What I’ve been reading
1. Tara Zahra, Against the World: Anti-Globalism and Mass Politics Between the World Wars. A good book about anti-global sentiments in earlier times, most of all the 1920s, covering a broad span of countries, the flu pandemic, anti-Semitism, and gender (was globalization pro- or anti-woman, according to earlier thinkers?). Does not make you feel better about current times.
2. Jonathan Healey, The Blazing World: A New History of Revolutionary England. As with World War II, you can’t read enough books about 17th century England. This new book has excellent coverage of the English Civil War, and overall the different fights between factions. Political conflicts take center stage, though there is some coverage of the scientific revolution, the rise of commerce, and colonialization. Still I found this very useful and also easy to read, if perhaps a bit dull on the interpretative side.
3. Ross Clark, Not Zero: How an Irrational target Will Impoverish You, Help China (and Won’t Even Save the Planet). Quite a good book, well-argued, and avoids the craziness and “denialism” that plague some of the other efforts in this direction.
4. Adam Kuper, The Museum of Other People: From Colonial Acquisitions to Cosmopolitan Exhibitions. An excellent history of ethnographic museums, including their original visions, how they evolved, and their continuing import. Good coverage of Leipzig, Pitt-Rivers, Paris, the Smithsonian, Mexico, and more. The author is pro-heritage while wary of mainstream identity politics, for instance skewering the Museum of the American Indian in DC. I like the book’s opening quotation: “There is no document of civilization that is not at the same time a document of barbarism.” — Walter Benjamin.
5. Al Murray, Command: How the Allies Learned to Win the Second World War. A good look at how bad the Allied performance was early on in the war, and how those problems were fixed. Relevant today for Ukraine/Russia of course, but also a series of good stories in their own right and not just a repetitious take on the same old same old. Haven’t you wondered what went wrong when the British tried to take Crete? And I hadn’t known that General ‘Hap’ Arnold had four heart attacks during the war but kept on going.
There is a new and ambitious Philip Pettit book coming out, The State.
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