Results of the National Book Critics Circle Award in the year 1998.
An unforgettable firsthand account of a people’s response to genocide and what it tells us about humanity.
This remarkable debut book chronicles what has happened in Rwanda and neighboring states since 1994, when the Rwandan government called on everyone in the Hutu majority to murder everyone in the Tutsi minority. Though the killing was low-tech—largely by machete—it was carried out at shocking speed: some 800,000 people were exterminated in a hundred days. A Tutsi pastor, in a letter to his church president, a Hutu, used the chilling phrase that gives Philip Gourevitch his title.
With keen dramatic intensity, Gourevitch frames the genesis and horror of Rwanda’s “genocidal logic” in the anguish of its aftermath: the mass displacements, the temptations of revenge and the quest for justice, the impossibly crowded prisons and refugee camps. Through intimate portraits of Rwandans in all walks of life, he focuses on the psychological and political challenges…[more]
Roy Porter explores medicine’s evolution against the backdrop of the wider religious, scientific, philosophical, and political beliefs of the culture in which it develops, and he shows how our need to understand where diseases come from and what we can do to control them has—perhaps above all elseinspired developments in medicine through the ages. He charts the remarkable rise of modern medical science—the emergence of specialties such as anatomy, physiology, neurology, and bacteriology—as well as the accompanying development of wider medical practice at the bedside, in the hospital, and in the ambitious public health systems of the twentieth century.
Along the way the book offers up a treasure trove of historical surprises: how the ancient Egyptians treated incipient baldness with a mixture of hippopotamus, lion, crocodile, goose, snake, and ibex fat; how a mystery epidemic devastated ancient Athens…[more]
In the 1880’s, as the European powers were carving up Africa, King Leopold II of Belgium seized for himself the vast and largely unexplored territory surrounding the Congo River. Carrying out a genocidal plundering of the Congo, he looted its rubber, brutalized its people, and ultimately slashed the population by ten million—all while shrewdly cultivating his international reputation as a great humanitarian. Heroic efforts to expose this secret crime finally led to the first great international human rights movement of the 20th century in which everyone from Mark Twain to the Archbishop of Canterbury participated.
King Leopold’s Ghost is the haunting portrait of a megalomaniac of monstrous proportions, a man as cunning as any of the great Shakespearean villains. It is also the deeply involving story of those who fought Leopold and of the explorers, missionaries, and rubber workers who witnessed the horror. With a cast of characters richer than any novelist could invent, this book will permanently inscribe these too long forgotten events on the conscience of the West.
Today most Americans, black and white, identify slavery with cotton, the deep South, and the African-American church. But at the beginning of the nineteenth century, after almost two hundred years of African-American life in mainland North America, few slaves grew cotton, lived in the deep South, or embraced Christianity.
Many Thousands Gone traces the evolution of black society from the first arrivals in the early seventeenth century through the Revolution. In telling their story, Ira Berlin, a leading historian of southern and African-American life, reintegrates slaves into the history of the American working class and into the tapestry of our nation. As the nature of the slaves’ labor changed with place and time, so did the relationship between slave and master, and between slave and society.
In this brilliant and vivid interpretation, Berlin demonstrates that the meaning of slavery and of race itself was continually renegotiated and redefined, as the nation lurched toward political and economic independence and grappled with the Enlightenment ideals that had inspired its birth.
The creation of the Oxford English Dictionary began in 1857, took seventy years to complete, drew from tens of thousands of brilliant minds, and organized the sprawling language into 414,825 precise definitions. But hidden within the rituals of its creation is a fascinating and mysterious story—a story of two remarkable men whose strange twenty-year relationship lies at the core of this historic undertaking.
Professor James Murray, an astonishingly learned former schoolmaster and bank clerk, was the distinguished editor of the OED project. Dr. William Chester Minor, an American surgeon from New Haven, Connecticut, who had served in the Civil War, was one of thousands of contributors who submitted illustrative quotations of words to be used in the dictionary. But Minor was no ordinary contributor. He was remarkably prolific, sending thousands of neat, handwritten quotations from his home in the small village…[more]