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When I was a fourth grade student in suburban Birmingham, Alabama in the 1970s, the history curriculum was devoted to a study of our state. Our teacher, Mrs. Lawson, supplemented our textbook with personal recollections of the Civil War gleaned from her own grandmother, who had been a girl in the 1860s. Mrs.
During the horrific famine of 1932–3, did Ukrainian peasants die because they were Ukrainians or because they were peasants?
In Thinking the Twentieth Century, Timothy Snyder proposes to his friend Tony Judt that the historian’s task is ‘like making paths’ through a forest by leaving signs. Judt qualifies this. ‘The first thing’, he argues, ‘is to teach people about trees. Then you teach them that lots of trees together constitute a forest.
Thomas Jefferson has had a rough few years. Since DNA established beyond a reasonable doubt that he fathered children with his slave Sally Hemings, Jefferson has been pushed into the shadows and forced to watch as his political rivals John Adams and Alexander Hamilton enjoy the limelight.
Paradigm shifts in historiography seem to come all at once rather than being spaced evenly along the disciplinary trajectory. The last such shift in writing about slavery and race (including civil rights) in the United States came between the late 1950s and the mid-1970s.
Reconstruction, we are told, has moved on.
How does one define empire? What are the characteristics of a successful empire? These two questions arise foremost after reading John Darwin’s monumental masterpiece After Tamerlane. In nine succinct chapters with informative titles, Darwin encompassed 600 years of global history, supported by illustrations and maps and for those interested, suggestions for further reading.
Ten years after its publication, A History remains relevant. The epidemic continues to rage. The context of its historical and relational trajectories continues to shape both its evolution and the responses to it.
Embracing Defeat is a richly researched, beautifully illustrated and elegantly written account of the period of the US-led occupation of Japan from 1945–52, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the US National Book Award, among others. Throughout the book John Dower’s writing is elegant, informative and easy to follow.
Tim Snyder’s ambitious Bloodlands set out to place the murderous regimes of the Third Reich and Stalin’s Soviet Union in their overlapping European contexts.