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Search tags: 19th-Century
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review 2020-07-26 23:58
Winston Spencer Churchill: Visions of Glory, 1874-1932 (The Last Lion #1)
The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Visions of Glory, 1874-1932 - William Raymond Manchester

Before he became the face of the dogged determination in World War II and the voice of inspiration for the British people, Winston Churchill was a scion of a noble family looking to make his mark and coming close on many occasions.  The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Visions of Glory, 1874-1932 is the first volume of William Manchester’s biographical trilogy which deals with Churchill’s early life and his adventurous political career until he was shunned by power and entered the political wilderness.

 

A scion of the ducal Marlborough family, Winston Spencer-Churchill was the eldest son of a second son and his American wife.  Before even getting to Winston’s birth and life, Manchester paints the social, cultural, and political landscape he would be born into, be indoctrinated to believe in, and defend his entire life.  Throughout his life, Winston would use the connections of his parent’s friends and acquaintances to advance himself early in his career while a boon to his military and early political careers it hardly made up for the fact that both his parents were aloof to his existence even for the times of the British upper class.  Manchester relates Winston’s school misadventures and horrible academic record for the classical education expected off one of his station, but while he failed to understand Greek or Latin his “remedial” studies of English year after year would serve him the rest of his life as a journalist, author, and speaking in Parliament.  While he served in wars in the frontier of the Empire, first in India then in Sudan, and afterwards in South Africa he initially went there as a “journalist” but used his military rank to join battles or was recruited by the commander on the spot to lead men.  Upon the completion of the Boer War, during which he was taken prisoner and escaped, Winston entered politics in his eyes to take up his late father’s torch.  Once on the floor of the House, Winston’s speeches were events to be listened to and to be written about in the papers.  His familial connections got him in touch with the high circles of the Conservative party, but the issue of Free Trade and his own “radical” views on issues made him become a Liberal and soon found him apart of the new government the party form and would be until after the events connected with Gallipoli during the First World War resulted in him taking to the trenches on the Western Front.  After a return to a position in the Government, Winston soon found him edging away from the Liberal Party that was dying in the face for the rise of the Labour Party and soon returned the Conservatives to be among their new Government.  Yet the same tensions that made Winston leave the Party in the first place were still there but with more animosity but it was the issue of India sent Winston still a Conservative into the political wilderness that many of his political adversaries believed him to be finished, especially at his age.

 

In nearly 900 pages of text, Manchester not only details the first 58 years of Winston’s life but also the times he lived in while slowly setting things up for the final volume for the events in which he is most well-known to the public today.  There seems to be a bias by Manchester towards Winston that does make it through to the page instead of a little more balanced writing in places, however Manchester does not shy away that Winston’s views and words around the India issue essentially were racist even though at the time it was common thought by many in Britain.  Manchester gives balanced view of Winston’s relations with the working class while at the same time revealing why Labour and the press said he was against them.  The account of the Dardanelles and Gallipoli campaign that is always blamed on Winston is given fully fleshed out including what actions Winston were accountable for and those he was not and why it was he that the failure was attached to.

 

Visions of Glory, 1874-1932 reveals the times and environment in which Winston Churchill was brought up and how they shaped him as he entered politics and attempted to rise to power.  William Manchester gives a full picture of a young then middle-aged politician whose life was a roller coaster that influenced the British Empire its domestic and foreign affairs, but never held ultimate power and seemed never to.  If one wants to know Churchill this book is a great place to start.

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review 2020-07-22 17:01
S.N. Haskell: Adventist Pioneer, Evangelist, and Editor
S.N. Haskell: Adventist Pioneer, Evangelist, Missionary, and Editor - Gerald Wheeler

A scion of New England culture who join a new faith born from the same location, his influence upon the Seventh-day Adventist church has been profoundly positive though in his zeal to defend it has had some negative consequences.  S.N. Haskell: Adventist Pioneer, Evangelist, Missionary, and Editor is Gerald Wheeler’s second book of the Adventist Pioneer series as he follows the life of Ellen White’s most ardent defender and the impact he had on the church as well as how the times he grew up and lived in influenced him.

 

Wheeler begins his biography of Haskell by how he married his first wife Mary who was over two decades older than he was before describing the upbringing in the small New England town that made Haskell agree to this marriage even though he was about to become a preacher.  After beginning preaching, Haskell interacted with Seventh-day Adventists and investigated the Sabbath then began keeping it though it was a visit by Joseph Bates that truly converted he and his wife.  Once an Adventist, Haskell through himself into everything he could within the denomination from preacher to eventually administration—serving as president of three conferences at the same time across the country at one point—as well as writing articles from various publications.  Though at first opposed to the Whites, because of his own dictatorial attitude but once confronted by Ellen through of her testimonies to him that opposition changed to become Ellen’s greatest defender.  Wheeler relates Haskell’s career and its impact his first marriage in which his wife stayed at home and how things changed during his second marriage to Hetty who traveled with him around the world.  Wheeler also goes into Haskell’s writing, marketing, organizational, and missionary endeavors throughout the book in which like many Adventist pioneers they were jacks-of-all-trades for the denomination.  Throughout the last third of the book, Wheeler relates Haskell’s defending of Ellen White’s ministry in various ways but most particularly with the “daily” controversy and W.W. Prescott whom he did not trust, but his arguments in defense of White’s ministry injected elements of Fundamentalism into the denomination that would causes issues within the denomination at the end of this life and long afterwards.

 

Throughout the book Wheeler emphasizes the cultural background of various regions of the United States as well as the historical events happening in the nation and other nations that Haskell did missionary service in that influenced his time there.  In the chapter end notes Wheeler would list numerous books that would further inform the reader about the cultural and historical trends that not only influenced Haskell but the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a whole.  While Wheeler does discuss Haskell’s distrust of W.W. Prescott and his role in the “daily” controversy as well as the implications of his arguments in opposing Prescott because he believed Prescott was undermining Ellen White, but Wheeler seemed to avoid Haskell’s character assassination of Prescott to Ellen White as written seen in Gilbert M. Valentine’s biography of Prescott.

 

S.N. Haskell: Adventist Pioneer, Evangelist, Missionary, and Editor not only follows a pioneer of the Adventist denomination but also the times he lived in and the social trends before and during his life that affected him and the denomination.  Gerald Wheeler’s scholarship and writing style makes this another great biography in the Adventist Pioneer series that anyone interested in the history of the denomination would want to read.

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text 2020-04-06 18:20
The Birth of Modernism

I am happy to welcome Drema Drudge to my blog as part of her Coffee Pot Book Club blog tour!

 

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review 2020-03-11 23:08
A.G. Daniells: Shaper of Twentieth Century Adventism
A. G. Daniells: Shaper of Twentieth-Century Adventism - Benjamin McArthur

The man tasked with heading the implementation of a new administrative structure of a growing world-wide church and later to lead that church after the death of its prophet.  A.G. Daniells: Shaper of Twentieth Century Adventism by Benjamin McArthur follows the life of the longest-serving General Conference President in the history of the Seventh-day Adventist church which simultaneously corresponded with a rapidly changing world and church in the first two decades of the 20th Century.

 

McArthur efficiently covers Daniells early life in Iowa and his humble beginning in service of the denomination as a minister in the Iowa Conference and a missionary in Texas before being called to be a missionary in New Zealand.  Then beginning with Daniells time in New Zealand and then Australia, McArthur details not only how Daniells time in the Southern Hemisphere made him a strong supporter of world missions but also brought forth his administrative skill as this faraway branch of the growing worldwide church innovated in bureaucracy to compensate for the distance away from world headquarters in the United States.  Daniells return to the United States was the precursor to his election at the 1901 General Conference session to be President and the much-needed administrative overhaul of the church using the model Daniells had helped shape while overseas.  McArthur’s attention to detail examples how this overhaul not only shaped the overall church, but Daniells presidency which was early dominated with the controversy with John Harvey Kellogg and the medical establishment of the church then the resulting fallout and need to reestablish the medical wing of the denomination.  Among the biggest struggles McArthur’s book brought out was the budgetary reform to get the denomination out of debt, which played into the controversy with Kellogg, when building new institutions.  But one thing was always in the forefront of McArthur’s analysis of Daniells’ presidency—and before—his relationship to Ellen G. White, whose opinion mattered not only to church officials but regular church members.  And it would be his relationship with White and her prophetic gift that would end his presidency due to the rise of fundamentalism that crept into denomination and Daniells perceived lack of belief in her gift.  McArthur closes out Daniells life with how he became an advisor to his two successors as well as his authorship of two important Adventist books including defending White’s prophetic gift.

 

Given the significance of Daniells time as General Conference president, McArthur focused the bulk of his biography on the 21 years he served in that office with extensive scholarship as seen in the citations at the end of each chapter.  Though covering many topics over Daniells life, McArthur’s prose was engaging and allowing the reader to understand the interconnectedness of numerous issues Daniells had to deal without overwhelming them.  One of the interesting things McArthur did early in the book to give context to Daniells and his time was comparing him important non-denominational figures who had a similar impact in their professions as he did with the General Conference, one of which was Theodore Roosevelt.  But the most important facet of the biography was Daniells’ relationship with Ellen White and the gift of prophecy which McArthur’s scholarship is shown at its best.

 

A.G. Daniells: Shaper of Twentieth Century Adventism is not only the biography of one man but shows how the Seventh-day Adventist church’s administrative structure was reset to accomplish its mission to the world.  Benjamin McArthur’s excellent scholarship and engaging writing gives the reader an insight into how significant this time in the church’s history is important for today and how one individual was able to use his skills to help move the denomination forward.

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review 2020-03-08 23:51
Henry Clay: The Essential American
Henry Clay: The Essential American - Jeanne T. Heidler,David S. Heidler

One—if not the most—of the most influential politicians in American history who never became President, though he tried several times, was praised and vilified throughout his life then slowly forgotten in the century and a half after his death.  Henry Clay: The Essential American by David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler follows the dramatic political rise, the stunning setbacks, and tragic family life of the man who became Andrew Jackson’s great enemy and Abraham Lincoln’s great hero.

 

The Heidler’s begins moments after Clay’s death and describes the journey of his body to Lexington with the outpouring of honor along the way then turn their attention as to how Clay became so honored.  Born in eastern Virginia as a scion of a long-time colonial family and fatherless early in life, Clay was fortunate to have a stepfather and several mentors who gave him opportunities which he took hold off and used to establish himself in the legal profession in Kentucky.  Though idealistic early in his political career, especially on the issue of slavery in the state, Clay downplayed it sooner after to gain connections especially through marriage and accumulation of wealth in which slaves were an important facet though he would continue to advocate for his brand for emancipation throughout his life.  Clay’s time in the Kentucky legislature foreshadowed the parliamentary advancements he would bring to the House and later the Senate, especially the Committee of the Whole which allowed Clay as Speaker of both the Kentucky and U.S House to join debates.  A staunch Jeffersonian Democratic-Republican, Clay’s views and future policies would shift to include several Hamiltonian policies like a National Bank and tariffs but in Republican language.  Upon his arrival in Washington in 1811 until his death 41 years later, Clay would be the most influential man in the city even though he never resided in the White House which would be occupied by either his allies or his avowed enemies though he would campaign for the Presidency either actively or with the am to from 1824 to 1848.  Three times during his time in Washington, he championed the Union in the 1820 Missouri Compromise, the 1833 Nullification crisis, and the Compromise of 1850 his final political act as slavery threatened to ripe the country apart.

 

First and foremost this was a political biography which the Heidlers expertly detailed for the reader, however Clay was a family man with a particularly tragic tinge as all of his daughters predeceased their parents with Clay’s namesake dying in the Mexican-American War while another was to spend half his life in an asylum.  The issue of slavery is given significant space in various parts of the book as the Heidlers put Clay’s views in context of their time and how he was as a slaveowner, but don’t excuse him for hold human beings as property.  Though not stated explicitly this was also a light history of the Whig party primarily because, until slavery tore it apart, Henry Clay embodied the party even when younger members decided to jettison its ideological center for Presidential victory.

 

Henry Clay: The Essential American details the life of the most important politician of the Antebellum era.  The husband-wife historian team of David S. and Jeanne Heidler write a very scholarly yet lively history of the man and his times that gives the reader a view of how important their subject was during his time on the national scene.

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