Empire in Many Forms: March History Picks

This month’s history picks deal with the causes and consequences of imperial expansion – a timely investigation of how environmental damage and illness influenced the decline of the Roman Empire in Paul Stephenson’s New Rome, Paul Moon looks at the full context of colonisation in Aotearoa against the backdrop of the wider British imperial project, and Smedley Butler’s revelations about what his heroic war efforts enabled for American capitalism. A more personal look at the consequences are also examined in two of our World War 2-related titles, looking at survival in Auschwitz and the arrest of Anne Frank.

Always remember your name : a true story of family and survival in Auschwitz / Bucci, Andra
“On March 28, 1944, six-year-old Tati, her four-year-old sister Andra, and other members of the family were deported to Auschwitz. Their mother Mira was determined to keep track of her girls. After being tattooed with their inmate numbers, she made them memorize her number and told them to “always remember your name.” In keeping this promise to their mother, the sisters were able to be reunited with their parents when WWII ended. An unforgettable narrative of the power of sisterhood in the most extreme circumstances, and of how a mother’s love can overcome the most impossible odds.” (adapted from catalogue)

Athens : city of wisdom / Clark, Bruce
“Even on the most smog-bound of days, the rocky outcrop on which the Acropolis stands is visible above the sprawling roof-scape of the Greek capital. Athens presents one of the most recognizable and symbolically potent panoramas of any of the world’s cities: the pillars and pediments of the Parthenon–the temple dedicated to Athena, goddess of wisdom, that crowns the Acropolis–dominate a city whose name is synonymous for many with civilization itself.” (adapted from catalogue)

The betrayal of Anne Frank : a cold case investigation / Sullivan, Rosemary
“Who betrayed Anne Frank and her family? And why? Despite the many works devoted to Anne’s story, none has ever conclusively explained how these eight people managed to live in hiding undetected for over two years– and who or what finally brought the Nazis to their door. Sullivan introduces us to the investigators, explains the behavior of both the captives and their captors, and profiles a group of suspects. In doing so she brings to life wartime Amsterdam: a place where no matter how wealthy, educated, or careful you were, you never knew whom you could trust.” (adapted from catalogue)

Colonising New Zealand : a reappraisal / Moon, Paul
“Colonising New Zealand offers a radically new vision of the basis and process of Britain’s colonisation of New Zealand. It commences by confronting the problems arising from subjective and ever-evolving moral judgments about colonisation, and examines the possibility of understanding colonisation beyond the confines of any preoccupations with moral perspectives. This work changes profoundly the way New Zealand’s colonisation is interpreted, and provides a framework for reassessing all forms of imperialism” (adapted from catalogue)

Gangsters of capitalism : Smedley Butler, the Marines, and the making and breaking of America’s empire / Katz, Jonathan M.
“Smedley Butler was the most celebrated warfighter of his time. Bestselling books were written about him. Hollywood adored him. Wherever the flag went, “The Fighting Quaker” went-serving in nearly every major overseas conflict from the Spanish War of 1898 until the eve of World War II. Yet in retirement, Butler turned into a warrior against war, imperialism, and big business, declaring: “I was a racketeer for capitalism.” Tracing a path from the first wave of U.S. overseas expansionism to the rise of fascism in the 1930s to the crises of democracy in our own time, Gangsters of Capitalism tells an urgent story about a formative era most Americans have never learned about, but that the rest of the world cannot forget” (adapted from catalogue)

Ireland’s farthest shores : mobility, migration, and settlement in the Pacific World / Campbell, Malcolm
“Irish people have had a long and complex engagement with the lands and waters encompassing the Pacific world. As the European presence in the Pacific intensified from the late eighteenth century, the Irish entered this oceanic space as beachcombers, missionaries, traders, and colonizers. This volume investigates the extensive transnational connections that developed among Irish immigrants and their descendants across this vast and unique oceanic space, ties that illuminate how the Irish participated in the making of the Pacific world and how the Pacific world made them.” (adapted from catalogue)

New Rome : the empire in the east / Stephenson, Paul
“In New Rome, Paul Stephenson looks beyond traditional texts and well-known artifacts to offer a novel, scientifically-minded interpretation of antiquity’s end. It turns out that the descent of Rome is inscribed not only in parchments but also in ice cores and DNA. From these and other sources, we learn that pollution and pandemics influenced the fate of Constantinople and the Eastern Roman Empire. During its final five centuries, the empire in the east survived devastation by natural disasters, the degradation of the human environment, and pathogens previously unknown to the empire’s densely populated, unsanitary cities.” (adapted from catalogue)