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review 2020-05-17 14:39
Privateers of the Revolution
Privateers of the Revolution: War on the New Jersey Coast, 1775-1783 - Donald Grady Shomette

by Donald Grady Shomette


Subtitled War on the New Jersey Coast 1775-1783.




From the introduction: "The story of Jersey and the many thousands of prison ship martyrs who expired within her dark, pestilential bowels, was once an iconic piece of American history: it is little remembered today. So, too, was the often swashbuckling trade that the majority of her unfortunate inmates had practiced, namely privateering - that is, governmentally sanctioned commerce raiding for profit by private ships of war - during the many long years of the American revolution."


This is a historical book about legalized piracy. It's a part of history that isn't usually taught in schools, how supply lines to the American coast were interfered with by government sanctioned privateering and the horrendous conditions of prison ships that held those privateers who were captured, most notably the Jersey.


The book tells the history of how the fledgling American government debated and eventually deployed privateers because their need for naval protection along the Atlantic coast was essential, but they did not have the finances to build sufficient warships. Concern over the possibility of privateering turning to piracy did arise in discussions, but in the end necessity demanded and the inevitable infractions led to a culture of piracy that has formed famous legends over the years.


This book reads like a history book in school with a lot of facts and relation of detailed events, so is recommended for the serious history buff rather than casual reading. A lot of research obviously went into it and I found it interesting to say the least. Anyone interested in American history will find a lot of revelations in this book.

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review 2020-05-02 22:35
The role of the military in America's history
For the Common Defense: A Military History of the United States from 1607 to 2012 - William B. Feis,Peter Maslowski,Allan R. Millett
I had read the first edition of Allan Millett and Peter Maslowski's book back when I was in college. While I can't remember what my impression was of it back then, I proceeded through the next three decades of my life without feeling the need to revisit it. Recently, however, I had cause to revisit it, and I'm glad I did.
Now in a third edition, Millett and Maslowski have been joined as co-authors by William Feis, a specialist in the Civil War era. For the most part, little changed beyond additional coverage of American military history up to 2014 and the elimination of the very useful bibliography from the first edition (supposedly it was moved online, but the link provided in the book is dead). Yet rereading it I came to appreciate just how excellent of a job they did in covering the military over the centuries of the nation's existence. It's especially impressive considering their scope: while most military histories are happy to confine themselves to accounts of campaigns and commanders, the authors have provided an extraordinarily well-rounded account that addresses policymaking, military-civil relations, and the development of military theory. In this respect their book is not just a military history in terms of an account of America's wars, but of the role of the military throughout the nation's history.
By the time I reached the end of the book, I had a newfound appreciation for the authors' achievement. While not without its flaws — leaving out the bibliography proved a mistake, while the two chapters on the Vietnam War are overdue to be consolidated into a single one — it is an impressive book that remains the single best work for anyone interested in learning about America's military and how it shaped the country it built and defended.
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text 2020-01-20 14:18
Amsterdam: A history of the World's Most Liberal City
Amsterdam: A History of the World's Most Liberal City - Russell Shorto
The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America - Russell Shorto
Descartes' Bones: A Skeletal History of the Conflict Between Faith and Reason - Russell Shorto
Revolution Song: A Story of American Fre... Revolution Song: A Story of American Freedom - Russell Shorto


If you are going to visit Amsterdam and you love history and you only have time to read one book before you arrive, then read this one! Mr Shorto writes narrative history and picks out a number of lives of people who lived in Amsterdam and uses their lives to illustrate his take on the city's story. He not only researches the lives of the important historical characters, but also insignificant people of the time, sketching a life from old documents and registers adding colour and making otherwise dry topics personal. He takes this right into the present day with interviews of still living Amstedammers who have left their mark on the city. 


The main theme of the book is liberalism and what that means in different times and contexts. In very broad strokes, what started, in Amsterdam, as economic liberalism, trade is king, expanded over the years to become social liberalism. An example of this is how the relative freedom of the press in the early 1600s, attracted people who could not publish elsewhere, like Galileo and most importantly, Rene Descartes. Descartes ideas were published, inspiring Baruch Spinoza, a Sephardic Jewish Amsterdammer, to learn Latin to understand Descartes writing. Spinoza applied Descartes principles to everything! Those principles took root, guiding people like Eduard Douwes Dekker who in turn inspired such amazing figures such as Aletta Jacobs. 


As a tour guide I absolutely lapped up this book and read it a few times and even summarised it as the themes in the book lend themselves strongly to walking tours. I rather cheekily asked Mr Shorto on a tour that I had created based on the themes in his book and he accepted. I must say it was quite daunting having him on a small group tour as I am a huge fan of all of his work. He liked it I'm relieved to say and even furnished me with a quote to use when advertising Amsterdam private tours


“Mark Law is hands-down the best tour guide of Amsterdam. And I don’t say that just because he uses my book. Honestly! He invited me to join a tour based on my book and, lo and behold, I learned a lot from it. He wove together my research and his own nook-and-cranny knowledge of Amsterdam. The result is lively, funny, and deeply historical.


In the years that have followed I have read many of the books that Mr Shorto drew from when writing his book. What stands out to me, is his ability to draw out the most interesting points of a resource and package them entertainingly into his own work.


Amsterdam: A History of the World's Most Liberal City is a highly readable romp through Amsterdam's inspiring history. But there's more!


There are 3 other books by Russell Short that fit together. The 4 books were published in the order below and, whilst they are all good stand alone reads, I recommend reading them in the order published.  The Dutch Manhattan book reads like an action film, essential reading for anyone with ann interst in New York history. Descartes Bones traces the roots of the radical Enlightenment / French Revolution and Revolution Song, the moderate Enlightmentment as played out in the American Revlution.


The Island at the Centre of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony that Shaped America (New York, Doubleday, 2004)


Descartes Bones (New York, Random House, 2008)


Amsterdam: A History of the World's Most Liberal City (New York, Doubleday, 2013)


Revolution Song: A Story of American Freedom. (New York, W. W. Norton & Company, 2017)









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url 2019-12-31 16:38
Podcast #169 is up!
A Crisis of Peace: George Washington, the Newburgh Conspiracy, and the Fate of the American Revolution - David Head

My latest interview is up on the New Books Network website! In it, I interview David Head about his book on the Newburgh Conspiracy and its place in the history of the new American republic. Enjoy!

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review 2019-12-26 21:24
Fact or fiction?
Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War That Changed American History - Brian Kilmeade,Don Yaeger

About 3 pages into Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates by Brian Kilmeade I felt that the author had a real issue with Muslims and he wrote this book to denounce them through a historical lens. As he drew parallels to the Barbary Wars (what's detailed in this book) and present day conflicts, he made the claim that slavery was a unique and barbarous practice only perpetrated by Muslims against whites. (Duh that's not the case.) By the time I had finished the book my overwhelming impression was that this book was not only Islamophobic but a major piece of revisionist history. (I even checked other reader's reviews to make sure that I wasn't completely off the mark here and they back up my feelings pretty much across the board.) He makes a strong argument for a show of military strength over diplomacy. In fact, the Barbary Wars were what precipitated the formation of the Navy and Marines (the 'shores of Tripoli' ring any bells?). I couldn't even tell you if what he says happened really happened when such a large focus was on ideas other than the historical events of the moment. 0/10


And then to discover that this book which was recommended to me by a coworker was in fact written by a co-host of Fox & Friends made total sense after the fact. ¯_(ツ)_/¯ 


What's Up Next: The Star Diaries by Stanislaw Lem


What I'm Currently Reading: Inside Out: A Memoir by Demi Moore

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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