History - June 7, 2017

History

 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

 

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The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom: America and China, 1776 to the Present
by John Pomfret

 

From the clipper ships that ventured to Canton hauling cargos of American ginseng to swap for Chinese tea to the US warships facing off against China's growing navy in the South China Sea, from the Yankee missionaries who brought Christianity and education to China to the Chinese who built the American West, the United States and China have always been dramatically intertwined. For more than two centuries, American and Chinese statesmen, merchants, missionaries, and adventurers, men and women, have profoundly influenced the fate of these nations. While we tend to think of America's ties with China as starting in 1972 with the visit of President Richard Nixon to China, the patterns--rapturous enchantment followed by angry disillusionment--were set in motion hundreds of years earlier. Drawing on personal letters, diaries, memoirs, government documents, and contemporary news reports, John Pomfret reconstructs the surprising, tragic, and marvelous ways Americans and Chinese have engaged with one another through the centuries. A fascinating and thrilling account, The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom is also an indispensable book for understanding the most important--and often the most perplexing--relationship between any two countries in the world.

 

 

 

Black Elk: The Life of an American Visionary
by Joe Jackson

 

In this sweeping book, Joe Jackson provides the definitive biographical account of a figure whose dramatic life converged with some of the most momentous events in the history of the American West. Born in an era of rising violence between the Sioux, white settlers, and U.S. government troops, Black Elk killed his first man at the Little Bighorn, witnessed the death of his second cousin Crazy Horse, and traveled to Europe with Buffalo Bill's Wild West show. Upon his return, he was swept up in the traditionalist Ghost Dance movement and shaken by the Massacre at Wounded Knee. But Black Elk was not a warrior, instead accepting the path of a healer and holy man, motivated by a powerful prophetic vision that he struggled to understand. Although Black Elk embraced Catholicism in his later years, he continued to practice the old ways clandestinely and never refrained from seeking meaning in the visions that both haunted and inspired him.

 

 

 

Blood and Sand: Suez, Hungary, and Eisenhower's Campaign for Peace
by Alex Von Tunzelmann

 

A revelatory popular history that tells the story of the Suez Crisis and the Hungarian Revolution of 1956--a tale of conspiracy and revolutions, spies and terrorists, kidnappings and assassination plots, the fall of the British Empire and the rise of American hegemony under the heroic leadership of President Dwight D. Eisenhower--which shaped the Middle East and Europe we know today.

 

 

 

Brothers at Arms: American Independence and the Men of France and Spain Who Saved It
by Larrie D. Ferreiro

 

The remarkable untold story of how the American Revolution's success depended on substantial military and financial assistance provided by France and Spain, and places the Revolution in the context of the global strategic interests of those nations in their fight against Great Britain.

 

 

 

Eleanor Roosevelt: The War Years and After: 1939-1962
by Blanche Wiesen Cook

 

Historians, politicians, critics, and readers everywhere have praised Blanche Wiesen Cooks biography of Eleanor Roosevelt as the essential portrait of a woman who towers over the twentieth century. The long-awaited third and final volume takes us through World War II, FDRs death, the founding of the UN, and Eleanor Roosevelts death in 1962. It follows the arc of war and the evolution of a marriage, as the first lady realized the cost of maintaining her principles even as the country and her husband were not prepared to adopt them. Eleanor Roosevelt continued to struggle for her core issueseconomic security, New Deal reforms, racial equality, and rescuewhen they were sidelined by FDR while he marshaled the country through war. The chasm between Eleanor and Franklin grew, and the strains on their relationship were as political as they were personal. She also had to negotiate the fractures in the close circle of influential women around her at Val-Kill, but through it she gained confidence in her own vision, even when forced to amend her agenda when her beliefs clashed with government policies on such issues as neutrality, refugees, and eventually the threat of communism. These yearsthe war yearsmade Eleanor Roosevelt the woman she became: leader, visionary, guiding light. FDRs death in 1945 changed her world, but she was far from finished, returning to the spotlight as a crucial player in the founding of the United Nations.

 

 

 

Herbert Hoover: A Life
by Glen Jeansonne

 

"Prizewinning historian Glen Jeansonne delves into the life of our most misunderstood president, offering up a surprising new portrait of Herbert Hoover--dismissing previous assumptions and revealing a political Progressive in the mold of Theodore Roosevelt, and the most resourceful American since Benjamin Franklin. Orphaned at an early age and raised with strict Quaker values, Hoover earned his way through Stanford University. His hardworking ethic drove him to a successful career as an engineer and multinational businessman. During the Great War, he led a humanitarian effort that fed millions of Europeans left destitute--arguably saving more lives than any man in history. As commerce secretary under President Coolidge, Hoover helped modernize and galvanize American industry and orchestrated the rehabilitation of the Mississippi Valley after the Great Flood of 1927. As president, Herbert Hoover became the first chief executive to harness federal power to combat a crippling global recession. Though Hoover is often remembered as a "do-nothing" president, Jeansonne convincingly portrays a steadfast leader who challenged Congress on an array of legislation that laid the groundwork for the New Deal. In addition, Hoover reformed America's prisons, improved worker safety, and fought for better health and welfare for children. Unfairly attacked by Franklin D. Roosevelt and blamed for the Depression, Hoover was swept out of office in a landslide. Yet as FDR's government grew into a bureaucratic behemoth, Hoover became the moral voice of the GOP and a champion of Republican principles--a legacy reignited by Ronald Reagan that still endures today.

 

 

 

Indelible Ink: The Trials of John Peter Zenger and the Birth of America’s Free Press
by Richard Kluger

 

In 1733, struggling printer John Peter Zenger scandalized colonial New York by launching the New-York Weekly Journal, which assailed the British governor as corrupt and arrogant -- a direct challenge to the prevailing law against "seditious libel", which criminalized any criticism of the government. Fronting for a group of powerful antiroyalist politicians, Zenger was jailed for nine months before his landmark trial in August 1735, when he was brilliantly defended by Philadelphia lawyer Alexander Hamilton. In this book, Richard Kluger recreates this dramatic clash that marked the birth of press freedom in America and its role in vanquishing colonial tyranny. Here is an enduring lesson that redounds to this day on the vital importance of free public expression as the underpinning of democracy.

 

 

 

Irena’s Children: The Extraordinary Story of the Woman Who Saved 2,500 Children from the Warsaw Ghetto
by Tilar Mazzeo

 

The "extraordinary and gripping account of Irena Sendler--the "female Oskar Schindler"--who took staggering risks to save 2,500 children from death and deportation in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II.

 

 

 

Pearl Harbor: From Infamy to Greatness
by Craig Nelson

 

Backed by a research team's five years of work, which produced nearly a million pages of documents, as well as Nelson's thorough re-examination of the original evidence assembled by federal investigators, this page-turning and definitive work provides a thrilling blow-by-blow account from both the Japanese and American perspectives, and is historical drama on the grandest scale. Nelson delivers all the terror, chaos, violence, tragedy, and heroism of the attack in stunning detail, and offers surprising conclusions about the tragedy's unforeseen and resonant consequences that linger even today.

 

 

 

Rogue Heroes: The History of the SAS, Britain’s Secret Special Forces Unit That Sabotaged the Nazis and Changed the Nature of War
by Ben Macintryre

 

Britain's Special Air Service--or SAS--was the brainchild of David Stirling, a young, gadabout aristocrat with a remarkable strategic mind. Where his colleagues looked at a map of World War II's African theater and saw a protracted struggle with Rommel's desert forces, Stirling saw an opportunity: given a small number of elite, well-trained men, he could parachute behind Nazi lines and sabotage their airplanes and supplies. Paired with his constitutional opposite, the disciplined martinet Jock Lewes, Stirling assembled a revolutionary fighting force that would upend not just the balance of the war, but the nature of combat itself. Bringing his keen eye for psychological detail to a riveting wartime narrative, Ben Macintyre uses his unprecedented access to the SAS archives to shine a light on a legendary unit long shrouded in secrecy--one whose hard methods would influence contemporary special forces around the world. The result is not only a tremendous war story, but also a fascinating group portrait of men of whom history and country asked the most.

 

 

 

A Savage War: A Military History of the Civil War
by Williamson Murray & Wayne Wei-siang Hsieh

 

The Civil War represented a momentous change in the character of war. It combined the projection of military might across a continent on a scale never before seen with an unprecedented mass mobilization of peoples. Yet despite the revolutionizing aspects of the Civil War, its leaders faced the same uncertainties and vagaries of chance that have vexed combatants since the days of Thucydides and the Peloponnesian War. A Savage War sheds critical new light on this defining chapter in military history. In a masterful narrative that propels readers from the first shots fired at Fort Sumter to the surrender of Robert E. Lee's army at Appomattox, Williamson Murray and Wayne Wei-siang Hsieh bring every aspect of the battlefield vividly to life. The show how this new way of waging war was made possible by the powerful historical forces unleashed by the Industrial Revolution and the French Revolution, yet how the war was far from being simply a story of the triumph of superior machines. Despite the Union's material superiority, a Union victory remained in doubt for most of the war. Murray and Hsieh paint indelible portraits of Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, and other major figures whose leadership, judgment, and personal character played such decisive roles in the fate of a nation. They also examine how the Army of the Potomac, the Army of Northern Virginia, and the other major armies developed entirely different cultures that influenced the war's outcome. A military history of breathtaking sweep and scope, A Savage War reveals how the Civil War ushered in the age of modern warfare.

 

 

 

Thunder at the Gates: The Black Civil War Regiments That Redeemed America
by Douglas R. Egerton

 

Almost immediately after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, abolitionists began to call for the raising of black regiments. The South and most of the North responded with outrage. Southerners vowed to enslave black soldiers captured in battle, while many northerners claimed that blacks lacked the courage to fight. Yet Boston's Brahmins, always eager for a moral crusade, launched one of the greatest experiments in American history. In Thunder at the gates, Douglas R. Egerton chronicles the formation and exploits of the 54th and 55th Massachusetts Infantry and the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry -- regiments led by whites but composed of black men born free or into slavery.

 

 

 

The Tunnels: Escapes Under the Berlin Wall and the Historic Films the JFK White House Tried to Kill
by Greg Mitchell

 

A thrilling Cold War narrative exploring two harrowing attempts to rescue East Germans by tunneling beneath the Berlin Wall, the U.S. television networks who financed and filmed them, and the Kennedy administration's unprecedented attempt to suppress both films. In the summer of 1962, one year after East German Communists built the Berlin Wall, a group of daring young West Germans came up with a plan. They would risk prison, Stasi torture, even death to liberate friends, lovers, and strangers in East Berlin by digging tunnels under the Wall.

 

 

 

Whistlestop: My Favorite Stories from Presidential Campaign History
by John Dickerson

 

Whistlestop tells the human story of nervous gambits hatched in first-floor hotel rooms, failures of will before the microphone, and the cross-country crack-ups of long-planned stratagems. At the bar at the end of a campaign day, these are the stories reporters rehash for themselves and embellish for newcomers. In addition to the familiar tales, Whistlestop is a ride through the American campaign history with one of its most enthusiastic conductors guiding you through the landmarks along the way.

 

 

 

The Winter Fortress: The Epic Mission to Sabotage Hitler's Atomic Bomb
by Neal BascombH

 

It's 1942 and the Nazis are racing to be the first to build a weapon unlike any known before. They have the physicists, they have the uranium, and now all their plans depend on amassing a single ingredient: heavy water, which is produced in Norway's Vemork, the lone plant in all the world that makes this rare substance. Under threat of death, Vemork's engineers push production into overdrive. For the Allies, the plant must be destroyed. But how would they reach the castle fortress set on a precipitous gorge in one of the coldest, most inhospitable places on Earth? Enter Leif Tronstad. a brilliant Norwegian scientist who narrowly escaped his country to bring word to the Allies of the plant's importance--and how to infiltrate it. Together with the British Special Operations Executive ("the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare"), Tronstad recruits a disparate band of patriots and plans a mission that many believe impossible. Based on a trove of top secret documents and never-before-seen diaries and letters of the saboteurs, this is an arresting chronicle of a brilliant scientist, a band of spies on skis, perilous survival in the wild, sacrifice for one's country, Gestapo manhunts, soul-crushing setbacks, and a last-minute operation that would end any chance Hitler could obtain the atomic bomb.