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review 2019-03-15 23:28
The Political Writings of St. Augustine
The Political Writings of St. Augustine - Henry Paolucci,Dino Bigongiari,Augustine of Hippo

The most important voice in political thought throughout the Middle Ages, influencing even St. Aquinas, was that of St. Augustine.  Through excerpts of sermons, letters, and selections from City of God, the 4th-century theologians’ view of the world of man is shown both in its maturity and development.

 

Covering almost 360 pages, the vast majority of it being the words of St. Augustine, this book’s quality comes down to the introduction by Henry Paolucci and the appendix containing a lecture by Dino Bigongiari.  Instead of helping set the stage for understanding the works the reader was about to encounter Paolucci’s introduction really didn’t do anything to give context just information about the man and his works overall.  However the lecture of Bigongiari opens the reader’s eyes to understanding what they had just read, but that’s only if they made it to the very end of the book after potentially giving up trying to figure out why some of these selections were included.  In fact the reader learns more in the last 15 pages of the book about St. Augustine’s political thoughts than the previous 340+ by the theologians own hand.  It would have been better to have Bigongiari’s lecture as the introduction so as it give the reader insights about how to understand the author’s thinking.

 

The Political Writings of St. Augustine is a nice selection of the theologian’s writings about political subjects, however because of the way the book is structured the reader will not understand the man until the very end if they even get that far.  I can only recommend the lecture by Dino Bigongiari presented at the end of the book, the rest is unfortunately worthless.

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review 2019-02-20 13:43
An accessible biography of a remarkable man
Lord Reading: Rufus Isaacs, First Marquess of Reading, Lord Chief Justice and Viceroy of India, 1860-1935 - Denis Judd
In an era when politics in Britain was dominated by an oligarchic upper class, Rufus Isaacs was a true anomaly. The son of an East End fruit importer, he left school at an early age and spent a year abroad as a ship's boy. Upon his return he worked as a stockjobber until a slump forced him to abandon finance for the law. After a meteoric rise at the bar Isaacs won election to Parliament and served in a variety of posts in the pre-war Liberal governments, leading to his enoblement as the baron of Reading upon becoming Lord Chief Justice. Though his association with the Marconi scandal tarnished his standing, wartime diplomatic service and his friendship with David Lloyd George led to Reading's selection as Viceroy of India, in which post he served at a time of rising nationalist tumult. Returning to a fractured Liberal Party, he endeavored unsuccessfully to heal the divides between the various groups, though his status as an esteemed elder statesman led to his appointment as Foreign Secretary in the initial National Government formed in 1931 to deal with the crisis brought about by the Great Depression.
 
Given Isaacs's remarkable career, it is disappointing that there are so few biographies about him. Fortunately Denis Judd makes up for this with a book that provides readers a comprehensive and accessible overview of his life and times. This is no small feat given that doing so requires Judd to master not just the politics of Isaacs's time but the relevant aspects of the English legal profession — which, while still not addressed in the detail it deserves, he does in a way that distills this key part of his subject's life to easily comprehensible information. When supplemented with Judd's astute analysis, it makes for a book that gives readers an excellent introduction to a politician and statesman who deserves to be remembered both for his many achievements and the circuitous path he took to reach them.
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review 2019-02-17 23:49
Miracle at Philadelphia
Miracle At Philadelphia - Catherine Drinker Bowen

A nation new to its independence dealing with issues internally and external, it’s nascent future hanging by a thread all comes down to 55 men from across its length and breadth to come up with a solution.  In her 1966 historical review of what became known as the Constitutional Convention, Catherine Drinker Bowen chronicles how the future of the young United States was saved by a Miracle at Philadelphia.

 

Though the majority of the book focuses on the four-month long Convention, Bowen begins by setting the stage for why and how the convention came about with the ineffectual government that was the Articles of Confederation and the movement to amend them, which was led by James Madison and endorsed by George Washington by his attendance in Philadelphia.  For those like myself not really versed in nitty gritty details of Convention it was interesting to learn that most of the work was done in ‘Committee of the Whole’ in which Washington while President was seated among the other delegates.  The familiar highlights of the Virginia Plan, New Jersey Plan, and the Great Compromise are covered but in the historical flow of the debates within the Convention and decisions in-between of important elements within the Constitution.  Throughout the Bowen introduces important personages and how their views remained constant or changed throughout the Convention resulting reputations being made or destroyed during and after the process of ratification.  Bowen ends the book with a look at the ratification process, in particular the debates in Massachusetts and Virginia.

 

Covering approximately 310 pages, the book is efficient in covering the events of the Convention overall.  However Bowen completely missed how the Great Compromise was voted in the Constitution, she just mentioned it.  Besides that big miss within the Convention, Bowen spends chuck of the middle of the book covering a “Journey in America” that had nothing to do with the Convention but was just giving a glimpse of the nascent country that felt like filler than anything else.

 

Miracle at Philadelphia is a very good historical review of the Constitutional Convention that does not analyze but just reports history.  Catherine Drinker Bowen does a wonderful job in juggling the various accounts of the Convention by the delegates and the official record to create very readable narrative.  I highly recommend this book for those interested in this closing piece of the American Revolution.

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review 2019-02-06 04:29
SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE by Ijeoma Oluo
So You Want to Talk About Race - Ijeoma Oluo
This is not a book you can walk away from.  It is a book that you will read many times and get different information from it.  The first time you read to see what she has to say.  The second time to understand what she says.  Then you buy it and re-read it over the years to see how it impacts you or see how you can use it to better understand race and racism and how to better your behaviors and thoughts on race and racism.
 
I can understand some of what she says.  Other things I can't because I have not experienced it nor lived with those who have.  At times I got mad.  Other times I just got sad as she relates her experiences.  I appreciate that it feels like she is a friend just talking to us on the porch.  She does not preach but she gets her point across--sometimes through plain speaking, other times through humor.  I never felt like I wanted to walk away from this talk.  I wanted to learn--not sure how much I did.  Time and re-readings will tell.
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url 2019-01-28 13:23
Podcast #133 is up!
The Winding Road to the Welfare State: Economic Insecurity and Social Welfare Policy in Britain - George R. Boyer

My latest podcast is up on the New Books Network website! In it, I interview economic historian George R. Boyer about his new book on the evolution of British welfare policy from the Poor Law reforms of the 1830s to the advent of the postwar welfare state. Enjoy!

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