Publication Date

December 29, 2009

Perspectives Section


As a service to AHA members, we are listing books by members received in the headquarters office in recent months.These postings (see the September and October posts) will only constitute an announcement of their publication and provide short descriptions of the books. These are not reviews. Books for review by the AHRneed to be sent to the attention of Moureen Coulter, 914 Atwater, Bloomington, IN 47401.

Freedom's TeacherCharron, Katherine Mellen, Freedom’s Teacher: The Life of Septima Clark (Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2009)

Septima Poinsette Clark’s gift to the civil rights movement was education. In the mid-1950s, this former public school teacher developed a citizenship training program that enabled thousands of African Americans to register to vote and then to link the power of the ballot to concrete strategies for individual and communal empowerment. Freedom’s Teacher places Clark (1898-1987) in a long tradition of southern African American activist educators, women who spent their lives teaching citizenship by helping people to help themselves. Author Katherine Mellen Charron (North Carolina State Univ.) traces Clark’s life from her earliest years as a student, teacher, and community member in rural and urban South Carolina to her increasing radicalization as an activist following World War II, highlighting how Clark brought her life’s work to bear on the civil rights movement. Using Clark’s life as a lens, Charron sheds valuable new light on southern black women’s activism in national, state, and judicial politics, from the Progressive Era to the civil rights movement and beyond.

Slavery in BrazilKlein, Herbert S. and Francisco Vidal Luna, Slavery in Brazil (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2010)

Member Herbert S. Klein (Stanford Univ.) and Francisco Vidal Luna (Univ. of Sao Paulo) have written the first complete modern survey of the institution of slavery in Brazil and how it affected the lives of enslaved Africans. It is based on major new research on the institution of slavery and the role of Africans and their descendants in Brazil. Although Brazilians have incorporated many of the North American debates about slavery, they have also developed a new set of questions about slaveholding: the nature of marriage, family, religion, and culture among the slaves and free colored; the process of manumission; and the rise of the free colored class during slavery. It is the aim of this book to introduce the reader to this latest research, both to elucidate the Brazilian experience and to provide a basis for comparisons with all other American slave systems.

This Mighty ScourgeMcPherson, James M., This Mighty Scourge: Perspectives on the Civil War (Oxford Univ. Press, 2007)

Former AHA president James M. McPherson’sThis Mighty Scourge: Perspectives on the Civil War, first published in 2007, isnow available in paperback. This collection of 16 essays, some of which have never appeared before, “read like chapters in a smooth narrative that addresses some of the biggest questions of the Civil War: why did it start? why did the South lose? what motivated the men who fought on both sides? how do we evaluate the top leaders—including Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Ulysses G. Grant? McPherson goes about answering these and other questions in his usual graceful style, underscored by a thorough grasp of myriad primary and secondary sources on virtually every aspect of the conflict,” according to Publisher’s Weekly. They add, “this strong addition to the massive Civil War canon will appeal to all readers.”

Charlemagne and Louis the PiousNoble, Thomas F.X., Charlemagne and Louis the Pious: Lives by Einhard, Notker, Ermoldus, Thegan, and the Astronomer (Penn State Univ. Press, 2009)

Carolingian historical texts have long stood at the base of our modern knowledge about the 8th and 9th centuries. The 9th century gave birth to a new revival of secular biography, which has come to be recognized as one of the brightest bands in the spectrum of Carolingian historical writing. This collection brings together, for the first time in one volume, the five royal/imperial biographies written during the Carolingian period. Offering details on matters of style, sources used by the author, and the influence, if any, exerted by the text, Thomas F.X. Noble (Univ. of Notre Dame) provides a context for each translation without compromising the author’s intended voice.

MacaulaySullivan, Robert E.Macaulay: The Tragedy of Power (Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2009)

Thomas Babington Macaulay was a 19th-century British historian, essayist, and politician best remembered for his multi-volume History of England and implementation of a penal code that remains the law in India and South Asia today. But as Robert E. Sullivan (Univ. of Notre Dame) shows, there was much more to the man whose thoughts on race, subjugation, civilizing, and imperial slaughter have eluded past biographers. Through examination of Macaulay’s private letters and diaries, Sullivan has unearthed a sinister vision of a power-hungry man emotionally crippled by his father, in love with his two youngest sisters, and a proponent of “genocide.” Macaulay is an important revisionist biography that sets out to rectify the view of this man as grand and a hero. Devoting his great talents to gaining power—above all for England and its empire—made Macaulay’s life a tragedy. Sullivan offers a study of an afflicted genius and a thoughtful meditation on the modern ethics of power.

U.S. GrantWaugh, Joan, U.S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth (University of North Carolina Press, 2009).

In this book, Joan Waugh (UCLA) seeks to tackle some of the myths of the Grant legacy that have caused the former president to lose esteem among historians and the public in the century since his administration. Once Grant was considered a grand figure in American history, equal to a Washington or a Lincoln, but that reputation changed, dramatically and in short order. “Why did Grant’s star shine so brightly for Americans of his own day,” Waugh asks, “and why has it been eclipsed so completely for Americans since at least the mid-20th century?” Waugh seeks to redeem, to a modest extent, the former general and president.

This post first appeared on AHA Today.

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