What are you reading? – 12 January 2017

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

January 12, 2017
What are you reading? – 12 January 2017
Source: iStock

E. Stina Lyon, professor emeritus of educational developments in sociology, London South Bank University, is reading Avner Offer and Gabriel Söderberg’s The Nobel Factor: The Prize in Economics, Social Democracy, and the Market Turn (Princeton University Press, 2016). “Offer and Söderberg’s story of the origins, recipients and impact of the Nobel Prize in Economics is intellectual history at its best. It analyses the interaction between ideas, personalities and institutions – universities, banks and foundations – in awarding legitimacy to economic interpretations of reality. There are heroes and villains on both sides of the battle over open markets for profit and government regulations for equity, but even-handedness over economic ideology is misguided when the criteria of goodness avoid scrutinising evidence in favour of theoretical faith. The failure of neoliberal economics to predict devastating debt crises and stem destabilising poverty suggests that economics is due for a return to the workbench. This book makes an important contribution to such a rethink.”

Liz Gloyn, lecturer in Classics, Royal Holloway, University of London, is reading Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown (Pan, 2016). “If you liked Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and have a penchant for Jane Austen, then you’ll find this comedy of manners set in a magical Regency London just up your street. The travails of the first African Sorcerer Royal, who has gained his post under mysterious circumstances, are multiplied when an innocuous visit to a ladies’ not-at-all-magical seminary introduces him to an orphan with more potential than she realises. Cho doesn’t back away from difficult issues around Zacharias Wythe’s past as a slave, or the problems of England’s military presence elsewhere in the world, but handles such serious topics with a deft touch that segues smoothly into discussions of London’s marriage market for eligible young ladies.”

Clare Debenham, tutor in the department of politics, University of Manchester, is reading Sarah Wise’s The Blackest Streets: The Life and Death of a Victorian Slum (Vintage, 2009) and Sarah Jackson and Rosemary Taylor’s Voices from History: East London Suffragettes (History Press, 2014). “Both of these books are concerned with how life was lived in the late 19th century and early 20th century in the same deprived part of London. The first examines structural issues such as ‘the making of a slum’, whereas the second concentrates more on social movements and includes a focus on Sylvia Pankhurst’s campaigns in East London. Both studies are well researched, drawing on original documentation and oral history sources. They are clearly written for the general reader, but it is regrettable that the History Press account lacks footnotes and endnotes.”

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