At the beginning of the 18th century, Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban, maréchal de France, sent a letter to Louis XIV, as part of his efforts to persuade the King to help his poverty-stricken subjects.
The meaning of an object, Paula Findlen tells us, is in perpetual change. Why an object is valued and how it might be perceived or represented by its users and viewers can be dramatically different at each moment in an object’s life.
When you walk in to the Propaganda: Power and Persuasion Exhibition at the British Library you are told that ‘propaganda is used to fight wars and combat disease, build unity and create division’. You then walk through a guard of honour of black mannequins that offer different definitions of the word ‘propaganda’.
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.
Being the fruit of 20 years of research on the part of its authors, A Short History of Global Evangelicalism reflects an awareness of the need to see the contemporary upsurge in evangelical religion both in a worldwide comparative perspective and in a long-term historical one.
The field of food studies has gained significant traction over the previous two decades. Across a range of disciplines, from religious studies to anthropology to history, among others, a growing body of books, articles, and conference papers has explored the history of particular foods.
In the conclusion to Alcohol in World History, Gina Hames observes that the influence of alcohol has been ‘omnipresent in human history’ (p. 134). It is undoubtedly the case that, while not the dominant psychoactive substance in all human cultures, alcohol has played a more pervasive and significant role in the history of human thought, ritual and economy than any other drug.
If we survey the historical profession at the moment, there are plenty of academic squabbles going on, but the great debates that once divided historians seem to be in short supply. Time was when contests over the standard of living during the industrial revolution or about post-modernism and its application to the study of history would drive scholars into a frenzy of position taking.
David Hempton’s latest book is the best, most authoritative, and most imaginative overview of the history of the world-wide Christian Church in the period between the late 17th and early 19th centuries we have to date.