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Reviews - History

John Gillingham: "European Integration 1950-2003 - Superstate or New Market Economy?"

 

John Gillingham, Professor of History at the University of Missouri, has followed up his work on the early European Coal and Steel Community with an ambitious large-scale project, chronicling the history of European integration from the Marshall Plan era right through to the present. Gillingham sets his arguments on the personalities of the major figures, especially EU Presidents, woven broadly around the theme of the liberal integration project. The book is not an economic history of the integration process, nor is it a straight history. Rather, it is a detailed outline of how major figures shaped and responded to the increasing power of pan-European institutions. Gillingham believes that "a federal Europe can be created democratically, functionally, and through the market -- or not at all." But would "a feeling of European nationhood" result from the institutional evolution of the community into "an efta-like mechanism" to "encourage the emergence of an enterprise society" and "erode pointless hierarchies"? Is it true that the EU has "accomplished little or nothing in the last ten years"? Or that "a political Europe" is needed only as a hedge against the contingency of a large-scale disaster that could threaten the values of European civilization? In any case, Gillingham's belief that these values can be saved only by the economics and politics of classical liberalism is more an ideological position than a well thought out program.

Price: 30,90 EUR (Paperback)

 

 

This study of the Catholic Church and the Holocaust is a work of moral evaluation

Daniel J. Goldhagen: 'A Moral Reckoning'

Goldhagen reviews trenchantly the attitudes of the pope and the Church, the roots and manifestations of antisemitism, and the arguments of the Church's defenders. Here again, Goldhagen is more concerned with getting to the essence of a phenomenon than in dealing with qualifications and nuance. Whereas the Vatican has tried to separate Nazi "pagan" antisemitism from the traditional Catholic version, Goldhagen asserts that there was a "symbiosis" between the two. As he writes, the Church and the pope "failed during the Holocaust ... because they believed the Jews to be evil and harmful, and because they did not object in principle to punishing the Jews substantially."

The third part of his book is the most original. It treats the Church as a rigidly authoritarian institution that has betrayed not only Jews but also Catholics. It therefore has, in Goldhagen's eyes, a duty to confront its own offenses and sins of omission, make amends with the victims, and reform itself. In examining the last two tasks, he distinguishes among material, political, and moral restitution, discusses what these should entail, and assesses how far the different Church leaderships have gone in telling the truth and breaking with the past. He concludes that the Church must stop being a political institution and become a moral one, and that this step requires eliminating from the New Testament the "ferocious" antisemitism "spread throughout the text."

Price: 31,- EUR

 

 

'It is now fifty years since the end of the Third Reich, yet in Germany the past seems always present'

Gitta Sereny: 'The German Trauma - Experiences and Reflections 1938-2000'

The German Trauma starts out with a fair amount of autobiographical detail, but then sort of loses interest. "I've always said that I'm not going to do an autobiography, and I don't suppose I will, and I was tempted in this case to use the autobiographical means to explain to readers - because they're constantly asking me this - why I do these particular subjects that I do. I just thought it would be interesting for readers to see under what conditions one does this."

It's a series of essays and articles written down the years, as well as more recent material dealing with Nazis and how postwar Germany is dealing with the Nazi period. It's one of those books you pick up and think 'potboiler', before realising you've read half of it, swept away by a style that's vivid, but which also manages a ruthless intellectual honesty. Of particular note are her chapters on the children of prominent Nazis, on the Ivan Demjanjuk case, on the heartbreaking stories of children abducted by Germans in eastern Europe and settled on German families. Her investigation into the Hitler Diaries fiasco, in which a German magazine and our own dear Sunday Times paid thousands for patent forgeries, reads like a superior thriller. Her suspicion as to what happened to much of the money makes for a chilling conclusion.

Price: 33,- EUR

 

 

Recent years have brought forth several efforts to examine the attitude of Christian leaders toward the Nazis. Equally interesting, but much more difficult to uncover, is the attitude of the Nazi leaders towards Christianity.

Richard Steigmann-Gall: 'The Holy Reich. Nazi Conception of Christianity, 1919-1945'

In Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919-1945" the author, Richard Steigmann-Gall, shows that the Nazi face of Christianity grew out of 19th Century Protestant liberalisms efforts to accomodate the growing modernism and secularism of Western Europe. But, more importantly it clearly shows that time and again it was the Catholic Church, whether it was the Vatican or on the Diocesan level, that consistantly stood in opposition to Naziisms anti-life programs like the T4 program (the purposeful killing of the mentally ill) and the eradication of Jews, Gypsies, and others. The same cannot be said for most of the Protestant churches in Germany. This is not to say that there were no Catholics involved in even the darkest deeds of National Socialism, but Richard Steigmann-Gall shows that many of the Catholics who embraced Naziism either abandoned their Catholic faith, became quasi-pagans, or converted to Protestantism.

Finally, a fair treatment of this dark period of history and the relationship of the Nazi regime and Christianity. We get to see how form Naziisms inception to its demise that the some churches and the regime went from embracing each other to almost outright hatred. Many surprises in this book that will shatter your preconceived notions about Christianity, Paganism, and Atheism in Nazi Germany.

Price: 38,90 EUR

 

 

It is the first full-scale biography of Stefan George in any language that was not written by a disciple or friend or follower. As a comprehensive, fact-filled treatment of the poet’s life and times, it provides a large fund of information.

Robert E. Norton: 'Secret Germany - Stefan George and his Circle'

The author has done an enormous amount of research and has organized it chronologically into an impressive account. A brief review can touch on only a few aspects of this rich though overwritten book.

His thesis is that Stefan George and his circle “significantly contributed to the creation of a psychological, cultural, and even political climate that made the events in Germany leading up to and following 1933 not just imaginable, but also feasible”. The thrust of the book is political; in his preface Norton makes clear that he is more concerned with George’s political influence on Nazi Germany than with the poet George. He cites George’s Führer-like stance vis-à-vis his disciples, his use of a swastika as the emblem for books published under his aegis, the prophesies of death and destruction in some of his poems, the poet’s remarks about the superiority of the “white race”, and his saviour complex. And he interprets George’s ambivalent statement, in which he rejected the Nazi government’s offer of an honorary position in the newly nationalized Dichterakademie but acknowledged “being the forefather of the new national movement”, as the poet’s blessing on the new regime.

Price: 63,40 EUR

 

 

What made the Reformation so powerful? Ask this award-winning historian.

Diarmaid MacCulloch: 'Reformation'

Diarmaid MacCulloch's monumental new book is subtitled 'Europe's House Divided 1490-1700', which sums up this work's ambitious scope. Reformation is, as its title promises, a tour de force, marshalling disparate materials from the annals of Christianity across Europe and beyond, from all sectarian persuasions, over two cataclysmic centuries. It is an invaluable guide to the doctrinal issues and religious conflicts during this critical period of political crisis and religious complexity, issues and conflicts which continue to reverberate in our modern world.

He offers vivid portraits of the most significant individuals-Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Loyola, Henry VIII, and a number of popes-but also conveys why their ideas were so powerful and how the Reformation affected everyday lives. The result is a landmark book that will be the standard work on the Reformation for years to come. The narrative verve of The Reformation as well as its provocative analysis of American culture's debt to the period will ensure the book's wide appeal among history readers.

Price: 40,- EUR (Hardback)

 

 

A history of the world's first experiment in globalization, with lessons for an ever-expanding American Empire-from England's talented young historian.

Niall Ferguson: 'Empire - How Britain made the Modern World'

Covering a wide range of topics, including the rise of consumerism, the biggest mass migration in history, the impact of missionaries, the triumph of capitalism, the spread of the English language, and globalization, this is a brilliant synthesis of various topics.

At its peak in the nineteenth century, the British Empire was the largest empire ever known, governing roughly a quarter of the world's population. Niall Ferguson explains how "an archipelago of rainy islands came to rule the world," and examines the costs and consequences, both good and bad, of British imperialism. Though the book's breadth is impressive, it is not intended to be a comprehensive history of the British Empire. Rather, Ferguson seeks to glean lessons from this history for future, or present, empires--namely America. Pointing out that the U.S. is both a product of the British Empire as well as an heir to it, he asks whether America--an "empire in denial"--should "seek to shed or to shoulder the imperial load it has inherited." As he points out in this book, there is compelling evidence for both.

Price: 40,- EUR (Hardback)

 

 

A surprisingly fresh, coherent, well-written and persuasive analysis. Striking conclusions, and highly provocative speculations which have the unsettling ring of plausibility

Mark Riebling: 'Wedge: From Pearl Habor to 9/11'

Mark Riebling's compelling and exhaustively researched history of the two intelligence giants - the FBI and CIA, the depth of inter-agency animus, and its pernicious effects becomes distressingly clear. Riebling has avoided tarring the FBI bosses with the kind of sensationalist touches common to recent biographies. He is respectful of those he believes played the both wisely and well.

He has crafted a thorough history of the fatally flawed CIA-FBI marriage through interviews with many of the key players and reams of internal documents, many of them recently declassified. The book also is the beneficiary of extraordinary timing. Its release coincides with a renewed furor in Washington over the CIA and its mandates. It accords the current crisis an appropriate historical context.

Price: 20,50 EUR (Paperback)

 

 

An excellent background for anyone interested in political systems or current Iraqi politics

Charles Tripp: 'A History of Iraq'

Tripp is a long-time Iraq specialist, not a newcomer to the subject. And, while his narrative runs down to mid-2002, when Saddam Hussein was facing increasing pressure from the United States and war seemed likely, recent events don't receive disproportionate attention: just over a third of the book is devoted to the period since 1968.

Tripp's account is chronological, beginning with the three Ottoman provinces which became Iraq following the First World War. Then came the British Mandate, the Hashemite monarchy, and the Republic, before the rise of the Ba'ath and Saddam Hussein.

The focus is on politics and above all on the state. Tripp explores the ways in which the Iraqi state has acted as a centre of gravity, as source of power, dispenser of resources, and propagator of ideologies. Ideas and social structures have been been moulded by the state even as they constrained it.

Price: 28,- EUR (Paperback)

 

 

A fine work reminding us what a struggle the heroic early Americans had--very timely for American patriots

David McCullough: 'John Adams'

It was Adams, then a member of Congress, who said the country needs "government of laws, not of men.". The remark was made in a letter to his fellow congressman William Hooper regarding a proposed state constitution for Connecticut. The letter was later published in 1776 under the title Thoughts on Government. He enlarged on this principle in 1787 when he wrote the pamphlet A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America. Historians customarily refer to the latter by an abbreviated name, Defence of the Constitutions. In this pamphlet he opposed hereditary monarchy and aristocracy and opposed proposals for the new country to have a one-house legislature.

John Adams by David McCullough covers the life of Adams from his early days as a Harvard educated lawyer in Massachusetts up through the administration of the third President, Thomas Jefferson.

Price: 27,30 EUR (Paperback)

 

 

An angry, devastating examination of "the House of Bush," asks the question: How did these people get so entitled?

Kevin Phillips: 'American Dynasty'

Rarely has a former Republican White House Aide (to President Nixon) written such a profoundly devastating and frightening analysis of the Bush family cartel. Kevin Phillips cogently makes the case that George W. Bush represents the restoration of the Bush dynasty to power, rather than an elected Presidency.

To Phillips the greatest threat to America posed by the Bush dynasty is not its inherent unfitness to rule. What most offends and angers Phillips is the threat that the imposition of the Bush dynasty on America poses to democracy itself. The American rebellion in 1776 represented the creation of a nation built on the foundations of a government elected by the people, not determined by the restoration to power of corrupt bloodlines.

No book makes a stronger case against an American sitting in the White House who believes that he is in power because of hereditary entitlement and divine choice. Patriots rebelled against King George in 1776. Phillips notes that Americans have the opportunity to dethrone the Bush dynasty at the polls in 2004.

Price: 28,- EUR (Hardback)
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