LECTURE: Vincent Brown, Charles Warren Profess or History and Professor of African-American Studies, Harvard University
Tacky's Revolt and the Coromantee Archipelago A New Cartography of Slave Revolt"
Thursday, January 30th, 4.15 PM, L01 Carson Hall
From Professor Darrow:
I attended a conference last year on the Revolutionary Era—1750-1850; the main focus, of course, was on the French Revolution. One of the sessions was entitled “Why Are We Still Assigning Twelve Who Ruled?” I decided to attend because I do assign, year after year, R. R. Palmer's history of the Terror, Twelve Who Ruled, originally published in 1939. I expected to get told, by the French Revolution mavens on the panel, such as Isser Woloch and Don Sutherland, how retrograde I was to do this and what I should be having my students read about the Terror. Instead, it turns out, they all keep assigning Twelve Who Ruled. It's engrossing, a great read, and remains provocative, even after nearly seventy years. So, if you did not read it at Dartmouth, read it now: R. R. Palmer, Twelve Who Ruled (Princeton University Press).
A recent book that is almost as fascinating is Raymond Jonas, France and the Cult of the Sacred Heart (University of California Press, 2000), which tells the story of the other side of the French Revolution, those who opposed it, and continued to oppose its legacy throughout the nineteenth century. Jonas begins with the story of Marguerite-Marie Alacoque and her visions in the seventeenth century and concludes with the monumental effort to build the basillica of Sacré Coeur on the summit of Montmartre at the end of the nineteenth century. When you are next in Paris, I guarantee that your view of that landmark will be entirely different.
Another engrossing recent book, in an entirely different field, is Mark Mazower, Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews, 1430-1950 (HarperCollins, 2004). It is a social history of the Macedonian port city and especially of the long and complex relations among the different religious and ethnic communities that made it up. It is a sparkling micro-history of that subject that most intrigues historians: change over time.
Finally, for World War I buffs, I recommend a new book by Martha Hanna, Your Death Would Be Mine (Harvard, 2006), a study of the relationship between the French home front and the war, based upon the hundreds of letters exchanged by one peasant couple, Marie Pireaud at home in the Dordogne and Pierre Pireaud on various battlefronts including Verdun. It is a touching story, reminding us how close we are to these people of a century ago.
From Professor Edsforth:
Trying to put “the big picture” into focus? Here are two very short books that will give you a lot to think about. The first may have you reconsidering the meaning of the word “globalization”; it's Bruce Mazlish's The New Global History (Routledge, 2006). My other suggested reading is related but larger, and its achievement is even greater. This book, titled What Is Global History?, is by our own Pamela Kyle Crossley, and it was just published in the U.K. by Polity.
From Professor Heck:
Alums who focused their studies on American history, particularly its colonial phase, may be relieved that historians (with the exception of Joseph Ellis) seem to have exhausted the possibilities of “Founders' histories.” Founders' studies now have been overtaken by studies of America as part of the “Atlantic world.” From the perspective of Atlantic historians, America no longer is a passive recipient of (mostly) English culture, but an active agent in a vibrant transatlantic culture. To date historians have used the concept of an Atlantic world profitably to rethink the transatlantic slave trade, migration, colonial political policies, religious beliefs, and the economic and social implications of the consumer revolution.
While not focused on an American topic, The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh: A Woman in World History (Pantheon, 2007) by Linda Colley is a vivid and highly readable account of one 18th-century woman's life. Nothing in Marsh's biography attracted historians until Colley, who frequently writes on the Atlantic world, came upon her. Colley tracks Marsh from Jamaica, where she was conceived, to England where she was born in 1735, and on to Menorca and Morocco (where she nearly ends up in the Sultan's harem and later writes a popular memoir of the experience), then back to England, where she marries James Crisp (who speculates unsuccessfully on land in Florida) and moves on to Dhaka with him. If you think a “shot heard round the world” is quaint but exaggerated, when Crisp loses his job in India in part because of the American Revolution, you may have to reconsider. Marsh's tale is a remarkable reminder that in the 18th-century world, including the Atlantic world, people, goods, and ideas moved swiftly and with startling range.
Many with an interest in the Civil War no doubt already have read Harvard president Drew Faust's earlier works on the topic. Her recently published This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War (Knopf, 2008) deserves the considerable praise it has received. Less about the war itself than the long-lasting transformations in American culture it set in train, This Republic of Suffering offers a fascinating study of what happened when the killing ended and America faced the dreadful task of dealing with the more than half a million soldiers whose lives ended on the country's most storied battlefields.
From Professor Kremer:
A Pulitzer Prize winner by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin: American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer (New York: Knopf, 2005).
From Professor Miller:
Readers interested in World War II should check out Ernest May’s study of the fall of France in 1940, entitled Strange Victory: Hitler’s Conquest of France (Hill and Wang, 2000). Although the story of the Nazis’ stunning triumph over British and French forces in May-June 1940 has been told many times before, May makes an original contribution to scholarship by examining the role of intelligence in the outcome of the battle. May explains how the Allies’ overwhelming superiority in soldiers and materiel was neutralized by a “failure of imagination” among their commanders. Readers may be particularly interested in the conclusion of the book, in which May draws an analogy between the French and British shortcomings and U.S. intelligence practices at the time of the book’s publication in 2000. May’s arguments on this point seem especially remarkable when read alongside Chapter 11 of The 9/11 Commission Report. This part of the report—which May helped to draft—concluded that the problem of imagination was a key contributor to the U.S. failure to prevent the attacks.
Last Updated: 10/15/08