What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

September 6, 2012

Matthew Feldman, reader in history at Teesside University, is reading Matthew Seligmann's The Royal Navy and the German Threat 1901-1914: Admiralty Plans to Protect British Trade in a War Against Germany (Oxford University Press, 2012). "An incisive politico-military history showing that a heretofore niche aspect of the Anglo-German naval race seriously troubled the British Admiralty throughout the Edwardian period. Discussion of ships, shells and security on the high seas is admittedly terse stuff, but the writing is sprightly and the result a timely dredging around the origins of the Great War after a century of resting, unrecovered, in an archival tomb."

Willy Maley, professor of Renaissance studies, University of Glasgow, is reading the Report of the Review of Higher Education Governance in Scotland (The Scottish Government, 2012). "Now that Scotland's education minister Mike Russell has accepted most of this report's recommendations, its line-by-line refutation of the corporatisation of Scottish universities and reassertion of the democratic principles of higher education deserve to be more widely read. Colleagues south of the border can learn from an approach aimed at preserving universities' civic mission in the face of the (by now thoroughly discredited) business model."

June Purvis, professor of women's and gender history, University of Portsmouth, is reading W. Sydney Robinson's Muckraker: the Scandalous Life and Times of W.T. Stead, Britain's First Investigative Journalist (Robson Press, 2012). "An engrossing biography of the great Victorian father of tabloid journalism, who hoped his unconventional methods would shock the authorities into reform. In 1885, he fearlessly exposed the scandal of child prostitution by buying, for £5, a 13-year-old girl. Eccentric, and with an eye for pretty women, he came to a tragic end on the Titanic."

R.C. Richardson, professor emeritus of history, University of Winchester, is reading Barbara Donagan's War in England 1642-1649 (Oxford University Press, 2008). "A highly original 'environmental study' of the bewildering pluralism and stark juxtapositions of England's Civil Wars in their economic, social, moral, cultural and legal contexts. It is a book not just about rival armies but also communities in crisis: a gripping account of the 1648 siege of Colchester is the prime example. Comparisons with the Thirty Years War and later conflicts illuminate the discussion."

Peter J. Smith, reader in Renaissance literature, Nottingham Trent University, has just finished Don DeLillo's End Zone (Houghton Mifflin, 1972). "The end zone of the title is the area at which the American footballer is aimed, but in this deft and uncanny comic novel, it is also the apocalypse of nuclear annihilation that obsesses Gary Harkness, a student at Logos College in Texas. It's a deeply engaging contemplation of the responsibility of human beings towards each other and to the world around them: 'If I don't play football, the bobcat will become extinct in Wyoming.'"

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