Monthly Archives: March 2012

Following the light of the sun, we left the Old World… Christopher Columbus

Columbus Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1991 0192158988 Felipe Fernandez-Armesto America Discovery and exploration Columbus, Christopher Hardcover. xx, 218 p. : ill., maps ; 23 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [195]-210) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

In 1992 we marked the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s first voyage to the New World. But for most of us, this pivotal figure remains as distant and mysterious as the New World must have seemed to him. What sort of man was Columbus? Was he a zealous crusader or a mystic seer, as
various legends have it, or an embodiment of bourgeois capitalism, as new interpretations claim?

In this concise, authoritative biography, Felipe Fernandez-Armesto provides us with a striking view of the first European to explore America, going beyond popular misconception to reveal the real individual behind the romantic fictions.

The Columbus that emerges here may differ from the one described in text books and speculative fantasies, but Fernandez-Armesto’s Columbus derives from thorough research into verifiable sources. Fernandez-Armesto paints a new picture of an ambitious, socially awkward parvenu, an autodidact
who was intellectually aggressive but easily cowed, an embittered escapee from distressing realities, an adventurer inhibited by fear of failure.

The author carefully places Columbus in the context of his society, describing in detail both the explorer’s Genoese roots and the culture of his adopted Castillian home. We gain insight into the workings of Ferdinand and Isabella’s royal court, as we watch him struggle to attain patronage for his ambitious travel plans; we learn about the role of contemporary cartography in the formation of Columbus’s vision of the world through an analysis of
marginal notes in his library.

And of course we accompany him on his four trips to the New World, watching his reactions to these newly discovered lands and people, following his unsuccessful career as a colonial administrator in Hispaniola, and charting his growing religious obsessions.

Fernandez-Armesto assesses the preservation and transcription of Columbus’s writings through the work of the 16th century Spaniard Bartolome de Las Casas, and sets the voyages within the context of the ongoing discovery of North and South America.

Complete with eight pages of illustrations and a chronology of Columbus’s life and work, this biography provides a compact and up-to-date guide to the explorer and his voyages written by an acknowledged authority on the legendary explorer.

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Following the light of the sun, we left the Old World… Christopher Columbus

Columbus    Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1991  0192158988 Felipe Fernandez-Armesto America Discovery and exploration Columbus, Christopher Hardcover. xx, 218 p. : ill., maps ; 23 cm.     Includes bibliographical references (p. [195]-210) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text.  VG/VG

In 1992 we marked the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus‘s first voyage to the New World. But for most of us, this pivotal figure remains as distant and mysterious as the New World must have seemed to him. What sort of man was Columbus? Was he a zealous crusader or a mystic seer, as
various legends have it, or an embodiment of bourgeois capitalism, as new interpretations claim?

In this concise, authoritative biography, Felipe Fernandez-Armesto provides us with a striking view of the first European to explore America, going beyond popular misconception to reveal the real individual behind the romantic fictions.

The Columbus that emerges here may differ from the one described in text books and speculative fantasies, but Fernandez-Armesto’s Columbus derives from thorough research into verifiable sources. Fernandez-Armesto paints a new picture of an ambitious, socially awkward parvenu, an autodidact
who was intellectually aggressive but easily cowed, an embittered escapee from distressing realities, an adventurer inhibited by fear of failure.

The author carefully places Columbus in the context of his society, describing in detail both the explorer’s Genoese roots and the culture of his adopted Castillian home. We gain insight into the workings of Ferdinand and Isabella‘s royal court, as we watch him struggle to attain patronage for his ambitious travel plans; we learn about the role of contemporary cartography in the formation of Columbus’s vision of the world through an analysis of
marginal notes in his library.

And of course we accompany him on his four trips to the New World, watching his reactions to these newly discovered lands and people, following his unsuccessful career as a colonial administrator in Hispaniola, and charting his growing religious obsessions.

Fernandez-Armesto assesses the preservation and transcription of Columbus’s writings through the work of the 16th century Spaniard Bartolome de Las Casas, and sets the voyages within the context of the ongoing discovery of North and South America.

Complete with eight pages of illustrations and a chronology of Columbus’s life and work, this biography provides a compact and up-to-date guide to the explorer and his voyages written by an acknowledged authority on the legendary explorer.

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A dramatic chronicle of a pivotal moment in the history of aviation.

Chasing Icarus : The Seventeen Days in 1910 That Forever Changed American Aviation    New York, Walker Publishing Company, 2009  Gavin Mortimer Aviation history Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. 320 p., ill., 25 cm. Includes bibliographical data and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG  

By 1910—seven years after the Wright brothers first lifted a plane off the ground at Kitty Hawk — America and the world were transfixed by the danger and challenge of mastering the air. Yet which form of flight would predominate was far from clear — dirigibles, balloons, and airplanes all had their passionate advocates. Emblematic of this uncertainty, the precursor of the U.S. Air Force owned one plane and two dirigibles.

During the seventeen days in October 1910 that Gavin Mortimer vividly recounts in Chasing Icarus, the question of primacy in the air was on full display, after which the future of aviation was never in doubt. The great dirigible America, captained by Walter Wellman, lifted off from New Jersey and for several turbulent days attempted to be the first flying machine to cross the Atlantic. From St. Louis, ballooning teams from around the world took off in pursuit of the Gordon Bennett International Balloon Cup, given to the team that traveled the farthest distance, with a denouement featuring Americans Alan Hawley and Augustus Post that would stun the country. And at the famed racetrack at Belmont Park, New York, huge crowds gathered to watch airplane pilots race above the oval and attempt to set speed, altitude, and distance records. Newspapers everywhere, even in the smallest of towns, made headlines of the results, and the public treated all aviators as matinee idols.

Interweaving the dramatic narratives of these three astonishing events, bringing to life powerful personalities (the ruthlessly competitive Wright brothers, the debonair Englishman Claude Grahame-White, the ultra-confident John Moisant), Gavin Mortimer reveals the pioneers of flight as fitting descendants of the legendary Icarus, risking all in pursuit of glory. Chasing Icarus captures both a pivotal moment in the history of aviation and the end of the gilded era that would soon descend into the devastation of World War I ; indeed, within four years dogfights over France had replaced air shows.

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“Foreign ‘Comfort Women’ conscripted for Japanese Army brothels were ‘prostitutes’.” Kajiyama Seiroku, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary (1997)… well, not quite…

All this hell : U.S. nurses imprisoned by the Japanese    Lexington, Ky. : University Press of Kentucky, c 2000 Evelyn M. Monahan and Rosemary Neidel-Greenlee World War, 1939-1945 Prisoners and prisons, Japanese Hardcover. 1st. ed., later printing. xi, 228 p. : ill. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [210]-216) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG   

“Even though women were not supposed to be on the front lines, on the front lines we were. Women were not supposed to be interned either, but it happened to us. People should know what we endured. People should know what we can endure.”—Lt. Col. Madeline Ullom

More than one hundred U.S. Army and Navy nurses were stationed in Guam and the Philippines at the beginning of World War II. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, five navy nurses on Guam became the first American military women of World War II to be taken prisoner by the Japanese. More than seventy army nurses survived five months of combat conditions in the jungles of Bataan and Corregidor before being captured, only to endure more than three years in prison camps.

When freedom came, the U.S. military ordered the nurses to sign agreements with the government not to discuss their horrific experiences. Evelyn Monahan and Rosemary Neidel-Greenlee have conducted numerous interviews with survivors and scoured archives for letters, diaries, and journals to uncover the heroism and sacrifices of these brave women.

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“My Lord, it is a very hard sentence. For my part, I am the innocentest person of them all, only I have been sworn against by perjured persons.” -William Kidd, upon being sentenced to hang.

It takes an exceptionally weak mind to find romance in any piracy other than the nonsense presented by Hollywood. “In an honest service there is thin commons, low wages, and hard labor; in this, plenty and satiety, pleasure and ease, liberty and power; and who would not balance creditor on this side, when all the hazard that is run for it, at worst, is only a sour look or two at choking. No, a merry life and a short one, shall be my motto,” and everybody looks at those very french notions of liberty, equality and fraternity and forgets that they either end at the noose as the did for Kidd or with your one true love telling you, “I am sorry to see you here, but if you had fought like a man, you needn’t be hanged like a dog” before they hang you.

Captain Kidd and the war against the pirates    New York, B&N, 2006 Robert C. Ritchie Kidd, William, d. 1701 Hardcover. viii, 306 p., [18] p. of plates : ill. ; 25 cm. Bibliography: p. [243]-298. Includes index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text.  VG/VG  

The legends that die hardest are those of the romantic outlaw, and those of swashbuckling pirates are surely among the most durable. Swift ships, snug inns, treasures buried by torchlight, palm-fringed beaches, fabulous riches, and, most of all, freedom from the mean life of the laboring man are the stuff of this tradition reinforced by many a novel and film.

It is disconcerting to think of such dashing scoundrels as slaves to economic forces, but so they were – as Robert Ritchie demonstrates in this lively history of piracy. He focuses on the shadowy figure of William Kidd, whose career in the late seventeenth century swept him from the Caribbean to New York, to London, to the Indian Ocean before he ended in Newgate prison and on the gallows. Piracy in those days was encouraged by governments that could not afford to maintain a navy in peacetime. Kidd’s most famous voyage was sponsored by some of the most powerful men in England, and even though such patronage granted him extraordinary privileges, it tied him to the political fortunes of the mighty Whig leaders. When their influence waned, the opposition seized upon Kidd as a weapon. Previously sympathetic merchants and shipowners did an about-face too and joined the navy in hunting down Kidd and other pirates.

By the early eighteenth century, pirates were on their way to becoming anachronisms. Ritchie’s wide-ranging research has probed this shift in the context of actual voyages, sea fights, and adventures ashore. What sort of men became pirates in the first place, and why did they choose such an occupation? What was life like aboard a pirate ship? How many pirates actually became wealthy? How were they governed? What large forces really caused their downfall?

As the saga of the buccaneers unfolds, we see the impact of early modern life: social changes and Anglo-American politics, the English judicial system, colonial empires, rising capitalism, and the maturing bureaucratic state are all interwoven in the story. Best of all, Captain Kidd and the War against the Pirates is an epic of adventure on the high seas and a tale of back-room politics on land that captures the mind and the imagination.

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