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The Making of Light Modernity

Aluminum shaped the twentieth century. It enabled high-speed travel and gravity-defying flight. It was the material of a streamlined aesthetic that came to represent modernity. And it became an essential ingredient in industrial and domestic products that ranged from airplanes and cars to designer chairs and artificial Christmas trees. It entered modern homes as packaging, foil, pots and pans and even infiltrated our bodies through food, medicine, and cosmetics. In Aluminum Dreams, Mimi Sheller describes how the materiality and meaning of aluminum transformed modern life and continues to shape the world today.

Aluminum, Sheller tells us, changed mobility and mobilized modern life. It enabled air power, the space age and moon landings. Yet, as Sheller makes clear, aluminum was important not only in twentieth-century technology, innovation, architecture, and design but also in underpinning global military power, uneven development, and crucial environmental and health concerns. Sheller describes aluminum’s shiny utopia but also its dark side. The unintended consequences of aluminum’s widespread use include struggles for sovereignty and resource control in Africa, India, and the Caribbean; the unleashing of multinational corporations; and the pollution of the earth through mining and smelting (and the battle to save it). Using a single material as an entry point to understanding a global history of modernization and its implications for the future, Aluminum Dreams forces us to ask: How do we assemble the material culture of modernity and what are its environmental consequences?

Aluminum Dreams includes a generous selection of striking images of iconic aluminum designs, many in color, drawn from advertisements by Alcoa, Bohn, Kaiser, and other major corporations, pamphlets, films, and exhibitions.

Coercive Diplomacy and U. S. Intervention

Kosovo, after its incorporation into the Serbian Republic of Yugoslavia, became increasingly restive during the 1990s as Yugoslavia plunged into internal war and Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian residents (Kosovars) sought autonomy. In March 1999, NATO forces began airstrikes against targets in Kosovo and Serbia in an effort to protect Kosovars against persecution. The bombing campaign ended in June 1999, and Kosovo was placed under transitional UN administration while negotiations on its status ensued. Kosovo eventually declared independence in 2008. Despite internal political tension and economic problems, the new nation has been recognized by many other countries and most of its inhabitants welcome its separation from Serbia.

In Liberating Kosovo, David Phillips offers a compelling account of the negotiations and military actions that culminated in Kosovo’s independence. Drawing on his own participation in the diplomatic process and interviews with leading participants, Phillips chronicles Slobodan Milosevic’s rise to power, the sufferings of the Kosovars, and the events that led to the disintegration of Yugoslavia. He analyzes how NATO, the United Nations, and the United States employed diplomacy, aerial bombing, and peacekeeping forces to set in motion the process that led to independence for Kosovo. He also offers important insights into a critical issue in contemporary international politics: how and when the United States, other nations, and NGOs should act to prevent ethnic cleansing and severe human-rights abuses.

Striking Likenesses, Unreasonable Facsimiles

The Culture of the Copy is a novel attempt to make sense of the Western fascination with replicas, duplicates, and twins. In a work that is breathtaking in its synthetic and critical achievements, Hillel Schwartz charts the repercussions of our entanglement with copies of all kinds, whose presence alternately sustains and overwhelms us. This updated edition takes notice of recent shifts in thought with regard to such issues as biological cloning, conjoined twins, copyright, digital reproduction, and multiple personality disorder. At once abbreviated and refined, it will be of interest to anyone concerned with problems of authenticity, identity, and originality.

Through intriguing, and at times humorous, historical analysis and case studies in contemporary culture, Schwartz investigates a stunning array of simulacra: counterfeits, decoys, mannequins, and portraits; ditto marks, genetic cloning, war games, and camouflage; instant replays, digital imaging, parrots, and photocopies; wax museums, apes, and art forgeries—not to mention the very notion of the Real McCoy.

Working through a range of theories on biological, mechanical, and electronic reproduction, Schwartz questions the modern esteem for authenticity and uniqueness. The Culture of the Copy shows how the ethical dilemmas central to so many fields of endeavor have become inseparable from our pursuit of copies—of the natural world, of our own creations, indeed of our very selves. The book is an innovative blend of microsociology, cultural history, and philosophical reflection, of interest to anyone concerned with problems of authenticity, identity, and originality.

Praise for the first edition

“[T]he author...brings his considerable synthetic powers to bear on our uneasy preoccupation with doubles, likenesses, facsimiles, replicas and re-enactments. I doubt that these cultural phenomena have ever been more comprehensively or more creatively chronicled.... [A] book that gets you to see the world anew, again.”
The New York Times

“A sprightly and disconcerting piece of cultural history”
—Terence Hawkes, London Review of Books

“In The Culture of the Copy, [Schwartz] has written the perfect book: original and repetitive at once.”
—Todd Gitlin, Los Angeles Times Book Review

A Landscape History of New England takes a view of New England’s landscapes that goes beyond picture postcard-ready vistas of white-steepled churches, open pastures, and tree-covered mountains. Its chapters describe, for example, the Native American presence in the Maine Woods; offer a history of agriculture told through stone walls, woodlands, and farm buildings; report on the fragile ecology of tourist-friendly Cape Cod beaches; and reveal the ethnic stereotypes informing Colonial Revivalism. Taken together, they offer a wide-ranging history of New England’s diverse landscapes, stretching across two centuries.

The book shows that all New England landscapes are the products of human agency as well as nature. The authors trace the roles that work, recreation, historic preservation, conservation, and environmentalism have played in shaping the region, and they highlight the diversity of historical actors who have transformed both its meaning and its physical form. Drawing on a wide range of disciplines--including history, geography, environmental studies, literature, art history, and historic preservation--the book provides fresh perspectives on New England’s many landscapes: forests, mountains, farms, coasts, industrial areas, villages, towns, and cities. Generously illustrated, with many archival photographs, A Landscape History of New England offers readers a solid historical foundation for understanding the great variety of places that make up New England.

A History of Blackouts in America

Where were you when the lights went out? At home during a thunderstorm? During the Great Northeastern Blackout of 1965? In California when rolling blackouts hit in 2000? In 2003, when a cascading power failure left fifty million people without electricity? We often remember vividly our time in the dark. In When the Lights Went Out, David Nye views power outages in America from 1935 to the present not simply as technical failures but variously as military tactic, social disruption, crisis in the networked city, outcome of political and economic decisions, sudden encounter with sublimity, and memories enshrined in photographs. Our electrically lit-up life is so natural to us that when the lights go off, the darkness seems abnormal.

Nye looks at America’s development of its electrical grid, which made large-scale power failures possible and a series of blackouts from military blackouts to the “greenout” (exemplified by the new tradition of “Earth Hour”), a voluntary reduction organized by environmental organizations.

Blackouts, writes Nye, are breaks in the flow of social time that reveal much about the trajectory of American history. Each time one occurs, Americans confront their essential condition—not as isolated individuals, but as a community that increasingly binds itself together with electrical wires and signals.

The Rise and Retreat of American Manufacturing

“There is probably no other writer whose books I anticipate with more enthusiasm than Vaclav Smil. He brings remarkable insight to every topic he examines, combining his vast knowledge of science and energy, history and business to address some of the most pressing issues we face today. So I’m pleased he will be turning that keen intellect to the subject of manufacturing in the U.S.”
–Bill Gates

In Made in the USA, Vaclav Smil powerfully rebuts the notion that manufacturing is a relic of predigital history and that the loss of American manufacturing is a desirable evolutionary step toward a pure service economy. Smil argues that no advanced economy can prosper without a strong, innovative manufacturing sector and the jobs it creates. Reversing a famous information economy dictum, Smil argues that serving potato chips is not as good as making microchips.

The history of manufacturing in America, Smil tells us, is a story of nation-building. He explains how manufacturing became a fundamental force behind America’s economic, strategic, and social dominance. He describes American manufacturing’s rapid rise at the end of the nineteenth century, its consolidation and modernization between the two world wars, its role as an enabler of mass consumption after 1945, and its recent decline. Some economists argue that shipping low-value jobs overseas matters little because the high-value work remains in the United States. But, asks Smil, do we want a society that consists of a small population of workers doing high-value-added work and masses of unemployed?

Smil assesses various suggestions for solving America’s manufacturing crisis, including lowering corporate tax rates, promoting research and development, and improving public education. Will America act to preserve and reinvigorate its manufacturing? It is crucial to our social and economic well-being; but, Smil warns, the odds are no better than even.

A Representative History

American urban form—the spaces, places, and boundaries that define city life—has been evolving since the first settlements of colonial days. The changing patterns of houses, buildings, streets, parks, pipes and wires, wharves, railroads, highways, and airports reflect changing patterns of the social, political, and economic processes that shape the city. In this book, Sam Bass Warner and Andrew Whittemore map more than three hundred years of the American city through the evolution of urban form. They do this by offering an illustrated history of “the City”—a hypothetical city (constructed from the histories of Boston, Philadelphia, and New York) that exemplifies the American city’s transformation from village to regional metropolis.

In an engaging text accompanied by Whittemore’s detailed, meticulous drawings, they chart the City’s changes. Planning for the future of cities, they remind us, requires an understanding of the forces that shaped the city’s past.

Powers and Failures of Paperwork

Since the middle of the eighteenth century, political thinkers of all kinds–radical and reactionary, professional and amateur–have been complaining about “bureaucracy.” But what, exactly, are they complaining about?

In The Demon of Writing, Ben Kafka offers a critical history and theory of one of the most ubiquitous, least understood forms of media: paperwork. States rely on records to tax and spend, protect and serve, discipline and punish. But time and again, this paperwork proves to be unreliable. Examining episodes that range from the story of a clerk who lost his job and then his mind in the French Revolution to an account of Roland Barthes’s brief stint as a university administrator, Kafka reveals the powers, the failures, and even the pleasures of paperwork. Many of its complexities, he argues, have been obscured by the comic-paranoid style that characterizes much of our criticism of bureaucracy. Kafka proposes a new theory of what Karl Marx called the “bureaucratic medium.” Moving from Marx to Freud, he argues that this theory of paperwork must include both a theory of praxis and of parapraxis.

Heterosexuality is celebrated--in film and television, in pop songs and opera, in literature and on greeting cards--and at the same time taken for granted. It is the cultural and sexual norm by default. And yet, as Louis-Georges Tin shows in The Invention of Heterosexual Culture, in premodern Europe heterosexuality was perceived as an alternative culture. The practice of heterosexuality may have been standard, but the symbolic primacy of the heterosexual couple was not. Tin maps the emergence of heterosexual culture in Western Europe and the significant resistance to it from feudal lords, church fathers, and the medical profession.

Tin writes that before the phenomenon of "courtly love" in the early twelfth century, the man-woman pairing had not been deemed a subject worthy of more than passing interest. As heterosexuality became a recurrent theme in art and literature, the nobility came to view it as a disruption of the feudal chivalric ethos of virility and male bonding. If feudal lords objected to the "hetero" in heterosexuality and what they saw as the associated dangers of weakness and effeminacy, the church took issue with the “sexuality,” which threatened the Christian ethos of renunciation and divine love. Finally, the medical profession cast heterosexuality as pathology, warning of an epidemic of “lovesickness.”

Noting that the discourse of heterosexuality does not belong to heterosexuals alone, Tin offers a groundbreaking history that reasserts the cultural identity of heterosexuality.

A History of War on Paper

For centuries, both mathematical and military thinkers have used game-like scenarios to test their visions of mastering a complex world through symbolic operations. By the end of World War I, mathematical and military discourse in Germany simultaneously discovered the game as a productive concept. Mathematics and military strategy converged in World War II when mathematicians designed fields of operation. In this book, Philipp von Hilgers examines the theory and practice of war games through history, from the medieval game boards, captured on parchment, to the paper map exercises of the Third Reich. Von Hilgers considers how and why war games came to exist: why mathematical and military thinkers created simulations of one of the most unpredictable human activities on earth.

Von Hilgers begins with the medieval rythmomachia, or Battle of Numbers, then reconstructs the ideas about war and games in the baroque period. He investigates the role of George Leopold von Reiswitz’s tactical war game in nineteenth-century Prussia and describes the artifact itself: a game board–topped table with drawers for game implements. He explains Clausewitz’s emphasis on the “fog of war” and the accompanying element of incalculability, examines the contributions of such thinkers as Clausewitz, Leibniz, Wittgenstein, and von Neumann, and investigates the war games of the German military between the two World Wars. Baudrillard declared this to be the age of simulacra; war games stand contrariwise as simulations that have not been subsumed in absolute virtuality.

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