Results of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the year 2005.
In 1787, twelve men gathered in a London printing shop to pursue a seemingly impossible goal: ending slavery in the largest empire on earth. Along the way, they would pioneer most of the tools citizen activists still rely on today, from wall posters and mass mailings to boycotts and lapel pins. This talented group combined a hatred of injustice with uncanny skill in promoting their cause. Within five years, more than 300,000 Britons were refusing to eat the chief slave-grown product, sugar; London’s smart set was sporting antislavery badges created by Josiah Wedgwood; and the House of Commons had passed the first law banning the slave trade.
However, the House of Lords, where slavery backers were more powerful, voted down the bill. But the crusade refused to die, fueled by remarkable figures like Olaudah Equiano, a brilliant ex-slave who enthralled audiences throughout the British Isles;…[more]
In the early stages of the Second World War, the vast crescent of British-ruled territories stretching from India to Singapore appeared as a massive Allied asset. It provided scores of soldiers and great quantities of raw materials and helped present a seemingly impregnable global defense against the Axis. Yet, within a few weeks in 1941-42, a Japanese invasion had destroyed all this, sweeping suddenly and decisively through south and southeast Asia to the Indian frontier, and provoking the extraordinary revolutionary struggles which would mark the beginning of the end of British dominion in the East and the rise of today’s Asian world.
More than a military history, this gripping account of groundbreaking battles and guerrilla campaigns creates a panoramic view of British Asia as it was ravaged by warfare, nationalist insurgency, disease, and famine. It breathes life into the armies…[more]
Tony Judt’s Postwar makes one lament the overuse of the word “groundbreaking.” It is an unprecedented accomplishment: the first truly European history of contemporary Europe, from Lisbon to Leningrad, based on research in six languages, covering thirty-four countries across sixty years in a single integrated narrative, using a great deal of material from newly available sources. Tony Judt has drawn on forty years of reading and writing about modern Europe to create a fully rounded, deep account of the continent’s recent past. The book integrates international relations, domestic politics, ideas, social change, economic development, and culture—high and low—into a single grand narrative. Every country has its chance to play the lead, and although the big themes are superbly handled—including the cold war, the love/hate relationship with America, cultural and economic malaise and rebirth, and the myth and reality of unification—none of them is allowed to overshadow the rich pageant that is the whole.…[more]
A grand political history in a fresh new style of how the elitist young American republic became a rough-and-tumble democracy.
In this magisterial work, Sean Wilentz traces a historical arc from the earliest days of the republic to the opening shots of the Civil War. One of our finest writers of history, Wilentz brings to life the era after the American Revolution, when the idea of democracy remained contentious, and Jeffersonians and Federalists clashed over the role of ordinary citizens in government of, by, and for the people. The triumph of Andrew Jackson soon defined this role on the national level, while city democrats, Anti-Masons, fugitive slaves, and a host of others hewed their own local definitions. In these definitions Wilentz recovers the beginnings of a discontent—two starkly opposed democracies, one in the North and another in the South—and the wary balance that lasted until the election of Abraham Lincoln sparked its bloody resolution.
The definitive account of Germany’s malign transformation under Hitler’s total rule and the implacable march to war.
By the middle of 1933, the democracy of the Weimar Republic had been transformed into the police state of the Third Reich, mobilized around the cult of the leader, Adolf Hitler. If this could happen in less than a year, what would the future hold? Only the most fervent Nazi party loyalists would have predicted how radical the transformation ahead would be.
In The Third Reich in Power, Richard J. Evans tells the story of Germany’s radical reshaping under Nazi rule. Every area of life, from literature, culture, and the arts to religion, education, and science, was subordinated to the relentless drive to prepare Germany for war. His book shows how the Nazis attempted to penetrate and reorder every aspect of German society, encountering many kinds and degrees of resistance along the way but gradually winning the acceptance of the German people in the…[more]