Results of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the year 2003.
When George Washington wrote his will, he made the startling decision to set his slaves free; earlier he had said that holding slaves was his “only unavoidable subject of regret.” In this groundbreaking work, Henry Wiencek explores the founding father’s engagement with slavery at every stage of his life—as a Virginia planter, soldier, politician, president and statesman.
Washington was born and raised among blacks and mixed-race people; he and his wife had blood ties to the slave community. Yet as a young man he bought and sold slaves without scruple, even raffled off children to collect debts (an incident ignored by earlier biographers). Then, on the Revolutionary battlefields where he commanded both black and white troops, Washington’s attitudes began to change. He and the other framers enshrined slavery in the Constitution, but, Wiencek shows, even before he became president Washington had begun to see the system’s evil. …[more]
The Gulag—the vast array of Soviet concentration camps—was a system of repression and punishment whose rationalized evil and institutionalized inhumanity were rivaled only by the Holocaust.
The Gulag entered the world’s historical consciousness in 1972, with the publication of Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s epic oral history of the Soviet camps, The Gulag Archipelago. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, dozens of memoirs and new studies covering aspects of that system have been published in Russia and the West. Using these new resources as well as her own original historical research, Anne Applebaum has now undertaken, for the first time, a fully documented history of the Soviet camp system, from its origins in the Russian Revolution to its collapse in the era of glasnost. It is an epic feat of investigation and moral reckoning that places the Gulag where it belongs: at the center of our understanding of the troubled history of the twentieth…[more]
How have major civilizations of the last two millennia treated people who were attracted to their own sex? In a narrative tour de force, Louis Crompton chronicles the lives and achievements of homosexual men and women alongside a darker history of persecution, as he compares the Christian West with the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome, Arab Spain, imperial China, and pre-Meiji Japan.
Ancient Greek culture celebrated same-sex love in history, literature, and art, making high claims for its moral influence. By contrast, Jewish religious leaders in the sixth century B.C.E. branded male homosexuality as a capital offense and, later, blamed it for the destruction of the biblical city of Sodom. When these two traditions collided in Christian Rome during the late empire, the tragic repercussions were felt throughout Europe and the New World. …[more]
Here is the epic story of Vietnam and the sixties told through the events of a few tumultuous days in October 1967. David Maraniss takes the reader on an unforgettable journey to the battlefields of war and peace. With meticulous and captivating detail, They Marched Into Sunlight brings that catastrophic time back to life while examining questions about the meaning of dissent and the official manipulation of truth, issues that are as relevant today as they were decades ago.
In a seamless narrative, Maraniss weaves together three very different worlds of that time: the death and heroism of soldiers in Vietnam, the anger and anxiety of antiwar students back home, and the confusion and obfuscating behavior of officials in Washington. In the literature of the Vietnam era, there are powerful books about soldiering, excellent analyses of American foreign policy in Southeast Asia, and many dealing with the sixties’ culture of protest, but this is the first book to connect the three…[more]
On a June night in 1791, King Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette fled Paris in disguise, hoping to escape the mounting turmoil of the French Revolution. They were arrested by a small group of citizens a few miles from the Belgian border and forced to return to Paris. Two years later they would both die at the guillotine. It is this extraordinary story, and the events leading up to and away from it, that Tackett recounts in gripping novelistic style.
The king’s flight opens a window to the whole of French society during the Revolution. Each dramatic chapter spotlights a different segment of the population, from the king and queen as they plotted and executed their flight, to the people of Varennes who apprehended the royal family, to the radicals of Paris who urged an end to monarchy, to the leaders of the National Assembly struggling to control a spiraling crisis, to the ordinary citizens stunned by their king’s desertion. Tackett shows how Louis’s…[more]