Review of The Reaper’s Garden: Death and Power in the World of Atlantic Slavery

reaperBy Vincent Brown. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2008. ISBN-13: 978-0674057128

 

The Atlantic World was steeped in violence and death: Europeans decimated native populations, tormented millions of souls through the Atlantic slave trade, and themselves were susceptible to new pathogens and resistance to their own brutal tactics. Over the past few decades scholars have become increasingly aware of the ways that violent cultural contact shaped the societies which formed around the Atlantic world. In British colonial Jamaica, a colony built on the coerced labor of hundreds of thousands of saltwater slaves, violence was Continue reading

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Queer Clout: Chicago and the Rise of Gay Politics

queerQueer Clout: Chicago and the Rise of Gay Politics by Timothy Stewart-Winter is an invigorating history of how queer people developed political power in post-WWII America. Using Chicago as his case study, Stewart-Winter traces how the city’s queer community managed to move “from the closet to the corridors of power” (1). While tracing LGBTQ+ people’s political significance in Chicago, Stewart-Winter argues that the queer community mobilized to gain political influence in response to police brutality, economic discrimination, and social prejudice. To gain power, gay and lesbian people consciously chose to draw upon other social justice movements. Stewart-Winter credits anti-racist movements—mostly developed within the African American community—as a strong influence on queer activism. Queer Clout thus forwards that Chicago’s gay rights movement both focused on ending discriminations unique to queer people and developed connections to post-WWII identity-based movements.

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The Most Controversial Decision: Truman, the Atomic Bombs, and the Defeat of Japan; Hiroshima: Why America Dropped the Atomic Bomb

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Miscamble, Wilson D. The Most Controversial Decision: Truman, the Atomic Bombs, and the Defeat of Japan. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011. ISBN-13: 978-0521735360

 

Takaki, Ronald. Hiroshima: Why America Dropped the Atomic Bomb. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1995. ISBN 13: 9780316831222

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Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State

By Gary Wills. Penguin Press HC. First Edition, 2010. ISBN: 978-1594202407

bombIn his book, Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State, Gary Wills demystifies the development of the first atomic weapon and adds to a growing body of scholarship whose broader aim is to document the expansion of executive power and the rise of the national security state. Wills artfully constructs a narrative of the Manhattan Project and links this monumental development to the excessive expansion of presidential powers, the pervasive uses of secrecy in the executive branch, and the rise of the national security apparatus. Wills begins his analysis with an inflammatory statement about the atomic bomb which summarizes his thesis: “The Bomb, altered our subsequent history down to its deepest constitutional roots, redefining the presidency in ways that the Constitution did not intend. It fostered an anxiety of continuing crisis, so that society was pervasively militarized. It redefined the government as a National Security State, with an apparatus of secrecy and executive control. It redefined Congress, as an executor of the executive. And it redefined the Supreme Court, as a follower of the executive” (1). Wills argues that the pursuit of atomic weaponry and its ultimate materialization resulted in the transformation of the executive branch, which gave the president an alarming amount of new powers and rendered the constitutional system of checks and balances idol. Wills begins to construct a picture of how the pursuit of atomic weaponry and methods used to obtain it became a paradigm in which future presidents used when carrying out foreign policy.

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