Book Review: Invisible Nation: Homeless Families in America by Richard Schweid

‘Fifty years ago’, Schweid points out, ‘the word “homeless” signified dysfunctional individuals – mostly men – who drank heavily and slept rough. Now it is more likely to mean a young single mother with small children and a minimum-wage job. In 1980 families with children made up only 1 percent of the nation’s homeless; by 2014 that number was 37 percent of the total.’ Continue reading

Book Review: Whiteness on the Border: Mapping the U.S. Racial Imagination in Brown and White by Lee Bebout

The work of Arizona State Associate Professor, Lee Bebout, in Whiteness on the Border is certainly topical. To date, the current U.S. administration plans to build a multi-billion-dollar border wall between Mexico and the U.S., solidifying a line in the sand across which ‘Mexican chaos south of the border must not cross’ (63). Those Americans supporting such a project are likely influenced to varying degrees by the very stereotypes about which Bebout writes. He suggests that theirs ‘is a fear not of military invasion per se but of cultural and biological influence and takeover’ (69). Continue reading

Book Review: Louis D. Brandeis: American Prophet by Jeffrey Rosen

The title Louis D. Brandeis: American Prophet for Jeffrey Rosen’s book is an appropriate one given the status of American politics today. Despite having been professional and politically active at the end of the nineteenth and at the turn of the twentieth century, many of the concerns of Justice Louis Brandeis are still very relevant today. As a result, Rosen’s book is a must read – if not for the historical analysis and insight it provides, then for the greater perspective it provides for our current era. Continue reading

Book review: A Short History of U.S. Interventions in Latin America and the Caribbean by Alan McPherson

In A Short History of U.S. Interventions, part of Wiley-Blackwell’s Viewpoints/Punto de Vista series, Alan McPherson analyses U.S. interventions in Latin America from the No Transfer resolution of 1811 through the present-day drug wars. McPherson argues that the foremost goal of U.S. policymakers was ‘political stability and political cultural change’ (4). Economic and other motivations certainly played a role, but he asserts that every intervention ‘harboured above all political motives’ (4). Continue reading

Book Review: Rethinking American Emancipation: Legacies of Slavery and the Quest for Black Freedom edited by William A. Link and James J. Broomall

It is axiomatic that the American Civil War was intimately connected with the demise of American slavery. Certainly, the circumstances and events of the war led to the Emancipation Proclamation and later the Thirteenth Amendment, ending chattel slavery in the United States. This relationship between the Civil War and emancipation has led to a general view of the war as a triumph for freedom and a redemptive rebirth of the American nation. Yet several decades of historical writing have sought to complicate this straightforward story of a dichotomous shift from slavery to freedom in 1865. Continue reading

Book Review: Legalist Empire: International Law and American Foreign Relations in the Early Twentieth Century by Benjamin Allen Coates

Benjamin Coates convincingly demonstrates that, during the first two decades of the twentieth century, international lawyers helped shaped the ascendency of the United States and justified the expansion of its empire among governmental policy makers and within wider intellectual discourses. Driven by a desire to put ‘international law into the history of American empire, and the history of empire into international law,’ Coates successfully collates disparate scholarship that has, until now, been scattered across several disciplines (5). Continue reading

Book Review: The Cultural Left and the Reagan Era: US Protest and Central American Revolution by Nick Witham

Ronald Reagan and the modern conservative movement have fascinated scholars and journalists ever since the 1980s. Over the last thirty years, countless popular and academic books have been published which examine either the decline of liberalism, or the development of conservative ideas during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Perplexed by the seemingly sudden, bipartisan embrace of ideas associated with conservatism, scholars have spilled much ink trying to explain the supposed right shift of the late twentieth century. In many of these narratives, Ronald Reagan takes centre stage. Continue reading

Book Review: Liking Ike: Eisenhower, Advertising and the Rise of Celebrity Politics by David Haven Blake

David Haven Blake’s Liking Ike: Eisenhower, Advertising and the Rise of Celebrity Politics enters the field at a timely moment. Published just before Donald Trump’s election to the presidency, Liking Ike reminds us that media and celebrity have been critical factors in electing American presidents for nearly a century. Continue reading

Book Review: Presidents and Their Pens: The Story of White House Speechwriters by James C. Humes

Presidents and Their Pens is a short book about presidents, presidential speeches and presidential speechwriters, in that order. In a vignette-like fashion, Humes discusses a president per chapter, twenty-three in total, analyses one of their speeches, and discusses the role of the speechwriter, if any. Continue reading

Book Review: From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America by Elizabeth Hinton

Elizabeth Hinton has a produced a work that is exceedingly relevant to modern debates and useful not only to specialists but to anyone interested in the historical roots of controversial topics such as mass incarceration, the policing of urban communities, stop and frisk searches, civil asset forfeiture, and the militarisation of American police forces. Hinton makes the connections to current events explicit and displays a striking earnestness; she is not simply discussing abstract policies but also critiquing modern American society. Continue reading