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New Books in World Affairs

Updated 9 days ago

Society & Culture
History
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Interviews with Scholars of Global Affairs about their New Books

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Interviews with Scholars of Global Affairs about their New Books

iTunes Ratings

8 Ratings
Average Ratings
7
1
0
0
0

Terrific Source for New Ideas

By factoidjunkie - Jul 12 2016
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The entire series of new books interviews is a welcomed part of book reviewing. Highly recommended you find the many categories of new books with informative author interviews.

iTunes Ratings

8 Ratings
Average Ratings
7
1
0
0
0

Terrific Source for New Ideas

By factoidjunkie - Jul 12 2016
Read more
The entire series of new books interviews is a welcomed part of book reviewing. Highly recommended you find the many categories of new books with informative author interviews.
Cover image of New Books in World Affairs

New Books in World Affairs

Latest release on Jan 15, 2020

The Best Episodes Ranked Using User Listens

Updated by OwlTail 9 days ago

Rank #1: Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, "How Democracies Die" (Crown, 2018)

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Daniel Ziblatt has done a lot of interviews since the release of How Democracies Die (Crown, 2018) the bestselling book he co-wrote with Steven Levitsky. But we asked him a question he’d never gotten before — about a line toward the end of the book when he refers to democracy as “grinding work.”

The idea that democracy isn’t easy is a central theme of this podcast. As How Democracies Die illustrates, it’s much easier to succumb to the power of an autocratic leader than it is to stand up and protect the institutions that serve as the guardrails of democracy. Ziblatt, a professor of government at Harvard, talks about how the book came about and the impact it’s had since it was released earlier this year.

Democracy Works is created by the McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State and recorded at WPSU Penn State, central Pennsylvania’s NPR station.

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May 23 2019

35mins

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Rank #2: The Treaty of Versailles On Hundred Years On

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The Versailles Treaty of 1919, celebrates its one-hundred anniversary this year. And, yet unlike the more recent centenaries, such as that of the outbreak of the Great War or the Russian Revolution, the Versailles Treaty, notwithstanding its importance as perhaps the most important of the twentieth-century, has not seen the same level of interest? Is this relatively indifference due to the fact that it is still regarded by some (in the words of John Maynard Keynes) as a 'Carthaginian Peace', which lead inevitably to the rise of Hitler and the outbreak of the Second World War? To discuss this and other aspects of the Treaty, in the podcast channel, 'Arguing History', are Professor of History at the University of Exeter, Jeremy Black and Dr. Charles Coutinho, of the Royal Historical Society.

Professor Jeremy Black MBE, Is Professor of History at the University of Exeter. A graduate of Queens College, Cambridge, he is the author of well over one-hundred books. In 2008 he was awarded the “Samuel Eliot Morison Award for Lifetime Achievement".

Charles Coutinho Ph. D. of the Royal Historical Society, received his doctorate from New York University. His area of specialization is 19th and 20th-century

European, American diplomatic and political history. He has written recently for Chatham House’s International Affairs.

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Dec 27 2019

39mins

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Rank #3: Marc Sageman, “Misunderstanding Terrorism” (U. Pennsylvania Press, 2016)

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In Misunderstanding Terrorism (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016) Marc Sageman provides an important reassessment of the global neojihadi threat to the West. He argues that inaccurate evaluations of the threat and overreactions to a limited threat have transformed U.S. society. By constructing a model to explain the turn to political violence, Sageman shows how a misunderstanding of terrorism in the West has dramatically inflated fear of the actual danger posed by neojihadis. This has led to overreaction of the counterterrorist community, which has resulted in threats to fundamental civil liberties. Sageman makes the distinction that the vast majority of political protestors are not violent and he expands on the conditions that may turn some members of an imagined community from talking about violence to engaging in violence. The book brings realistic numbers into the assessment of the threat facing the West and concludes with straightforward policies to end the threat instead of perpetuating it.

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Dec 14 2016

54mins

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Rank #4: Maria Montoya, et. al, eds. “Global Americans: A History of the United States” (Wadsworth Publishing, 2017)

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America’s national experience and collective history have always been subject to transnational forces and affected by global events and conditions. In recognition of this reality, the textbook Global Americans: A History of the United States (Cengage, 2017) presents a history of North America and then the United States in which world events and processes are central rather than colorful sidelights. In doing so, the text reflects the diverse experiences of the students it speaks to, as well as their families. Readers will be immersed in an accessible and inclusive American history in which a variety of social, cultural, economic, and geographic dynamics play key roles. The authors want you to see yourselves in the narrative, primary source documents, images, and other media they have assembled. Global Americans reveals the long history of global events that have shaped — and been shaped by — the peoples who have come to constitute the United States.


In this podcast Maria Montoya discusses the story behind the creation and necessity of this textbook, what it hopes to accomplish in classrooms, and the opportunities and challenges of collaborative writing.


Maria E. Montoya earned her Ph.D. from Yale University in 1993 and her BA from Yale in 1986. She is an Associate Professor of History New York University, as well as the Dean of Arts and Science at New York University, Shanghai. She is the author of numerous articles as well as the book Translating Property: The Maxwell Land Grant and the Conflict over Land in the American West, 1840-1900. She has also worked on the AP U.S. History Development Committee and consulted to the College Board.

Lori A. Flores is Associate Professor of History at Stony Brook University (SUNY) and the author of Grounds for Dreaming: Mexican Americans, Mexican Immigrants, and the California Farmworker Movement (Yale, 2016). She is based in Brooklyn.

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Jul 28 2017

48mins

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Rank #5: Ching Kwan Lee, “The Specter of Global China: Politics, Labor, and Foreign Investment in Africa” (U Chicago Press, 2018)

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Today we talked with Ching Kwan Lee, professor of sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles.  She has just published The Specter of Global China: Politics, Labor, and Foreign Investment in Africa (University of Chicago Press, 2018), an amazing new book based on her field study in Africa where she investigated the Chinese investments. The book is extremely interesting for its methodology and unconventional findings. Lee’s research project lasted for 7 years during which she has conducted field research in copper mines and construction sites in Zambia. A key question addressed is if Chinese capital is a different type of capital. By the end of the conversation we will know if it is different and if yes, if it is a better or a worse type of capital. Lee has defined Chinese state capital compared with global private capital in terms of business objectives, labour practices, managerial ethos and political engagement with Zambia. She has written a book with huge policy implications. A great contribution to so many fields, sociology of labour first among them. But above all she has written a beautiful book that is a pleasure to read. At times it reads like a novel, particularly the long appendix, called ‘An ethnographer’s odyssey: the mundane and the sublime of searching China in Zambia’.


We discussed why China’s presence in Africa is so controversial and what type of Chinese investors are there. Her work focuses on large state-owned companies. Lee’s project in Africa is a continuation of her previous field study of labour in China (Against the Law: Labor Protests in China’s Rustbelt and Sunbelt (University of California Press, 2007). But this book has another important predecessor, the study of labour in Zambian mines conducted by the great British-American sociologist, Michael Burawoy. She told us about her relationship with him and his work. Lee also discussed whether it is appropriate to use the term “imperialism” to represent Chinese presence in Africa. She argues it is not. The book includes pictures of her field work in mines and construction sites. Definitely a beautiful book, brave piece of field research, nonconformist, original, important, erudite, pleasant to read.

Carlo D’Ippoliti is associate professor of economics at Sapienza University of Rome, and is editor of the open access economics journals ‘PSL Quarterly Review’ and ‘Moneta e Credito’. His recent publications include the ‘Routledge Handbook of Heterodox Economics’ (Routledge, 2017) and ‘Classical Political Economy Today’ (Anthem, 2018), both as co-editor.

Andrea Bernardi is Senior Lecturer in Employment and Organization Studies at Oxford Brookes University in the UK. He holds a doctorate in Organization Theory from the University of Milan, Bicocca. He has held teaching and research positions in Italy, China and the UK. Among his research interests are the use of history in management studies, the co-operative sector, and Chinese co-operatives. His latest His latest project is looking at health care in rural China. He is the co-convener of the EAEPE’s permanent track on Critical Management Studies.

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Oct 25 2018

48mins

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Rank #6: Ignacio Aguiló, “The Darkening Nation: Race, Neoliberalism, and Crisis in Argentina” (U Wales Press, 2018)

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In The Darkening Nation: Race, Neoliberalism, and Crisis in Argentina (University of Wales Press, 2018), Ignacio Aguiló studies the sociocultural impact caused by the failure of the IMF economic measures in Argentina of 2001-2002. Through the lens of cultural production (films, novels, short stories, artwork and music), the author explores two of the country’s so-called exceptionalisms: whiteness and economic success. These myths, heavily endorsed by the military dictatorship during the 1970s and early 1980s, created a sense of homogeneity and uniqueness that came into question at the time of the crisis. All of the cultural products studied by the author show different aspects of what was actually a crisis in the exceptionality myths that linked race with progress.


Pamela Fuentes is Assistant Professor in the Women’s and Gender Studies Department, Pace University, NYC campus.

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Jun 19 2018

59mins

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Rank #7: Eric Helleiner, "Forgotten Foundations: International Development and the Making of the Postwar Order" (Cornell UP, 2018)

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The story of Bretton Woods has been told by countless historians. We have a good sense of the wartime context, the negotiations themselves, the roles of many of the main actors (especially Great Britain and the United States), and the conference’s meaning for postwar global history. What can another book possibly tell us? Lots, actually.

In his new book Forgotten Foundations: International Development and the Making of the Postwar Order (Cornell University Press, 2018), Eric Helleiner, a political economist at Waterloo University, retells this history with fresh, more globally-searching eyes in his book Forgotten Foundations: International Development and the Making of the Postwar Era. He examines the conference’s prehistory, which he locates in the United States’ Good Neighbor Policy towards Latin America in the 1930s. He follows representatives from the Global South in and around the conference, showing how they shaped the negotiations and the final agreements. And, finally, he reveals that the conference participants were very interested in the concept of development, a concept that many historians periodize a few years later.

The award-winning book should interest economic historians, historians of finance, global historians, historians of U.S. foreign policy, and anyone wanting a fuller, more inclusive account of how global governance works.

Dexter Fergie is a first-year PhD student of US and global history at Northwestern University. He is currently researching the 20th century geopolitical history of information and communications networks. He can be reached by email at dexter.fergie@u.northwestern.edu or on Twitter @DexterFergie.

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Dec 11 2018

55mins

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Rank #8: Asher Orkaby, “Beyond the Arab Cold War: The International History of the Yemen Civil War, 1962-68” (Oxford UP, 2017)

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The civil war in Yemen today harkens back to a similar conflict half a century ago, when the overthrow of the ruling imam, Muhammad al-Badr, in 1962 sparked a conflict that dragged on for the rest of the decade. While primarily driven by domestic politics, as Asher Orkaby explains in his book Beyond the Arab Cold War: The International History of the Yemen Civil War, 1962-68 (Oxford University Press, 2017), the fighting drew in a variety of foreign powers and multinational organizations, each with an agenda that played an important role in defining events. Despite the ongoing Cold War of that time, the United States and the Soviet Union found themselves in the curious position of both supporting the new republican government that took power in the aftermath of Badr’s ousting, though their involvement was quickly eclipsed by that of Egypt. Seizing the opportunity to advance his vision of Arab nationalism, Gamal Abdel Nasser dispatched thousands of troops to Yemen, where they soon found themselves in an intractable struggle that they were poorly prepared to fight. Nevertheless, Egyptian forces secured the republicans hold on Yemen’s major population areas, forcing the royalists to wage a guerrilla war from the mountainous countryside where, with the backing of Saudi Arabia and support from Great Britain and Israel, they were able to prolong the conflict in ways that shaped the history of not just Yemen but the entire Middle East as well.

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Sep 05 2017

59mins

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Rank #9: Benjamin Breen, "The Age of Intoxication: Origins of the Global Drug Trade" (U Penn Press, 2019)

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In Benjamin Breen's The Age of Intoxication: Origins of the Global Drug Trade (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019), we are transported back to a time when there was no such thing as "recreational" and "medicinal" drugs. People ate Egyptian mummies. Tobacco apparently cured cancer. And the book has many more fascinating stories. Focusing in on the Portuguese colonies in Brazil and Angola and on the imperial capital of Lisbon, Breen deftly explores the process by which novel drugs were located, commodified, and consumed. And Breen demonstrates that drugs have been entwined with science and empire from the very beginning. Just like today.

Benjamin Breen is an Assistant Professor in the History Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Lucas Richert is an associate professor in the School of Pharmacy at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He studies intoxicating substances and the pharmaceutical industry. He also examines the history of mental health. 

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Dec 26 2019

1hr 1min

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Rank #10: Sebastian Conrad, “What is Global History?” (Princeton UP, 2016)

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The last two decades have seen a surge in global histories, be they global histories of food, of ideas, or social movements.  But why this move away from strictly national and regional histories? Is it because we think of ourselves as an increasingly globalized society? And how can we think globally without succumbing to some of the pitfalls of both globalization and global history? Sebastian Conrad’s What is Global History? (Princeton University Press, 2016) is an attempt at setting down a methodology —or perhaps a perspective—to inspire historians going forward. In the book, he tracks the history of the discipline, the implications of the discipline, and several approaches to writing global history. We go over the ABC’s of global history, what critics have to say about global history, global history beyond the academy and ultimately, how to write a global history.

Sebastian Conrad is professor of global history, intellectual history, and post-colonial history at the Free University of Berlin. He is the author of German Colonialism: A Short History, Globalisation and the Nation in Imperial Germany, and The Quest for the Lost Nation: Writing History in Germany and Japan in the American Century.


Nadirah Mansour is a graduate student at Princeton University’s Department of Near Eastern Studies working on the global intellectual history of the Arabic-language press. She tweets @NAMansour26 and produces another Middle-East and North Africa-related podcast: Reintroducing.

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Jul 11 2018

58mins

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Rank #11: Stephen Tankel, “With Us and Against Us: How America’s Partners Help and Hinder the War on Terror” (Columbia UP, 2018)

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With Us and Against Us: How America’s Partners Help and Hinder the War on Terror (Columbia University Press, 2018) offers readers a fresh, insightful and new perspective on US counterterrorism cooperation with complex countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt, Yemen and Mali. These US partners work with the United States to defeat militant groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. Yet, they often are both firefighters and arsonists because they frequently simultaneously support groups that engage in political violence and/or pursue policies likely to produce a new generation of militants. US partners, moreover, at times adhere to worldviews that potentially create breeding grounds for extremism. Drawing on his extensive scholarship as well as his experience as a senior advisor to the US Department of Defense during the Obama administration, assistant professor Stephen Tankel takes the reader on a well-written, highly readable tour of the complexities and pitfalls of cooperation on counterterrorism in a post-Cold War world. Tankel unravels a minefield populated by unrealistic US expectations, an over-reliance on military tools, and lack of understanding of threat perceptions among America’s partners as well as the differing priorities that US partners have. In doing so, Tankel contributes to both the study of political violence and the far broader contexts that nourish it and the continuous debate among policymakers and pundits on how to counter it.


James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

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Aug 10 2018

1hr 1min

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Rank #12: Iain MacGregor, "Checkpoint Charlie: The Cold War, The Berlin Wall, and the Most Dangerous Place On Earth" (Scribner, 2019)

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There is perhaps no more iconic symbol of the Cold War than the Berlin Wall, the 96-mile-long barrier erected around West Berlin in 1961 to stem the flow of refugees from Eastern Europe. In Checkpoint Charlie: The Cold War, The Berlin Wall, and the Most Dangerous Place On Earth (Scribner, 2019), Iain MacGregor draws upon interviews with a wide range of people to recount the history of the wall and how it affected the lives of the people on either side of it. Through their firsthand experiences he recounts the tension-filled hours when East German workers began constructing the first elements of what became an elaborate series of obstacles that restricted access to the two sides of the partitioned city. As Berliners gradually adapted to the presence of the wall, thousands of people on the eastern side risked their lives in their search for ways around, above, and below the barriers to gain their freedom in the West. As MacGregor explains, underlying much of this was the assumption by nearly all sides of the permanence of the wall, a belief that was proven false by the dramatic events of November 1989 which resulted in the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reuniting of the two sides of the German city.

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Nov 08 2019

1hr 11mins

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Rank #13: Brian T. Edwards, “After the American Century: The Ends of U.S. Culture in the Middle East” (Columbia UP, 2016)

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American culture is ubiquitous across the globe. It travels to different social contexts and is consumed by international populations. But the relationship between American culture and the meanings attached to the United States change over time. During the 20th century, the American Century, American culture generally aided in the positive global perception of U.S. policies and governance.


In After the American Century: The Ends of U.S. Culture in the Middle East (Columbia University Press, 2016), Brian T. Edwards, Crown Professor in Middle East Studies and Professor of English at Northwestern University, demonstrates how this relationship altered in recent decades. Technological innovation and the emergence of the digital age have drastically changed the nature of cultural circulation and production. Edwards explores the innovative play between global culture and local subjects in Egypt, Iran, and Morocco. He explores the exchange and interpretations between multiple publics that engage culture situated within various assumptions and social expectations. What he shows is that local cultural production often creates the ends of circulation, which are not always visible to an American audience. In our conversation we discussed the relationship between culture and politics, Egyptian fiction and graphic novels, Iranian directors Asghar Farhadi and Abbas Kiarostami, Shrek, digital piracy, Moroccan film controversies, the logics of film production, interpreting audiences, American Orientalism in television, literature, and Ben Affleck’s Argo.

Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Nebraska Omaha. His research and teaching interests include Theory and Methodology in the Study of Religion, Islamic Studies, Chinese Religions, Human Rights, and Media Studies. You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at kjpetersen@unomaha.edu.

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Mar 06 2017

58mins

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Rank #14: David Stevenson, “1917: War, Peace, and Revolution” (Oxford UP, 2018)

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In 1917: War, Peace, and Revolution (Oxford University Press, 2018), David Stevenson examines a pivotal chapter of the First World War. Two and a half years of death and destruction had brought the belligerents to new nadirs of attrition and zeniths of strategic calculation. Deeply invested in the war, with unprecedented losses of blood and treasure, and no longer optimistic about their chances of victory, all sides were looking for a quick exit but had few prospects of finding one. In 1917, the Germans gambled in escalating their submarine warfare, which drew the hesitant Americans into the conflict, the French faced mutinies, and the Russians plunged the throes of Revolution. The war thus raged, spreading across two oceans to four continents, finally turning toward its conclusion.


In this episode of the podcast, David Stevenson discusses the causes, course, and effects of these events with us, and shares his insights about judging historical forces and human agency, evaluating counterfactuals, and drawing comparisons between 1917 and subsequent events of the last 100 years, including the Second World War, the Vietnam War, and conflicts of the twenty-first century.


Professor Stevenson is Stevenson Chair of International History at the London School of Economics, and has published several important works on the World War I including With Our Backs to the Wall: Victory and Defeat in 1918, and 1914-1918: The History of the First World War.


Krzysztof Odyniec is a historian of the Early Modern Spanish Empire specializing on culture, diplomacy, and travel. He completed his PhD in 2017 at UC Berkeley where he is now a Visiting Scholar; he also teaches at Los Medanos College and Berkeley City College.

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Jan 22 2018

56mins

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Rank #15: Laura Engelstein, “Russia in Flames: War, Revolution, Civil War, 1914-1921” (Oxford University Press, 2017)

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Russia in Flames: War, Revolution, Civil War, 1914-1921 (Oxford University Press, 2017) is a masterful account of the Russian revolutionary era by Laura Engelstein, Professor Emerita at Yale University. Spanning the pre-revolutionary period immediately prior the First World War to the end of the Russian Civil War, Russia in Flames provides a rich and comprehensive view of the whys and the wherefores of Revolutionary Russia. Russia in Flames provides both the academic and the general reader with a rich and flowing account of the seminal event of the twentieth century. All from the historian who is in the words of the periodical Kritika: “one of the most important figures in the field of Russian history” today.


Charles Coutinho holds a doctorate in history from New York University. Where he studied with Tony Judt, Stewart Stehlin and McGeorge Bundy. His Ph. D. dissertation was on Anglo-American relations in the run-up to the Suez Crisis of 1956. His area of specialization is 19th and 20th-century European, American diplomatic and political history. It you have a recent title to suggest for a podcast, please send an e-mail to Charlescoutinho@aol.com.

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Jan 31 2018

1hr 4mins

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Rank #16: Coll Thrush, “Indigenous London: Native Travelers at the Heart of Empire” (Yale UP, 2016)

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Coll Thrush’s new book is an imaginative and beautifully-written history of London framed by the experiences of indigenous travelers since early modernity. Indigenous London: Native Travelers at the Heart of Empire (Yale University Press, 2016) brings together urban and indigenous histories, arguing that indigenous people around the world have actively engaged with and helped create the world we call modern, including its great urban centers. The book is organized around domains of entanglement, with each chapter following a particular set of travelers to explore a particular way that urban and Indigenous histories are linked: knowledge, disorder, reason, ritual, discipline, memory. Interspersed with these chapters are free-verse poetical interludes that weave archival fragments and Thrush’s own writerly voice together in stories of particular objects that mark the book’s journey: a mirror, a debtors’ petition, a pair of statues, a lost museum, a hat factory, a notebook. It is a thoughtful, compelling account that will be of interest to a wide range of readers interested in indigenous studies, urban history, early modern history, and London itself. An appendix on Self-Guided Encounters with Indigenous London helps readers use the book as a kind of travel guide to help activate the history of Indigenous London into shaping explorations of the city today.

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Nov 23 2016

1hr 5mins

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Rank #17: James Tharin Bradford, "Poppies, Power, and Politics: Afghanistan and the Global History of Drugs and Diplomacy" (Cornell UP, 2019)

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Afghanistan and the United States have a complicated relationship. And poppies have often been at the center of the problem between the two countries. In James Tharin Bradford's new book, Poppies, Power, and Politics: Afghanistan and the Global History of Drugs and Diplomacy (Cornell University Press, 2019), he reevaluates the Afghan state, opium, and international drug regulation. Bradford offers a new perspective on this US/Afghan relationship and underlines ways of thinking about drugs in the United States. As the U.S. deals with an opioid crisis, this timely book underlines how we think about licit and illicit substances and forces.

Lucas Richert is an associate professor in the School of Pharmacy at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He studies intoxicating substances and the pharmaceutical industry. He also examines the history of mental health.

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Aug 13 2019

34mins

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Rank #18: Cathal J. Nolan, "The Allure of Battle: A History of How Wars Have Been Won and Lost" (Oxford UP, 2019)

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History has tended to measure war's winners and losers in terms of its major engagements, battles in which the result was so clear-cut that they could be considered "decisive." Marathon, Cannae, Tours, Agincourt, Austerlitz, Sedan, Stalingrad--all resonate in the literature of war and in our imaginations as tide-turning. But were they? As Cathal J. Nolan demonstrates in The Allure of Battle: A History of How Wars Have Been Won and Lost (Oxford University Press, 2019), victory in major wars usually has been determined in other ways. Even the most legendarily lopsided of battles did not necessarily decide their outcomes. Nolan also challenges the hoary concept of the military "genius," even of the Great Captains--from Alexander to Frederick and Napoleon--mapping instead the decent into total war.

The Allure of Battle systematically recreates and analyzes the major campaigns among the Great Powers, from the Middle Ages through the 20th century, from the fall of Byzantium to the defeat of the Axis powers, tracing the illusion of "short-war thinking," the hope that victory might be swift and conflict brief. Such as almost never been the case. Even one-sided battles have mainly contributed to victory or defeat by accelerating erosion of the other side's defenses, resources, and will.

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Jun 06 2019

1hr 16mins

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Rank #19: Daniel Immerwahr, "How to Hide an Empire: The History of the Greater United States" (FSG, 2019)

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“Is America an Empire?” is a popular question for pundits and historians, likely because it sets off such a provocative debate. All too often, however, people use empire simply because the United States is a hegemon, ignoring the country’s imperial traits to focus simply on its power. Dr. Daniel Immerwahr’s book How to Hide an Empire: The History of the Greater United States (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019) corrects this by explicitly focusing on the country’s territories and territories overseas possessions.

Dr. Immerwahr begins at the country’s founding as apprehension over aggressive westward settlement gave way to enthusiastic land grabs by pioneers such as Daniel Boone. Propelled by an astonishingly high birth rate and immigration, Euroamericans displaced indigenous peoples. In addition to this more familiar narrative, other factors drove territorial expansion. A desperate need for fertilizers led to the annexation of nearly one hundred “guano islands” in the Pacific and Caribbean, followed by the annexation of even more territory following the Spanish-American War in 1898. These new territories, including Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Guam, and others enjoyed an uneasy relationship with the United States: they did not enjoy constitutional protections but nevertheless had a close relationship with what they called the mainland. While the United States backed away from traditional colonialism after 1945, what emerged instead was a “pointillist empire” that depended on bases and new uses of older territory to function.

Zeb Larson is a PhD Candidate in History at The Ohio State University. His research is about the anti-apartheid movement in the United States. To suggest a recent title or to contact him, please send an e-mail to zeb.larson@gmail.com.

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Mar 07 2019

1hr 18mins

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Rank #20: Reza Zia-Ebrahimi, “The Emergence of Iranian Nationalism: Race and the Politics of Dislocation” (Columbia UP, 2016)

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Over the past century, virtually every Iranian—whether living in Iran or in the diaspora—has been exposed, to one degree or another, to certain commonly held nationalistic beliefs about what it means to be Iranian. These beliefs include the idea that Iranians are an “Aryan” race; that pre-Islamic Iran was a sort of golden age, marked by a glorious Persian Empire; and that this pure Iranian “soul” was subsequently “polluted” by the arrival of Arab culture, language and even religion in the seventh century.


As Reza Zia-Ebrahimi shows in his deftly argued new book, The Emergence of Iranian Nationalism: Race and the Politics of Dislocation (Columbia University Press, 2016), these nationalistic myths are largely a modern invention—a phenomenon he describes as “dislocative nationalism.” Following a “traumatic encounter with Europe” in the nineteenth century, Zia-Ebrahimi argues, Iranians were left searching for explanations for their perceived backwardness vis-a-vis western civilization. And the answer increasingly offered by modernist intellectuals was that the genius of Persian civilization had been degraded by the invasion of an alien other—in the form of Arabs and Islam. These ideas, which borrowed heavily from contemporary European racial thinking of the time, were adapted and hybridized by Iranian intellectuals keen to cast Persians as a master race, superior to the Semitic Arabs. And in the twentieth century, they were enthusiastically taken up by the Pahlavi state as part of its drive towards secularization and western-style modernity. Zia-Ebrahimi calls these ideas “dislocative” because they suggest—implicitly and sometimes explicitly—that Iran’s physical location, in the middle of a region dominated by Arabs and Islam, is a mere accident of geography, and that Iranians are actually Europeans manques. The persistence of such dislocative ideas about Iranian nationhood, which continue to animate much of the chauvinistic discourse indulged in by Iranians both sympathetic and antagonistic to the Islamic Republic, makes them ripe for critical enquiry, and Zia-Ebrahimi offers a long-overdue assessment of the phenomenon.

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Dec 20 2017

1hr 9mins

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