This month’s history picks see a strong North Island focus with Scott Hamilton’s Ghost South Road and Paul Moon’s The Waikato exploring both the geological and social history of the upper North Island. Heading to the other side of the world, we cover European anti-Semitism with Rebecca Erbelding’s Rescue Board and Steven Zipperstein’s Pogrom.
Origin story : a big history of everything / David Christian.
“How did we get from the Big Bang to today’s staggering complexity, in which seven billion humans are connected into networks powerful enough to transform the planet? And why, in comparison, are our closest primate relatives reduced to near-extinction? Big History creator David Christian gives the answers in a mind-expanding cosmological detective story told on the grandest possible scale. Origin Story reveals what we learn about human existence when we consider it from a universal scale.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)
Ghost South Road / Scott Hamilton ; photographs by Ian Powell and Paul Janman.
“The Great South Road was built in 1862 to carry a British army into the Waikato Kingdom. When the British invaded the Waikato in 1863, soldiers shared the road with Maori refugees from Auckland. On their journeys up and down the Great South Road, Hamilton, Janman, and Powell have learned how the route’s tragic past affects its present, and discovered the ways in which the road connects as well as divides the communities that live alongside it.”
(Abridged from Syndetics summary)
The Waikato : a history of New Zealand’s greatest river / Paul Moon.
“Starting from a desolate, icy volcanic plateau, historian Paul Moon traces the Waikato’s path through dense native forest, undulating pastureland, dams, several towns, a city, and a swampy delta, until it exits into the Tasman Sea at Port Waikato. Along the way he uncovers settlements that have disappeared, sites scarred by wars, some of the world’s most convulsive geological events, great tragedies, and the remarkable stories that have taken place along the river.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)
Daughters of the Winter Queen : four remarkable sisters, the crown of Bohemia, and the enduring legacy of Mary, Queen of Scots / Nancy Goldstone.
“The captivating story of four unforgettable sisters and their glamorous mother, Elizabeth Stuart, granddaughter of Mary, Queen of Scots. Brilliantly researched and captivatingly written, Nancy Goldstone shows how these spirited, passionate women faced danger, tragic loss, and betrayal, and by refusing to surrender to adversity, changed the course of history.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)
Rescue board : the untold story of America’s efforts to save the Jews of Europe / Rebecca Erbelding.
“America has long been criticized for refusing to give harbor to the Jews of Europe as Hitler and the Nazis closed in. Now a lauded Holocaust historian tells the extraordinary story of the War Refugee Board, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s little-known effort late in the war to save the Jews who remained. For Rescue Board, Rebecca Erbelding undertook a decade of research and uncovered new archival materials to tell the dramatic unknown story of America’s last-ditch effort to save the Jews of Europe.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)
Pogrom : Kishinev and the tilt of history / Steven J. Zipperstein.
“So shattering were the aftereffects of Kishinev, the rampage that broke out in late-Tsarist Russia in April 1903, that one historian remarked that it was ‘nothing less than a prototype for the Holocaust itself.’ In three days of violence, 49 Jews were killed and 600 raped or wounded, while more than 1,000 Jewish-owned houses and stores were ransacked and destroyed. Using new evidence culled from Russia, Israel, and Europe, distinguished historian Steven J. Zipperstein’s wide-ranging book brings historical insight and clarity to a much-misunderstood event that would do so much to transform twentieth-century Jewish life and beyond.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)
Know Thyself : Western identity from classical Greece to the Renaissance / by Ingrid Rossellini
“In this book the independent scholar Ingrid Rossellini surveys the major ideas that, from Greek and Roman antiquity through the Christian medieval era up to the dawn of modernity in the Renaissance, have guided the Western project of self-knowledge. Addressing the curious lay reader with an interdisciplinary approach that includes numerous references to the visual arts, Know Thyself will reintroduce readers to the most profound and enduring ways our civilization has framed the issues of self and society.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)
Inside Iran : the real history and politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran / Medea Benjamin.
“U.S. relations with Iran have been fraught for decades, but under the Trump Administration tensions are rising to startling levels. Medea Benjamin, one of the best-known 21st century activists, offers the incredible history of how a probable alliance became a bitter antagonism in this accessible and fascinating story. Tackling common misconceptions about Iran’s system of government, its religiosity, and its citizens’ way of life, Benjamin makes short work of the inflammatory rhetoric surrounding U.S.-Iranian relations, and presents a realistic and hopeful case for the two nations’ future.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)