logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: political-history
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2019-01-18 22:22
The Rise and Fall of the British Empire
The Rise and Fall of the British Empire - Lawrence James

The largest empire in history ended less than a century ago, yet the legacy of how it rose and how it fell will impact the world for longer than it existed.  Lawrence James’ chronicles the 400-year long history of The Rise and Fall of the British Empire, from its begins on the eastern seaboard of North American spanning a quarter of the world to the collection of tiny outposts scattered across the globe.

 

Neither a simple nor a comprehensive history, James looks at the British Empire in the vain of economic, martial, political, and cultural elements not only in Britain but in the colonies as well.  Beginning with the various settlements on the eastern seaboard of North America, James describes the various colonies and latter colonial administrators that made their way from Britain to locations around the globe which would have an impact on attitudes of the Empire over the centuries.  The role of economics in not only the growth the empire but also the Royal Navy that quickly became interdependent and along with the growth of the Empire’s size the same with the nation’s prestige.  The lessons of the American War of Independence not only in terms of military fragility, but also politically influenced how Britain developed the “white” dominions over the coming centuries.  And the effect of the liberal, moralistic bent of the Empire to paternally watch over “lesser” peoples and teach them clashing with the bombast of the late-19th Century rush of imperialism in the last century of the Empire’s exists and its effects both at home and abroad.

 

Composing an overview of 400-years of history than spans across the globe and noting the effects on not only Britain but the territories it once controlled was no easy task, especially in roughly 630 pages of text.  James attempted to balance the “positive” and “negative” historiography of the Empire while also adding to it.  The contrast between upper-and upper-middle class Britons thinking of the Empire with that of the working-class Britons and colonial subjects was one of the most interesting narratives that James brought to the book especially in the twilight years of the Empire.  Although it is hard to fault James given the vast swath of history he tackled there were some mythical history elements in his relating of the American War of Independence that makes the more critical reader take pause on if the related histories of India, South Africa, Egypt, and others do not contain similar historical myths.

 

The Rise and Fall of the British Empire is neither a multi-volume comprehensive history nor a simple history that deals with popular myths of history, it is an overview of how an island nation came to govern over a quarter of the globe through cultural, economic, martial, and political developments.  Lawrence James’s book is readable to both general and critical history readers and highly recommended.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2019-01-05 23:32
Founding Rivals: Madison vs. Monroe--The Bill of Rights and The Election That Saved A Nation
Founding Rivals: Madison vs. Monroe--The Bill of Rights and The Election That Saved A Nation - Chris DeRose

The future of the young United States hangs in the balance as two friends and rising statesmen travel the roads of eight Virginia counties to become a member of the first Congress under the newly adopted Constitution, depending on who is elected the new Constitution will succeed or fail.  Founding Rivals: Madison vs. Monroe—The Bill of Rights and The Election That Saved A Nation by Chris DeRose follows the lives of future Presidents James Madison and James Monroe lead up to the election the two men faced off in Virginia’s 5th Congressional district and why the result was important for the future of the nation.

 

The lives of the young Virginians James Madison and James Monroe were both different; one was sickly and served in legislatures during the Revolution while the other was healthy and a soldier during the war.  But there were similarities as well as both were wholeheartedly behind the success of the new nation and deeply troubled about the ineffectiveness of the Articles of Confederation, wanting those similar of mind to come together to bring changes.  After the failed Annapolis Convention, Madison coaxed George Washington out of retirement to the Philadelphia Convention and the result was a new Constitution that was sent to the states for ratification.  Monroe, though wanting a better government than the Articles, found the new Constitution too much and joined other Anti-Federalists in Virginia hoping to reject the new document in the face of Madison and the Federalists.  The heated Virginia Ratification Convention went back and forth before Virginia passed the new Constitution, but the Anti-Federalists stuck back in next session of the House of Delegates putting Madison in a seemingly Anti-Federalist district and convinced Monroe to stand for election against him.  If Monroe were to win, the Federalists who would be the majority would be without a leader and not support any amendments (i.e. the Bill of Rights) that Monroe and the Anti-Federalists wanted thus possibly leading to a second Constitutional convention that would undo the new government.  However, Madison’s victory came about because of his support for a Bill of Rights especially his long support of religious freedom for dissenters in Virginia.

 

Coming in around 275 pages, Chris DeRose’s first book was a nice read with good research and nice structure to show the parallel lives of his subjects before their history defining election.  Yet the fact that the vast majority of my synopsis focused on the last half of the book shows that while DeRose had a nice structure he didn’t use his space well.  Several times throughout the book DeRose would insert his opinion on what he believed Madison or Monroe were thinking at some moment in time which came off looking amateurish that fact that wasn’t helped when DeRose would also insert asides alluding to current (as of 2011) political event several times as well.

 

Overall Founding Rivals is a nice look into the early lives of James Madison and James Monroe along with a crucial election they stood for with the new Constitution in the balanced.  While Chris DeRose did admirable work, it is still his first book and in several places it is never evident.  Yet with this caution it is still a good read for history buffs especially interested in this critical period in American history.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-10-13 02:41
The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party
The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War - Michael F. Holt

The antebellum period saw the formation and destruction of the second party system in U.S. politics between Andrew Jackson’s Democrats, which survived to the present, and their rivals the Whigs that did not.  Michael F. Holt’s magnum opus, The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party, details how the Whigs emerged from all the anti-Jacksonian forces to their disintegration in the mid-1850s due to the factional and sectional divisions.

 

Beginning in the mid-1820s, Holt explains the origins of the anti-Jacksonian groups that formed and later coalesced to form the Whig party in the winter of 1833-4 in Washington, D.C. then how it eventually branched out and formed in states.  Through thorough research from the national down to the state, county, and local levels Holt explored how the Whig party was planted and grew throughout the country and competed against their Democratic foes.  Yet this research also exposed the intraparty feuds within state parties that affected conventions on all levels, platform fights, and Election Day enthusiasm.  Exploring a political relationship between state politics and national politics that is completely different than that seen in the second half of the 20th-century and early 21st, Holt shows how this different political paradigm both rose up the Whigs and eventually destroyed them.

 

With almost 1300 pages of text and notes, Holt thoroughly explored the 20 year history of the American Whig party from the national to the local level within every state of the Union.  Throughout Holt’s assertion that the Democrats always controlled “the narrative” of the Whig’s history and how that played on the Whig intraparty feuds which eventually was one of the main three causes of the party’s disintegration.  The focuses on Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, party traitor John Tyler, party destabilizer Zachary Taylor, attempted party savior Millard Fillmore, and slew of other prominent Whigs gives the stage to historical actors who shaped history.  Throughout the text, the reader sees how events if changed just slightly might have allowed the Whigs to continue as a national party and the effects that might have had going forward but ultimately who personalities and how some decisions out of the party’s control resulted in fatal wounds occurring.

 

The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party is not for the general history reader, this tome is for someone dedicated to an in-depth researched book that shifts from the halls of Congress to the “smoke-filled backrooms” of state conventions in states across the nation to election analysis in various congressional districts across the young republic.  The work of an academic lifetime, Michael F. Holt gives insight into political party that ultimately lost in history but that still had a lasting impact to this day in modern American politics.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
url 2018-07-31 15:24
My one hundred and thirteenth podcast is up!
Manchester's Radical Mayor: Abel Heywood, the Man who Built the Town Hall - Joanna Williams

My latest podcast is up on the New Books Network website! In it, I interview Joanna Williams about her biography of the 19th century British businessman and civic leader Abel Heywood. Enjoy!

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-07-21 18:13
A chummy history of how Churchill became Prime Minister
Six Minutes in May: How Churchill Unexpectedly Became Prime Minister - Nicholas Shakespeare

The selection of Winston Churchill as Neville Chamberlain's successor in May 1940 is regarded today as one of the most pivotal moments of the 20th century. With his elevation to the premiership Britain was committed to a course of action in the Second World War that ended with victory over Nazi Germany. Given his role in the Allied triumph and subsequent anointing as the greatest Briton ever, such a choice can be perceived as inevitable. Yet was it?

One of the great merits of Nicholas Shakespeare's account of the events surrounding the decision is in his detailing the views of the key actors in the spring of 1940 and the choices available to them. In the process, not only does he demonstrate that Churchill's selection was far from ordained, but he also shows that it was more than a simple choice between Churchill and Lord Halifax traditionally described in most accounts of the event. As Shakespeare explains, ministers and Members of Parliament had several alternatives available to them. For many of them, Churchill was an unacceptable choice for the top post given his recklessness and adventurism, while others seemed much more appealing candidates. Even the very notion that Chamberlain needed to be replaced because of the military debacle in Norway the month before was not generally accepted, and only emerged over the course of the "Norway debate" and the subsequent division that exposed the weakness of Chamberlain's support.

To detail the events of May 1940 and uncover the thinking of the various people involved Shakespeare went beyond the traditional accounts in memoirs and biographies and undertook additional archival research and interviews. This he knits together in a narrative to which he brings all his skills as a novelist, making for an account that is highly engaging. By comparing the at times conflicting accounts and retrospective explanations, he has produced a very detailed description of how it came down in the end to Churchill. Yet it is also an incredibly chummy account, focusing almost exclusively upon the actions and decisions of a select group of elite men (and even a couple of women). While this is understandable given the small circle of people in politics and media at the time, the weaknesses in this approach are more evident in the account of the Norway disaster that precedes it. Given its importance to the events that followed Shakespeare spends a third of the book describing its failings, yet his account of events rarely strays beyond the experiences of key officers and government officials, creating the impression that it was merely their personal experiences which drove their objections to Chamberlain rather than the broader defeat that informed their criticisms of his handling of the war.

 

By narrowing his focus to a group of elite figures (one that includes his own uncle), Shakespeare trivializes the motivations of many of the men involved in the decision to turn out Chamberlain. It's a glaring flaw in what is in many respects an excellent book, one that details the chain of events that would define the course of world history. It is especially unfortunate, given that Shakespeare's extensive research and ability as a writer have produced what is the best account yet of how Churchill became prime minister in those fateful weeks in the spring of 1940. Its weaknesses, however, cause it to fall short of the definitive account it could have been with just a broadening of its scope.

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?