What is the best way to sum up this book? A load of crap. The idea that the Vietnam era was the last to "play war" is so categorically untrue that it...moreWhat is the best way to sum up this book? A load of crap. The idea that the Vietnam era was the last to "play war" is so categorically untrue that it boarders on absurd. This book reads like yet another Baby Boomer insisting that his generation is the only one that matters. This book predates that other load of crap about the "Greatest Generation" written by another Boomer who finally realized that his parents weren't all that bad.
Anyway, Engelhardt goes through post-war culture, demonstrating how the earlier myth of the United States and its view of war as a just and noble cause was altered as the Cold War and more specifically the Vietnam War progressed; making Americans look like brutes, savage and quite less than noble. He tries to make the case that the opposition to the war and many of those fighting was some kind of significant shift in American culture. However, two big mistakes in that analysis. First, throughout many conflicts in US history, there was considerable opposition and commentary surrounding its injustice, see for example the Mexican War, The Spanish-American War and especially the post World War I cultural examination of war. Second, Engelhardt kind of negates his own thesis by demonstrating how the first Gulf War along with many conflicts since the 1980s are very much like the victory culture that he assured us was over. I would argue that, especially in the wake of 9/11, that victory culture is even more pervasive than in was in the 1950s, that terrorism make for such a convenient bogey man, it justifies in the eyes of many (depending on who the president is at the time) some of the greatest abuses of power the United States has every seen. Don't be fooled, victory culture is alive and well.(less)
I remember reading this and thinking, "God being part of the Protestant Reformation was a pain in the ass." Duffy takes a page from the French Annales...moreI remember reading this and thinking, "God being part of the Protestant Reformation was a pain in the ass." Duffy takes a page from the French Annales School and looks at the longue duree of a specific village in Devonshire. It is quite telling what the everyday folks went through during the great English upheaval that was their version of the Reformation. Starting with an examination of pre-Henrician reforms to the final settlement under Elizabeth, the people of Morebath had to do their best to roll with the whims of those in power. Especially during the time of Henry it must have ranged between an inconvenience and a serious moral and financial dilema.
Duffy doesn't find an England hungry for reform, quite the contrary. From his examinations of the parish of Morebath, the citizens there were quite pious and supportive of their local church and were willing to spend a great deal of the towns resources toward decorating and caring for the church. The reforms of Henry didn't seem to disturb much and when Henry had his change of heart and basically wanted to return to Catholicism, without the interference from Rome, Morebath seemed to roll along.
It was during the time of the Edwardian Reformation that things get crazy in Devonshire. Under the leadership of Cramner, the English Church turns almost 180 and the results lead to rebellion of the more conservative counties and parishes, including Morebath. The rebellion is systematically crushed, all vestiges of popery removed.
Almost as soon as the Edwardian reforms are put in place, Mary takes the throne and it's back to Catholicism. Elizabeth finally brings some measure of stability but the pious, devoted community that thrived before and during Henry's reign had been replace by a much more secular and cynical population, probably not the goal of any of the reformers.
Ultimately, what we see in Morebath is a population that seemed content with their religious life. The political motivations for the reformation in England were not the concerns of the people living in the countryside. As the church moved through its reform spasms, we also get an idea of how far people are willing to go with changes to what they know. The Henrician reforms, and later his pulling back most of those reforms, allowed most people to continue in their faith practices almost unmolested. It was when Cramner and his great overhaul occurred that people resisted, even resorting to violence to protect their lifestyle. By the time of the two sisters, one definitely gets the feeling that the people of Morebath were finished with reformation and restoration and when Elizabeth allowed a certain measure of tolerance, everyone was happy to make that the status quo. (less)
A decent sequel to the Long Halloween, but it follows too closely to the LH plot. The origin story of Robin is also part of this book, but it feels fo...moreA decent sequel to the Long Halloween, but it follows too closely to the LH plot. The origin story of Robin is also part of this book, but it feels forced. Pretty much the entire Robin arc could be taken out and the rest of the plot would not suffer at all. (less)
As you might have guessed from my recent reviews of old dissertation books, I've read a lot of history. For the most part they all fell into the acade...moreAs you might have guessed from my recent reviews of old dissertation books, I've read a lot of history. For the most part they all fell into the academic style. That style being bled dry of interesting language, compelling narrative or anything resembling entertainment. Relatively few of the books I read for my dissertation or comprehensive exams were memorable, let alone entertaining. History, like so many other disciplines, has books published for a small audience, only read by an even smaller audience and actually found useful by a smaller number still. The old joke was to call a book a "$20 book." What that means is that one could stick a twenty dollar bill into a book and return in a year and find it, untouched. In all the time I had the better part of the cultural and 1930s history books from the university library, I think I had to contend with three recalls. All three of which I knew the person who needed the book, small audience indeed.
Atkinson's work is not in this vein. He writes with a very readable, sometimes almost lyrical style. His attention to detail is almost mind-boggling. Atkinson also makes the major players come alive, Ike, Patton, Montgomery and the rest of the leaders are all presented using personal correspondence, diaries and subordinates recollections. He also doesn't neglect the common GI, using many of the same types of sources to get the boots on the ground view, and the overview of the command post.
I found his treatment of the Battle of the Bulge to be particularly compelling, perhaps the best treatment of those pivotal weeks I've ever encountered. Atkinson captured the desperation of Hitler and the German high command and also the battlefield desperation of the Allied Army. He doesn't necessarily delve into "what if" scenarios, but leaves that to the reader to draw those conclusions. Namely, I couldn't help but think of two things, especially considering Hitler was bound and determined to attack in the west: one, if the ambition of the offensive would have been smaller, what would have been the Allied response? In conjunction with that idea, if Hitler would have kept the scope smaller, say just to cutting the allied armies in two and then suing for a separate Western peace as was an initial goal, could Germany have survived to a greater degree? Of course, the overestimation of German strength and the fevered dreams of Hitler of pushing the Allies all the way back into France became the goal which even to his general staff was so much a pipe dream. Finally, in the final assessment of the battle, Atkinson demonstrates how costly the offensively truly was to Germany. In short, speeding up the Allied victory as opposed to prolonging the war.
As most American accounts of the war, Atkinson in no fan of Montgomery and he is a little easy on Eisenhower, especially his relationship with Kay Summersby. Atkinson almost falls over himself to establish that Ike was committed to his wife. I find it particularly curious that even today, in 2013, that it has to be some kind of zero-sum game; either devoted to his wife, or devoted to his mistress. Haven't we seen enough of powerful people, mostly men, engaged in affairs who also remain committed to their spouses, if for no other reason than good PR? What is amazing is that even after 800+ pages, I wanted Atkinson to delve more into post-war Europe, about German reconstruction and the emerging Cold War. Alas, perhaps that is the next trilogy. (less)
Now, moving on to the Early Modern English books. There really aren't many books on this list. Most of what I read, way back when, were pivotal articl...moreNow, moving on to the Early Modern English books. There really aren't many books on this list. Most of what I read, way back when, were pivotal articles in the field. I also don't remember much of these books to be completely honest, so the reviews might be few and far between.
Bostridge is an exception to the above rule. I think because my own work is a counter to the prevailing narrative I was drawn to Witchcraft. Instead of the great march of reason and progress as seen in Keith Thomas, Bostridge shows us that though the public trials and executions of witches ended in 1685, the belief and even the laws prohibiting witchcraft remained on the books well into the eighteenth century. We can probably argue that belief in witchcraft is with us to some extent.
Perhaps what I enjoyed most about Bostridge was his thorough discussion of three key points. First, though Keith Thomas and his disciples were too quick to relegate belief in witches to the common classes, when in fact, there is ample evidence that every strata of society held on to witchcraft to some degree. Second, related to the first, that the belief in witchcraft disappeared piecemeal, not quite the shutting of a door on a period of history. And lastly, that the "rational canon was not monolithic. It only appears that way in retrospect." Take that you Whigs! Huh? a book on witches just in time for Halloween :-) (less)
This book is a result of one of those lucky quirks of historical research. Einhorn found city records from Chicago thought to be lost in the Great Fir...moreThis book is a result of one of those lucky quirks of historical research. Einhorn found city records from Chicago thought to be lost in the Great Fire of 1871. It was quite the fortunate find. Einhorn is able to mine the data for all it worth and shed a great deal of light on the antebellum and pre-fire functions of city government.
Einhorn takes on the notion that Sam Bass-Warner popularized when discussion urban growth and Philadelphia in his classic work, The Private City. Bass-Warner argued that privatism ruined the city, added to the corruption of urban life and set the precedents for later city government. Einhorn also sees privatism, but in a much more positive light. As she notes, it was the principle of "states rights" taken to a much more local level. Namely, those that wanted a city improvement, like a new sidewalk or something done about a sanitary ditch were the most important people in the decision making process; the neighbors and businesses most effected needed to agree to the change and, most importantly, pay for it. The rest of the city residents were not liable for any of the cost. Einhorn finds mountains of evidence of special assessments for local projects supporting this method of city planning and development. It wasn't, according to Einhorn so much a privatization plot, but more an expression of the American political philosophy common before the Civil War.
A number of issues begin to fragment the private system, mostly under the ambiguous term, "public interest." One of the largest issues to start driving more city-wide initiatives, affect everyone regardless of their opinion or not, was the temperance issue. Suddenly a tavern anywhere was a threat everywhere. Second, the Civil War saw a change in the political ethos within the US, even at the local level. Local rights became secondary to "the common good."
Looking at this system as Einhorn describes it, one can't help but think of the current problems facing the Chicago Public School system. Families in the most affect areas are being told that closing their neighborhood school is for the "public good" yet it is hard to believe that when, less than a year after the school closings, done in the name of cutting costs, a series of new charter schools is being proposed, some in the very buildings that were shut down.
All things considered, city records and history books that use them as the dominant source of information doesn't make for the most exciting reading. Even so, finding someone to take a different tack on our thinking about antebellum urban development is a worthwhile read. I suggest reading at a desk however, couches and city planning data are a recipe for sleep.(less)
I've been a Peter David fan ever since he took over the writing duties for X-Factor back in the early nineties. His strengths lie in pacing, dialogue...moreI've been a Peter David fan ever since he took over the writing duties for X-Factor back in the early nineties. His strengths lie in pacing, dialogue and humor. Two of the three were on display in Pulling up Stakes. David still does a great job of getting a story going and keeps it moving and I still love that unlike most comic/sci-fy author makes the words coming from the characters mouths seem believable. Unfortunately, his attempts at humor fell largely flat. I think the biggest reason for this is that David hasn't really switched up his formula for humor. Also the subject matter, basically the struggle between vampires and humans, has been done and while this is billed as something different, it really isn't, especially the jokes. All in all, if you like David's other novels, you'll like this. It is quite short and a very breezy read. Compared to such books as Q-squared or The New Frontier books, however, Pulling Up Stakes just doesn't measure up.
I would encourage you to buy this book however even if you aren't into vampires or David in general. At the end of December 2012, Peter David had a massive stroke and while he has some medical insurance, the bills keep on mounting and making life unduly hard for him and his family. His wife, Kathy, has on numerous occasions said the best way to help Peter is by buying his work, especially from his publishing company, Crazy Eights (might be wrong on the specific name) Publishing. Pulling Up Stakes and a couple of other titles are by David and the sales of those books in particular help the family out the most. It isn't asking a lot, the books are fun and you would be helping an artist in need. (less)