100 episodes

Interviews with Historians about their New Books

New Books in History New Books Network

    • Society & Culture
    • 3.9 • 138 Ratings

Interviews with Historians about their New Books

    A. Pohlman et al., "The International People’s Tribunal for 1965 and the Indonesian Genocide" (Routledge, 2019)

    A. Pohlman et al., "The International People’s Tribunal for 1965 and the Indonesian Genocide" (Routledge, 2019)

    How do you hold a government accountable for crimes it refuses to acknowledge? 
    Today's book, The International People's Tribunal for 1965 and the Indonesian Genocide (Routledge, 2019) emerges out of the International People's Tribunal for 1965. Rooted in a longer tradition of People's Tribunals, the IPT was an effort to remind civil society of the mass violence in Indonesia beginning in 1965 and to exert pressure on the Indonesian government and military to acknowledge the violence, hold perpetrators accountable and provide redress for victims. Today's guests played a prominent role in organizing and supporting the IPT. Their book serves as something of a history of the IPT and a summary of the evidence provided. But it also serves as kind of survey of the field at a critical moment in the study of the violence.
    In the interview, we talk about the IPT and its origin, organization and outcomes. We also try to situate the IPT in the broader context of scholarship about mass violence in Indonesia. And we talk about the interesting role of academics as public intellectuals and activists.
    Kelly McFall is Professor of History and Director of the Honors Program at Newman University.
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    • 1 hr 10 min
    Emma Griffin, "Bread Winner: An Intimate History of the Victorian Economy" (Yale UP, 2020)

    Emma Griffin, "Bread Winner: An Intimate History of the Victorian Economy" (Yale UP, 2020)

    Emma Griffin's Bread Winner: An Intimate History of the Victorian Economy (Yale UP, 2020) offers a refreshingly different take on the age of national prosperity in Britain from the 19th to early 20th centuries. Drawing from a collection of autobiographical accounts from largely-working class families, Griffin captures the forgotten stories of ordinary families who struggled to manage financially amidst the growing prosperity of the Victorian era. Her book touches on a range of important social, economic and gender issues that are equally relevant today as they were in their time.
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    • 1 hr 3 min
    Bill Sewell, "Constructing Empire: The Japanese in Changchun, 1905-45" (UBC Press, 2019)

    Bill Sewell, "Constructing Empire: The Japanese in Changchun, 1905-45" (UBC Press, 2019)

    What happens to everyday-life in a city when it becomes subsumed into an empire? Who becomes responsible for the everyday building and management of the new imperial enclave? How do local residents and colonial settlers manage to live side-by-side in new imperial arrangements?
    In Constructing Empire: The Japanese in Changchun, 1905-45 (University of British Columbia Press 2019), Bill Sewell examines how Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian, and other civilians in northeast Asia sought to inscribe Manchuria as theirs, and how Japanese imperial architects and civilians in Changchun engaged in diverse empire-building efforts that transformed the city into a modern urban capital for the puppet state of Manchukuo. Sewell argues that "Constructing empire was a mundane and popularly imagined affair as well as a diplomatic, political, and military one." Although studies on empire tend to focus on elite decisions or actions, Sewell contends that "popular dimensions must also be considered to grasp fully empire's nature."
    Constructing Empire also reminds us that Changchun, a city in northeast China and today's Jilin province, was a regional trade hub in Qing Inner Asia before the arrival of foreign empire builders. Although the land on which the city was built originally belonged to the Mongolian Front Gorlos Banner, Changchun's first cityscape was constructed by its Chinese settlers in the Qing. After the Russo-Japanese War, Changchun became a boundary between the Russian and Japanese spheres of influence in northeast China and a transfer point for travel between Europe and Asia.
    Although the Japanese presence in Manchuria was initially under military authority following the Russo-Japanese War, Sewell observes that the presence of Japanese civilians became increasingly strong after the South Manchuria Railway Company (Mantetsu) established transportation infrastructures, coal mines, power-generation facilities, factories, experimental farms, and railway-zone towns.
    Under Japanese occupation, Changchun was renamed Xinjing (J: Shinkyō) and became the capital of the puppet state of Manchukuo. Sewell shows that constructing empire in Xinjing occurred in diverse contexts and was motivated by colonial imaginaries that allowed Japanese civilians to perceive the urban city and its spaces as places of work, worship, recreation, and residence. 
    Residents of Xinjing were also segregated between the Chinese, Koreans, and the Japanese, with access to spaces and resources in the city unequally distributed. Sewell points out that behind the façades of Pan-Asianism, the Japanese recreated in Xinjing much of the lifestyle that characterized life back home, demonstrating that "there was a closer allegiance to Japanese customs and society than to anything broadly Pan-Asia."
    Daigengna Duoer is a PhD student at the Religious Studies Department, University of California, Santa Barbara. Her dissertation researches on transnational and transregional Buddhist networks connecting twentieth-century Inner Mongolia, Manchuria, Republican China, Tibet, and the Japanese Empire.
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    • 48 min
    Emmanuel Kreike, "Scorched Earth: Environmental Warfare as a Crime Against Humanity and Nature" (Princeton UP, 2021)

    Emmanuel Kreike, "Scorched Earth: Environmental Warfare as a Crime Against Humanity and Nature" (Princeton UP, 2021)

    In Scorched Earth: Environmental Warfare as a Crime Against Humanity and Nature (Princeton UP, 2021), Emmanuel Kreike offers a global history of environmental warfare and makes the case for why it should be a crime. The environmental infrastructure that sustains human societies has been a target and instrument of war for centuries, resulting in famine and disease, displaced populations, and the devastation of people’s livelihoods and ways of life. Scorched Earth traces the history of scorched earth, military inundations, and armies living off the land from the sixteenth to the twentieth century, arguing that the resulting deliberate destruction of the environment—"environcide"—constitutes total war and is a crime against humanity and nature. 
    In this sweeping global history, Emmanuel Kreike shows how religious war in Europe transformed Holland into a desolate swamp where hunger and the black death ruled. He describes how Spanish conquistadores exploited the irrigation works and expansive agricultural terraces of the Aztecs and Incas, triggering a humanitarian crisis of catastrophic proportions. Kreike demonstrates how environmental warfare has continued unabated into the modern era. His panoramic narrative takes readers from the Thirty Years' War to the wars of France's Sun King, and from the Dutch colonial wars in North America and Indonesia to the early twentieth-century colonial conquest of southwestern Africa. Shedding light on the premodern origins and the lasting consequences of total war, Scorched Earth explains why ecocide and genocide are not separate phenomena, and why international law must recognize environmental warfare as a violation of human rights.
    Dr. Emmanuel Kreike is a professor of history at Princeton University. He holds a Ph.D. in African history from Yale University (1996) and a Dr. of Science (PhD) in Tropical Forestry from the School of Environmental Sciences, Wageningen University (2006), the Netherlands. His research and teaching interests focus on the intersection of war/violence, population displacement, environment, and society.
    Ahmed Yaqoub AlMaazmi is a Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University. His research focuses on the intersection of law and the environment across the Western Indian Ocean. He can be reached by email at almaazmi@princeton.edu or on Twitter @Ahmed_Yaqoub. Listeners’ feedback, questions, and book suggestions are most welcome.
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    • 1 hr 22 min
    Benno Weiner, "The Chinese Revolution on the Tibetan Frontier" (Cornell UP, 2020)

    Benno Weiner, "The Chinese Revolution on the Tibetan Frontier" (Cornell UP, 2020)

    In The Chinese Revolution on the Tibetan Frontier (Cornell University Press, 2020) Benno Weiner provides an in-depth study of what happened when the Chinese Revolution came to Amdo, a Tibetan region in the Sino-Tibetan borderland. Focusing primarily on the 1950s, Weiner demonstrates that the Chinese Communist Party wasn't just trying to build a state during this period — it was trying to build a nation. Under the banner of the “United Front” the CCP attempted to gradually, voluntarily, and organically bring Amdo into the modern, Socialist, and multi-ethnic nation. In this meticulously researched book Weiner examines why and how this failed, and the violent and painful consequences of that failure.
    The Chinese Revolution on the Tibetan Frontier is an important read for those interested in the history of Amdo, the Sino-Tibetan borderland, and modern Chinese history more broadly. It is also crucial and timely reading for anyone looking to understand contemporary China, and in particular why the CCP continues to struggle to persuade Tibetans (and those in other ethnic minority regions) of their membership in the modern Chinese nation today. 
    Sarah Bramao-Ramos is a PhD candidate in History and East Asian Languages at Harvard. She works on Manchu language books and is interested in anything with a kesike.
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    • 1 hr 27 min
    Kathryn Ciancia, "On Civilization's Edge: A Polish Borderland in the Interwar World" (Oxford UP, 2020)

    Kathryn Ciancia, "On Civilization's Edge: A Polish Borderland in the Interwar World" (Oxford UP, 2020)

    As a resurgent Poland emerged at the end of World War I, an eclectic group of Polish border guards, state officials, military settlers, teachers, academics, urban planners, and health workers descended upon Volhynia, an eastern borderland province that was home to Ukrainians, Poles, and Jews. Its aim was not simply to shore up state power in a place where Poles constituted an ethnic minority, but also to launch an ambitious civilizing mission that would transform a poor Russian imperial backwater into a region that was at once civilized, modern, and Polish. Over the next two decades, these men and women recast imperial hierarchies of global civilization-in which Poles themselves were often viewed as uncivilized-within the borders of their supposedly anti-imperial nation-state.
    As state institutions remained fragile, long-debated questions of who should be included in the nation re-emerged with new urgency, turning Volhynia's mainly Yiddish-speaking towns and Ukrainian-speaking villages into vital testing grounds for competing Polish national visions. By the eve of World War II, with Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union growing in strength, schemes to ensure the loyalty of Jews and Ukrainians by offering them a conditional place in the nation were replaced by increasingly aggressive calls for Jewish emigration and the assimilation of non-Polish Slavs.
    Drawing on research in local and national archives across four countries and utilizing a vast range of written and visual sources that bring Volhynia to life, On Civilization's Edge: A Polish Borderland in the Interwar World (Oxford UP, 2020) offers a highly intimate story of nation-building from the ground up. We eavesdrop on peasant rumors at the Polish-Soviet border, read ethnographic descriptions of isolated marshlands, and scrutinize staged photographs of everyday life. But the book's central questions transcend the Polish case, inviting us to consider how fears of national weakness and competitions for local power affect the treatment of national minorities, how more inclusive definitions of the nation are themselves based on exclusions, and how the very distinction between empires and nation-states is not always clear-cut.
    Kathryn Ciancia is Associate Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she has taught since 2013. She holds a BA from Oxford University, an MA from University College-London, and a PhD from Stanford University. Her first book, On Civilization's Edge: A Polish Borderland in the Interwar World, has just been published by Oxford University Press. She is now at work on a new book about the role of Poland's global consular network in policing the boundaries of citizenship between the end of the First World War and the beginning of the Cold War.
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    • 1 hr

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5
138 Ratings

138 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.

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.

Poochman! ,

SOUND QUALITY IS HORRIFIC

Trying to listen to Alan Taylor's Thomas Jefferson’s Education which sounded fascinating but gave up given the astoundingly poor audio quality. It's 2020. There's absolutely no reason New Books in History can't make the effort to ensure its podcasts are listenable. Such a waste of a great opportunity.

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