Faculty Books: June and July 2023

June 7, 2023
Journeys of the Mind, a memoir by Peter Brown

Journeys of the Mind: A Life in History

By Peter Brown
June 2023

A beautifully written personal account of the discovery of late antiquity by one of the world’s most influential and distinguished historians

The end of the ancient world was long regarded by historians as a time of decadence, decline, and fall. In his career-long engagement with this era, the widely acclaimed and pathbreaking historian Peter Brown has shown, however, that the “neglected half-millennium” now known as late antiquity was in fact crucial to the development of modern Europe and the Middle East. In Journeys of the Mind, Brown recounts his life and work, describing his efforts to recapture the spirit of an age. As he and other scholars opened up the history of the classical world in its last centuries to the wider world of Eurasia and northern Africa, they discovered previously overlooked areas of religious and cultural creativity as well as foundational institution-building. A respect for diversity and outreach to the non-European world, relatively recent concerns in other fields, have been a matter of course for decades among the leading scholars of late antiquity. Read more about Journeys of the Mind.

The Life and Death of States by Natasha Wheatley

The Life and Death of States: Central Europe and the Transformation of Modern Sovereignty

By Natasha Wheatley
June 2023

An intellectual history of sovereignty that reveals how the Habsburg Empire became a crucible for our contemporary world order.

Sprawled across the heartlands of Europe, the Habsburg Empire resisted all the standard theories of singular sovereignty. The 1848 revolutions sparked decades of heady constitutional experimentation that pushed the very concept of “the state” to its limits. This intricate multinational polity became a hothouse for public law and legal philosophy and spawned ideas that still shape our understanding of the sovereign state today. The Life and Death of States traces the history of sovereignty over one hundred tumultuous years, explaining how a regime of nation-states theoretically equal under international law emerged from the ashes of a dynastic empire. Read more about The Life and Death of States.

The Ruble a Political History by Ekaterina Pravilova

The Ruble: A Political History

By Ekaterina Pravilova
June 2023

A groundbreaking history of Russia, from empire to the Soviet era, viewed through the lens of its money.

Money seems passive, a silent witness to the deeds and misdeeds of its holders, but through its history intimate dramas and grand historical processes can be told. So argues this sweeping narrative of the ruble's story from the time of Catherine the Great to Lenin.

The Russian ruble did not enjoy a particularly reputable place among European currencies. Across two hundred years, long periods of financial turmoil were followed by energetic and pragmatic reforms that invariably ended with another collapse. Why did a country with an industrializing economy, solid private property rights, and (until 1918) a near perfect reputation as a rock-solid repayer of its debts stick for such a prolonged period with an inconvertible currency? Why did the Russian gold standard differ from the European model? Read more about The Ruble.

The Sounds of Mandarin: Learning to Speak a National Language in China and Taiwan, 1913-1960 by Janet Y. Chen

The Sounds of Mandarin: Learning to Speak a National Language in China and Taiwan, 1913–1960

By Janet Y. Chen
July 2023

Mandarin Chinese is the most widely spoken language in the world today. In China, a country with a vast array of regional and local vernaculars, how was this “common language” forged? How did people learn to speak Mandarin? And what does a focus on speech instead of script reveal about Chinese language and history?

This book traces the surprising social history of China’s spoken standard, from its creation as the national language of the early Republic in 1913 to its journey into postwar Taiwan to its reconfiguration as the common language of the People’s Republic after 1949. Read more about The Sounds of Mandarin.