Sunday, 19 December 2010

Richard J. Evans, The Third Reich In Power (2006)

This is the second volume of Evans' history of the Third Reich. (For my review of the first volume, please follow this link.)

Evans provides a convenient review/summary of the first volume in his Prologue, which I found particularly useful as I read the previous volume several months and even more books ago. His summary is succinct, clear, and useful (and if you are planning on reading the first volume, I recommend you read the prologue to this book first, as it provides a handy precis of what you can expect).

Of course, analysis of the Third Reich in Power has the advantage of material that is far more likely to hold any reader's interest, starting as it does at the 1933 seizure of power. From the outset, this book moves more quickly and more clearly than the first volume, which spent a significant portion of time setting up the philosophic, political and economic context of the rise of fascism in Germany. This volume begins by surveying the initial format of German governance under the Nazis, and then the establishment of multiple levels of surveillance and repression (including the SA, Gestapo, and SS). A particularly useful concept Evans uses as a guiding organizational trope is the shrinking divide between the 'normative' and 'extra-governmental' (my term, not his) wings of governance established by the Nazis. His discussion of the difficulties had in altering German law to correspond to the ever-moving Nazi definitions of justice, fairness, and juris prudence are quite interesting, and an aspect of this period that gets too little discussion in most histories.

Perhaps surprising is Evans' concentration on cultural aspects of Nazi Germany, including the arts, education and religion. Certainly, developments in these fields were all important. It is just surprising to see an author devote about half of his discussion of this era to these topics. That being said, Evans does an admirable job making a multitude of confusing, sometimes contradictory governmental impulses understandable, without making them as tiresome as some other authors have done.

As Adam Tooze does in Wages of Destruction, Evans also makes much of the economic necessity of Germany's choice to go to war in the 1930s. Hitler's initial plan was for war to begin about four or five years later. The balance of trade, need for acquisition of primary resources, and international debts helped to compel significant support for a move to an earlier war timeline, however.

The book does lose a little focus in the second half, as Evans attempts to describe and make sense of the Nazi efforts to acquire Austria and Czechoslovakia. He does give an interesting indication, however, of the contending interests at play in proposing, supporting, and developing various options (such as Goring's leading role in bring about a peaceful acquisition of Czech land, and Ribbentrop's dismissal of English willingness to fight as well as his work in engineering the rather surprising Non-Aggression Pact with the USSR. All of this, however, could have easily been more fully explored.

One area I would have liked to read more about was the German involvement in Spain's civil war - both as a political choice, as well as a set of lessons on strategy and applications of military technology. This may have been beyond the survey of German domestic politics that Evans seems to focus on, though.

All of this said, the second volume of Evans' trilogy is a much better read than the first. I can only hope the third is just as interesting.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Martin Meredith, "The Fate of Africa" (2006)

The full title of this release is "The Fate of Africa: From the Hopes of Freedom to the Heart of Despair - Fifty Years of Independence".

Although Meredith offers a short introduction of pre-World War II African history, his story really begins with the deposition of Egypt's King Farouk and the Suez Crisis of 1956.

In the first half of the book, Meredith avoids getting bogged down in details, and concentrates on narrative. By 200 pages in, however, the narrative momentum is difficult to maintain. As he describes how individual countries pursued different paths to independence, and responded to the challenges of independence differently, a macro/regional approach makes less sense. It also makes tougher writing, of course. Attempting to track the development of individual countries starts to considerably complicate the narrative, and boggles the casual reader.

Likely as a way to manage this challenge, Meredith moves to a thematic focus, using chapters to deal with individual countries or themes such as AIDS. Placed within the complicated context he has narrated, the unpacking of tragedies such as Rwanda and the Congo made much more sense.

Meredith has set himself an impressive, difficult to manage task: to write a fifty-year history of the continent that has seen some of the most rapid and dangerous social, political, and economic changes since World War II. Weaknesses are to be expected. His book is... ok. As casual reading it is a bit of a slog, but does provide a useful reference, and does concisely and clearly establish some of the major lines of African contemporary history. He also, for better or worse, places his ideological premises front and centre, making no apologies for the positive roles he feels international trade, as well as international financial and political organizations can and have played in Africa since the Second World War.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Hugh MacLennan, "Two Solitudes" (1945)

Along with Louis Hémon's Maria Chapdelaine and Pierre Vallieres' White Niggers of America, Two Solitudes is essential reading for anyone who wants to attempt to understand twentieth-century Quebec. MacLennan's book is one of the pillars of Canadian fiction. A mixed francophone/anglophone Quebec family provides a trope to investigate the quite different experiences and perceptions of french-speaking Quebecers and the anglophone "others", both within the province and beyond it. Covering the period between the end of the First World War and the beginning of the Second, MacLennan's book covers economic, linguistic, religious, and social experiences. My wife suggested that it is the "most boring book I've ever read", but I found it moved along at a nice pace. It became, however, very depressing in the second half. This reflects the reality of the times, however.

Entirely aside from this review, I was MIGHTY pleased to find a first edition of this book in a used store delete bin for $1. What a score. Even if it's not worth much in terms of trade value, it's a beautiful, pristine little piece of Canadiana.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Winnipeg, Oct. 2010

The relatively new bridge spanning the Red River on the east side of downtown Winnipeg. The imagination involved in planning structural features to overcome ice and flooding are fascinating.

The view southwest from the bridge.

An intriguing tribute to Gandhi, at one end of a park commemorating the Aboriginal/Metis role in building Winnipeg and Manitoba.

Portage and Main, windiest intersection in Canada, and arguably the centre of the country.

The muddy shores of the Red.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Roy MacGregor, "Northern Light: The Enduring Mystery of Tom Thomson..." (2010)

I will reserve some of my comments for this book as I have discussed it in the book review below:

Gregory Klages. Review of Roy MacGregor's "Northern Light: The enduring mystery of Tom Thomson and the woman who loved him". American Review of Canadian Studies 41/3 (Fall 2011).

For those interested in research regarding Thomson's death, I also recommend that you look up my chapter entitled "The Many Deaths of Tom Thomson", in Archives and Canadian Narratives, Kathleen Garay & Kristl Verduyn, eds. (Black Point, NS: Fernwood Press, 2011).

For those who can't access these articles, however, I can say the following:
1. The most important aspect of this book is that it is guilty of promulgating a multitude of incorrect or highly dubious claims about Thomson's death and the related activities that followed Thomson's death, many times describing them as if there is no doubt about their truth. The number of times the book incorrectly interprets or represents the historical record in such an egregious way can only be understood as sloppy consideration on the part of the author. All researchers, of course, will be guilty of errors, but these errors should not diminish the likely truth of their conclusions. In the case of this book, they do.

2. The book is frustrating in that it does not source its quotations. When an author decides to not tell the reader where they obtained quotations from, it always suggests to me either a certain sloppiness with regard to collecting data, or perhaps even a certain hesitation to have their work challenged by comparison back to the original sources.

3. The book appears to derive most of its observations from some one else's research, namely - Death On A Painted Lake: The Tom Thomson Tragedy. This fact might also provide the answer to the previous concern, essentially suggesting that the author did not devote as much time to weighing the evidence as attempting to 'write a good yarn' on the foundation of an historical event.

4. The book makes some intriguing observations: firstly, that a photo long identified as Thomson's potential love interest may be incorrectly identified, and secondly, that a forensic specialist has suggested that the skull exhumed in Algonquin Park could be reconstructed to resemble Thomson's visage. Unfortunately, the first does not particularly change the story of Thomson's life, while the second requires significantly more scientific argument to produce reasonable cause to argue for an exhumation of the remains in Algonquin Park - an exhumation, it might be added, that many agree is necessary to resolve one of the mysteries surrounding Thomson's death and burial.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Bruce Hutchison, "Mr. Prime Minister, 1867-1964" (1965)

Bruce Hutchison, Mr. Prime Minister, 1867-1964 (New York, : Harcourt, Brace &​ World, 1965)

This book is ideal bedtime reading. It presents a genuinely engaging, pleasant read, surveying the basic biography of each Canadian Prime Minister from Macdonald to Pearson. It strikes a nice balance between identifying personal traits and tribulations faced by each Prime Minister, and surveying the political context each man served within. No chapter is overly long or tediously detailed, and yet each manages to touch on major points of concern. Particularly meritorious, to my mind, was the information concerning some of the Canada's earliest Prime Ministers (such as Bowells and Mackenzie), of whom it is often difficult to find information, or to understand how their tenure of service related to 'brighter lights' around them, such as Macdonald and Laurier.

The language used in this book is sometimes a little amusing. It takes me back to a time when people actually read and wrote, when biographies of 'great men' were written without cynicism, apology, or disclaimers. Additionally, it is unfortunate that the book essentially stops with its survey of Diefenbaker. Although Pearson is discussed, the likelihood of his success as Prime Minister is more a case of speculation than review. I can only wonder how Hutchison might have assessed Trudeau, Mulroney, or Chretien.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Leonard Zeskind, "Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalism Movement..." (2009)

Zeskind has written an eminently readable, well-researched, fair-handed assessment of the organizational and philosophic history of US white nationalism. My only complaint is that his writing, particularly his use of simile and metaphor, is occasionally overwrought. This small fault is a minor concern compared to Zeskind's smooth, clear, insightful tracking of individuals, money and power within this movement between the 1960s and the 2000s. In particular, the connections the author observes between the white nationalism movement in its most extreme incarnations (such as White Aryan Resistance, or the militia movement) and its less extreme incarnations [or those which disguise their ideology behind more vague names] (such as the Institute for Historical Review, or the Populist Party), and finally, how the tentacles of the movement extend in the Republican Party, is fascinating. A very good read, and much better, in my estimation, than George Michaels' "Theology of Hate".

Monday, 23 August 2010

David Wilson, "Thomas D'Arcy McGee (Vol. 1): Passion, Reason, Politics - 1825-1857"

This book was suggested as a useful supplement to my research regarding fraternal groups operating in Canada during the late nineteenth-century. It's relationship to this work was slim. Nonetheless, it is an interesting read.

A father of Canadian confederation, and one of the victim of one of the few noteworthy political assassinations in Canada, McGee is a complicated figure. His perspectives, particularly with regards to Irish separatist impulses (he was born, and spent a considerable part of his life in Ireland). Clearly, his thinking on this issue shaped his thinking on Canadian government. For those seeking greater insights into McGee's role in Confederation, or his assassination, however, you'll have to wait for Volume 2.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

John English, "Just Watch Me: The Life of Pierre Elliott Trudeau: 1968-2000"

I was looking forward to reading this book, if only because Canadian political history of the 1960s and 1970s is one of my research passions. That being said, my appraisal of the book is perhaps harsher than the average reader's might be. And... my appraisal isn't really that harsh.

My greatest complaint, or perhaps this is more a reminder for the casual reader, is that this book is about Trudeau the man. That is not to say that English's book doesn't provide social, political and even some economic context for Trudeau's life, but it is primarily an exploration of the events, decisions, and thinking of a person who was in many respects notoriously guarded about his personal life.

English does a good job of providing the 'big brush marks' of Trudeau's life. At 600-some pages for a second volume, covering about thirty years (well, really, about fifteen years... the events after the mid-1980s get pretty short shrift), it has a lot of territory to cover. Trudeau's four terms as Prime Minister saw, as English points out, events that really, fundamentally changed Canada. Many of these events are tied directly to Trudeau's vision of how the country should be. Perhaps this is the core problem of the book. McCall and Clarkson did an excellent job of surveying the political and economic aspects of Trudeau's tenure as PM. This book at times seems to waffle between trying to tell the political story, and the personal story of Trudeau's life. Of course, the political is deeply interwoven with the personal in this story, and as noted above, Trudeau was very guarded about his personal life, but (and this is a big 'but' for me) as a biography, there are many aspects of Trudeau's personal decision-making and beliefs (such as his Catholicism), that I think are not adequately explored in this volume.

Nonetheless, the book is eminently readable, well-researched, and a good addition to Canadian history writing. As a fan of the era, however, I'd like to see more.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Heather and Gary Botting, "The Orwellian World of Jehovah's Witnesses" (1983)

Published by University of Toronto Press.

This book provides a fascinating glimpse into the cosmology and history of the Jehovah's Witnesses, a particularly unique sect of Christians known for their door-to-door proselytizing. While it is dated in many respects, the quality of its longue duree assessment of the evolution of JW thinking, as well as its assessment of many older JW texts, and as an older book that is likely out of print, it is worth the much reduced price you'll likely pay for it. It is also rather unique in that it is an academic book written by (former?) Jehovah's Witnesses.

The text combines doctoral research by Heather Botting on the JW's with her husband's research on George Orwell's writing (particularly 1984). At the time, JW's were speculating that the Final Judgement was likely to occur in 1984 (using an arcane set of calculations that indicated that the Second Coming had occurred in 1914, and that the Final Reckoning would occur within about 70 years, while the generation alive in 1914 would live to see the Final End). As we know now, this did not happen. Nonetheless, the analysis the Bottings offer of the 1984 preparations within the Kingdom is fascinating.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Max Elbaum, "Revolution In the Air: Sixties Radicals Turn to Lenin, Mao and Che" (2006)

This book is not for everyone. It offers a detailed, acronym-heavy genealogy of the New Communist movements that populated the far left in the United States between the late 1960s and late 1990s. Some chapters are too detail heavy for the casual reader, while others offer refined, clear summaries of some of the major points of philosophical disagreement between these groups, and through which even someone with passing curiousity could gain a useful sense of the politics of the times.

What I found most interesting, however, was the approach to organizations on the far left through a form of network theory. Understanding how these groups intersected, shared and competed for resources (whether funding, members, volunteer time, etc.), and proselytized to converts and to potential adherents, made for particularly fascinating reading. While Elbaum in some respects keeps this facet of the book comfortably in the background (not letting an academic, organizational approach overwhelm a more historical narrative type of story), his conclusions and summary observations clearly indicate a sensitivity to these issues, and perhaps a struggle to find some sort of useful, functional advice for future organizers on the far left.

Read an interview with Elbaum in Monthly Review, Oct. 2006.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Anatoli Fursenko, Timothy Naftali, "Khruschev's Cold War" (2006)

Khruschev's Cold War is a well-researched, calmly argued revision of popular understandings of the Cold War during the critical period of the late 1950s/early 1960s. Fursenko and Naftali take advantage of recently accessed/released files from Russian archives, correcting previous calculations regarding Khruschev and the Soviet government's ideas, concerns, and positions with reference to actual meeting minutes, diary entries, and interviews. In particular, they convincingly portray Khruschev as near-obsessed with mitigating the military aspect of the Cold War in order to allow the already-strapped Soviet economy to concentrate on domestic needs. He is shown as idealistic about Eisenhower's and Kennedy's desire for co-existence with the Soviet Union, impulsive in his foreign policy decision making, and opportunistic with regards to the possibility of extending Soviet influence in the Third World. The best aspect of this book, as suggested above, is the use of previously unavailable Soviet archival records, which give an entirely new perspective on events such as the second Berlin crisis, the Suez crisis, the U2 crisis, and the Cuban missile crisis.

I have really only two complaints about this book. Firstly, it almost entirely skips over the fascinating removal of Khruschev from the leadership of the Soviet Union. While the topic doesn't necessarily fit neatly within the purpose of exploring his Cold War thinking, it's such a critical element of the man and the Soviet government's story for the period that it does seem an odd omission. Secondly, the (hardcover) version does suffer from sloppy editing (typos are rampant), but the quality of writing is good overall.

Jules Verne, "Journey to the Centre of the Earth" (1837)

A classic work, I read this as a bit of a "before bed" intellectual palate-cleanser. It's an intriguing story, but doesn't necessarily wear well with age. There are some rather implausible propositions, such as the suggestion that the narrator, his uncle, and their Icelandic guide walk (through subterranean caverns) from Iceland to southern Italy. More importantly, in the last 170 years or so, we've made tremendous progress in terms of learning about the earth, and on this knowledge it's difficult to suspend disbelief enough to fully engage with Verne's tale. Nonetheless, it is stories such as these that motivated generations of science fiction writers, and I can see how such tales could also lie deep in the roots of allohistory.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Andrew Macdonald, "The Turner Diaries" and "Hunter" (1978; 1984)

Macdonald is the pseudonym of William Pierce. These two novels are renowned as essential reading for the current generation of American neo-nazis, and circulated in photocopied versions throughout the 1980s. More recently, they came to wider attention when it was discovered that Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma bomber, had been selling them at local gun shows. His interest in these books raised the spectre that Pierce's novels were inspiring "copy-cat" types of crimes.

Both novels are awkwardly written, pedantic, and more than a little amateurish. Pierce's aim in writing them was clearly not to create great art, however, but to address a cadre of his "racial comrades" in a way that might speak to them in a more evocative or effective way than a direct political treatise. This development is mirrored in the move in the 1990s towards using hate music to win over converts to "white" racism who might not be inclined to read Rosenberg, Rockwell, Duke, and Hitler.

Of the two, The Turner Diaries is far more readable, though Pierce apparently believed Hunter was far more realistic. The Turner Diaries essentially narrates a form of apocalypse story, more or less seen through the eyes of a single male participant, where global racial conflict leads to the rise of an all-white racial state in North America (and perhaps beyond). Hunter also focuses on the efforts of a single 'revolutionary' assassin who participates in underground efforts to overthrow the US government and spread racial hatred.

Racial, gender, and political characterizations in these books are simple, hateful, and loaded with very troubling stereotypes. They are not for the faint of heart. In my research on the US and Canadian far right, however, I've seen these books referred to so many times, I felt I needed to read them to understand some of the references, and to better get 'inside the heads' of the kinds of far right volunteers that I am studying.

I found it particularly intriguing that the date of the beginning of the revolution in The Turner Diaries is September 11. Given that the book was published in 1978, the coincidence is haunting.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Eckhart Tolle, "A New Earth: Awakening To Your Life's Purpose" (2005)

Tolle was recommended by someone whose ideas I respect. There are certainly kernels of wisdom in this text, which seeks to have us live in a way that gives meaningful attention to the now. The aim is not for people to pursue some sort of hedonistic lifestyle oblivious of long-term needs, but to embrace the sense that the source of our spiritual comfort with this difficult existence is rooted in the immediate need for us to accept, enjoy, or be enthusiastic about what we are doing, not seeking some deferred future gratification. Some strategies and perspectives Tolle employs in his discussion of perspective, purpose, and health are intriguing and useful.

On the other hand, there are some very corny elements in this book as well. Tolle draws significantly on Christian aphorisms, which in itself is not particularly troubling, but is a dependency that is not well-explained, particularly when his beliefs seem closer to Buddhism (unless, of course, the Christian elements sell better to a U.S. book market). Additionally, he draws on some distinctly un-Christian ideas that ring of wild new-age concepts, such as reincarnation and 'world spirit', and the like. Elements such as these makes it hard to not feel a little self-conscious about reading his book, smacking as they do of 18th- and 19th-century German philosophy without addressing the obvious negative outcomes these ideas have already led to.

You can read it here.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Neil Baldwin, "Henry Ford and the Jews: The Mass Production of Hate" (2002)

Neil Baldwin, Henry Ford and the Jews: The Mass Production of Hate (PublicAffairs: 2002)

On the whole, a disappointment. The book seemed, in all but a few preliminary chapters, to be just as much about the Jewish resistance to Ford's (and his employee's) anti-semitism. Baldwin opened the intriguing question of whether Ford was 'genuinely', perhaps better stated as 'independently' anti-semitic, or whether he had been led by several key employees to arrive at an unthinking, uncritical parroting of anti-semitic ideas. Strangely, "Henry Ford and the Jews" left me feeling that I certainly did not know Henry Ford much better than I did before reading it, had gained little grasp about the influence of his anti-semitic publishing campaign, and perhaps most frustratingly, had little clearer sense of how Americans responded to his ideas.

Overall, a frustrating book that left me with more questions and very few answers.

You can read some for yourself.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Thomas Pakenham, "The Boer War" (1979, rep. 1997)

Dating from the mid-1970s, and re-released in the late 1990s, Pakenham's The Boer War is an excellent revisitation of a conflict that had been too long overlooked (and really, still is). It provides good balance between discussion of military, political, and economic decision-making regarding the war, profiles of important personages, and poses challenging revisions to dominant understandings. Pakenham writes with what a friend called, 'typical heavy-handed British academic history language'. It's certainly not a high-school text sort of affair, but overall I found the book eminently readable. I thought the character and plot construction, once the first few chapters were past, helped propel me along quite pleasurably. As I mentioned to my wife, I would be entirely happy if I could write history books of this quality (and that, Mr. Pakenham, is high praise indeed).

Here's the Introduction to the book, in case you'd like a taste for yourself.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Keith Davey, "The Rainmaker" (1986)

Highly interesting, informative, fairly well written reflection on over 25 years of critical, behind-the-scenes knowledge of Liberal federal election campaigning.

More will follow later.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Pierre Berton, "Vimy" (1986)

Pierre Berton, Vimy (1986, Anchor Books, rep. 2001).

Berton’s books are popular history, but certainly not only of interest to generalists. His historical works are generally short, pithy, focused on interesting events and character-driven. They certainly do not suffer from overdependency on theoretical jargon or post-modern self-reflection. Vimy, in particular, was a strong example of his work at its best.

Ironically, Vimy is so well-laden with interesting anecdotes and useful information, that as a ‘trained historian’ I wish Berton had used more footnotes and references.

In the early 2000s, Anchor released redesigned paperback versions of some of Berton’s most popular works. The covers are gorgeous, and look great on any shelf; Vimy, in particular, would make a great addition to any Canadianist’s or World War One historian’s collection.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Michael Bliss, "Northern Enterprise: Five Centuries of Canadian Business" (1987)

Michael Bliss, Northern Enterprise: Five Centuries of Canadian Business (1987).

As much as I wanted to gain a fuller, better understanding of Canada’s economic and business history, I’m not sure that Five Centuries of Canadian Business was the best choice to satisfy this need.

While the level of detail in this lengthy tome was sometimes appreciated, combined with the dull writing style and often times sacrifice of clarity for inclusion of what can only be remembered as lists of names or businesses, it was difficult to get through. The length of the text obscured the overall thematic development of the book, which only seemed to gather some consistency and clarity of thought when covering the decades following the Second World War. Unfortunately, Bliss’ book remains one of few available options to familiarize yourself with the larger trends and personalities of Canadian business history.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Pierre Vallieres, "Choose!" (1971, trans. 1972)

Having read Vallieres earlier Negres blanc…. I approached Choose! with some trepidation. The first half of Negres blanc… was highly entertaining, with a thought-provoking mix of autobiographical detail and Marxist theory. The second half, however, I recall as a bit overwhelming and indulgent.

Choose is very short… less than 200 pages. Essentially, Vallieres uses Choose! to suggest that the FLQ, which he valourizes in Negres blanc, has lost its ability to rescue the Quebecois, and may in fact serve to complicate, challenge, and dimish the Quebecois’ need for independence. Arranged into three chapters, Vallieres explains what he sees the political, economic, social and cultural situation being in Quebec, then explains why the FLQ cannot positively and meaningful contribute to the deliverance of the Quebecois from these problems. The third part explains how the Parti Quebecois is the only route through which the Quebecois, if they choose to unify behind and support it, holds the ability to meaningful contribute to the capacity of the Quebecois to build their own revolution through independence.

Perhaps even more than he did in Negres blanc…, Vallieres manages to explain the relationship between the Quebecois’ struggle for independence and Marxist theory in an eminently readable way. His thinking is clear, cogent, and convincing.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

George Michael, "Theology of Hate: A History of the World Church of the Creator" (2009)

George Michael, Theology of Hate: A History of the World Church of the Creator (University of Florida Press, 2009).

Michaels’ history of the World Church of the Creator is the only one written to date. Having studied the group as one among a spectrum of American white supremacist organizations, Michaels is in a good position to elaborate on the groups’ origins, evolution, and place among its peers. In some respects, this book accomplishes such functions. Certainly, Theology of Hate does a good job of establishing where the WCOTC fits within American far right thought and activities. His survey of far right activity is sensible, well thought out, and touches on the major groups, figures, and concepts.

His survey of the history of the WCOTC, however, leaves some things to be desired. For instance, much of the information pertaining to the background of the organization, and the personal history of the WCOTC’s founder, Ben Klaasen, is drawn directly from Klaasen’s writings without challenge or criticism. Aside from the fact that much of the material in Klaassen and the WCOTCs writings can and should be challenged on the basis of its representation of facts, that Michaels would not at least check Klaasen’s version of events against other sources or through interviews is surprising. That he does not point out to the reader that the history he is telling essentially the history as he read it from Klaasen’s books is irresponsible.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

"Double Blue: An Illustrated History of the Toronto Argonauts" (2007)

Double Blue: An Illustrated History of the Toronto Argonauts, edited by Jim O’Leary and Wayne Parrish (Toronto, ON: ECW Books, 2007).

A heavily illustrated, informative overview of the storied, oldest football franchise in North America. As a historian, I found the coffee-table format a bit light for my liking, and many of the stories would have benefitted from some sourcing, but the book was entertaining. The photography was phenomenal. A must for fans, for those wanting to understand the CFL, or the history of the league, the book will likely leave you wanting.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Richard J. Evans, "The Coming of the Third Reich" (2003)

Richard J. Evans, The Coming of the Third Reich (Penguin, 2003).

The first of a planned three-volume series, this book deals significantly, and somewhat surprisingly, with the deep roots of Nazi Germany. It explores some of the ideologies and socio-political elements of Bismarckian Germany, strangely gives shorter shrift to the First World War, and pays much attention to national coping strategies that developed during the 1920s. While the book has its shortcomings, it is a good read. A fuller review will follow later.

In the interim, the following captures some elements of my response to the book:

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Adam Tooze, "Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy" (2006).

Adam Tooze, Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy (Viking, 2006).

Perhaps I'm getting lazy, but I think this reviewer did a pretty good job of outlining some of the strengths and weaknesses of this book. That being said, my contribution to the discussion is that this is one of the best history books I have read in a long time. It took a subject I expected to be very dry and arcane, and made it interesting and provocative, in a well-researched and well-written package.

Read Alex Harrowell's review at:
A Fistful of Euros.