Self-Efficacy 3rd and 4th Quartiles and Public Support for the Political Status Quo by Race and Gender”. Below these tables is a description of Figure 3.7, which “is reporting the relative frequencies of each group, but distinguishes the data across gender and within racial groups.” Then I make some pointed observations of the findings, which I discuss below.

In short, page 99 gives a great idea of Invisible Weapons - the Test works amazingly for me.

On page 99, I’m using data and showing racial and gender differences in people both supporting the government while also having the least amount of belief in their ability to get the government to respond to their needs. I highlight the strange breakdown that has very few white people, but plenty of Latino and Black people. I also challenge the ability of quantitative data to tell a full story, alluding to the subsequent qualitative and case study analyses.
Follow Marcus Board, Jr. on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Jonathan McGovern's "The Tudor Sheriff"

Jonathan McGovern is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the School of Foreign Studies at Nanjing University. He holds BA and MSt degrees from the University of Oxford and a PhD from the University of York. His work has won a number of prizes, including the Parliamentary History Essay Prize (2019), the Sir John Neale Essay Prize (2018) and the Gordon Forster Essay Prize (2018). He has published widely on the history and literature of the sixteenth century, on themes ranging from allegory, sermons, and balladry to political and parliamentary history.

McGovern applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Tudor Sheriff: A Study in Early Modern Administration, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book falls within the fourth chapter, entitled “The Execution and Return of Writs”. It provides information about the nature of jury panels in Tudor England (1485–1603). It explains that when a lawsuit came to jury trial, the courts would issue writs known as venire facias writs to sheriffs, who then had to choose twenty-four qualified jurors and summon them to court on a given day. All of the jurors had to dwell in the county where the cause of legal action had accrued (e.g., where a debt had been incurred or where a trespass had taken place), and at least four had to come from the ‘visne’ (local area) where the dispute had arisen. Page 99 also talks about the administrative processes involved in empanelling and selecting jurors, including the detail that when the writs were returned into the court, twelve names out of the twenty-four who were ultimately chosen to serve on the jury would be marked with the Latin word ‘Jur[ator]’ (juror). It explains what happened when jurors failed to show up at court, and it reminds readers that the modern function of the jury had begun to emerge by the mid-sixteenth century: once a body of expert local witnesses, the jury was now typically required to give a verdict based on facts presented to them in court.

If a browser used page 99 as an exemplary page from my book, this would give a generally fair sense of its overall style, purpose and content. The book basically seeks to explain in detail what English sheriffs and their staff got up to in the sixteenth century, including collecting revenue, holding courts, arresting wrongdoers and executing court writs. Page 99 is one piece of this jigsaw. The book is an intervention in what I and several other historians have called ‘the new administrative history’. This style of history calls for greater attention to institutions (including institutions of government) and their procedures. It takes as axiomatic a comment made by the great medievalist T. F. Tout in 1920: ‘[T]he work most specially needed in English mediaeval history [and by extension other periods] is just the patient and plodding working out of apparently unimportant detail.’ The new administrative history promises to be a very rewarding enterprise, not least since a large proportion of the documents which historians must rely upon were generated in the course of administrative activity. My book also contains a large dose of legal history, which is well reflected in the contents of page 99. One element which the test fails to capture is the dry humour I have made light use of throughout – the page largely contains technical analysis, and so there was sadly no occasion to crack any jokes.
Follow Jonathan McGovern on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

April White's "The Divorce Colony"

April White is a senior writer and editor at Atlas Obscura. She previously worked as an editor at Smithsonian Magazine, where she oversaw the publication’s history-focused coverage. She holds a master’s degree in history and has told surprising tales from the archives for publications including the Washington Post, The Atavist Magazine, and JSTOR Daily. An experienced researcher, she has also collaborated with nonfiction authors on more than a dozen book projects.

In addition, White has authored and coauthored eight cookbooks and several other books on food and drink, including Lemonade with Zest, Sweet Sugar, Sultry Spice, Pitmaster, and From Apples to Cider. She is also the former food editor of Philadelphia Magazine.

White applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Divorce Colony: How Women Revolutionized Marriage and Found Freedom on the American Frontier, and reported the following:
From the book:
The priest deflected any blame onto Archbishop Michael Corrigan, who had granted Mary and Jamie the necessary dispensation to marry. Through a spokesman, the archbishop fired back at the clergyman. “It was the duty of the priest who performed the ceremony to ascertain if there were any obstacles to the marriage.” The spokesman was also careful to remind the Blaines that the archbishop had been willing to assist in the family’s efforts to invalidate the marriage. In Deadwood Judge Thomas, too, sought to make amends. “The statements of the distinguished Secretary of State not being before me on the trial of the case, I could not consider them in arriving at my judgement, however true or weighty they may be,” he now said.

The clamor of voices opining on the circumstances of her marriage and divorce threatened to drown Mary out. She waited a day and then two before entering the fray with a carefully crafted open letter addressed to James that was published as widely as James’s missive had been. “I acknowledge your well-rendered, richly deserved fame as a diplomat, and appreciate fully the weight which your utterances possess—as fully as do I appreciate my own weakness and my total inability to cope with you in a personal encounter— but I shall expect from you that considerate and honorable treatment which I am sure your keen sense of equity and fairness will dictate,” she wrote. “The powerful man of a great nation will surely accord to a weak and defenseless woman her full meed of justice.”

The public’s eagerness to re‑embrace the image of Mary as a helpless woman had served her well, blunting the criticism of her divorce. Now she played the role to her advantage again, issuing an ultimatum that was both polite and pointed. “Have the kindness to publish in connection with your statement the full text of the letters you have quoted from. Do not, like a shrewd and unprincipled person, select only such pages as may be needed to make your case,” she wrote.
Page 99 of my new book, The Divorce Colony: How Women Revolutionized Marriage and Found Freedom on the American Frontier, throws readers right into the fray with Mary, a woman who is—it is evident from these three paragraphs alone—surrounded by men who wish to dictate her life choices. Something Mary has done has riled the clergy, the judiciary and even the Secretary of State. Her offense may not be immediately evident from this brief excerpt, but the title probably gave it away: Mary has gotten a divorce—and in doing so she and the other unhappy wives who sought escape from their marriages in South Dakota at the turn of the twentieth century forever reshaped the country’s attitudes toward divorce.

That central argument is not captured on page 99, but these 343 words do convey the high emotions of this Gilded Age culture war—and understanding what this period of time felt like for the women forced to travel long distances, often at great hardship, expense and legal peril, to end their marriages was as important to me as exploring the legal, political, religious and social obstacles they faced.

The Mary we meet on page 99 is Mary Nevins Blaine, one of four women I profile to tell the story of “the divorce colony.” In 1886, at the age of 19, the aspiring actress had eloped with the wayward youngest son of James G. Blaine Sr., the standard bearer of the Republican party and a perpetual presidential candidate. Neither family approved of the surprising nuptials and Mary had found her marriage caught up in the midterm elections of 1886; now her divorce was about to become an issue in the 1892 presidential election, in which Blaine would again vie to be the Republican candidate. Mary got her legal decree, but there was a battle for public opinion to be waged as well. James took to the front pages to blame his former daughter-in-law for the disgrace. And to his surprise, Mary fought back.

As I make clear in the book, Mary’s decision to end her marriage was a private one. But what might have been a quiet act of personal empowerment and self-determination became, in the glare of the national spotlight, a radical political choice.
Visit The Divorce Colony website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Iwan Morgan's "FDR: Transforming the Presidency and Renewing America"

Iwan Morgan is Professor of US Studies emeritus at the Institute of the Americas, University College London, UK. He is also a distinguished fellow of the Rothermere American Institute, University of Oxford, UK. He was the recipient of the British Association of American Studies Honorary Fellowship in 2014, and winner of the Richard Neustadt Book Prize in 2010. He is the author of Reagan: American Icon (2016), named by The Times/Sunday Times as a Politics Book of the Year.

Morgan applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, FDR: Transforming the Presidency and Renewing America, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book comes at the end of the chapter entitled ‘Second Emancipator’, which assesses Franklin D. Roosevelt’s record as president in improving conditions for African Americans. It emphasizes the dichotomy between the New Deal’s unprecedented socio-economic assistance to blacks in the depressed 1930s, mainly in the form of unemployment relief, and its failure to advance their civil rights, notably through enactment of legislation to make lynching a federal crime, because of FDR’s reluctance to antagonize powerful Southern Democrats whose support he needed in Congress. On page 99, however, I deal with Roosevelt’s evasions on an issue that straddled economic security and civil rights, namely black exclusion from decently paid jobs in the nation’s rapidly expanding defense industries in the year before America entered World War 2. Exasperated by FDR’s prevarications, African American trade union leader A. Philip Randolph launched the March on Washington Movement to organize a 100,000-strong demonstration demanding equal black access to defence jobs, which was to culminate with a rally at the Lincoln Memorial on July 1, 1941. In the pages that immediately follow, I show how FDR agreed to issue Executive Order 8802 prohibiting discrimination in the defense industries, the first presidential proclamation on black rights since Reconstruction, in return for getting the March called off, but did little to ensure that its terms were followed because of his need for Southern Democratic support for his international policies.

The Page 99 Test works up to a point – but not totally – for my book. It shows that FDR was far bolder in pursuing socio-economic reforms beneficial to the broad coalition of Democratic voters in his first term in office than he was in promoting black rights in his second and third terms. By 1941, the New Deal had run its course as a reform programme. FDR now focused almost exclusively on international affairs in manoeuvring to assist Britain and, eventually the Soviet Union in their struggle with Germany without making the United States a formal participant in the war. Conservative Southern Democrats in Congress, who had opposed his second-term efforts to expand the New Deal, had become essential allies in this campaign. Once the US itself was at war, they would support Roosevelt’s efforts to ensure that the United States remained the principal actor in upholding post-war peace once the Axis powers were defeated. Roosevelt would not risk alienating them by pressing to advance black interests.

The FDR that my book presents is a president who had a long-term vision about where he wanted to lead America in both domestic and international affairs but was willing to make improvisations and compromises in recognition of political reality in the short-term. He transformed the presidency, making it the driving force of politics and policy in American government. He was instrumental in creating the welfare state as New Deal president in the 1930s and the warfare state as commander-in-chief in the early 1940s. Despite its limitations, New Deal economic assistance converted African Americans from their devotion to the Republicans, the party of Lincoln, into a bedrock of support for the Democratic party outside the South from the 1934 midterms onwards. Even FDR’s limited civil rights initiatives laid the foundations for his successors to build upon. Coercion rather than conviction may have brought it about, but his issuance of Executive Order 8802 effectively recognized racial equality as a legitimate issue for presidential concern.
Learn more about FDR: Transforming the Presidency and Renewing America at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Frank Close's "Elusive"

Frank Close, OBE, FRS is a particle physicist and an emeritus professor of physics at the University of Oxford. He is the author of over a dozen books, including The Infinity Puzzle and Half-Life. He lives in Oxford, England.

Close applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Elusive: How Peter Higgs Solved the Mystery of Mass, and reported the following:
Elusive is the story of one man's big idea - the only one he had in his entire life - one which would change forever our understanding of the material universe. On page 99 we meet him, Englishman Peter Higgs, in 1966, en route to North Carolina where he planned a sabbatical visit to the university. It would be during Higgs’s year there that he would write the paper describing the “Higgs boson”. 48 years and $10 billion in expenditure later, his remarkable theory was proved right. Higgs won the Nobel Prize in 2013 but on page 99 we have little hint of this. Were you to read this page alone you would think Elusive to be a history or a travelogue describing the beauty of West Virginia and North Carolina as well as the social conditions there in those days. Higgs’s experiences in the south of 1966 helped forge his social conscience and political views. Pages 1 to 98 and 100 to 248 tell how the professor became as elusive as the particle that bears his name.

In the summer of 1964, Peter Higgs had the “only really original idea I’ve ever had”. Two years later, on that visit to the University of North Carolina, he wrote the paper in which the Higgs boson, the visible confirmation of which would turn out to prove his idea, would be forged. Then for the rest of his life he did nothing more, not just with his own idea but by and large in the whole of science.

An analogy to his insight that we are immersed in some strange stuff known as the Higgs field is that as fish need water, so we need the Higgs field. If the vacuum of space were truly empty, then according to Higgs’ theory it would be unstable. But add the Higgs field to this state of nothingness and the universe becomes stable. That adding something to nothing makes for stability is counter intuitive - but that is part of the magic and perhaps the reason why this idea had laid dormant for so long.

While Higgs did no more with it, others built on his idea and by 2000 were designing a vast machine - the Large Hadron Collider accelerator of particles in Geneva. The goal was to produce the Higgs boson, the existence of which would confirm the entire theory and have profound implications for our understanding of the cosmos. The Higgs boson was finally discovered on the 4th of July 2012, 46 years after Higgs's seminal paper written during his visit, which began on page 99.

Why the particle had taken so long to find, indeed why it was so elusive, is one strand of the tale. There is another one. Following the boson’s discovery, Higgs was regarded to be a shoo in for the Nobel Prize in 2013. Higgs hates the limelight, and so didn't want to be around when the media descended for his reactions. On the day that the award was to be announced he disappeared to his favourite seafood bar without telling anyone where he had gone. The Nobel awarders and the world’s media searched for him in vain. Peter Higgs had become as elusive as the boson that bears his name.
Follow Frank Close on Twitter and Facebook.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 9, 2022

Christopher Bonastia's "The Battle Nearer to Home"

Christopher Bonastia is Professor and Chair of Sociology at Lehman College-City University of New York and Professor of Sociology at The Graduate Center, CUNY. His books include Southern Stalemate: Five Years without Public Education in Prince Edward County, Virginia (2012) and Knocking on the Door: The Federal Government’s Attempt to Desegregate the Suburbs (2006).

Bonastia applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Battle Nearer to Home: The Persistence of School Segregation in New York City, and reported the following:
In The Battle Nearer to Home, I recount the nearly seven-decade struggle of everyday Black and Latino New Yorkers to transform the school system into one that offers their children the same chances to thrive as white students. The final two chapters take us to the present day, in which youth activists are engaging in innovative campaigns to redefine and experience “real” integration–not simply the mixing of bodies in classrooms, but the creation of a school system in which they are no longer forced to choose between a school with ample resources or one where they feel part of a genuine community.

Page 99 of The Battle Nearer to Home examines the opposition of white New Yorkers to school pairing plans in the mid 1960s. The premise of the plans was as follows: rather than have two nearby schools–one segregated white and one segregated Black–serve students from Kindergarten through 6th grade, reconfigure them so that one school serves all students in the school zone from K through 3, and the other serves students in grades 4 through 6. Integration occurs…so long as families don’t flee these schools en masse.

In the five school pairing experiments, white enrollments declined markedly, even in one neighborhood (Brooklyn Heights) where white parents had requested a pairing plan. As I remark, “Opposition to pairing and other integration plans were not, at their core, rooted in white allegiance to the neighborhood school.” In 1964, when white parents throughout the city boycotted schools to protest pairing, “four hundred thousand New York City students attended private or parochial schools that typically required travel outside of their neighborhoods. The issue was the destination, not the transportation.”

The remainder of the page reviews public opinion data on pairing, revealing that 4 in 5 white New Yorkers opposed the experiment. Black New Yorkers were evenly split, with some likely concerned about hostile treatment of Black children in their new schools.

Page 99 hits on some important through-lines of the book, including a number of NYC Board of Education experiments that were intended to signal to Black families, “Hey, we’re doing our best to integrate schools,” while reassuring white families, “This is just a little experiment, no need to worry.” (The Board failed consistently to thread this needle.) What is missing from this page is the centerpiece of the book: the experiences of Black and Latino families as they fought tirelessly for a school system that served their children well, whether that would come via increased integration or greater control over the schools in their communities.

I have also recorded a companion album–under my musical pseudonym, Uno Collision–entitled Soundtrack to the Battle (available soon on all major streaming services). In this recording, which is primarily instrumental but incorporates several first-person accounts of former New York City high school students, I hope to evoke the determination, the struggles, the frustrations, and the resilience of those who have sought justice and equity in the nation’s largest school system. Perhaps this album will qualify me for extra credit points on the Page 99 Test!
Visit Chris Bonastia's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 8, 2022

Rosaleen Duffy's "Security and Conservation"

Rosaleen Duffy is professor of international politics at the University of Sheffield. She is the author of Nature Crime: How We're Getting Conservation Wrong.

Duffy applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Security and Conservation: The Politics of the Illegal Wildlife Trade, and reported the following:
On page 99 of the book I examine the high profile story around a 2012 Elephant Action League report on the alleged links between Al Shabaab and the ivory trade. For a short period the idea of ivory as the ‘white gold of jihad’ was popularised through global media and repeated by donors, philanthropists, governments and conservation NGOs. However, as I discuss on page 99, the evidence for Al Shabaab’s involvement in the ivory trade from East Africa did not stack up, and was questioned by academics, journalists and a UNEP/INTERPOL report, amongst others. In the end, the Elephant Action League (now Earth League International) eventually accepted the claim was an overstatement, but stopped short of stating that it was inaccurate. The ivory-Al-Shabaab story is a very good indicator of what the book is actually about: explaining the causes and consequences of the shift towards security-oriented approaches in conservation, especially in tackling the illegal wildlife trade. The idea that the illegal wildlife trade funds international terrorism has had remarkable sticking power. Poaching and trafficking are now commonly reported as sources of funding for armed groups like Boko Haram and Janjaweed - but with very little publicly available evidence. This is linked in with the ways that the illegal wildlife trade has been rebranded as wildlife crime, as a form of serious and organised crime which constitutes a global security threat. My book examines the effects of this. I trace the expansion of funding available from donors and philanthropists, amongst others; there is now a huge imbalance in money made available for strategies that draw on security sector approaches, compared with strategies to create sustainable livelihoods and demand reduction. I also investigate the impact of this in conservation practice, supporting and extending more forceful and violent responses, often against some of the most marginalised and vulnerable communities in the world. The growth in funding to tackle illegal wildlife trade has allowed the expansion of enhanced forms of law enforcement and militarisation, including the use of counter insurgency techniques, development of surveillance networks, and contracting in Private Military Companies to train anti poaching units. This leads to greater forms of exclusion, violence and human rights abuses. But none of this tackles the underlying drivers of illegal wildlife trade and biodiversity losses - demand for wildlife products is primarily driven by consumers in the wealthy world. Militarising conservation misses this entirely.
Learn more about Security and Conservation at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue