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Interviews with Historians about their New Books

New Books in Histor‪y‬ New Books Network

    • Society & Culture

Interviews with Historians about their New Books

    Evan Friss, "The Cycling City: Bicycles and Urban America in the 1890s" (U Chicago Press, 2015)

    Evan Friss, "The Cycling City: Bicycles and Urban America in the 1890s" (U Chicago Press, 2015)

    Today on New Books in History, Dr. Evan Friss, associate professor of history at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia in the US to talk about The Cycling City: Bicycles and Urban America in the 1890s (University of Chicago Press, 2015). This book was originally released in 2015 by the University of Chicago press and we are chatting on the occasion of its paperback release in January.
    Cycling has experienced a renaissance in the United States, as cities around the country promote the bicycle as an alternative means of transportation. In the process, debates about the nature of bicycles—where they belong, how they should be ridden, how cities should or should not accommodate them—have played out in the media, on city streets, and in city halls. Very few people recognize, however, that these questions are more than a century old.
    The Cycling City is a sharp history of the bicycle’s rise and fall in the late nineteenth century. In the 1890s, American cities were home to more cyclists, more cycling infrastructure, more bicycle friendly legislation, and a richer cycling culture than anywhere else in the world. Evan Friss unearths the hidden history of the cycling city, demonstrating that diverse groups of cyclists managed to remap cities with new roads, paths, and laws, challenge social conventions, and even dream up a new urban ideal inspired by the bicycle. When cities were chaotic and filthy, bicycle advocates imagined an improved landscape in which pollution was negligible, transportation was silent and rapid, leisure spaces were democratic, and the divisions between city and country were blurred. Friss argues that when the utopian vision of a cycling city faded by the turn of the century, its death paved the way for today’s car-centric cities—and ended the prospect of a true American cycling city ever being built.
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    • 56 min
    Jeremy Black, "Clio's Battles: Historiography in Practice" (Indiana UP, 2015)

    Jeremy Black, "Clio's Battles: Historiography in Practice" (Indiana UP, 2015)

    To write history is to consider how to explicate the past, to weigh the myriad possible approaches to the past, and to come to terms with how the past can be and has been used. In this latest edition of Arguing History, prize-winning historian Professor Jeremy Black and Dr. Charles Coutinho of the Royal Historical Society, considers both popular and academic approaches to the past. The focus of their discussion is on the evolution of history as a genre and the interaction between the presentation of the past and current circumstances, on how history is used to validate one view of the present or to discredit another, and on readings of the past that unite and those that divide. The discussion goes chronologically from Gibbon to the present day. All in all a most interesting discussion for both the academic and the lay educated reader.
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    • 39 min
    Ethan Pollock, "Without the Banya We Would Perish" (Oxford UP, 2019)

    Ethan Pollock, "Without the Banya We Would Perish" (Oxford UP, 2019)

    Blog Post:
    In Without the Banya We Would Perish: A History of the Russian Bathhouse (Oxford University Press, 2019), Dr. Ethan Pollock discusses one of life’s basic questions—How do people get clean?—in a way that embeds those everyday practices into a sophisticated historical context. 
    From legends about medieval Kievan rulers, to everyday Russians in the Soviet era, the banya has been a consistent part of everyday life. While its existence has been continuous, the meanings assigned to the banya have been at once diffuse, contradictory, and reflective of prevailing cultural and political trends and questions. Dr. Pollock’s book addresses these themes and more, in this fascinating historical survey.
    Aaron Weinacht is Professor of History at the University of Montana Western, in Dillon, MT. He teaches courses on Russian and Soviet History, World History, and Philosophy of History. His research interests include the sociological theorist Philip Rieff and the influence of Russian nihilism on American libertarianism.
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    • 1 hr 8 min
    Philip Mansel, "King of the World: The Life of Louis XIV" (U of Chicago Press, 2019).

    Philip Mansel, "King of the World: The Life of Louis XIV" (U of Chicago Press, 2019).

    Philip Mansel, a trustee of the Society for Court Studies and President of the Research Center of the Chateau de Versailles, has written a one-volume biography of the life and times of Louis XIV, King of the World: The Life of Louis XIV (The University of Chicago Press, 2019). 
    One of the longest reigning monarchs in Europe’s history, from 1643 to 1715, Louis XIV left a mark upon France for good and ill. He expanded the country’s borders but left it in horrible financial shape. He was a valuable patron of the arts and architecture, but wreaked havoc on some of his nation’s citizens, especially French Protestants. 
    He reaped the glory associated with imperial policy and dynastic intermarriages throughout Europe, but brought destruction to the lives, fortunes, and cities of his enemies. Mansel brings the court of Louis XIV alive, paying special attention to the daily personal life of the king and his associates. He reviews France’s effects on the politics of Europe and provides a detailed history of the key project of Louis’ life: the palace of Versailles.
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    • 47 min
    Han Yu, "Mind Thief: The Story of Alzheimer's" (Columbia UP, 2021)

    Han Yu, "Mind Thief: The Story of Alzheimer's" (Columbia UP, 2021)

    Alzheimer’s disease, a haunting and harrowing ailment, is one of the world’s most common causes of death. Alzheimer’s lingers for years, with patients’ outward appearance unaffected while their cognitive functions fade away. Patients lose the ability to work and live independently, to remember and recognize. There is still no proven way to treat Alzheimer’s because its causes remain unknown.
    Mind Thief: The Story of Alzheimer's (Columbia UP, 2021) is a comprehensive and engaging history of Alzheimer’s that demystifies efforts to understand the disease. Beginning with the discovery of “presenile dementia” in the early twentieth century, Han Yu examines over a century of research and controversy. She presents the leading hypotheses for what causes Alzheimer’s; discusses each hypothesis’s tangled origins, merits, and gaps; and details their successes and failures. Yu synthesizes a vast amount of medical literature, historical studies, and media interviews, telling the gripping stories of researchers’ struggles while situating science in its historical, social, and cultural contexts. Her chronicling of the trajectory of Alzheimer’s research deftly balances rich scientific detail with attention to the wider implications. In narrating the attempts to find a treatment, Yu also offers a critical account of research and drug development and a consideration of the philosophy of aging. Wide-ranging and accessible, Mind Thief is an important book for all readers interested in the challenge of Alzheimer’s.
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    • 1 hr 12 min
    James R. Holmes, "A Brief Guide to Maritime Strategy" (US Naval Institute Press, 2019)

    James R. Holmes, "A Brief Guide to Maritime Strategy" (US Naval Institute Press, 2019)

    A Brief Guide to Maritime Strategy (US Naval Institute Press, 2019), is a readable introduction to the world of maritime strategy. While Prof Holmes bases his narrative on the writings of Mahan and Corbett, he weaves in a wide-range of naval, political and philosophical thinkers who describe the universal importance of maritime strategy. His book guides junior officers and sailors in the art of strategic thinking and action. Prof. Holmes outlines the global importance of maritime strategy, emphasizing how it supports all of a nation’s endeavors, not just during war, but especially at peace. It forms an indispensable introduction to naval essentials and serves as a companion to more contemporary writers like Geoffrey Till and Wayne Hughes.
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    • 1 hr 4 min

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