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History Department's Summer Reading Suggestions
White Women's Rights by
Publication Date: 1999-02-04
It's a great study of how the early U.S. feminist movements of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century were founded in a politics of race, and in fact how notions of American feminism were themselves productive of a racialized U.S. culture. It does a good job illustrating that emancipation movements are neither prone to cross-political alliances, nor are those necessarily even effective in achieving political goals. This is a great early version of the kinds of studies coming out now about the interracial politics of the postwar freedom struggles in the U.S.
The Seed Is Mine by
Publication Date: 1997-01-31
This book is an all-encompassing look at the life a sorghum farmer whose life coincides with the development of the South African state and the rise of Apartheid. His story is compelling, bold, and encyclopedic, bringing the reader into a world that is remarkably nuanced, especially given that it is a topic that escaped the critical lens of most historical work about South Africa. This would be an interesting read to combine with Sol Plaatje’s classic tome Native Life in South Africa.
The Word in the Desert by
Publication Date: 1993-02-04
This book examines the lives and experiences of early Christian monks in Egypt in the second and third centuries. The book is a treatise that challenges assumptions about these critical communities and embraces a complex methodology combining the tools of social and intellectual history in an influential and powerful way.
Manliness and Civilization by
Publication Date: 1996-11-01
This is such a classic and accessible cultural history of the intersections of gender and race in the age of America's first imperialist adventures. It's a captivating read, and a great example of historically-grounded interdisciplinary work.
Fighting for American Manhood by
Publication Date: 2000-08-11
This is a classic work that exemplifies the much needed cultural turn in diplomatic history. She does a great job of reading the 1898 war in gendered terms, and as such I think it's a simple enough (as in not theoretically sophisticated) gendered reading of history that students can begin to model their own more nuanced historical analyses off of.
Confidence Men and Painted Women by
Publication Date: 1986-09-10
This book is no spring chicken, but I think it stands up to the test of time as a classic worth reading for students who want a good model of cultural history. I think it also does a great job showing readers that this nation is a young one, and that white middle class culture in America is grounded in some rather interesting histories that we would now find neither elevating nor edifying...Elements of hucksterism, the flim-flam artist, the charlatan, and the mountebank still pervade our culture.
Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves by
Publication Date: 1999-08-08
This was the best book I read in graduate school, even though it doesn't really have anything to do with my topic. It's masterfully written, meticulously researched, and I suggest it here because I can think of no better example of historically-grounded writing that also exemplifies the best of analyzing visual and material culture.
Playing Indian by
Publication Date: 1999-09-10
I recommend Deloria's relatively short book because it is an excellent cultural history of how non-native performances of 'Indianness' (from the Boston Tea Party to the New Age Movement) have been central to the construction of various American identities throughout the nation's history. It has much to say about questions of race, gender, class, religion and spirituality in a format that more advanced Bentley students will find worthy of emulation in their own research and writing.
Cold War Civil Rights by
Publication Date: 2011-07-31
I recommend this book because it is a relatively accessibly study of the impact of the global context of the Cold War on the civil rights/black freedom struggle in the United States. I think this book could make a great impact on high school students because it takes a narrative of great familiarity (that of the civil rights movement as thought from completely within a domestic frame, and from the perspective of a progressive America living up to its democratic ideals) and unsettles it by taking an entirely different perspective on what animated state-driven reforms during the civil rights era.
The Swerve by
Publication Date: 2012-09-04
This book traces the rediscovery of a long-lost manuscript of Lucretius, an ancient Roman philosopher (we would call him a scientist today) who believed the world was made of atomic particles, . . . by a major Renaissance humanist, Poggio Bracciolini, and the radioactive fallout of that discovery -- the world was never the same again.
American Babylon by
Publication Date: 2003-11-02
A must-read for Oaklanders and non-Oaklanders alike! Self examines the history of Oakland, urban development, and its African-American community. He covers the building of BART and the black power movement.
Any of the essays of Montaigne, the "inventor" of the prose essay, wandering around as they do (and he does) with an urbane, worldly-wise voice through topics as diverse as the nature of smell, anger, fear, idleness, thumbs (!), monsters, conscience, profit, lying, belief, friendship . . . the entire spectrum of human emotion and experience. Right up there with Montaigne would be some of the "meditations" by Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor whose Stoic philosophy made him quite an anomaly among the warrior-kings of his time and class.
Imperial San Francisco by
Publication Date: 2006-10-03
Brechin investigates how San Francisco's elite built up their city and had a far-reaching impact on surrounding communities, for better or worse. A must read for those interested in the complex history of the city by the bay.
The Devil in Silicon Valley by
Publication Date: 2004-08-15
A revolutionary book, Pitti’s work charts the development of Northern California’s Mexican and Mexican-American presence over the last two hundred years. By emphasizing the role of Latinos in building Northern California, Pitti's book is an exemplary history of race relations in the West.
Brunelleschi's Dome by
Publication Date: 2013-08-13
I recommend any of Ross King's books detailing the logistics and mentalities involved in key moments of Renaissance history, such as Brunelleschi's Dome: The Story of the Great Cathedral in Florence or Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling or Leonardo and the Last Supper or Machiavelli: Philosopher of Power, or a great book on 19th-century Impressionism titled, The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism.
Nature's Metropolis by
Publication Date: 1992-05-17
Cronon’s highly influential work in environmental history often obscures the fact that he is also fundamentally an urbanist with a rich point of view about the development of the American city. In what might be his finest work, Cronon charts the development of Chicago in the nineteenth century as a complex relationship between the growing urban core and expanding hinterlands.