Annal: 2001 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for History

Results of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the year 2001.

Book:Before the Storm

Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus

Rick Perlstein

Before the Storm begins in a time much like the present-the tail end of the 1950s, with America affluent, confident, and convinced that political ideology was a thing of the past.

But when John F. Kennedy was elected President in 1960, conservatives—editor William F. Buckley, Jr., John Birch Society leader Robert Welch, and thousand of students—formed a movement to challenge the center-left consensus. They chose as their hero Barry Goldwater—a rich, handsome Arizona Republican who scorned the federal bureaucracy, reviled détente, despised liberals on sight-and grew determined to see him elected President.

Goldwater was trounced by Lyndon Johnson in 1964. But by the campaign’s end the consensus found itself squeezed from the left and the right; and two decades later, the conservatives had elected Ronald Reagan as President and Goldwater’s ideas had…[more]


France: The Dark Years, 1940-1944

Julian Jackson

This is the first comprehensive study of the German occupation of France between 1940 and 1944. The author examines the nature and extent of collaboration and resistance, different experiences of Occupation, the persecution of the Jews, intellectual and cultural life under Occupation, and the purge trials that followed. He concludes by tracing the legacy and memory of the Occupation since 1945. Taking in ordinary peoples’experiences, this volume uncovers the conflicting memories of occupation which ensure that even today France continues to debate the legacy of the Vichy years.

Book:The Metaphysical Club

The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America

Louis Menand

A riveting, original book about the creation of modern American thought.

The Metaphysical Club was an informal group that met in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1872, to talk about ideas. Its members included Oliver Well Holmes, Jr., future associate justice of the United States Supreme Court; William James, the father of modern American psychology; and Charles Sanders Peirce, logician, scientist, and the founder of semiotics. The Club was probably in existence for about nine months. No records were kept. The one thing we know that came out of it was an idea—an idea about ideas. This book is the story of that idea. Holmes, James, and Peirce all believed that ideas are not things “out there” waiting to be discovered but are tools people invent—like knives and forks and microchips—to make their way in the world. They thought that ideas are produced not by individuals, but by groups of individuals—that ideas are social. They do not develop according to…[more]

Book:The Stranger from Paradise

The Stranger from Paradise: A Biography of William Blake

G.E. Bentley Jr.

William Blake’s wife once said of him: “I have very little of Mr. Blake’s company; he is always in Paradise.” This fascinating and generously illustrated biography of the great English artist, poet, and mystic brings us very much into Blake’s company, presenting, often in the words of his contemporaries, almost everything that is known of his life and times.

G.E. Bentley, Jr., tells us that although Blake struggled with the ways of the world in his youth and early manhood, he was always frustrated that these ways were not his own. Instead he spoke the language of radical religious dissent, standing outside the popular political and social conventions of his time and lamenting the power of Church and State. Blake learned to participate in traditions of vision and piety, to exult in the power of the spirit and in visionary art and literature. He created a new gospel of art, other-worldly and fundamentally spiritual, and in his old age, he exhibited a serenity in poverty and a devotion to…[more]

Book:Venice: Lion City

Venice: Lion City

Garry Wills

Garry Wills’s Venice: Lion City is a tour de force—a rich, colorful, and provocative history of the world’s most fascinating city in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, when it was at the peak of its glory. This was not the city of decadence, carnival, and nostalgia familiar to us from later centuries. It was a ruthless imperial city, with a shrewd commercial base, like ancient Athens, which it resembles in its combination of art and sea empire. The structure of Venetian society was based on its distinctive practice of religion: Venice elected its priests, defied the authority of papal Rome, and organized its liturgy around a lay leader (the doge).

Venice: Lion City presents a new way of relating the history of the city through its art and, in turn, illuminates the art through the city’s history. In their culture, their governing structures, and their social life, the Venetians themselves…[more]

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