Dear readers, yesterday I was fortunate enough to have a second academic book review published on the H-Florida forum of H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online. The review is on Miami: A Cultural History, written by the Florida Sociologist and Emeritus Professor of Florida International History, Anthony P. Maingot. While the book has several flaws, Miami is probably the only survey of The Magic City that takes its history from the frontier era up to the present (2012), discussing the makeup of its modern neighborhoods, the recent trends of its architectural development and foreign investment, and the nature of its ongoing cultural institutions. As far as I am aware, no other work on the city better profiles its current social and architectural landscape for readers. For those interested in learning about Miami’s unique status as a global city in the modern age (though not necessarily its history), Maingot’s book is a great place to start.
The Democratic nominee Franklin Delano Roosevelt entered the White House on March 4, 1933. The former New York governor had won the 1932 election by a landslide to become the thirty-second president of the United States. Once in office, he immediately began enacting a series of wide-ranging domestic measures known as the New Deal. These reforms were designed to address the Great Depression, which reached a tipping point after the Stock Market Crash of 1929. From approximately 1933 to 1940, the New Deal fundamentally altered the texture of American history. Political parties realigned, the federal government’s role in society mushroomed, labor and consumers received support against capital, Progressive legislation redefined welfare, and the landscape was redrawn with new infrastructure. As Jason Scott Smith states, the New Deal was nothing short of a revolution in “state-sponsored economic development.” Eric Rauchway adds that, while “The New Deal did not end the Great Depression,” it was instrumental in healing its wounds. Both unemployment and the economy were steadily improving throughout the 1930s.
KEVIN M. KRUSE. One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America. New York: Basic Books, 2015. Pp. 384. $29.99. Paperback. ISBN: 0465049494.
One Nation Under God is the second book written by Kevin M. Kruse, Professor of History at Princeton University. The work historicizes the rise of religious conservatism in the United States of America from the 1930s to the mid-1950s, with an epilogue that continues the narrative through the early 2000s. Kruse is primarily concerned with tracing the rebranding of Christianity as a “public religion” by Depression-era industrialists. Wealthy business leaders bankrolled conservative ministers to concoct a new mixture of politics and religion that wedded Capitalism to Christianity. Kruse calls this admixture “Christian libertarianism,” and he argues that it subsequently became a central tactic of modern conservativism and the new Republican Party. Kruse is also concerned with the appearance of Christianity on the national stage more generally. He sees public Christianity as peaking during the Eisenhower administration and as still very much alive today, evidenced by the language of our everyday institutions and habits. Finally, by resituating the origins of public Christianity in the 1930s, Kruse is attempting to refute a “conventional historical narrative” that “the spiritual revival of the postwar era was” was a direct reaction to the anxiety-ridden context of the Cold War and the nuclear age.
KATHRYN S. OLMSTED. Right Out of California: The 1930s and the Big Business Roots of Modern Conservatism. New York: The New Press, 2015. Pp. 336. $27.95. Hardback. ISBN: 978-1-62097-096-6.
Right Out of California is the fourth book written by Kathryn S. Olmsted, Professor of History and Department Chair in History at the University of California, Davis. Following up on her 2011 journal article, “Quelling Dissent: The Sacramento Conspiracy Trial and the Birth of the New Right,” Olmsted presents her thesis that the ideological and political origins of modern conservatism are to be found in the concerted response of California agribusiness leaders to the progressive reforms of the New Deal. Olmsted’s work provides a substantial intervention to the existing literature of twentieth-century American conservatism. Traditionally, scholars have traced the origins of the modern conservative movement to different times: the late-1950s with the Taft Hartley Act, the early 1960s with the failed presidential election of Barry Goldwater, or even the 1970s with the Moral Majority. Some have traced the ‘New Right’ to grassroots organizing by suburban, Republican clubwomen in the Sunbelt; others have argued that modern conservatism was a cultural backlash to 1960s civil rights activism in the American South; and still others have situated its geographical roots on the east coast, with the formation of the Liberty League in 1934. Olmsted revises all of these narratives, arguing that “By the end of the Depression decade, the philosophy, tactics, and leaders of modern conservatism had emerged in California.”
HARVARD SITKOFF. A New Deal for Blacks: The Emergence of Civil Rights as a National Issue: The Depression Decade. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. Pp. 352. $29.95. Paperback. ISBN: 9780195367539. Originally published by Oxford University Press in 1978.
A New Deal for Blacks was the first book published by Harvard Sitkoff, a Civil Rights scholar and Professor Emeritus of History at the University of New Hampshire. The book was a reworking of Sitkoff’s doctoral dissertation, “The Emergence of Civil Rights as a National Issue: The New Deal Era,” written at Columbia University in 1975 under the supervision of New Deal era and FDR historian, William Leutchtenburg. Conceived after Sitkoff’s short stint in the Civil Rights Movement in the early 1960s, the work became the first installment in a multi-volume series he planned on the emergence of Civil Rights as a national issue. It began as only an introductory chapter to his proposed work on the Civil Rights Movement during the context of the Second World War, but it became his entire dissertation.
IRA KATZNELSON. When Affirmative Action was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2006. Pp. 272. Pp. 368. $16.95. Paperback. ISBN: 978-0-393-32851-6.
When Affirmative Action was White is the eleventh book published by Ira Katznelson, an American political scientist and historian currently teaching in the Department of Political Science at Columbia University in New York. Written as a trade publication for a popular American audience, this short and straightforward book details the racialized history of the New Deal and Fair Deal eras of the 1930s and 1940s in order to provide an historical argument to the current policy debate about affirmative action in the United States. Katznelson argues the current debate about affirmative action has reached a rhetorical impasse, where both opponents and proponents of the debate have ignored historical arguments to the detriment of racial progress. As a result, he wants to inject the policy debate with a new historical component, claiming that addressing modern racial inequalities requires connecting “specific past harms to present remedies.” Katznelson believes a history of white privilege and racism during the New Deal and Fair Deal eras is necessary for shifting popular connotations of affirmative action from a superficial emphasis on “jobs” and “employment” to an emphasis on more-meaningful, restorative justice.
LIZABETH COHEN. Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919 – 1939. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Pp. 570. $99.99. Hardback. ISBN: 9780521887489.
Lizabeth Cohen is the current dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and the Howard Mumford Jones Professor of American Studies at Harvard University. Making a New Deal was her first published book, adapted from her doctoral dissertation “Learning to Live in the Welfare State: Industrial Workers in Chicago between the Wars, 1919-1939,” submitted in 1986 at UC Berkeley. Published in 1990, Making a New Deal was widely celebrated, receiving both the Bancroft Prize and the Philip Taft Labor History Book Award, and becoming a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. The book is a New Labor History and Social History that uses Chicago as a case study to trace the interwar transition of industrial workers from unorganized, isolated, and divided ethnic communities in the 1920s to a homogeneous, unionized, and politically active class of common laborers—dependent upon the levers of the New Deal welfare state—in the 1930s. The book places mass culture, evolving notions of welfare, economic hardships of the Depression, and attitudinal shifts among working-class people at the center of the New Deal state’s creation. Contrary to scholars of Old Labor History, Cohen locates the origins of working-class consciousness in processes of assimilation, “Americanization,” and popular consumption rather than workplace production.
JASON SCOTT SMITH. Building New Deal Liberalism: The Political Economy of Public Works, 1933-1956. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009. Pp. 300. $29.99. Paperback. ISBN: 9780521139939.
Building New Deal Liberalism is the first book written by Jason Scott Smith, Associate Professor of History at the University of New Mexico. Smith uses the lens of political economy, with an emphasis on government spending statistics, to re-interpret the history of federal public works programs during the long New Deal era. The book’s contents span from the “prehistory of public works policy”—ending with Hoover’s Reconstruction Finance Corporation and Emergency Relief and Construction Act in 1932—to Philip Fleming’s postwar Federal Works Agency in the late-1940s. For Smith, the FWA is the final incarnation in a mostly honorable lineage of New Deal, public-works policies that evolved from Harold Ickes’ Public Works Administration (f. 1933) to Harry Hopkins’ Works Progress Administration (f. 1935). As such, the PWA and the WPA receive the lion’s share of the book’s attention. Not only does Smith list the architectural achievements of these two programs, but he narrates the arguments for their opposition (wasteful public spending, political bribery), their major differences (force-account vs. cost-plus contracting, self-liquidating vs. Keynesian philosophy) and challenges faced by their architects (graft, political patronage, and state debt limits for federal borrowing).
MEG JACOBS. Pocketbook Politics: Economic Citizenship in Twentieth-Century America. (Politics and Society in Twentieth-Century America.) Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005. Pp. xii, 349. $35.00. Hardback. ISBN: 9780691130415.
In Pocketbook Politics, Meg Jacobs—Visiting Associate Professor in the Department of History at Columbia University, New York—attempts to rescue modern American consumerism studies from its popular association with cultural and social history while “reperiodizing [liberal, political] reform in the twentieth century.” Jacobs focuses on the socio-political history of “purchasing power” from the Progressive Era at the turn of the century to the Nixon administration of the 1970s. To Jacobs, “purchasing power” refers to the collective ability of working and middle-class Americans to purchase goods, and therefore become “economic citizens,” based upon existing relationships between prices and wages. Jacobs believes that understanding appeals to consumer purchasing power, or “pocketbook politics,” is necessary for re-evaluating the rise and fall of New Deal liberalism. In a sense, Pocketbook Politics tries to give a lost coalition of consumers, retailers, unionists, and labor activists credit for the liberal policies of the twentieth century that sought price and wage regulation in the face of severe inflation.
ANTHONY J. BADGER. FDR: The First Hundred Days. New York: Hill & Wang, 2008. Pp. 224. $15.00. Hardback. ISBN: 0809044412.
In FDR: The First Hundred Days, political historian, British academic, and expert on the New Deal Anthony John Badger offers a chronological and topical analysis of law and politics during the first one hundred days of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first presidential term, from his inauguration on Saturday March 4, 1933, to Friday, June 16, of the same year. FDR is Badger’s fifth book on the New Deal era. The volume is a slim, critical, and purposeful synthesis prepared for the seventy-fifth anniversary of Roosevelt’s First Hundred Days in office. Badger includes an introduction, six chapters—each based on a distinct set of Depression-related issues and the specific pieces of legislation designed to address them—a conclusion, and a bibliographic essay, but no citations. This latter fact, in combination with the trade publisher Hill & Wang, indicates that Badger’s primary interest in FDR is reaching a popular audience.
THOMAS R. MARTIN. Herodotus and Sima Qian: The First Great Historians of Greece and China – A Brief History with Documents. (Bedford Series in History and Culture.) Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010. Pp. 153. $19.99. Paperback. ISBN: 9780312416492.
Herodotus and Sima Qian is a brief, comparative, and cross-cultural analysis of the lives and major works of two ancient writers whom author Thomas Martin believes to be “the first great historians” of the Eastern and Western worlds. These two writers are Herodotus of classical Greece (ca. 484 – ca. 414 BCE), known for writing the Histories around 450 BCE, and Sima Qian of early imperial China (ca. 145 – ca. 86), known for writing The Records of the Historian around 109 BCE. Herodotus was a Greek storyteller from the Persian-controlled town of Halicarnassus in southwestern Turkey. He wrote his 30-scroll Histories about the rise of the Persian Empire in the region of modern Iran, and the Greco-Persian Wars that occurred between an alliance of Greek city-states and the Archaemenid dynasty. Herodotus wrote this narrative after his family was exiled to mainland Greece. By contrast, Qian was a privileged son from Xiayang, a village near modern Hancheng in the Shaanxi province of China. He became the Grand Astrologer and then Palace Secretary to Emperor Wu from the Han dynasty of a unified China. He took over writing The Records from his dying father as a private project of filial honor. He suffered castration and disgrace as a result of his dedication to the work.
Dear readers, as many of you know, I was fortunate enough to have my first professional article published in a peer-reviewed, academic History journal last July. That article is called “Between Swamp and Sea: Bahamian Visitors in Southeast Florida before Miami,” and it can be ordered through the website of the Florida Historical Quarterly. Now, one of my friends and colleagues, David Fictum, has been kind enough to write a short review of my article for his blog Colonies, Ships, and Pirates. Many thanks to David.
David is an historian of piracy who holds degrees from Gettysburg College and the Graduate Program in Maritime Studies at East Carolina University. As he states on the “About the Author” page of his website, his work focuses on the “Atlantic World in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, with specialties in Maritime History and Pirate History.” Please feel free to check out his review of my article and inquire with the FHQ about obtaining a copy of the article for your own reading. Eventually, the article will be available through virtual databases like WorldCat. Also, please check out the rest of David’s blog, which features great work on piracy for both lay readers and professionals. In particular, his “Recommended Books on Pirate History” offers a strong, concise breakdown of major works in the field.
As always, thanks for your support.
Dear readers, this week I was fortunate enough to be hired as an adjunct history instructor at Solano Community College in Fairfield, Northern California. Fairfield is the county seat of Solano County, about halfway between San Francisco and Sacramento. I will be teaching an 18-week course this fall entitled “Women in American History.” The class will be taught on the main campus, starting on Monday, August 31. It will meet three times a week; and it will meet for one hour in the afternoons of Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The course was designed by a resident professor at Solano Community College, and I will be utilizing their materials and syllabus; however, if the course goes well, then I will have the opportunity to design my own course for the spring semester, as well as for future terms.
Overall, I am extraordinarily grateful to the staff at Solano Community College for extending this wonderful opportunity to me, as well as to the Graduate School and History Department at UC Davis for allowing me to accept this position while on the Provost Fellowship. It has always been a dream of mine to teach my own History courses. While I have been a guest lecturer, a proctor, a tutor, a case manager, and a conference presenter in the past, “Women in American History” will be the first course that I teach by myself. I am absolutely thrilled at the prospect of implementing some of the many ideas that I have learned throughout my career in post-secondary education. I am ecstatic at the thought of sharing some of my academic knowledge with youth and adult learners in Northern California, but I am even more excited when I think about all of the wisdom that I will undoubtedly gain from them. Particularly, I am excited to learn about what it means to be a youth and a student in today’s society, and which historical questions are the most engaging for our young adults and our future scholars.
Thanks for your support, and best wishes.
KEVIN P. DUFFUS. The Last Days of Black Beard the Pirate: Within Every Legend Lies a Grain of Truth. 4th ed. Raleigh, NC: Looking Glass Productions, 2014. Pp. ii, 255. $24.95. ISBN: 1888285540.
The Last Days of Black Beard the Pirate is the third nonfiction book written by the North Carolinian local author, historian, independent researcher, and filmmaker Kevin P. Duffus. Originally published in the year 2008, the book went through two subsequent editions—in 2011 and 2013—before appearing in the current, expanded fourth edition last year. The work is an attempt to “divine the true story of Blackbeard,” aka Edward Thatch, the famous yet enigmatic pirate from the early eighteenth century, by going back “to the trodden ground of original sources” and attempting to peer beyond “the inscrutable shadow of Black Beard’s vast legend,” which has been aggressively cultivated by academics and non-academics alike since the figure’s death in late November, 1718. Continue reading “Review of The Last Days of Blackbeard the Pirate by Kevin P. Duffus”