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When inspiration struck Robert McCrum to write a book about the Bard, it came while watching one of the playwright’s plays in Central Park, New York. Here, McCrum realized that we, today, are undoubtedly living in Shakespearean times. Joe Krulder, a British Historian, interviews Robert about his latest book, Shakespearean: On Life and Language in T…
 
Superman, Batman, Captain America, and Iron Man are names that are often connected to the expansive superhero genre, including the multi-billion-dollar film and television franchises. But these characters are older and have been woven into American popular culture since their inception in the early days of comic books. The history of these comic bo…
 
The current opioid epidemic in the United States began in the mid-1990s with the introduction of a new drug, OxyContin, viewed as a safer and more effective opiate for chronic pain management. By 2017, the opioid epidemic had become a full-blown crisis as over two million Americans had become dependent on and abused prescription pain pills and stre…
 
In The Better Angels of Our Nature Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker argued that modern history has witnessed a dramatic decline in human violence of every kind, and that in the present we are experiencing the most peaceful time in human history. But what do top historians think about Pinker's reading of the past? Does his argument stand up to his…
 
It's time to rethink how we create and allocate money In Outgrowing Capitalism: Rethinking Money to Reshape Society and Pursue Purpose (Fast Company Press, 2021), Marco Dondi sheds light on the fact that most people do not have the economic security to focus on purpose and life fulfillment. He proposes that this is not the way things have to be; th…
 
A century ago, it was a given that a woman with a college degree had to choose between having a career and a family. Today, there are more female college graduates than ever before, and more women want to have a career and family, yet challenges persist at work and at home. This book traces how generations of women have responded to the problem of …
 
On this episode, J.J. Mull interviews author Hannah Zeavin about her new book, The Distance Cure: A History of Teletherapy (MIT Press, 2021). Among Zeavin’s central interventions in the book is to reframe what is normally understood as the “therapeutic dyad” as always already a triad: therapist, patient, and mediating communication technology. Acro…
 
Called the “quarterback of the new anti-drug movement,” Kevin Sabet received his Ph.D. in social policy from the University of Oxford and has worked in drug policy for over two decades. He’s served as an advisor for three presidential administrations, Pope Francis and the United Nations, and in 2013 he founded the group he still leads, Smart Approa…
 
Everyone has heard of Alexei Navalny, the leader of Russia's opposition to Putin's rule. But what do we really know of him? Navalny: Putin's Nemesis, Russia's Future? (Oxford, 2021) provides the first detailed description of Navalny's history and trajectory. Most importantly, Ben Noble, Morvan Lallouet, and Jan Matti Dollbaum turn the one-dimension…
 
An event-by-event look at how institutionalized racism harms the health of African Americans in the twenty-first century A crucial component of anti-Black racism is the unconscionable disparity in health outcomes between Black and white Americans. Sickening: Anti-Black Racism and Health Disparities in the United States (U Minnesota Press, 2021) exa…
 
Race, while drawn from the visual cues of human diversity, is an idea with a measurable past, an identifiable present, and an uncertain future. The concept of race has been at the center of both triumphs and tragedies in American history and has had a profound effect on the human experience. Race Unmasked: Biology and Race in the Twentieth Century …
 
Marxism is having a moment; higher workloads, stagnating wages, rising costs of living, a new economic crisis every few years, a warming climate and now almost two years of a worldwide pandemic have all led to a number of people across the world, especially younger people, to self-identify with ideas once thought to be in the dustbin of history. Bu…
 
Histories of the Vietnam War are not in short supply. In U.S. history, it ranks alongside the Civil War and World War Two in terms of author coverage. The aftermath of the war has received a similar amount of attention, with historians noting the effect that the end of the war had on domestic politics and U.S. foreign policy. But what about shifts …
 
In Who Gets What — and Why: The New Economics of Matchmaking and Market Design (Mariner Books, 2015), Nobel Memorial Prize Winner Alvin Roth explains his pioneering work in the study of matching markets such as kidney exchange, marriage, job placements for new doctors and new professors, and enrollments in schools or colleges. In these markets, “bu…
 
For decades, scholars have been calling into question the universality of disciplinary objects and categories. The coherence of defined autonomous categories—such as religion, science, and art—has collapsed under the weight of postmodern critiques, calling into question the possibility of progress and even the value of knowledge. Jason Ānanda Josep…
 
The basic story of the rise, reign, and fall of deconstruction as a literary and philosophical groundswell is well known among scholars. In this intellectual history, Gregory Jones-Katz aims to transform the broader understanding of a movement that has been frequently misunderstood, mischaracterized, and left for dead—even as its principles and inf…
 
How can we create a healthier world and prevent the crisis next time? In a few short months, COVID-19 devastated the world and, in particular, the United States. It infected millions, killed hundreds of thousands, and effectively made the earth stand still. Yet America was already in poor health before COVID-19 appeared. Racism, marginalization, so…
 
Movies open a window into our collective soul. In Screen Captures: Film in the Age of Emergency (New Star Books, 2021), Stephen Lee Naish guides us through recent cinematic phenomena that reflect/refract our contemporary political existence. Stephen Lee Naish is a writer, independent researcher, and cultural critic. He is the author of several book…
 
Washington, DC is known as the birthplace of hardcore punk. The raw, innovative, new sound coming out of the nation’s capital in the late 1970s is examined in Shayna Maskell’s Politics as Sound: The Washington, DC, Hardcore Scene, 1978-1983 (U Illinois Press, 2021). Maskell examines the DC hardcore scene between 1978 and 1983, focusing on the bands…
 
With the passing of those who witnessed National Socialism and the Holocaust, the archive matters as never before. However, the material that remains for the work of remembering and commemorating this period of history is determined by both the bureaucratic excesses of the Nazi regime and the attempt to eradicate its victims without trace. Dora Osb…
 
Over the past seventy years, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, has evolved from a virtually unknown and little-used pamphlet to an imposing and comprehensive compendium of mental disorder. Its nearly 300 conditions have become the touchstones for the diagnoses that patients receive, students are taught, researchers …
 
Nature, it has been said, invites us to eat by appetite and rewards by flavor. But what exactly are flavors? Why are some so pleasing while others are not? Delicious is a supremely entertaining foray into the heart of such questions. With generous helpings of warmth and wit, Rob Dunn and Monica Sanchez offer bold new perspectives on why food is enj…
 
Western Jihadism: A Thirty Year History (Oxford University Press, 2021) tells the story of how Al Qaeda grew in the West. In forensic and compelling detail, Jytte Klausen traces how Islamist revolutionaries exiled in Europe and North America in the 1990s helped create and control one of the world's most impactful terrorist movements--and how, after…
 
Albeit inspired by a progressive vision of a working environment without walls or hierarchies, the open plan office has come to be associated with some of the most dehumanizing and alienating aspects of the modern office. Jennifer Kaufman-Buhler's fascinating new book Open Plan: A Design History of the American Office (Bloomsbury, 2021) examines th…
 
Horror fans are attracted to movies designed to scare us, but others shudder already at the thought of the sweat-drenched nightmares that terrifying movies often trigger. The fear of sleepless nights and the widespread beliefs that horror movies can have negative psychological effects and display immorality make some of us very, very nervous about …
 
Why are white evangelicals the most skeptical major religious group in America regarding climate change? Previous scholarship has pointed to cognitive factors such as conservative politics, anti-science attitudes, aversion to big government, and theology. Drawing on qualitative fieldwork, Robin Veldman's book The Gospel of Climate Skepticism: Why E…
 
In July 1947, not even three months after Jackie Robinson debuted on the Brooklyn Dodgers, snapping the color line that had segregated Major League Baseball, Larry Doby would follow in his footsteps on the Cleveland Indians. Though Doby, as the second Black player in the majors, would struggle during his first summer in Cleveland, his subsequent tu…
 
Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, first published in 1792, is a work of enduring relevance in women’s rights advocacy. However, as Sylvana Tomaselli shows, a full understanding of Wollstonecraft’s thought is possible only through a more comprehensive appreciation of Wollstonecraft herself, as a philosopher and moralist who…
 
The Picky Eagle: How Democracy and Xenophobia Limited U. S. Territorial Expansion (Cornell UP, 2020) explains why the United States stopped annexing territory by focusing on annexation's domestic consequences, both political and normative. It describes how the U.S. rejection of further annexations, despite its rising power, set the stage for twenti…
 
Today’s Postscript (a special series that allows scholars to comment on pressing contemporary issues) engages the latest chapter in American abortion politics as the United States Supreme Court has just allowed a Texas statute banning abortions after 6 weeks to go into effect. Lilly Goren and Susan Liebell have assembled a panel of experts in polit…
 
Over the past 15 years, journalism has experienced a rapid proliferation of data about online reader behavior in the form of web metrics. These newsroom metrics influence which stories are written, how news is promoted, and which journalists get hired and fired. Some argue that metrics help journalists better serve their audiences. Others worry tha…
 
Political Scientist Ursula Hackett’s new book, America's Voucher Politics: How Elites Learned to Hide the State (Cambridge UP, 2020), is the winner of the APSA 2021 Education Policy and Politics Section Best Book Award. America’s Voucher Politics examines the way that the approach to vouchers, as a policy design and as a point of advocacy, has evol…
 
Stephen J. Pyne's new book The Pyrocene: How We Created an Age of Fire, and What Happens Next (U California Press, 2021) tells the story of what happened when a fire-wielding species, humanity, met an especially fire-receptive time in Earth's history. Since terrestrial life first appeared, flames have flourished. Over the past two million years, ho…
 
When considering pivotal years in Russian history, one naturally thinks of 1861 (the Serf Emancipation), the 1905 Revolution, or the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Dr. Paul Werth’s 1837: Russia's Quiet Revolution (Oxford UP, 2021), invites us to reconsider that list of revolutionary years. Werth’s wide-ranging discussion analyzes such subjects as Pushk…
 
The Berlin Ethnological Museum is one of the world's largest and most important anthropological museums, housing more than a half million objects collected from around the globe. In Humboldt's Shadow tells the story of the German scientists and adventurers who, inspired by Alexander von Humboldt's inclusive vision of the world, traveled the earth i…
 
Until the recent political shift pushed workers back into the media spotlight, the mainstream media had largely ignored this significant part of American society in favor of the moneyed upscale consumer for more than four decades. Christopher R. Martin now reveals why and how the media lost sight of the American working class and the effects of it …
 
Anil Seth's quest to understand the biological basis of conscious experience is one of the most exciting contributions to twenty-first-century science. An unprecedented tour of consciousness thanks to new experimental evidence, much of which comes from Anil Seth's own lab. His radical argument is that we do not perceive the world as it objectively …
 
From the moment that Tsars as well as hierarchs realized that having their subjects go to confession could make them better citizens as well as better Christians, the sacrament of penance in the Russian empire became a political tool, a devotional exercise, a means of education, and a literary genre. It defined who was Orthodox, and who was 'other.…
 
Thomas O. Haakenson's book Grotesque Visions: The Science of Berlin Dada (Bloomsbury, 2021) focuses on the radical avant-garde interventions of Salomo Friedländer (aka Mynona), Til Brugman, and Hannah Höch as they challenged the questionable practices and evidentiary claims of late-19th- and early-20th-century science. Demonstrating the often exces…
 
Home to over 730,000 people, with close to four million people living in the metropolitan area, Seattle has the third-highest homeless population in the United States. In 2018, an estimated 8,600 homeless people lived in the city, a figure that does not include the significant number of "hidden" homeless people doubled up with friends or living in …
 
From the Taliban to Hezbollah, armed nonstate actors and civil warfare have dominated the US national security debate for much of the last 20 years. Yet, most analysis shares a critical underlying assumption: that non-state actors fight very differently than states do. In Nonstate Warfare: The Military Methods of Guerillas, Warlords and Militias (P…
 
Do you trust corporations? Do you trust politicians? Do you trust the science? Does anyone trust anyone anymore? In Why Trust Matters: An Economist's Guide to the Ties That Bind Us (Columbia UP, 2021), Professor Ben Ho reveals the surprising importance of trust to how we understand our day-to-day economic lives. Starting with the earliest societies…
 
On this episode of the Economic and Business History channel, I spoke with Dr. Victoria Basualdo and Dr. Marcelo Bucheli about their new edited book. Big Business and Dictatorships in Latin America: A Transnational History of Profits and Repression (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020) is an edited volume that studies the relationship between big business and…
 
With technological advances and information sharing so prevalent, health care should be more transparent and easier to access than ever before. So why does it seem like everything about it―from pricing, drug development, and the emergence of new diseases to the intricacies of biologic and precision medicine therapies―is becoming more complex, not l…
 
Statistical graphing was born in the seventeenth century as a scientific tool, but it quickly escaped all disciplinary bounds. Today graphics are ubiquitous in daily life. In their just-published A History of Data Visualization and Graphic Communication (Harvard UP, 2021), Michael Friendly and Howard Wainer detail the history of graphs and tables, …
 
Why did the United States invade Iraq, setting off a chain of events that profoundly changed the Middle East and the US global position? In The Regime Change Consensus: Iraq in American Politics, 1990-2003 (Cambridge UP, 2021), Joseph Stieb offers a compelling look at how the United States pivoted from a policy of containment to regime change in Ir…
 
The Science of Emotions is based on an in-depth filmed conversation between Howard Burton and Barbara Fredrickson, Director Positive Emotions & Psychology Laboratory at UNC Chapel Hill. Why do we smile, laugh and actively seek out personal connections with the people around us? Why does it feel good and what evolutionary purposes do our so-called “…
 
American society is rapidly secularizing – a radical departure from its historically high level of religiosity–and politics is a big part of the reason. Just as, forty years ago, the Religious Right arose as a new political movement, today secularism is gaining traction as a distinct and politically energized identity. Secular Surge: A New Faultlin…
 
Climate change is a hoax--and so is coronavirus. Vaccines are bad for you. These days, many of our fellow citizens reject scientific expertise and prefer ideology to facts. They are not merely uninformed--they are misinformed. They cite cherry-picked evidence, rely on fake experts, and believe conspiracy theories. How can we convince such people ot…
 
In 1804, King Charles IV of Spain enacted a royal order mandating the postmortem cesarean procedure in all of Spain's dominions. The Audiencia de Guatemala, way back in 1785, had already enacted a law mandating postmortem cesareans for all deceased pregnant women and even those suspected of being pregnant when they had passed away. Audiencias of ot…
 
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