Dec 13, 2012

December 2012 Meeting: "Liberty's Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World"

In December we read Liberty's Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World by Maya Jasanoff.  This book offers the first global history of the loyalist exodus to Canada, the Caribbean, Sierra Leone, India, and beyond. The meeting will be 7:30 p.m. as usual


At the end of the American Revolution, sixty thousand Americans loyal to the British cause fled the United States and became refugees throughout the British Empire. Liberty’s Exiles tells their story. This surprising new account of the founding of the United States and the shaping of the post-revolutionary world traces extraordinary journeys like the one of Elizabeth Johnston, a young mother from Georgia, who led her growing family to Britain, Jamaica, and Canada, questing for a home; black loyalists such as David George, who escaped from slavery in Virginia and went on to found Baptist congregations in Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone; and Mohawk Indian leader Joseph Brant, who tried to find autonomy for his people in Ontario. Ambitious, original, and personality-filled, this book is at once an intimate narrative history and a provocative analysis that changes how we see the revolution’s “losers” and their legacies.

Nov 9, 2012

November 2012 Meeting: "The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam"

The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam by Barbara Tuchman was our November selection. Here is the Barnes and Noble summary for the book: 

Twice a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, author Barbara Tuchman now tackles the pervasive presence of folly in governments through the ages. Defining folly as the pursuit by governments of policies contrary to their own interersts, despite the availability of feasible alternatives, Tuchman details four decisive turning points in history that illustrate the very heights of folly in government: the Trojan War, the breakup of the Holy See provoked by the Renaissance Popes, the loss of the American colonies by Britain's George III, and the United States' persistent folly in Vietnam. THE MARCH OF FOLLY brings the people, places, and events of history magnificently alive for today's reader.

The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam

Oct 11, 2012

October 2012 Meeting: "1493"

At our October meeting we discussed the long awaited paperback version of 1493, Uncovering the New World Columbus Created by Charles C. Mann. We were somewhat letdown by our discussion of the book.  We had loved his "1491" (read it twice) and perhaps the comparison was unfair.  In any case, all of us Eurocentrics learned a lot of new things from the exploration of The Columbian Exchange.

Here is a link to a summary of the discussion posted on the blog of one of our members.

Sep 13, 2012

September 2012 Meeting" "1938: Hitler's Gamble"

The September meeting was held on September 12th. Participants in the meeting discussed 1938: Hitler's Gamble by Giles MacDonogh. A dozen people attended. This was down from our normal level, but the discussion was lively and informative. We had previously read Adam Hochschild's To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918and looked forward to finding why in fact World War I did not end all wars.

Here is the description of the book from the Barnes and Noble website:
The Third Reich came of age in 1938. Hitler began the year as the leader of a right-wing coalition and ended it as the sole master of a belligerent nation. Until 1938 Hitler could be dismissed as a ruthless but efficient dictator, a problem for Germany alone; after 1938 he was a threat to the whole of Europe and had set the world on a path toward cataclysmic war. Using previously unseen archival material, acclaimed historian Giles MacDonogh breathtakingly chronicles Adolf Hitler's rise to international infamy over the course of this single year.

Here are a couple of blog posts from a club member discussing the book and meeting:

Aug 9, 2012

August 2012 Meeting: "Nomonhan, 1939, The Red Army's Victory that Shaped World War II"

We really had a splendid meeting in August  with "our" club member and author, Stuart Goldman, on his book "Nomonhan, 1939, The Red Army's Victory that Shaped World War II".  Stuart gave a short overview and then let us take advantage of his hard and intense research on an obscure "undeclared" war on the Soviet Manchurian border, that, in retrospect, proved highly important to the subsequent unfolding of events, including the Second World War.  It is a great privilege to be able to ask those questions of the author that one always wishes she could do.

Here are a couple of blog posts from a club member discussing the book and meeting:

Jul 12, 2012

July 2012 Meeting: "Wounded Knee: Party Politics and the Road to an American Massacre"

Our meeting on Wednesday, July 11, discussed "Wounded Knee: Party Politics and the Road to an American Massacre" by Heather Cox Richardson. The book starts with an account of the tragedy at Wounded Knee in 1890 and devotes the next to last chapter to those events. However, the main portion of the book describes the background of the events at Wounded Knee, including the machinations of politicians and bureaucrats in Washington. The consensus quite favorable toward the book.

Sixteen members of the club came for the discussion. Much of it revolved around the poverty that continues to dog the Lakota reservation, the causes of that poverty, and the difficulties of finding ways to improve the health and welfare of the Lakota people.

Here are a couple of blog posts from a club member discussing the book:

The group continued with a new procedure in which a member briefly summarizes a second book for its members, Christian Minor presented a summary of American Colossus: The Triumph of Capitalism 1865 - 1900 by H. W. Brands. He recommended the book highly. He recommended these two sites for those wanting to learn more about the book:

The years between the Civil War and the end of the nineteenth century saw the wholesale transformation of America from a land of small farmers and small businessmen into an industrial giant. Driven by unfathomably wealthy and powerful businessmen, armies of workers were harnessed to a new vision of massive industry. A society rooted in the soil became one based in cities.

The capitalist revolution left not a single area or aspect of American life untouched. It roared across the South, wrenching that region from its feudal past and integrating the Southern economy into the national one. It burst over the West, dictating the destruction of Native American economies and peoples, driving the exploitation of natural resources, and making the frontier of settlement a business frontier as well. It crashed across the urban landscape of the East and North, turning cities into engines of wealth and poverty, opulence and squalor. It swamped the politics of an earlier era, capturing one major party and half of the other, inspiring the creation of a third party and determining the issues over which all three waged some of the bitterest battles in American history.

American Colossus is an unforgettable portrait of the years when the contest between capitalism and democracy was at its sharpest, and capitalism triumphed.

Jun 13, 2012

June 2012 Meeting: "To End All Wars"

The book discussed at the June 2012 meeting was To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 by Adam Hochschild, one of our favorite authors.

This is what Barnes and Noble says about the book:
World War I stands as one of history’s most senseless spasms of carnage, defying rational explanation. In a riveting, suspenseful narrative with haunting echoes for our own time, Adam Hochschild brings it to life as never before. He focuses on the long-ignored moral drama of the war’s critics, alongside its generals and heroes. Thrown in jail for their opposition to the war were Britain’s leading investigative journalist, a future winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, and an editor who, behind bars, published a newspaper for his fellow inmates on toilet paper. These critics were sometimes intimately connected to their enemy hawks: one of Britain’s most prominent women pacifist campaigners had a brother who was commander in chief on the Western Front. Two well-known sisters split so bitterly over the war that they ended up publishing newspapers that attacked each other.  
Today, hundreds of military cemeteries spread across the fields of northern France and Belgium contain the bodies of millions of men who died in the “war to end all wars.” Can we ever avoid repeating history? 
Winner of the 2012 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for Nonfiction
Here is a summary of the club's discussion.

Here is a comment on the book by a club member.

During the meeting one of our members gave a brief summary of The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line between Christianity and Islam  Eliza Griswold. Here is his comment on the book.

May 10, 2012

May 2012 meeting: "1861: The Civil War Awakening"

The Barnes and Noble History Book Club met to discuss 1861: The Civil War Awakening by Adam Goodheart.

Here is what Barnes and Noble says about the book:

1861 is an epic of courage and heroism beyond the battlefields. Early in that fateful year, a second American revolution unfolded, inspiring a new generation to reject their parents’ faith in compromise and appeasement, to do the unthinkable in the name of an ideal. It set Abraham Lincoln on the path to greatness and millions of slaves on the road to freedom. 
The book introduces us to a heretofore little-known cast of Civil War heroes — among them an acrobatic militia colonel, an explorer’s wife, an idealistic band of German immigrants, a regiment of New York City firemen, a community of Virginia slaves, and a young college professor who would one day become president. Adam Goodheart takes us from the corridors of the White House to the slums of Manhattan, from the mouth of the Chesapeake to the deserts of Nevada, from Boston Common to Alcatraz Island, vividly evoking the Union at this moment of ultimate crisis and decision.
Click here for a summary of the discussion of the book at the meeting.

Here are comments on the book by a club member.

Apr 12, 2012

April 2012 meeting: "Ornament of the World"

The Barnes and Noble History Book Club met this month to discuss Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain by Maria Rosa Menocal.

Here is the Barnes and Noble description of the book:
Widely hailed as a revelation of a "lost" golden age, this history brings to vivid life the rich and thriving culture of medieval Spain where, for more than seven centuries, Muslims, Jews, and Christians lived together in an atmosphere of tolerance, and literature, science, and the arts flourished.
Click here for the comments by one of our members on the book. 

Mar 15, 2012

March 2012 meeting: "The Great Gamble"

The March meeting of the the Barnes and Noble History Book Club discussed The Great Gamble: The Soviet War in Afghanistan by Gregory Feifer.

Here is the description of the book from the Barnes and Noble website:

The Soviet war in Afghanistan was a grueling debacle that has striking lessons for the twenty-first century. In The Great Gamble, Gregory Feifer examines the conflict from the perspective of the soldiers on the ground. During the last years of the Cold War, the Soviet Union sent some of its most elite troops to unfamiliar lands in Central Asia to fight a vaguely defined enemy, which eventually defeated their superior numbers with unconventional tactics. Although the Soviet leadership initially saw the invasion as a victory, many Russian soldiers came to view the war as a demoralizing and devastating defeat, the consequences of which had a substantial impact on the Soviet Union and its collapse. 
Feifer's extensive research includes eye-opening interviews with participants from both sides of the conflict. In gripping detail, he vividly depicts the invasion of a volatile country that no power has ever successfully conquered. Parallels between the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq are impossible to ignore—both conflicts were waged amid vague ideological rhetoric about freedom. Both were roundly condemned by the outside world for trying to impose their favored forms of government on countries with very different ways of life. And both seem destined to end on uncertain terms. 
A groundbreaking account seen through the eyes of the men who fought it, The Great Gamble tells an unforgettable story full of drama, action, and political intrigue whose relevance in our own time is greater than ever.
Click here for a comment by a member of the club on the meeting.

Click here for the members original comment on the book.

Feb 9, 2012

February 2012 meeting: "The Enemy at the Gate"

In February, 2012 we read The Enemy at the Gate: Habsburgs, Ottomans, and the Battle for Europe by Andrew Wheatcroft.

Here is the description of the book from the Barnes and Noble website:

In 1683, an Ottoman army that stretched from horizon to horizon set out to seize the “Golden Apple,” as Turks referred to Vienna. The ensuing siege pitted battle-hardened Janissaries wielding seventeenth-century grenades against Habsburg armies, widely feared for their savagery. The walls of Vienna bristled with guns as the besieging Ottoman host launched bombs, fired cannons, and showered the populace with arrows during the battle for Christianity’s bulwark. Each side was sustained by the hatred of its age-old enemy, certain that victory would be won by the grace of God. 
The Great Siege of Vienna is the centerpiece for historian Andrew Wheatcroft’s richly drawn portrait of the centuries-long rivalry between the Ottoman and Habsburg empires for control of the European continent. A gripping work by a master historian, The Enemy at the Gate offers a timely examination of an epic clash of civilizations.
Here are posts by one of our members on the book:

Jan 12, 2012

January 2012 meeting: "The Cold War"

In January 2012 we discussed The Cold War: A New History by John Lewis Gaddis.

Here is the description of the book from the Barnes and Noble website:
The “dean of Cold War historians” (The New York Times) now presents the definitive account of the global confrontation that dominated the last half of the twentieth century. Drawing on newly opened archives and the reminiscences of the major players, John Lewis Gaddis explains not just what happened but why—from the months in 1945 when the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. went from alliance to antagonism to the barely averted holocaust of the Cuban Missile Crisis to the maneuvers of Nixon and Mao, Reagan and Gorbachev. Brilliant, accessible, almost Shakespearean in its drama, The Cold War stands as a triumphant summation of the era that, more than any other, shaped our own.
Here are some posts on the book by one of our members: