In this largely narrative history, Harms uses a ship diary to recreate the slave-trading voyage of the Diligent from France to West Africa to the Fren...moreIn this largely narrative history, Harms uses a ship diary to recreate the slave-trading voyage of the Diligent from France to West Africa to the French Caribbean. Harms contends that "there was no overarching 'global' context to the voyage, only a series of intersecting local contexts," and so the reader is treated to a series of microhistories of each place and the events that created the current circumstances in the various "worlds" in which the Diligent. Though at the time he was reacting against world-systems theory, Harms is also arguing the the "Atlantic world" is only comprehensible as a geographical category of inquiry if one recognizes that, unlike the imperial structures of the early modern period, the Atlantic world was made up entirely of a periphery. There was no metropolitan center and therefore to speak of the Atlantic world as a single entity misses its key feature.
I am highly sympathetic to thinking about the Atlantic world in this way as, too often, the Atlantic as a geographical category of inquiry seems to simply be either forced or laid over more disparate histories, leaving its use as an analytical or even geographical category in doubt for some of the work that claims to be Atlantic in scope. Nevertheless, saying this story has no "overarching global context" somehow "feels" wrong. Also, Harms's focus on localities is slightly ironic in that early modern historians have sought to complicate the "narrow" national narratives of societies along the Atlantic basin through a shift to the broader geographical category of an "Atlantic world," but Harms is seeking to further complicate the Atlantic perspective by returning to an even more narrow geographical focus on localities.(less)
The classic exposition of the Marxist approach to the English Revolution from Christopher Hill in 1940. Hill summarizes his argument best in the very...moreThe classic exposition of the Marxist approach to the English Revolution from Christopher Hill in 1940. Hill summarizes his argument best in the very first paragraph: "...this interpretation is that the English Revolution of 1640-60 was a great social movement like the French Revolution of 1789. The state power protecting an old order that was essentially feudal was violently overthrown, power passed into the hands of a new class, and so the freer development of capitalism was made possible. The Civil War was a class war, in which the despotism of Charles I was defended by the reactionary forces of the established Church and conservative landlords. Parliament beat the King because it could appeal to the enthusiastic support of the trading and industrial classes in town and countryside, to the yeomen and progressive gentry, and to wider masses of the population whenever they were able by free discussion to understand what the struggle was really about." Obviously, schools of thought on the subject have come and gone over the last 70+ years, but there is an excitement that is palpable in the text as Hill applies Marxist notions of historical and dialectical materialism and economic determinism to a subject that had been mired largely in Whig historiography for more than a century. (less)
This book juxtaposes the story of Jacob, a 21-year old 16th-century Dutch Protestant, who defies his father, a clergyman, and leaves his family to con...moreThis book juxtaposes the story of Jacob, a 21-year old 16th-century Dutch Protestant, who defies his father, a clergyman, and leaves his family to convert to Catholicism (and eventually become a Jesuit) with a story about Michael, a friend of the author, who during the 1970s converted to Mormonism and then left it upon accepting his own homosexuality.
The book focuses on the reactions of the families: Jacob never reconciles with his family while at the end Michael's makes an effort to accept his sexual orientation. However, because the two stories are told throughout in alternating chapters, the author never really addresses them both at the same time and also never fleshes out what he sees as the connecting thread(s) between the two stories. One could read it as using the modern story to illuminate religious tension and intolerance in the 16th-century by likening it to Mormon's treatment of homosexuals and homosexuality. One could also see it as primarily an exploration of the changing nature of intolerance, particularly in intra-familial settings.
Unfortunately, the writing of the book comes off as uneven as the chapters on the 16th century are written in the tone and voice of a historian while the chapters about his friend employ a tone and voice that come off as closer to that of long-form magazine writing. This disparity only serves to reinforce uncertainty in the reader as to the author's intentions regarding the readers' perception of the relationship between the stories.(less)
One can hardly attempt to understand the loyalist experience without focusing on New York City, the British (and, therefore, loyalist) headquarters in...moreOne can hardly attempt to understand the loyalist experience without focusing on New York City, the British (and, therefore, loyalist) headquarters in the colonies during the war. In Unnatural Rebellion: Loyalists in New York City During the Revolution, Ruma Chopra takes a look at the wartime experiences of loyalists in New York City. The title of the book is taken from a recurring phrase used by loyalists to describe the Revolution. In the introduction, Chopra refers to it as a “defensive metaphor” that “generated structures of feeling” and “emerged as a collective denunciation.” However, her promise of exploring this “common loyalist discourse” falls short, as it essentially disappears as the book progresses. What we then get is an examination of the relationship between the loyalists and the city’s British hierarchy as well as their expectations and reactions to events of which they are relegated to the role of spectator.
Chopra explores with great detail the many conflicts between the loyalists and the British authorities. In 1776, following the Battle of Long Island and the rebel retreat into New Jersey, loyalists in the city believed that New York could be made into a living example to the rest of the colonists of the benefits of remaining in the British empire and of “His Majesty’s constitutional commitment to the colonies." Hence, they expected the military authorities to establish constitutional governance and civil rule. But instead the authorities declared martial law and their petitions for civil rule went denied. The authorities’ failure to protect the loyalists from the delinquency of British troops and the lack of priority accorded them during times of shortage further strained the relationship. After Saratoga and the French entrance into the war, loyalists became increasingly frustrated. They had petitioned the Crown to allow them to form their own regiments, but these requests were denied, as were their requests for civil rule out of fears they would “enact rules against military regulations, criminal proceedings against soldiers, and hamper British military campaigns around New York City."
In the end, Chopra writes, loyalists ironically came to understand that “they valued the symbols of the British Empire–– legal protection of property and liberty, civil government, and constitutional processes––more deeply than the Crown's representatives in New York or in London.” Rather than helping to create a beacon for British constitutionalism and liberty in the city that could help win the hearts and minds of fellow colonists, loyalists found themselves at the mercy of military authority and martial law that, if anything, may have helped convince other colonists of the reality of British tyranny.(less)
In a nutshell, Baugh argues that the Seven Years' War must be seen in a global context and that Britain won because of its superiority in naval streng...moreIn a nutshell, Baugh argues that the Seven Years' War must be seen in a global context and that Britain won because of its superiority in naval strength, military logistics and preparedness, financial access, and political leadership at home. The analytical aspects of the argument tend to be obscured by Baugh's blow-by-blow narrative of military engagements, which, though written well, turns what should have been a 300-page book into almost three times that length.(less)