The London Zoological Society was founded in 1826 by Sir Stamford Raffles and Sir Humphrey Davy, emerging at a time when interest in collecting and displaying human and nonhuman fragments of the natural world was intensifying.
How can you know about somewhere you’ve never been? This predicament is at the heart of David Lambert’s superb new book, Mastering the Niger: James MacQueen’s African Geography and the Struggle over Atlantic Slavery. In 1841 the Scottish geographer and proslavery propagandist James MacQueen published A New Map of Africa. MacQueen had never visited the continent.
The modern state is defined by its capacity to classify and order its peoples, argues James Scott in his seminal Seeing Like a State. To do so, officials needed to count the population and estimate its future growth. Karl Ittmann explores the rise, fall, and frustrations of colonial demography in the 20th-century British Empire.
Two distinguished historians of biology make their return to the lists courtesy of the University of Chicago Press. Robert J. Richards' Was a Hitler a Darwinian? collects together some of the author's more recent papers; while Peter J.
I could say this is a story of two halves but I can’t bear football, so I won’t. Instead I will say that this book is both a narrative about the polio virus (particularly in America), its long history and the drive to treat and prevent it and it is a rich unfolding of the complex and messy tale of medical research.
Electromagnetism, photographic reproduction, grand operas, phantasmagorias, automatons and socialist utopias: what do these have in common? According to John Tresch, they were all manifestations of a common ‘mechanical romanticism’ that permeated Paris between the fall of the first Napoleon in 1815 and the triumph of his nephew Napoleon III in 1851.
During the 19th century print became an industrial product. In 1800 the speed at which text could be put to paper remained governed by the rhythmic operations of the hand press, an invention very little changed since moveable type printing appeared in Europe in the mid-fifteenth century. At the very best, two skilled operators working together could print 250 single-sided sheets per hour.
The year was 1964, and there were good reasons to feel ‘stressed out’. Presidential candidate Lyndon B. Johnson stoked American anxieties. His campaign team broadcast a television commercial that graphically illustrated the predicament of the modern world. In it, an innocent young girl plucks the petals off a daisy as she tentatively counts from one to ten.
The quest for saltpeter, the ‘inestimable treasure’ of Tudor and Stuart monarchs, crucial for the production of gunpowder, is the subject of David Cressy’s work, which spans the reign of the first Tudor, Henry VII, to the industrialised warfare of the 20th century.
At first sight this looks like another of those increasingly common commodity books, some of which are intended to be global in scope, and which include studies of chocolate, sugar, cod, salt and many others (digestible or not!). As Riello points out, commodities are a good way to tell a global story since many of them have been traded throughout the world for centuries.