New Books: March - April 2021
The Gun, the Ship, and the Pen: Warfare, Constitutions, and the Making of the Modern World
By Linda Colley
Vivid and magisterial, The Gun, the Ship, and the Pen reconfigures the rise of a modern world through the advent and spread of written constitutions.
A work of extraordinary range and striking originality, The Gun, the Ship, and the Pen traces the global history of written constitutions from the 1750s to the twentieth century, modifying accepted narratives and uncovering the close connections between the making of constitutions and the making of war. In the process, Linda Colley both reappraises famous constitutions and recovers those that have been marginalized but were central to the rise of a modern world. Read more about The Gun, the Ship, and the Pen.
Fighting for the Higher Law: Black and White Transcendentalists Against Slavery
By Peter Wirzbicki
In Fighting for the Higher Law, Peter Wirzbicki explores how important black abolitionists joined famous Transcendentalists to create a political philosophy that fired the radical struggle against American slavery.
In the cauldron of the antislavery movement, antislavery activists, such as William C. Nell, Thomas Sidney, and Charlotte Forten, and Transcendentalist intellectuals, including Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, developed a "Higher Law" ethos, a unique set of romantic political sensibilities—marked by moral enthusiasms, democratic idealism, and a vision of the self that could judge political questions from "higher" standards of morality and reason. The Transcendentalism that emerges here is not simply the dreamy philosophy of privileged white New Englanders, but a more populist movement, one that encouraged an uncompromising form of politics among a wide range of Northerners, black as well as white, working-class as well as wealthy. Invented to fight slavery, it would influence later labor, feminist, civil rights, and environmentalist activism. Read more about Fighting for the Higher Law.
On the Fringe: Where Science Meets Pseudoscience
By Michael D. Gordin
Everyone has heard of the term "pseudoscience", typically used to describe something that looks like science, but is somehow false, misleading, or unproven. Many would be able to agree on a list of things that fall under its umbrella-- astrology, phrenology, UFOlogy, creationism, and eugenics might come to mind. But defining what makes these fields "pseudo" is a far more complex issue. It has proved impossible to come up with a simple criterion that enables us to differentiate pseudoscience from genuine science. Given the virulence of contemporary disputes over the denial of climate change and anti-vaccination movements--both of which display allegations of "pseudoscience" on all sides-- there is a clear need to better understand issues of scientific demarcation. Read more about On the Fringe.