Monthly Archives: September 2010

The seemingly rational consideration of objective policy are rarely, if ever, either. If you want to know how the world got here today read this book about yesterday.

Churchill, Hitler, and “the unnecessary war” : how Britain lost its empire and the West lost the world New York : Crown Publishers, c 2008       Great Britain , Foreign relations , 1936-1945 Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. xxi, 518 p. : ill., maps ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [489]-501) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Were World Wars I and II — which can now be seen as a thirty-year paroxysm of slaughter and destruction — inevitable? Were they necessary wars? Were the bloodiest and most devastating conflicts ever suffered by mankind fated by forces beyond men’s control? Or were they products of calamitous failures of judgment? In this monumental and provocative history,  Buchanan makes the case that, if not for the blunders of British statesmen — Winston Churchill first among them — the horrors of two world wars and the Holocaust might have been avoided and the British Empire might never have collapsed into ruins. Half a century of murderous oppression of scores of millions under the iron boot of Communist tyranny might never have happened, and Europe’s central role in world affairs might have been sustained for many generations.

Among the British and Churchillian blunders were:

• The secret decision of a tiny cabal in the inner Cabinet in 1906 to take Britain straight to war against Germany, should she invade France

• The vengeful Treaty of Versailles that muti- lated Germany, leaving her bitter, betrayed, and receptive to the appeal of Adolf Hitler

• Britain’s capitulation, at Churchill’s urging, to American pressure to sever the Anglo- Japanese alliance, insulting and isolating Japan, pushing her onto the path of militarism and conquest

• The 1935 sanctions that drove Italy straight into the Axis with Hitler

• The greatest blunder in British history: the unsolicited war guarantee to Poland of March 1939—that guaranteed the Second World War

• Churchill’s astonishing blindness to Stalin’s true ambitions.

Certain to create controversy and spirited argument, Churchill, Hitler, and “The Unnecessary War” is a grand and bold insight into the historic failures of judgment that ended centuries of European rule and guaranteed a future no one who lived in that vanished world could ever have envisioned.

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Adenauer’s Germany and the Nazi past : the politics of amnesty and integration

Adenauer’s Germany and the Nazi past : the politics of amnesty and integration New York : Columbia University Press, 2002      Norbert Frei ; translated by Joel Golb Germany , Politics and government , 1945-1990 Hardcover. 1st. ed., later printing. xv, 479 p. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 417-459) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Of all the aspects of recovery in postwar Germany perhaps none was as critical or as complicated as the matter of dealing with Nazi criminals, and, more broadly, with the Nazi past. While on the international stage German officials spoke with contrition of their nation’s burden of guilt, at home questions of responsibility and retribution were not so clear. In this masterful examination of Germany under Adenauer, Norbert Frei shows that, beginning in 1949, the West German government dramatically reversed the denazification policies of the immediate postwar period and initiated a new “Vergangenheitspolitik,” or “policy for the past,” which has had enormous consequences reaching into the present.

Adenauer’s Germany and the Nazi Past chronicles how amnesty laws for Nazi officials were passed unanimously and civil servants who had been dismissed in 1945 were reinstated liberally—and how a massive popular outcry led to the release of war criminals who had been condemned by the Allies. These measures and movements represented more than just the rehabilitation of particular individuals. Frei argues that the amnesty process delegitimized the previous political expurgation administered by the Allies and, on a deeper level, served to satisfy the collective psychic needs of a society longing for a clean break with the unparalleled political and moral catastrophe it had undergone in the 1940s. Thus the era of Adenauer devolved into a scandal-ridden period of reintegration at any cost. Frei’s work brilliantly and chillingly explores how the collective will of the German people, expressed through mass allegiance to new consensus-oriented democratic parties, cast off responsibility for the horrors of the war and Holocaust, effectively silencing engagement with the enormities of the Nazi past.

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The greatest sin of colonialism in Africa was leaving a continent unfit for self government – the muddle of sociology and history in these two books shows that Africa’s western intellectual saviors are perpetuating old ills while they create new ones.

Frontiers : the epic of South Africa’s creation and the tragedy of the Xhosa people New York : Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 1992  Noel Mostert Xhosa (African people) , History , 19th century Hardcover. 1st American ed. xxix, 1355 p. : ill., maps ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [1321]-1334) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Sophocles himself could not have illustrated Western sin any better than the tragic encounter between South Africa’s indigenous Xhosa tribe and European settlers in the 19th Century.

Archetypal innocents, the Xhosa (pronounced KO-saw ) centered their peaceful, democratic society around their beloved cattle. “Life literally circled around them,” Mostert writes, “since the huts of an umzi were grouped in a semi-circle around the cattle kraal , with their entrances facing it. The direction was eastwards, towards the sun. For every Xhosa, the first sight as he rose and emerged from his hut was of his beloved beasts, glowing in the rising light.”

Paradise was lost, however, when (mostly British) settlers began seizing their Xhosa lands and betraying Xhosa leaders. In their frustration, the Xhosa found hope in the prophecy of Mlanjeni, a young man who sat neck-deep in a pool from which he seldom emerged. Destroy your food stocks and kill your cattle, he counseled, and the white man will go away. It was the Xhosa, however, not the whites, who went away: Between January and December of 1857, death brought their population down from an estimated 105,000 to 37,500.

Real-life tragedy, of course, is never as morally clear-cut as the Sophoclean sort, a fact that Mostert underlines through 1,355 pages of qualifications, digressions and background. His attempt at thoroughness is not entirely successful: In some areas the detail is excessive (e.g., a digression about the past two million years of drought and rain in the Sahara) and in others, insufficient (e.g., in claiming that 19th-Century tribal enmities demystify the modern-day conflict between Xhosas such as Nelson Mandela and Zulus such as Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, he neglects the economic bases of the feuding). But Mostert’s final analysis that the Xhosa were not simply “good” (they punished victims with giant ants and red-hot stones, for one thing) and the settlers not entirely “evil” (they saw in the continent “Genesis made visible; the wildest, the original waste of all”) has all the moral complexity of “Black Robe,” Brian Moore’s novel about another meeting between European and ancient cultures.

Shades of difference : Mac Maharaj and the struggle for South Africa New Yok : Viking, 2007      Padraig O’Malley Anti-apartheid movements , South Africa , History , 20th century Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing.      xix, 648 p. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [613]-628) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

The inside story of South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement, told through the experiences of one of its unsung heroes, with an introduction by Nelson Mandela

A South African of Indian descent, Mac Maharaj was a potent force in the Communist Party and African National Congress for nearly four decades. Tortured by South African security forces, he served twelve years in prison with Nelson Mandela and was able to smuggle out a painstakingly miniaturized copy of Mandela’s autobiography. He continued to play a key role in the movement and participated in the negotiations that ultimately led to a free South Africa in 1994. In Mandela’s new government, he served as minister of transport.

Drawing on extensive interviews with Maharaj over the last eleven years, Padraig O’Malley vividly captures the experiences of this South African freedom fighter. By telling Maharaj’s story, O’Malley sheds new light on the decades-long battle against apartheid as well as the more recent struggle to build a free South Africa.

Padraig O’Malley is a scholar, author, and mediator.  He was involved in negotiations to end the conflict in Northern Ireland. O’Malley is the founding editor of the New England Journal of Public Policy and is currently a visiting professor of political studies at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa.

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With authority, insight, and a flair for evoking time and place, Weber examines the depths of the brothers’ passions, the vehemence of their lifelong feud, the great art they acquired, and the profound and lasting impact they had on artistic vision in America.

The Clarks of Cooperstown : their Singer sewing machine fortune, their great and influential art  collections, their forty-year feud New York  : Alfred A. Knopf, 2007      Nicholas Fox  Weber Art , Collectors and collecting ,  United States , Biography Hardcover. 1st.  ed.      xvii, 420 p., [16] p. of plates :  ill. (some col.) ; 25 cm. Includes  bibliographical references (p. 399-402) and  index. Clean, tight and strong binding with  clean dust jacket. No highlighting,  underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Nicholas Fox Weber, author of the acclaimed Patron Saints  and Balthus, gives us now the idiosyncratic lives of Sterling and Stephen Clark — two of America’s greatest art collectors, heirs to the Singer sewing machine fortune, and for decades enemies of each other. He tells the story, as well, of the two generations that preceded theirs, giving us an intimate portrait of one of the least known of America’s richest families.

He begins with Edward Clark — the brothers’ grandfather, who amassed the Clark fortune in the late nineteenth century — a man with nerves of steel; a Sunday school teacher who became the business partner of the wild inventor and genius Isaac Merritt Singer. And, by the turn of the twentieth century, was the major stockholder of the Singer Manufacturing Company.

We follow Edward’s rise as a real estate wizard making headlines in 1880 when he commissioned Manhattan’s first luxury apartment building. The house was called “Clark’s Folly”; today it’s known as the Dakota.

We see Clark’s son — Alfred — enigmatic and famously reclusive; at thirty-eight he inherited $50 million and became one of the country’s richest men. An image of propriety — good husband, father of four — in Europe, he led a secret homosexual life. Alfred was a man with a passion for art and charity, which he passed on to his four sons, in particular Sterling and Stephen Clark.

Sterling, the second-oldest, buccaneering and controversial, loved impressionism, created his own museum in Williamstown, Massachusetts — and shocked his family by marrying an actress from the Comedie Française. Together the Sterling Clarks collected thousands of paintings and bred racehorses.

In a highly public case, Sterling sued his three brothers over issues of inheritance, and then never spoke to them again.

He was one of the central figures linked to a bizarre and little-known attempted coup against Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidency. We are told what really happened and why — and who in American politics was implicated but never prosecuted.

Sterling’s brother — Stephen — self-effacing and responsible — became chairman and president of the Museum of Modern Art and gave that institution its first painting, Edward Hopper’s House by the Railroad. Thirteen years later, in an act that provoked intense controversy, Stephen dismissed the Museum’s visionary founding director, Alfred Barr, who for more than a decade had single-handedly established the collection and exhibition programs that determined how the art of the twentieth century was regarded.

Stephen gave or bequeathed to museums many of the paintings that today are still their greatest attractions.

With authority, insight, and a flair for evoking time and place, Weber examines the depths of the brothers’ passions, the vehemence of their lifelong feud, the great art they acquired, and the profound and lasting impact they had on artistic vision in America.

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Batavia’s Graveyard, the spellbinding true story of mutiny, shipwreck, murder, and survival.

Batavia’s graveyard New York : Crown Publishers, c 2002      Mike Dash Batavia (Ship), Cornelisz, Jeronimus, Shipwrecks Australia, Mutiny, Shipwreck victims Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. ix, 381 p. : maps ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 359-367) and index.  Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

It was the autumn of 1628, and the Batavia, the Dutch East India Company’s flagship, was loaded with a king’s ransom in gold, silver, and gems for her maiden voyage to Java. The Batavia was the pride of the Company’s fleet, a tangible symbol of the world’s richest and most powerful commercial monopoly. She set sail with great fanfare, but the Batavia and her gold would never reach Java, for the Company had also sent along a new employee, Jeronimus Corneliszoon, a bankrupt and disgraced man who possessed disarming charisma and dangerously heretical ideas.

With the help of a few disgruntled sailors, Jeronimus soon sparked a mutiny that seemed certain to succeed — but for one unplanned event: In the dark morning hours of June 3, the Batavia smashed through a coral reef and ran aground on a small chain of islands near Australia. The commander of the ship and the skipper evaded the mutineers by escaping in a tiny lifeboat and setting a course for Java—some 1,800 miles north — to summon help. Nearly all of the passengers survived the wreck and found themselves trapped on a bleak coral island without water, food, or shelter. Leaderless, unarmed, and unaware of Jeronimus’s treachery, they were at the mercy of the mutineers.

Jeronimus took control almost immediately, preaching his own twisted version of heresy he’d learned in Holland’s secret Anabaptist societies. More than 100 people died at his command in the months that followed. Before long, an all-out war erupted between the mutineers and a small group of soldiers led by Wiebbe Hayes, the one man brave enough to challenge Jeronimus’s band of butchers.

Unluckily for the mutineers, the Batavia’s commander had raised the alarm in Java, and at the height of the violence the Company’s gunboats sailed over the horizon. Jeronimus and his mutineers would meet an end almost as gruesome as that of the innocents whose blood had run on the small island they called Batavia’s Graveyard.

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