What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

February 24, 2011

Roger Brown, professor of higher education policy at Liverpool Hope University, is reading Larry M. Bartels' Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age (Princeton University Press, 2008). "Bartels shows how, since the early 1970s, increased economic inequality has led to increased political inequality, in turn reinforcing economic inequality, especially under Republican presidents. Required reading for any remaining fans of the US political system."

James Delbourgo, associate professor of history, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, is reading David Eltis and David Richardson's Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade (Yale University Press, 2010). "A remarkable resource. In almost 200 maps, it charts the Atlantic slave trade's varied itineraries from European and African departure points to Caribbean and North and South American destinations. We learn, for example, that 62.8 per cent of slave revolts on the Middle Passage occurred just off the African coast, while only 22.5 per cent took place in open waters. The charts raise as many questions as they answer; this is entirely the point."

R.C. Richardson, emeritus professor of history, University of Winchester, has been reading Adam Smyth's Autobiography in Early Modern England (Cambridge University Press, 2010). "Smyth expands the concept of life writing in this period by drawing on annotated almanacs, highly personalised commonplace books and even (surprisingly) parish registers. Double columns of financial accounting and life writing are also examined; both are concerned, in different ways, to set the record straight. Insights abound here in a study that encourages us to reject oversimplified fixed categories."

Alec Ryrie is professor of the history of Christianity, Durham University. "I'm not reading Christopher Marsh's Music and Society in Early Modern England (Cambridge University Press, 2010): I'm listening to it. It's bad enough that it's engagingly written and full of fascinating pictures, but for it to include a fascinating CD of 16th- and 17th-century noises (some but not all of them musical) is just unfair. There is actually a great argument in here about music's ubiquity, social importance and emotional punch. But like a good song, you're having so much fun that you hardly notice you've taken in the meaning."

Stephen Wade lectures in the history of crime at the University of Hull and the department for continuing education, University of Oxford. He is reading Anne-Marie Kilday and David Nash's Histories of Crime: Britain 1600-2000 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010). "The book approaches this vast but increasingly fascinating subject in a new and refreshing way, dealing with specific offences in each chapter, with case studies and bibliography. This is comprehensive yet succinct, and serves as both a reference work and an authoritative history."

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