Publication Date

March 7, 2013

Perspectives Section


As a service to AHA members, we periodically list books by members received in the headquarters office in recent months. These postings are meant to announce their publication and provide short descriptions of the books. These are not reviews. For books to be reviewed in the American Historical Reviewthey must be sent to the attention of Moureen Coulter, 914 Atwater, Bloomington, IN 47401.

Holding Our World Together: Ojibwe Women and the Survival of Community
By Brenda J. Child
Brenda Child reconstructs the rarely visited history of the Ojibwe culture in the Great Lakes area. The book contains a chronological exploration of the Ojibwe tribe, beginning with the earliest settlers who initiated contact with European migrants, to the tribe’s struggle for survival in the 1800s, and finally culminating with the spread of urban migration. Her goal is to demonstrate the central role Native American women played in “guiding their nations,” including early treaty negotiations, trade, and postwar community activism.

Long Journey with Mr. Jefferson: The Life of Dumas Malone
By William G. Hyland Jr.
A biography of a historian, Hyland’s history of Dumas Malone provides an in-depth look at the life of Thomas Jefferson’s most well-known biographer. Documenting Malone’s life before, during, and after the six volume biography of Jefferson that made his reputation, Hyland illuminates the personal and professional aspects of Malone’s 38-year effort to fully realize Jefferson. Hyland, who is on the board of the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society, describes Malone’s response to the changing historiographical contexts of Jefferson studies and the introduction of new DNA evidence about Jefferson’s relationship with the enslaved Sally Hemmings. Malone’s long career as a historian and teacher is chronicled, and informed by his personal reflections and correspondence with a number of literary and political luminaries.

The World that Trade Created: Society, Culture, and the World Economy 1400 to Present, 3rd edition
By Kenneth Pomeranz and Steven Topik
Kenneth Pomeranz, a historian of China and president of the AHA, and Steven Topik, a historian of Latin America, in this volume collect and connect a series of essays written for their column Looking Back in the business magazine World Trade. Their essays contain several common threads, the authors note, including the argument that “The market structures that are basic to our world were not natural or inevitable, always latent and waiting to be ‘opened up’; rather, markets are, for better or worse, socially constructed and socially embedded. … In the process of negotiating these new rules of conduct, the very goods being bought and sold sometimes became the new markers of status and carriers of meaning.”

Mere Equals: The Paradox or Educated Women in the Early American Republic
By Lucia McMahon
In her study of middle- and upper-class white women and education in the early American Republic, McMahon argues that ideas about gender and education had not yet hardened into the doctrine of separate spheres that would define women’s lives in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Devoting each chapter to a different aspect of her subjects’ lives, McMahon looks at how women negotiated their mutable identities as educated females at each stage of their lives, from family and seminary to courtship, marriage, and motherhood. Where education had once offered women the prospect to be “mere equals” of men, McMahon suggests that notions of gender rooted in social and intellectual difference ultimately prevailed.

Industrialization and the Transformation of American Life: A Brief Introduction
By Jonathan Rees
The goal of this book, Rees writes, “is to show how industrialization was at the center of the major historical developments of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.” Rees approaches the topic from its effects rather than its causes (which he says would be a much bigger book), and from the angles of industrialization’s two processes: “mechanization and the division of labor,” which are “different kinds of industrializing.” Industrialization was a force in all of the major developments of the period, immigration, urbanization, Western expansion, and reform, just to name a few. These are covered in short topical chapters: “The episodic approach is absolutely crucial for capturing underlying changes and the effect of those changes on numerous and varied aspects of American life. … Each chapter is organized around a question designed to suggest the importance of industrialization to the broader history of the period.”

Amid a Warring World: American Foreign Relations, 1775–1815
By Robert W. Smith
From the publisher’s website: “According to Robert W. Smith, the question of American power lay at the heart of the debate over independence. The radicals believed that the American spirit and market were enough, and favored rapid independence and an aggressive promotion of neutral rights. The moderates doubted American power, and were inclined to move slowly and only with assured French assistance. By the end of the American Revolution, the moderates had won the debate. But their victory masked the defects of the confederation, until the diplomatic humiliations of the 1780s forced the United States to create a government that could properly harness American economic and military power. The debate over the power of the United States to reshape a hostile world remains as central today as in 1776.”

Julian Bell: From Bloomsbury to the Spanish Civil War
By Peter Stansky and William Abrahams
From the publisher’s website: Julian Bell explores the life of a younger member, and sole poet, of the Bloomsbury Group, the most important community of British writers and intellectuals in the twentieth century, which includes Virginia Woolf (Julian’s aunt), E. M. Forster, the economist John Maynard Keynes, and the art critic Roger Fry. This biography draws upon the expanding archives on Bloomsbury to present Julian’s life more completely and more personally than has been done previously. It is an intense and profound exploration of personal, sexual, intellectual, political, and literary life in England between the two world wars. Through Julian, the book provides important insights on Virginia Woolf, his mother Vanessa Bell, and other members of the Bloomsbury Group. Taking us from London to China to Spain during its civil war, the book is also the ultimately heartbreaking story of one young man’s life.”

Lincoln’s Code: The Laws of War in American History
By John Fabian Witt

John Fabian Witt offers a unique look at the “story of the laws of war in the first century of the United States”—where the idea of the conduct of war not only shaped American law, but also world history. Using a mixture of anecdotes and analysis, “Witt brings to life the soldiers and the presidents, the war makers and the pacifists, the Indians and the slaves, the cynics, the utopians, and the pragmatists who struggled with enemies and with one another to shape the United States’ vision of the laws of war.” He finds “The code Lincoln issued prohibited cruelty and the infliction of pain for its own sake but left room for vast destruction in the name of a just cause. It condoned the devastation inflicted in Sherman’s march to the sea. Yet it also provided a moral foundation for Emancipation and insisted that doing the right thing in situations of grave crisis was indispensable to the legitimacy of modern armies.”

This post first appeared on AHA Today.

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