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

Book Review: U.S. Military Bases, Quasi-Bases and Domestic Politics in Latin America by Sebastian E. Bitar

Since 1999 all attempts by the US government to open formal military bases in Latin America have failed. This leads one to assume the US has lost much of its military influence in the region. However, the existence of so-called quasi-bases, or informal bases, discussed in Sebastian Bitar’s book, demonstrates that the US has managed to maintain its military influence. Quasi-bases differ from formal bases in no other way than that they lack a formal lease agreement for use of facilities. Essentially, quasi-bases serve the same purposes as formal bases, but exist in a cloud of secrecy. Continue reading

Book Review: Racial Realignment: The Transformation of American Liberalism, 1932-1965 by Eric Schickler

Beginning his history with Roosevelt’s election in 1932, Schickler argues that civil rights was, put simply, ‘not part of the programmatic liberal vision in the early 1930s’ (27). With African American voters generally loyal to the party of Lincoln, and with Roosevelt attempting to appease both the organized labor movements of the South and West (who were generally resistant to civil rights) and conservative northeastern business interests, it took the creation of the Congress of Industrialized Organizations (CIO) in 1935 to bring African Americans into the coalition and redefine New Deal liberalism. Continue reading