I really liked it towards the end, when several narrative threads were brought together in the French plan to couple together Louisiana and San DominiI really liked it towards the end, when several narrative threads were brought together in the French plan to couple together Louisiana and San Dominique, which then collapsed and the Louisiana Purchase happened, all with some of these five French emigres involved in one way or another.
History could have gone so differently, had they succeeded in more of their attempts....more
A rather neat look at the misinformation, guesswork, and odd theories that have been created around tornadoes. As a child of the far eastern end of thA rather neat look at the misinformation, guesswork, and odd theories that have been created around tornadoes. As a child of the far eastern end of the Midwest, I've been fascinated with (and terrified of) these storms all my life, and I still learned a lot in here....more
In 1904, Columbus, Ohio (my hometown) had a water and sewer system of low quality, perhaps average for rapidly growing American cities. Early in thatIn 1904, Columbus, Ohio (my hometown) had a water and sewer system of low quality, perhaps average for rapidly growing American cities. Early in that year, powerful Senator Mark Hanna (possibly a distant relation of mine?) died while pushing the Panama Canal through Congress. Everyone pointed the finger at typhoid fever, common in Columbus' water that winter. After that, the town fathers came together to build a new system, apparently second to none. None of this may be known in the world today. but it was somewhat known in the past. The story is told of the mayor of Moscow coming to Columbus, saying, "We've never heard of Columbus, but we've heard of your waterworks." (p.136)
This is an OK effort, but I might have written it differently. I admit, I'm picky about my history, and this could have been better. There's not a single map of Columbus, its rivers, water lines or sewers. If someone not from Columbus tried to read it, they would be quite lost.
The writing was a bit jumbled, with factual paragraphs thrown in without much connection between them.
The "Great Columbus Experiment" isn't well defined, and if there was any political maneuvering to set it up, we are left in the dark. Many of the key figures that revamped Columbus' water and sewer services between 1904 and 1908 resigned or were let go in some sort of political affair in 1908, but we have no idea what it was. We are told about the many men who put together the water and sewer systems, but not much about the decisions they made, any planning they might have done. We're not told why it was the "Great Columbus Experiment of 1908" when most of the work was done by that date.
There is a very nice collection of photographs of buildings, people and equipment. On the other hand, there are no drawings or illustrations of the processes involved in water treatment, which seemed like an obvious idea to illustrate the work to the lay reader.
I'm certain there had to have been some involvement by the mayors and city councilmen in the creation of the dam, waterworks and sewer treatment plants, but they are mentioned in passing, if at all. There was a major effort in Columbus to remake the whole downtown and riverfront before 1908, but that was not mentioned at all, much less any part that the water problem played in that.
Some information is provided on what else was going on in America and Ohio at the time, but to my eye, the connections to the information in the book seems thin....more
I had been warned about the obsession of the author on relief of generals, and I expected to not like it.
Well, I don't agree with that focus, becauseI had been warned about the obsession of the author on relief of generals, and I expected to not like it.
Well, I don't agree with that focus, because the author could have made a case, just as strongly, for broader improvement of officer selection policy. I guess that wouldn't sell as well.
Around all of that, there is a fairly good, but somewhat flawed, coverage of US battlefield performance. The coverage of the post-Vietnam Army is certainly interesting, but his obsession with reliefs blinds him to other trends that emerged in military thinking.
While he insists that reliefs practically disappeared after 1945, he repeats this on the same page as several battlefield reliefs in the Korean War.
The author's central thesis is that the transcontinental railroads of the mid- to late-19th century were too soon, too many, too big, and too chaoticThe author's central thesis is that the transcontinental railroads of the mid- to late-19th century were too soon, too many, too big, and too chaotic for their time. White wants to counter the image of the "Robber Barons" as smart and able-- they were dumb and cunning, and believed themselves loyal and upright.
Perhaps a quote, to summarize White's opinions on the men who tried to shape events with little knowledge and weak ethics. This is from the sidebar on the accountant/manager William Mahl, who worked for Collis P. Huntington, one of the Central Pacific/Southern Pacific's "Big Four" who dominated California. "Huntington had built his career on decieving others, manipulating railroad finances, and running overcapitalized corporations about whose day-to-day operations he knew little. He assumed that this was how all railroads were run, and when he acquired the Louisville, Cincinnati, and Lexington..., he set to work to find the particular corruption that explained why that road's operating expenses were such a high proportion of its revenue. There was no corruption-- only competitive local conditions from other railroads and river transportation-- but Mahl could never convince him of that."
This is a good read, not the usual triumphal view of the big railroads' construction, but a more nuanced picture of how the corporations were (mis)run during and after the construction phases....more