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Modern Library Chronicles

Found in European World History
Communism by Richard Pipes
The Korean War by Bruce Cumings
The Romantic Revolution by Tim Blanning

Modern Library Chronicles : Titles in Order

Book 34
“A splendidly pithy and provocative introduction to the culture of Romanticism.”—The Sunday Times
 
“[Tim Blanning is] in a particularly good position to speak of the arrival of Romanticism on the Euorpean scene, and he does so with a verve, a breadth, and an authority that exceed every expectation.”—National Review
 
From the preeminent historian of Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries comes a superb, concise account of a cultural upheaval that still shapes sensibilities today. A rebellion against the rationality of the Enlightenment, Romanticism was a profound shift in expression that altered the arts and ushered in modernity, even as it championed a return to the intuitive and the primitive. Tim Blanning describes its beginnings in Rousseau’s novel La Nouvelle Héloïse, which placed the artistic creator at the center of aesthetic activity, and reveals how Goethe, Goya, Berlioz, and others began experimenting with themes of artistic madness, the role of sex as a psychological force, and the use of dreamlike imagery. Whether unearthing the origins of “sex appeal” or the celebration of accessible storytelling, The Romantic Revolution is a bold and brilliant introduction to an essential time whose influence would far outlast its age.
 
“Anyone with an interest in cultural history will revel in the book’s range and insights. Specialists will savor the anecdotes, casual readers will enjoy the introduction to rich and exciting material. Brilliant artistic output during a time of transformative upheaval never gets old, and this book shows us why.”—The Washington Times
 
“It’s a pleasure to read a relatively concise piece of scholarship of so high a caliber, especially expressed as well as in this fine book.”—Library Journal
Book 33
A BRACING ACCOUNT OF A WAR THAT IS EITHER MISUNDERSTOOD, FORGOTTEN, OR WILLFULLY IGNORED
 
For Americans, it was a discrete conflict lasting from 1950 to 1953. But for the Asian world the Korean War was a generations-long struggle that still haunts contemporary events. With access to new evidence and secret materials from both here and abroad, including an archive of captured North Korean documents, Bruce Cumings reveals the war as it was actually fought. He describes its origin as a civil war, preordained long before the first shots were fired in June 1950 by lingering fury over Japan’s occupation of Korea from 1910 to 1945. Cumings then shares the neglected history of America’s post–World War II occupation of Korea, reveals untold stories of bloody insurgencies and rebellions, and tells of the United States officially entering the action on the side of the South, exposing as never before the appalling massacres and atrocities committed on all sides.

Elegantly written and blisteringly honest, The Korean War is, like the war it illuminates, brief, devastating, and essential.
Book 32
Twenty years ago, the Berlin Wall fell. In one of modern history’s most miraculous occurrences, communism imploded–and not with a bang, but with a whimper. Now two of the foremost scholars of East European and Soviet affairs, Stephen Kotkin and Jan T. Gross, drawing upon two decades of reflection, revisit this crash. In a crisp, concise, unsentimental narrative, they employ three case studies–East Germany, Romania, and Poland–to illuminate what led Communist regimes to surrender, or to be swept away in political bank runs. This is less a story of dissidents, so-called civil society, than of the bankruptcy of a ruling class–communism’s establishment, or “uncivil society.” The Communists borrowed from the West like drunken sailors to buy mass consumer goods, then were unable to pay back the hard-currency debts and so borrowed even more. In Eastern Europe, communism came to resemble a Ponzi scheme, one whose implosion carries enduring lessons. From East Germany’s pseudotechnocracy to Romania’s megalomaniacal dystopia, from Communist Poland’s cult of Mary to the Kremlin’s surprise restraint, Kotkin and Gross pull back the curtain on the fraud and decadence that cashiered the would-be alternative to the market and democracy, an outcome that opened up to a deeper global integration that has proved destabilizing.
Book 31
Acclaimed historian Margaret MacMillan explores here the many ways in which history affects us all. She shows how a deeper engagement with history, both as individuals and in the sphere of public debate, can help us understand ourselves and the world better. But she also warns that history can be misused and lead to misunderstanding. History is used to justify religious movements and political campaigns alike. Dictators may suppress history because it undermines their ideas, agendas, or claims to absolute authority. Nationalists may tell false, one-sided, or misleading stories about the past. Political leaders might mobilize their people by telling lies. It is imperative that we have an understanding of the past and avoid these and other common traps in thinking to which many fall prey. This brilliantly reasoned work, alive with incident and figures both great and infamous, will compel us to examine history anew—and skillfully illuminates why it is important to treat the past with care.
Book 30
In Prehistory, the award-winning archaeologist and renowned scholar Colin Renfrew covers human existence before the advent of written records–the overwhelming majority of our time here on earth–and gives an incisive, concise, and lively survey of the past, and of how scholars and scientists labor to bring it to light.

Renfrew begins by looking at prehistory as a discipline, detailing how breakthroughs such as radiocarbon dating and DNA analysis have helped us to define humankind’s past–how things have changed–much more clearly than was possible just a half century ago. As for why things have changed, Renfrew pinpoints some of the issues and challenges, past and present, that confront the study of prehistory and its investigators. Renfrew then offers a summary of human prehistory from early hominids to the rise of literate civilization that is refreshingly free of conventional wisdom and grand “unified” theories.

In this invaluable account, Colin Renfrew delivers a meticulously researched and passionately argued chronicle about our life on earth–and our ongoing quest to understand it.
Book 29
In this cogent volume, historian Martin Marty gives readers of all faiths a brief yet sweeping account of Christianity and how it grew from a few believers two thousand years ago to become the world’s largest religion. He depicts the life of Christ and his teachings and explains how the apostles set out to spread the Gospel. With a special emphasis on global Christianity, Marty shows how the religion emerged from its ancestral homeland in Africa, the Levant, and Asia Minor, was imported to Europe, and then expanded from there to the rest of the world. While giving a broad overview, Marty also focuses on specific issues, such as how Christianity attempts to reconcile with the teachings of Christ some of its stances on armed conflict, justice, and dominion. The Christian World is a remarkable testament to how Christ’s message has touched human experience everywhere.
Book 28
Insightful, informed, and at times controversial in its conclusions, A Short History of Medicine offers an exceptional introduction to the major and many minor facets of its subject.

In this lively, learned, and wholly engrossing volume, F. González-Crussi presents a brief yet authoritative five-hundred-year history of the science, the philosophy, and the controversies of modern medicine. While this illuminating work mainly explores Western medicine over the past five centuries, González-Crussi also describes how modern medicine’s roots extend to both Greco-Roman antiquity and Eastern medical traditions.

Covered here in engaging detail are the birth of anatomy and the practice of dissections; the transformation of surgery from a gruesome art to a sophisticated medical specialty; a short history of infectious diseases; the evolution of the diagnostic process; advances in obstetrics and anesthesia; and modern psychiatric therapies and the challenges facing organized medicine today. Written by a renowned author and educator, this book gives us the very essence of our search to mitigate suffering, save lives, and unlock the mysteries of the human animal.



“[González-Crussi fuses] science, literature, and personal history into highly civilized artifacts.”
–The Washington Post, on There Is a World Elsewhere
Book 27
The Hellenistic Age chronicles the years 336 to 30 BCE, a period that witnessed the overlap of two of antiquity’s great civilizations, the Greek and the Roman. Peter Green’s remarkably far-ranging study covers the prevalent themes and events of those centuries: the Hellenization, by Alexander’s conquests, of an immense swath of the known world; the lengthy and chaotic partition of this empire by rival Macedonian bands; the decline of the city-state as the predominant political institution; and, finally, Rome’s moment of transition from republican to imperial rule. It is a story of war and power-politics, and of the developing fortunes of art, science, and statecraft, spun by an accomplished classicist with an uncanny knack for infusing life into the distant past, and applying fresh insights that make ancient history seem alarmingly relevant to our own times.

“Spectacular . . . [filled with] Mr. Green’s critical acumen.”
–The Wall Street Journal

“Green draws upon a lifetime of scholarship to brilliantly sum up the three-hundred-year Hellenistic age. . . . Happily, this book’s brevity–admirable in itself, and in its concision, elegance, and authority–isn’t achieved at the expense of subtlety and complexity.”
–The Atlantic Monthly

“An interesting and well-written overview . . . Students of world history are in Green’s debt.”
–The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Marvelous . . . splendid . . . a brilliant introduction to this crucial transitional period.”
–Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Book 26
In this timely, highly original, and controversial narrative, New York Times bestselling author Mark Kurlansky discusses nonviolence as a distinct entity, a course of action, rather than a mere state of mind. Nonviolence can and should be a technique for overcoming social injustice and ending wars, he asserts, which is why it is the preferred method of those who speak truth to power.

Nonviolence is a sweeping yet concise history that moves from ancient Hindu times to present-day conflicts raging in the Middle East and elsewhere. Kurlansky also brings into focus just why nonviolence is a “dangerous” idea, and asks such provocative questions as: Is there such a thing as a “just war”? Could nonviolence have worked against even the most evil regimes in history?

Kurlansky draws from history twenty-five provocative lessons on the subject that we can use to effect change today. He shows how, time and again, violence is used to suppress nonviolence and its practitioners–Gandhi and Martin Luther King, for example; that the stated deterrence value of standing national armies and huge weapons arsenals is, at best, negligible; and, encouragingly, that much of the hard work necessary to begin a movement to end war is already complete. It simply needs to be embraced and accelerated.

Engaging, scholarly, and brilliantly reasoned, Nonviolence is a work that compels readers to look at history in an entirely new way. This is not just a manifesto for our times but a trailblazing book whose time has come.
Book 25
“Football is force and fanatics, basketball is beauty and bounce. Baseball is everything: action, grace, the seasons of our lives. George Vecsey’s book proves it, without wasting a word.”—Lee Eisenberg, author of The Number

In Baseball, one of the great bards of America’s Grand Old Game gives a rousing account of the sport, from its pre-Republic roots to the present day. George Vecsey casts a fresh eye on the game, illuminates its foibles and triumphs, and performs a marvelous feat: making a classic story seem refreshingly new.

Baseball is a narrative of America’s can-do spirit, in which stalwart immigrants such as Henry Chadwick could transplant cricket and rounders into the fertile American culture and in which die-hard unionist baseballers such as Charles Comiskey and Connie Mack could eventually become the tightfisted avatars of the game’s big-money establishment. It’s a celebration of such underdogs as a rag-armed catcher turned owner named Branch Rickey and a sure-handed fielder named Curt Flood, both of whom flourished as true great men of history. But most of all, Baseball is a testament to the unbreakable bond between our nation’s pastime and the fans, who’ve remained loyal through the fifty-year-long interdict on black athletes, the Black Sox scandal, franchise relocation, and the use of performance-enhancing drugs by some major stars.

Reverent, playful, and filled with Vecsey’s charm, Baseball begs to be read in the span of a rain-delayed doubleheader, and so enjoyable that, like a favorite team’s championship run, one hopes it never ends.

“Vecsey possesses a journalist’s eye for detail and a historian’s feel for the sweep of action. His research is scrupulous and his writing crisp. This book is an instant classic—a highly readable guide to America’s great enduring pastime.”—The Louisville Courier Journal
Book 24
America’s engagement with the Arab world stretches back far beyond the Iraq wars. According to Milton Viorst, the current conflict is simply the latest round in a 1,400-year struggle between Christianity and Islam, in which the United States became a participant only in the last century.

Today, the Bush Doctrine aims to free the Arab peoples from political oppression and create a democratic Iraq. So why are Arabs, and Iraqis in particular, so suspicious of our efforts? The explanation, Viorst says, is simple: “What the American leadership has miscalculated, or simply dismissed, is Arab nationalism.” In Storm from the East, Viorst offers a balanced, lucid, and vital history of America’s uneasy relationship with the Arab world and argues that brutal conflict in the region will continue until the West, with the United States taking the lead, honors the Arabs’ insistence on deciding their own destiny.

Viorst examines the long struggle of the Arab world to overthrow Western hegemony. He explores the Arab experiences with democracy and military despotism; Nasserite socialism in Egypt and Ba’athism in Syria and Iraq; tribal monarchy in Saudi Arabia and Jordan; guerrilla warfare waged by the Palestinians; and, finally, Islamic rebellion culminating in Osama bin Laden’s extremist al-Qaeda. All have the same goal: the liberation of the Arabs from foreign domination.

Storm from the East is a powerful work that, like no other, limns the political, religious, and social roots of Arab nationalism and the present-day unrest in the Middle East.
Book 23
“A California classic . . . California, it should be remembered, was very much the wild west, having to wait until 1850 before it could force its way into statehood. so what tamed it? Mr. Starr’s answer is a combination of great men, great ideas and great projects.”—The Economist

From the age of exploration to the age of Arnold, the Golden State’s premier historian distills the entire sweep of California’s history into one splendid volume. Kevin Starr covers it all: Spain’s conquest of the native peoples of California in the early sixteenth century and the chain of missions that helped that country exert control over the upper part of the territory; the discovery of gold in January 1848; the incredible wealth of the Big Four railroad tycoons; the devastating San Francisco earthquake of 1906; the emergence of Hollywood as the world’s entertainment capital and of Silicon Valley as the center of high-tech research and development; the role of labor, both organized and migrant, in key industries from agriculture to aerospace. In a rapid-fire epic of discovery, innovation, catastrophe, and triumph, Starr gathers together everything that is most important, most fascinating, and most revealing about our greatest state.

Praise for California

“[A] fast-paced and wide-ranging history . . . [Starr] accomplishes the feat with skill, grace and verve.”—Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Kevin Starr is one of california’s greatest historians, and California is an invaluable contribution to our state’s record and lore.”—MarIa ShrIver, journalist and former First Lady of California

“A breeze to read.”—San Francisco
Book 22
In Infinite Ascent, David Berlinski, the acclaimed author of The Advent of the Algorithm, A Tour of the Calculus, and Newton’s Gift, tells the story of mathematics, bringing to life with wit, elegance, and deep insight a 2,500-year-long intellectual adventure.

Berlinski focuses on the ten most important breakthroughs in mathematical history–and the men behind them. Here are Pythagoras, intoxicated by the mystical significance of numbers; Euclid, who gave the world the very idea of a proof; Leibniz and Newton, co-discoverers of the calculus; Cantor, master of the infinite; and Gödel, who in one magnificent proof placed everything in doubt.

The elaboration of mathematical knowledge has meant nothing less than the unfolding of human consciousness itself. With his unmatched ability to make abstract ideas concrete and approachable, Berlinski both tells an engrossing tale and introduces us to the full power of what surely ranks as one of the greatest of all human endeavors.
Book 21
If humankind can be said to have a single greatest creation, it would be those places that represent the most eloquent expression of our species’s ingenuity, beliefs, and ideals: the city. In this authoritative and engagingly written account, the acclaimed urbanist and bestselling author examines the evolution of urban life over the millennia and, in doing so, attempts to answer the age-old question: What makes a city great?

Despite their infinite variety, all cities essentially serve three purposes: spiritual, political, and economic. Kotkin follows the progression of the city from the early religious centers of Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, and China to the imperial centers of the Classical era, through the rise of the Islamic city and the European commercial capitals, ending with today’s post-industrial suburban metropolis.

Despite widespread optimistic claims that cities are “back in style,” Kotkin warns that whatever their form, cities can thrive only if they remain sacred, safe, and busy–and this is true for both the increasingly urbanized developing world and the often self-possessed “global cities” of the West and East Asia.

Looking at cities in the twenty-first century, Kotkin discusses the effects of developments such as shifting demographics and emerging technologies. He also considers the effects of terrorism–how the religious and cultural struggles of the present pose the greatest challenge to the urban future.

Truly global in scope, The City is a timely narrative that will place Kotkin in the company of Lewis Mumford, Jane Jacobs, and other preeminent urban scholars.
Book 20
An incendiary work of scholarship arguing that racism was the driving force behind Nazism, rather than a by-product of it—essential reading in an age of renewed fears of bigotry, tyranny, and fascism.
 
World War II was the defining event of the twentieth century, redrawing the political map in ways that continue to affect nearly the entire human race. What was unprecedented, however, was not simply the war’s scale, but its causes. Unlike previous territorial or political clashes, the war launched by Nazi Germany was an ideological one, waged to wipe entire peoples and cultures from the face of the earth.

In Nazism and War, Richard Bessel, one of the preeminent authorities on the social and political history of modern Germany, demonstrates that “Nazi war was racial struggle; Nazi racial struggle was war.”
 
War was the anvil on which Hitler’s worldview was forged: German National Socialism emerged triumphant over a country deeply scarred by defeat and eager to reclaim its greatness. As a political philosophy, Nazism glorified struggle and conflict, viewing them as the purpose of a nation and a measure of its overall condition. As a political movement and state system, Nazism made its ideology real, plunging the European continent into a war of annihilation and a sea of blood. Nazism destroyed the old Europe, and thus helped to create the world in which we live.
 
Praise for Nazism and War
 
“[A] stimulating and thoughtful volume.”—Richard Overy, Literary Review
 
“[A] rich, well-rounded portrait . . . offers both the serious scholar and the lay reader a concise yet comprehensive perspective on the events and horrors of that period.”—Publishers Weekly
 
“[An] impressive study . . . highly recommended.”—Library Journal
 
“Clear, engaging, and quietly profound.”—Booklist
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