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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences



The Two Cities: A Chronicle of Universal History to the Year 1146 A.D. by Otto, Bishop of Freising, translated by Charles C. Mierow with a foreword and updated bibliography by Karl F. Morrison (Columbia University Press)

The twelfth‑century bishop Otto of Emerging was the outstanding historian of his century. Long out of print, The Two Cities was his masterwork, spanning in time from Adam and Eve to the coming of the last days‑‑which he believed had actually begun. In form and philosophy, it stands as a landmark in medieval historiography. As a brother of the Emperor, Otto had an insider's view on the significant events of his day, including the Investiture Controversy and the Second Crusade. His book records how one man grasped for hope as he felt the world dissolving around him.

 History of the Archbishops of Hamburg‑Bremen by Adam of Bremen, translated with an introduction & notes by Francis J. Tschan with a new introduction & selected bibliography by Timothy Reuter (Columbia University Press) Adam of Bremen's history of the See of Hamburg and of Christian missions in northern Europe from the late eighth to the late eleventh century is the primary source of our knowledge of the history, geography, and ethnography of the Scandinavian and Baltic regions and their people before the thirteenth century. Arriving in Bremen in 1066 and soon falling under the tutelage of Archbishop Adalbert, who figures prominently in the narrative, Adam recorded the centuries‑long campaign by his church to convert Slavic and Scandinavian peoples. His History vividly reflects the firsthand accounts he received from travelers, traders, and missionaries on the peripheries of' medieval Europe.

A History of the Modern World by R. R. Palmer, Joel G. Colton, Lloyd S. Kramer (History of the Modern World, 9th Ed: Knopf) This now classic text that first appeared in 1950 provides a rather fulsome account of the rise of modern Europe and Western Modernism as a whole. It is challenging and thorough in its broad way and is likely to seem forbidding to a casual reader. Even though some of its assumptions are no longer mainstream and it needs some supplemental readings to round it out this work is still a major synopsis great for general orientations.

Continuing changes in the contemporary world often obscure the long historical processes that have created the modern societies in which we live. Bombarded by the mass media's images of conflict or innovation or cultural diversity or globalization, most of us hear little about the broad historical patterns and contexts that give wider meaning to the cascading events that flash across our newspapers, televisions, and computer screens. This new edition of A History of the Modern World may therefore be seen as the most recent version of a constant search for historical perspectives on the complex, often bewildering events of modern life. It provides a narrative of the people, events, ideas, institutions, and social changes that have created modern societies and that will continue to influence people around the world in the twenty‑first century.

We have designed this book for readers who will live in a new century of worldwide economic, political, and cultural interactions, but we have begun with the assumption that contemporary global systems must be understood as the latest stages in a long history of transnational exchanges, conflicts, and social transformations. The book thus goes beyond the histories of specific nations and people to describe broad historical trends that have affected people throughout the modern world. We have sought to explain the rise of nation states and the global conflicts that have molded the world's diverse societies over the last several centuries, but we have also emphasized the evolving global economy, the importance of science and technology, the significance of religious traditions, the international diffusion of new ideas, the changing mores of social life, and the complex relations between Western cultures and other cultures around the world.

The term modern, as we use it in this book, refers very broadly to the historical evolution of societies and cultures over the last five centuries, but we devote more chapters to the recent past than to the early modern era. We also focus primarily on developments in the West until the global character of modernity in recent times leads toward an increasingly global narrative of recent history. Although the book stresses the crucial influence of European societies and traditions on the emergence of what we now call modern world history, it also discusses past global exchanges and conflicts that have created the international characteristics of modern social, economic, and cultural life.

 The book is organized in chapters that carry the narrative across specific chronological eras, moving steadily toward the present. Yet the clearly defined sections within each chapter typically deal with themes, events, or issues that do not develop in simple chronological order. Each chapter focuses on a specific time frame, but each historical period is approached through discussions of themes and problems as well as through accounts of similarities and differences in various nations and regions of the world. Chronology thus offers an overall structure and organizing framework for the book's analytical arguments about the historical origins and evolution of modern societies.

These chronological and thematic components of the book's organization represent some of the important continuities that link this new edition to its predecessors. At the same time, however, the book has been substantially altered to make it more accessible for a new generation of readers. A new author has joined in the writing and revising of the text, and there have been significant changes in the book's content and design.

 Reflecting trends in contemporary historical scholarship, the book includes new information from recent research in social and cultural history. There are new sections on the role of women in various historical contexts; new descriptions of cultural and intellectual movements in the early modern, modern, and contemporary periods; more attention to the historical significance of cultural institutions, rituals, and symbols; and new analysis of global economic`and political interactions.

Readers will find, for example, concise new discussions of family life during the Renaissance and Reformation; new descriptions of literary debates, salon culture, and the evolving public sphere in the early and late Enlightenment; and new information on the cultural dimensions of the French Revolution. Later chapters of the book (in volume 2 of the paperback edition) include new sections on the emergence of feminism, new accounts of European cultural debates about science and the idea of progress, and new material on modernist cultural movements that gained influence after World War 1. All of the chapters on the world since 1945 have been extensively revised to include new information on recent international conflicts and also to provide historical perspectives on the increasing globalization of contemporary economic and cultural life. Although the history of political conflicts and institutions remains an important theme throughout the book, some of the complex details of national political histories have been reduced to expand the discussion of social and cultural history.

The pages of the book have also been redesigned to help readers more easily follow the argument through each chapter. The section and subsection titles now appear in color rather than in black, the maps have sharper color shadings and contrasts, and new marginal notes have been added to show readers the key subjects on almost every page and suggest themes that they can more easily identify as they make their way through the book. We have also removed almost all of the footnotes and thematic cross‑references to other chapters, but important themes can still be traced through the detailed index.

The visual component of this edition has been extended through the addition of many new illustrations. Like other kinds of documents and sources, visual information is important to historical understanding; indeed, knowing how to read and critically evaluate an image, painting, or photograph is an essential form of analytical thought and an important aspect of cross‑cultural comparisons. To that end, this edition includes over 200 new illustrations. Unlike previous editions, which presented most of its illustrations in clustered photo essays, this edition integrates text with images from the historical periods that are discussed in the chapters where they appear, and they contribute important evidence to support the overall themes of the book.

In addition to the many illustrations in each chapter, we have also added new four-color inserts that convey both the artistic creativity and cultural or social preoccupations of different historical eras. The color gives more clarity to the themes of the artists' work and to a visual history that (like the written text) shows the gradual emergence of a modern social and cultural world. Brief captions also accompany all of the illustrations, pointing to connections between events or issues in the book's narrative and the themes in the images.

The changes in this latest version of A History of the Modern World have been introduced to enhance the book's accessibility, but not to replace or weaken the style, content, narrative, and analytical qualities that have appealed to teachers and students who have used this book in its earlier editions. Readers will still find informative, concise accounts of major events, political transformations, and influential leaders in many different societies and national traditions. They will also find an updated, comprehensive bibliography that describes books for further reading and research on every subject in this book. And they will find a wide range of helpful maps and charts that summarize the changing boundaries, populations, and economies of nations and social groups in the modern world.

More generally, however, readers of this new edition of a well‑established book will find that it expresses again a strong belief in the value of historical knowledge and historical perspectives for anyone who wishes to understand as well as to live in the evolving modern world. This book achieves its purpose whenever it helps or provokes readers of any age or background to understand themselves and their world with new knowledge and new insights.

More On This Day in History by Anistatia R. Miller and Jared Brown (Prentice Hall Press) Thoroughly updated to reflect the realities and volatile market environment bound to meet investors in 2002, this indispensable annual guide features exclusive performance data for more than 8,000 funds from the Value Line Mutual Fund Survey; profiles of the top 100 most promising fund performers; reviews of 25 must-see Web sites; model portfolios with recommendations for distinct investment goals; and worksheets to determine risk tolerance and optimal level of retirement savings.
More On This Day in History is appealing for a variety of reasons. Because it doesn't take a chronological approach to history, each event stands out in its own illuminating limelight. You notice it and think about it more freshly, which lets you see it for the accomplishment it is rather than as just another occurrence in the progression of time. On This Day functions nicely as a reference book, in that the index will refer you to the appropriate page for any of more than 1,500 events, where you can discover not only what day of the year it took place but also get a full description of what happened and its context. This book charms most, however, as a browsing book; there's fascination in the juxtaposition of unrelated events, joined merely by happenstance on the same day, though years and worlds apart. Open the book randomly and you find October 14th, with the Battle of Hastings (1066) and the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964 and to Elie Wiesel in 1986, while on the next page, October 15th, P.G. Wodehouse was born in 1881 and the first draft card was burned in 1965. You'll probably want to check your birthday for other notables who share your date, but after that you're free to riffle through the pages of history and have some fun.

A History in Fragments: Europe in the Twentieth Century by Richard Vinen (Da Capo)is a lively survey of the principle historical moments and cultural styles in the 20th century. The problem with the history of twentieth-century Europe is that we all think we know it. The great stories of the century-the two world wars, the rise and fall of Nazism and Communism-seem self-evident in their importance. But behind the politics and the ideologies lies another history: the history of forces that shaped the lives of individual Europeans...and the lives of men and women around the world. (Americans need only think of the way that the history of Europe has shaped the flow of immigrants to the U.S. and thereby altered our nation's history.)
Richard Vinen contends that there is no single history that encompasses the experience of the century, but rather a multiplicity of different, interlocking histories-stories not only of politics and military movements, but also of culture, religion, sex, and demographics, related here with an unmatched eye for the telling detail and spiced with memorable anecdotes. As the Sunday Telegraph put it: "Vinen moves effortlessly from social and economic issues to politics, from ideology to military history.... The writing is lively, the enthusiasm infectious, and the gift for bold, epigrammatic summary genuinely impressive."
A canvas encompassing both the broad and the particular, this is a major work of history-and history writing at its best.

1688: A Global History by John E. Wills Jr. (Norton) A rich, kaleidoscopic history of the world in a year at the dawn of modern times. Told with the verve and color of Robert Darnton's bestseller The Great Cat Massacre, Jack Wills's masterful history ushers us into the worlds of 1688, from the suicidal exaltation of Russian Old Believers to the ravishing voice of the haiku poet Basho. Witness the splendor of the Chinese imperial court as the Kangxi emperor publicly mourns the death of his grandmother and shrewdly consolidates his power. Walk the pungent streets of Amsterdam and enter the Rasp House, where vagrants, beggars, and petty criminals labor to produce powdered brazilwood for the dyeworks. Meet the Dog Shogun who rules Edo Castle, issuing countless edicts forbidding cruelty to dogs. Through these stories, Wills paints a detailed picture of how the global connections of power, money, and belief were beginning to lend the world its modern form.

A Fifth of November by Paul West (New Directions) illuminates the events surrounding Guy Fawkes and the English Gunpowder Plot of 1605. In his nineteenth novel, A Fifth of November—perhaps his most accomplished work to date—Paul West describes the events surrounding the English Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Instigated by thirteen Catholic conspirators, most famously Guy Fawkes, the Plot was a failed attempt to blow up the English Parliament building and all within, including King James I. Catholics and priests were then ever more brutally persecuted throughout the country. At the heart of West's novel is the superior of the English Jesuits, Father Henry Garnet, hiding in tiny holes behind the walls of English mansions, left on his own, prompted by his sexual urgings, tormented by the smell of ham and eggs cooking, and debating in his mind God's ultimate righteousness. Shielding him from harm—but also prolonging his discomfort—is the eloquent and melancholy noblewoman, Anne Vaux. A Fifth of November follows Garnet, from when he first hears of the plot—the conspirators have confessed their plan to him, what is his responsibility?—to his pilgrimage to Wales, his escape to Hindlip over the English plains, and ultimately his imprisonment in the Tower of London. All along, the figures who partake of this historical moment are brightly, often horrifically, drawn. West tackles—through rhapsodic language, brilliant characterizations, and historical precision—that most inevitable of topics: human evil.

The Salem World of Nathaniel Hawthorne by Margaret B. Moore (University Missouri Press) Although most writers on Nathaniel Hawthorne touch on the importance of Salem, Massachusetts, to his life and career, no detailed study has been published on the power­ful heritage bequeathed to him by his ancestors and present to him during his years in that town. In The Salem World of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Margaret B. Moore thoroughly investigates Hawthorne's family, his education before college (about which almost nothing has been known), and Salem's religious and political influences on him. She details what Salem had to offer Hawthorne in the way of entertainment and stimulation, discusses his friends and acquaintances, and examines the significant role of women in his life--­particularly Mary Crowninshield Silsbee and Sophia Peabody.

By tracing the effect of Salem on Hawthorne's writing, The Salem World of Nathaniel Hawthorne makes clear that Hawthorne not only was aware of his "own dear native place" but also drew upon it consciously and subconsciously in his work. This book con­tributes to a better understanding of Hawthorne as man and writer and of Salem's vital part in his life and work

Margaret B. Moore is an independent scholar. She has pub­lished widely on Hawthorne and is the former secretary of the Nathaniel Hawthorne Society. Moore lives in Athens, Georgia

Dutch Society: 1588 – 1713 by J. L. Price (Longman) offers a fascinating new interpretation of Dutch society in the Golden Age. It is a major contribution to early modern history.  The heart of this book is a discussion of the processes by which this unique Dutch society was produced and an analysis of its character. Social changes are set against the late sixteenth century background and in the context of international, political and economic circumstances of the seventeenth century. In the final chapters the effects of the strains of war and a stagnant and faltering economy on Dutch society are outlined.

Learning and Reasoning in History: International Review of History Education by James F. Voss (Editor), Mario Carretero (Woburn Press, ISBS) Distributor Link: Hardcover Paperback

The second volume in this series is a major contribution to both history education and the developing cognitive psychology of specific disciplines. It will be essential reading for researchers, teacher educators, history teachers and students from undergraduate to doctoral level, whether studying academic or professional courses.

It consists entirely of the proceedings of an international conference held near Madrid in 1994 on cognition and instruction in history, and is guest edited by James Voss and Mario Carretero.

 Learning and Reasoning in History is divided into four sections. The first is especially concerned with a central matter in contemporary debate about history ‑historical narrative. Its five chapters discuss the nature of narrative, the impact of official and unofficial histories on students, and history and identity. The four chapters in Section II examine students' understanding and use of texts and sources in history, including the way in which such texts are used in facing historical controversies. Section III consists of five chapters on students' explanations in history, dealing with both causal and intentional explanation. Finally, the six chapters in Section IV are concerned with the teaching of history, and with students' understanding of some important substantive concepts.

The range and quality of the contributions, many from eminent researchers in the field, and the importance of the issues they discuss, make this book an indispensable tool for anyone interested in history education or cognitive psychology.

James E Voss is Professor of Psychology and of Political Science and Senior Scientist and former Associate Director of the Learning Research and Development Center, University of Pittsburgh. He has published over 125 articles and co‑edited a volume entitled Informal Reasoning and Education; he is also co‑editor of a forthcoming volume Problem Representation in Foreign Policy Decision Making. He has a long‑standing interest in the field of learning, and how prior knowledge and racial factors influence learning; more recently he has been studying problem-­solving and argumentation in history and political science, as well as the role of narrative in argumentation.

Michael Allin is a writer who lives in East Hampton, New York. This is his first book.

THE SCENTS OF EDEN by Charles Corn ($27.00, hardcover, 352 pages,Kodansha, ISBN: 1568362021) Clothed in mystery and lost in uncharted seas, the Spice Islands of the early sixteenth century tantalized European imagination to the point of obsession. Nestled in the waters of the eastern Malay Archipelago, these legendary islands (also known as the Moluccas) were once thought to be the site of the Garden of Eden. As the only place on Earth where grew the "holy trinity" of spicescloves, nutmeg, and mace these minuscule islands quickly became a wellspring of international intrigue and personal fortune, occasioning the rise and fall of nations across the globe. It is the history of these islands, their mystique, and their impact on a growing world economy, that is the fascinating bounty of THE SCENTS OF EDEN.

Long coveted for their scents and tastes but most importantly for their preservative qualities, spices were first made available in Europe only by Arab traders. Increasing in value each time they changed hands, the spices sold at extortionate prices, and the islands soon became the focal point of Western interest and control. In 1511 the Portuguese set off for the islands, resolving to annex the Moluccas to their extended empire, in defiance of Spain’s similar claim. England and Holland soon joined the hunt, each nation vying for control of the spice trade with its own East India Company. Later, after the American Revolution, traders out of Massachusetts entered the fray, and the spice trade produced the young republic’s first millionaires.

THE SCENTS OF EDEN regales us with memorable tales of corrupt European adventurers and enigmatic island rulers; with explosive battles fought between islanders, explorers, and pirates; with deadly sea voyages and with some of the most colorful characters in history. It brings to life men like Ferdinand MaRellan, who in 1519 embarked would shrink the world; Jan Pieterzsoon Coen, the ruthless, cruel governor-general of the Dutch East Indies, who ordered a wholesale slaughter of islanders to maintain Holland’s spice monopoly; Pierre Poivre, the French smuggler of clove and nutmeg seedlings whose acts altered the balance of power of European nations; and erect, blue jacketed Jonathan Carnes, the Yankee trader who in 1797 brought the first great wealth to a modest New England port.

Drawn from first person accounts and contemporary books and journals, THE SCENTS OF EDEN spans four centuries, weaving an intricate story set on a global stage. Arrayed with famous and obscure, noble and venal players alike, the narrative is a fascinating story and a magnificent epic.

THE NAZIS: A Warning from History by Laurence Rees ($25.00, hardcover, 256 pages, New Press, ISBN: 1565844459)

"It may be that in the eyes of God all historical epochs are of equal importance but, in the eyes of mortals, the Nazi era has a unique place. Nazism cannot be regarded with detachment or seen as simply the arena for scholarly debates. Its history belongs to all of us. Its lessons should be heeded by all of us." From the foreword by Ian Kershaw

Laurence Rees’s new book THE NAZIS creates a new perspective on the history of the Holocaust by combining archival material, which was previously unavailable before the fall of the Soviet Union, with an oral history. Rees offers a description of the entire evolution of the ruthlessly efficient slaughter of the Jews in Germany, instead of the more simplistic view of the final few years that is so often depicted. He also presents this history in a very personal way, making extensive use of interviews with those who participated in the Holocaust as both villains and victims. The individual stories include those of a Lithuanian soldier who shot five hundred people and then went to lunch, the anguished sister of a ten-year-old retarded boy "selected for immunization injection" (a fatal dose of morphine) at a children’s hospital specializing in the "treatment" of disabled children. This volume provides an introduction to the moral and social problems that created THE NAZIS to a generation that has too easily not heard or believed these stories.

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