Sunday, June 18, 2017

Sunday Book Review Roundup



Legal historians, enjoy these book reviews and have a happy Father's Day.

The NY Times provides Three Books on Puerto Rico’s Statehood vs. Independence Debate, including Puerto Rico: The Trials of the Oldest Colony in the World by José Trias Monge and Requiem of the Cerro Maravilla: The Police Murders in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Government Coverup by Manuel Suarez. Last week, the Times had a similar roundup of books about the gay rights/marriage movement.

Garret M. Graff doesn't mince words when it comes to titles.  The Times also published a review of Graff’s Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government’s Secret Plan to Save Itself — While the Rest of Us Die. The book, a history of the government’s often-botched efforts at nuclear defense preparation, “shows how, again and again, technocratic efforts to prepare for governing after a nuclear attack have collided with the reality that doing so would almost certainly prove impossible.”

The Washington Post reviews He Calls Me By Lightning: The Life of Caliph Washington and the forgotten Saga of Jim Crow, Southern Justice, and the Death Penalty, by S. Jonathan Bass, which uses the thirteen year “legal saga” of Caliph Washington to paint a “picture of how Jim Crow legal systems operated at the local and state level.”

The Guardian has a short review of Britain’s Europe: A Thousand Years of Conflict and Cooperation by Brendan Simms, who argues that Brexit is “neither inevitable nor an accident”.

In the LA Review of Books, Eric D’Amato’s Getting Europe’s Right Wrong covers Far-Right Politics in Europe by Jean-Yves Camus and Nicolas Lebourg, and Mastering the Past: Contemporary Central and Eastern Europe and the Rise of Illiberalism by Ellen Hinsey. The former book is ultimately more satisfying, he argues, although it still does not contend with the diversity of Europe’s far right, which is “above all defined by its heterogeneity, decentralism, and ideological adaptability.” The Nation’s review of Christos Efstathiou’s E.P. Thompson: A Twentieth-Century Romantic may be inspiring to legal historians seeking a political reputation. It notes that: Thompson was “so prominent” in anti-nuclear activism that “polls placed him high in the ranks of the most admired, trailing only the ‘first women’ of the nation: [Margaret] Thatcher, Queen Elizabeth, and the Queen Mother.” The review also contrasts Thompson’s ability to find “agency” in his historical actors with the exacting standards to which he held his activist contemporaries. Those interested in biographies of historians may also enjoy this review of Ernst Kantorowicz: A Life by Robert E. Lerner, which seeks to revive the Medievalist’s reputation after Norman Cantor’s 1963 “hatchet job”. 

Also in The Nation, Sophie Pinkham reviews Lenin on the Train by Catherine Merridale, The Russian Revolution: A New History by Sean McMeekin, and Russia in Revolution: An Empire in Crisis, 1890–1928 by S.A. Smith, arguing that “how historians narrate the story of the Russian Revolution tells us much about their philosophy of history, as well as about their attitude toward the revolutionary project and the politics of the left.” 

The New York Review of Books has several essays of historical-inclination, not all of which have can be viewed without a subscription. These include:

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