What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

March 15, 2012

John Bold, reader in architecture, University of Westminster, is reading Roma Britannica: Art Patronage and Cultural Exchange in Eighteenth-century Rome (British School at Rome, 2011), edited by David Marshall, Susan Russell and Karin Wolfe. "From Catholic recusancy to Henry Fuseli's erotic imagination, this collection is full of unexpected pleasures, way beyond the ostensible subject of artistic patronage in Rome. A particular delight for me, just returned from a Nile cruise, is Edward Chaney on Lord Arundel and Egypt and his attempt to import an obelisk. I wish I had read this before going."

Megan Crawford is reader in education, University of Cambridge. "I am reading Helen Castor's She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England before Elizabeth (Faber, 2010)."A gripping narrative combining political dilemmas with a rediscovery, for me, of four pre-Tudor queens. I knew about Matilda and Eleanor of Aquitaine, but Castor helped me understand their relationship to each other, and their bloody historical context. I knew nothing of Isabella of France nor Margaret of Anjou, but found them equally fascinating. It reminded me how sad I felt as a sixth-former for poor Lady Jane Grey, a pawn in others' power games."

Don MacRaild, professor of history, Northumbria University, is reading Howard G. Callaway's edition of Alexander James Dallas' An Exposition of the Causes and Character of the War (Dunedin Academic Press, 2011). "The war in question was the War of 1812, in which Britain's fierce campaign against the Americans strengthened US national feeling, intensified Dallas' belief that the young Republic upheld the rule of law against a superpower's tyranny, and ensured that US patriots would remember this war alongside the American Revolution as a keystone of their nation."

Carrol Peterson, emeritus professor of English, Doane College, Nebraska, has just read Jann M. Contento and Jeffrey Ross' College Leadership Crisis: The Philip Dolly Affair (Rogue Phoenix, 2011). "A second reading of this very novel 'novel' reveals the full irony of its critique of our effort to combine public education and excellence. It begins with humorous community college character sketches and then reveals Dolly's background, steeped in more serious world affairs than the potluck picnicking and administrative fiddling of the previous part. It confirmed my suspicions that democracy and education do not easily combine."

R.C. Richardson, emeritus professor of history, University of Winchester, has been reading Fanny Trollope's 1832 Domestic Manners of the Americans (Penguin, 1997). "A contemporary best-seller distinguished chiefly by its long recital of perceived defects. America's lack of refinement repelled her, as did the hypocrisy of revivalist religion. Hotels, cuisine and transport were often atrocious. Above all, Americans' much-vaunted love of equality was contradicted in her eyes not only by slavery but by the confined status of women. As for law and government, Americans, she decided, had got what they deserved!"

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