500 episodes

Interviews with Historians about their New Books
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New Books in History New Books Network

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.0 • 166 Ratings

Interviews with Historians about their New Books
Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/history

    Andrew Porwancher, "The Jewish World of Alexander Hamilton" (Princeton UP, 2021)

    Andrew Porwancher, "The Jewish World of Alexander Hamilton" (Princeton UP, 2021)

    In The Jewish World of Alexander Hamilton (Princeton UP, 2021), Andrew Porwancher debunks a string of myths about the origins of this founding father to arrive at a startling conclusion: Hamilton, in all likelihood, was born and raised Jewish. For more than two centuries, his youth in the Caribbean has remained shrouded in mystery. Hamilton himself wanted it that way, and most biographers have simply assumed he had a Christian boyhood. With a detective’s persistence and a historian’s rigor, Porwancher upends that assumption and revolutionizes our understanding of an American icon.
    This radical reassessment of Hamilton’s religious upbringing gives us a fresh perspective on both his adult years and the country he helped forge. Although he didn’t identify as a Jew in America, Hamilton cultivated a relationship with the Jewish community that made him unique among the founders. As a lawyer, he advocated for Jewish citizens in court. As a financial visionary, he invigorated sectors of the economy that gave Jews their greatest opportunities. As an alumnus of Columbia, he made his alma mater more welcoming to Jewish people. And his efforts are all the more striking given the pernicious antisemitism of the era. In a new nation torn between democratic promises and discriminatory practices, Hamilton fought for a republic in which Jew and Gentile would stand as equals.
    By setting Hamilton in the context of his Jewish world for the first time, this fascinating book challenges us to rethink the life and legend of America's most enigmatic founder.
    Amber Nickell is Associate Professor of History at Fort Hays State University, Editor at H-Ukraine, and Host at NBN Jewish Studies and Eastern Europe.
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    • 41 min
    Samuel J. Spinner, "Jewish Primitivism" (Stanford UP, 2021)

    Samuel J. Spinner, "Jewish Primitivism" (Stanford UP, 2021)

    Around the beginning of the twentieth century, Jewish writers and artists across Europe began depicting fellow Jews as savages or "primitive" tribesmen. Primitivism—the European appreciation of and fascination with so-called "primitive," non-Western peoples who were also subjugated and denigrated—was a powerful artistic critique of the modern world and was adopted by Jewish writers and artists to explore the urgent questions surrounding their own identity and status in Europe as insiders and outsiders. Jewish primitivism found expression in a variety of forms in Yiddish, Hebrew, and German literature, photography, and graphic art, including in the work of figures such as Franz Kafka, Y.L. Peretz, S. An-sky, Uri Zvi Greenberg, Else Lasker-Schüler, and Moï Ver.
    In Jewish Primitivism (Stanford UP, 2021), Samuel J. Spinner argues that these and other Jewish modernists developed a distinct primitivist aesthetic that, by locating the savage present within Europe, challenged the idea of the threatening savage other from outside Europe on which much primitivism relied: in Jewish primitivism, the savage is already there. This book offers a new assessment of modern Jewish art and literature and shows how Jewish primitivism troubles the boundary between observer and observed, cultured and "primitive," colonizer and colonized.
    Paul Lerner is Professor of History at the University of Southern California where he directs the Max Kade Institute for Austrian-German-Swiss Studies. He can be reached at plerner@usc.edu and @PFLerner.
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    • 1 hr 17 min
    Katherine Harvey, "The Fires of Lust: Sex in the Middle Ages" (Reaktion Books, 2021)

    Katherine Harvey, "The Fires of Lust: Sex in the Middle Ages" (Reaktion Books, 2021)

    Today we are with Katherine Harvey, author of The Fires of Lust: Sex in the Middle Ages (Reaktion Books, 2021). An illuminating exploration of the surprisingly familiar sex lives of ordinary medieval people. The medieval humoral system of medicine suggested that it was possible to die from having too much--or too little--sex, while the Roman Catholic Church taught that virginity was the ideal state. Holy men and women committed themselves to lifelong abstinence in the name of religion. Everyone was forced to conform to restrictive rules about who they could have sex with, in what way, how often, and even when, and could be harshly punished for getting it wrong. Other experiences are more familiar. Like us, medieval people faced challenges in finding a suitable partner or trying to get pregnant (or trying not to). They also struggled with many of the same social issues, such as whether prostitution should be legalized. Above all, they shared our fondness for dirty jokes and erotic images. By exploring their sex lives, the book brings ordinary medieval people to life, revealing details of their most personal thoughts and experiences. Ultimately, it provides us with an important and intimate connection to the past.
    Jana Byars is the Academic Director of Netherlands: International Perspectives on Sexuality and Gender.
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    • 38 min
    Fay A. Yarbrough, "Choctaw Confederates: The American Civil War in Indian Country" (UNC Press, 2021)

    Fay A. Yarbrough, "Choctaw Confederates: The American Civil War in Indian Country" (UNC Press, 2021)

    When the Choctaw Nation was forcibly resettled in Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma in the 1830s, it was joined by enslaved Black people—the tribe had owned enslaved Blacks since the 1720s. By the eve of the Civil War, 14 percent of the Choctaw Nation consisted of enslaved Blacks. Avid supporters of the Confederate States of America, the Nation passed a measure requiring all whites living in its territory to swear allegiance to the Confederacy and deemed any criticism of it or its army treasonous and punishable by death. Choctaws also raised an infantry force and a cavalry to fight alongside Confederate forces.
    In Choctaw Confederates: The American Civil War in Indian Country (UNC Press, 2021), Fay A. Yarbrough reveals that, while sovereignty and states’ rights mattered to Choctaw leaders, the survival of slavery also determined the Nation’s support of the Confederacy. Mining service records for approximately 3,000 members of the First Choctaw and Chickasaw Mounted Rifles, Yarbrough examines the experiences of Choctaw soldiers and notes that although their enthusiasm waned as the war persisted, military service allowed them to embrace traditional masculine roles that were disappearing in a changing political and economic landscape. By drawing parallels between the Choctaw Nation and the Confederate states, Yarbrough looks beyond the traditional binary of the Union and Confederacy and reconsiders the historical relationship between Native populations and slavery.
    Brandon T. Jett, professor of history at Florida SouthWestern State College, creator of the Lynching in LaBelle Digital History Project, and author of Race, Crime, and Policing in the Jim Crow South (LSU Press, 202) Twitter: @DrBrandonJett1.
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    • 1 hr 1 min
    Nicholas Jubber, "The Fairy Tellers: A Journey into the Secret History of Fairy Tales" (John Murray, 2022)

    Nicholas Jubber, "The Fairy Tellers: A Journey into the Secret History of Fairy Tales" (John Murray, 2022)

    In The Fairy Tellers: A Journey into the Secret History of Fairy Tales (John Murray, 2022), Nick Jubber unearths the lives of the dreamers who made our most beloved fairy tales: inventors, thieves, rebels and forgotten geniuses who gave us classic tales such as 'Cinderella', 'Hansel and Gretel', 'Beauty and the Beast' and 'Baba Yaga'. From the Middle Ages to the birth of modern children's literature, they include a German apothecary's daughter, a Syrian youth running away from a career in the souk and a Russian dissident embroiled in a plot to kill the tsar. Following these and other unlikely protagonists, the book travels from the steaming cities of Italy and the Levant, under the dark branches of the Black Forest, deep into the tundra of Siberia and across the snowy fells of Lapland.
    “This is how the history of fairy tales operates: stories splintering along zigzagging pathways, carrying long-sounding echoes that turn down narrative alleyways suggested elsewhere or replicate each other with astonishing exactitude.”
    In the process, Jubber discovers fresh perspectives on some of our most frequently told stories. Filled with adventure, tragedy and real-world magic, this bewitching book uncovers the stranger lives behind the strangest of tales.
    This interview was conducted by Dr. Miranda Melcher whose doctoral work focused on post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, focusing on qualitative analyses of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars. However, she is also a life-long lover of fairy tales & fantasy; her father continues to be surprised that her PhD did not once mention dragons, elves, or castles.
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    • 54 min
    Kevin J. Wetmore, "Eaters of the Dead: Myths and Realities of Cannibal Monsters" (Reaktion Books, 2021)

    Kevin J. Wetmore, "Eaters of the Dead: Myths and Realities of Cannibal Monsters" (Reaktion Books, 2021)

    Spanning myth, history, and contemporary culture, a terrifying and illuminating excavation of the meaning of cannibalism. Every culture has monsters that eat us, and every culture repels in horror when we eat ourselves. From Grendel to medieval Scottish cannibal Sawney Bean, and from the Ghuls of ancient Persia to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, tales of being consumed are both universal and universally terrifying. In this book, Kevin J. Wetmore Jr. explores the full range of monsters that eat the dead: ghouls, cannibals, wendigos, and other beings that feast on human flesh. Moving from myth through history to contemporary popular culture, Wetmore considers everything from ancient Greek myths of feeding humans to the gods, through sky burial in Tibet and Zoroastrianism, to actual cases of cannibalism in modern societies. By examining these seemingly inhuman acts, Eaters of the Dead: Myths and Realities of Cannibal Monsters (Reaktion Books, 2021) reveals that those who consume corpses can teach us a great deal about human nature—and our deepest human fears.
    Jana Byars is the Academic Director of Netherlands: International Perspectives on Sexuality and Gender.
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    • 57 min

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5
166 Ratings

166 Ratings

Nick Naque ,

Get better interviewers

The books and authors covered in the podcast are ver interesting. But the people conducting the interviews are adequate at best and not infrequently embarrassing.

Zendude2664 ,

Going Downhill

Can’t develop a format to train the interviewer, which is not surprising since the boss conducts some seriously unprofessional and rambling interviews.

See the “Joseph Smith” giggle fest as an example.

Clearly the whole idea is to just flood the market with content.

Writers and publishers be aware how this makes your hard work appear.

jrm36 ,

Great job by Jana Byers on Sex and Gender book

I always appreciate the work that the interviewers put into this, knowing that they’re not professionals and they’re not paid, and I don’t expect a professional level of polish. Some of them however are unusually good, confident, engaged interviewers, like this one.

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