Browse all Reviews
Despite the back cover declaring Lloyd Gardner’s The War on Leakers ‘the essential backstory to understand the Snowden case, NSA eavesdropping, and the future of privacy’, and its subtitle promising a study ‘from Eugene V. Debs to Edward Snowden,’ it would be inaccurate to describe this book as a historical work.
As a concept and as a practice, the provision and reception of counsel was a crucial cornerstone of the polities of medieval and early modern Britain. Those in positions of authority, whether king, regent, ruling council or mayor, were expected to hear virtuous advice. This would, it was fervently hoped, guide the course of governance and ensure just rule.
There are two approaches to writing a significant history book. One is ‘going big’ and covering the broadest range of historical phenomena within a large geographical space during a wide time span. This approach makes use of vast and variegated historical bibliographies and well-selected primary sources.
Reconstruction, we are told, has moved on.
The subject of oath swearing has long been recognised in the historiography for its importance in interpreting loyalty in early modern England, especially in times of heightened religious and political tensions.
In the West, it can be easy to forget just how closely China and the USSR were once bound in political imaginations. Today, the USSR is a land to which there is no return: a figment of past dreams and nightmares – whereas China is on everyone’s mind, a growing economic power that has shed its socialist past to move to the forefront of the new capitalist order.
Sean Wilentz has become our generation’s foremost historian as public intellectual, positioning himself as a blend of Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. and Richard Hofstadter, the historical giants of the mid-20th-century era of consensus. Wilentz, however, lives in what another thoughtful historian, Daniel T. Rodgers, has called an ‘age of fracture’.
I recall the moment when I first encountered the existence of the so-called Corwin amendment of 1861. It happened by chance in an undergraduate political science class on constitutional law. The textbook contained a brief synopsis of the rediscovery and revival of the 27th amendment, ratified in 1992 some two centuries after its congressional adoption.
As Martin Heale states at the very beginning of The Abbots and Priors of Late Medieval and Reformation England, ‘the importance of the late medieval abbot needs no particular emphasis’. This was a group of men with responsibility for the spiritual and material wellbeing of thousands of monks and canons.
Eli Rubin has written a wonderful book that does not just tell a fascinating story about an important but much neglected subject, but also manages to link this story to much broader historiographical, and indeed ontological, questions about the intersections between space, on one hand, and power, time and lived experience on the other.