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Archive for the 'History' Category

Sunday, October 22nd, 2017

Safwan Masri on the success of Tunisian democracy after the Arab Spring

Tunisia: An Arab Anomaly

This week, our featured book is Tunisia: An Arab Anomaly, by Safwan M. Masri, with a foreword by Lisa Anderson. Today, we are happy to present three videos from Masri’s recent talk at George Washington University in which he introduces his book, discusses the four factors that have led to the unique success of Tunisia’s post-Arab Spring democracy, and delves into what makes Tunisia’s Ennahda Movement so special. (more…)

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

Tunisia and the Arab Spring

Tunisia: An Arab Anomaly

This week, our featured book is Tunisia: An Arab Anomaly, by Safwan M. Masri, with a foreword by Lisa Anderson. Today, we are happy to present an interview with Safwan Masri on The SnideShow podcast, in which Masri discusses Tunisia’s government, the Arab Spring, and his new book.

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

A Different Trajectory

Tunisia: An Arab Anomaly

“While Bourguiba also relied on education to promote a Tunisian national identity and a nationalist narrative built around him, he had much to fall back on in terms of continuity, territorial integrity, and national historic legitimacy.” — Safwan Masri

This week, our featured book is Tunisia: An Arab Anomaly, by Safwan M. Masri, with a foreword by Lisa Anderson. Today, we are happy to present an excerpt from the book’s fourteenth chapter, in which Masri contrasts the development of the education system in Tunisia in the twentieth and twenty-first century with that of education systems elsewhere in the Middle East.

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

Introducing Tunisia: An Arab Anomaly

Tunisia: An Arab Anomaly

“Therein lies one of the most common and misguided propositions about Tunisia—namely, that its successful transition to democracy can serve as a model for the rest of the Arab world and that the factors that led to Tunisia’s democracy could be, if not easily, replicated. This theory is based on a set of assumptions, some explicit and others less so, that I argue are flawed.” — Safwan Masri

This week, our featured book is Tunisia: An Arab Anomaly, by Safwan M. Masri, with a foreword by Lisa Anderson. In today’s post, read a set of excerpts hand-selected by Masri that provide an excellent introduction to the book’s ideas.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Tunisia!

Monday, October 16th, 2017

Book Giveaway! Tunisia: An Arab Anomaly

Tunisia: An Arab Anomaly

“A wise and carefully drawn analysis of one of the mysteries of the Arab Spring. Safwan M. Masri explains why Tunisia, where the revolt germinated, has been the only country to give birth to a real democracy. In examining why Tunisia succeeded, Masri shows why other Arab countries failed. They lacked Tunisia’s culture of tolerance, moderation, and coexistence, which had been nurtured by decades of educational and social policy. Bottom line: Democracy needs deep roots, which sadly don’t exist in most of the Arab world.” — David Ignatius, Washington Post

This week, our featured book is Tunisia: An Arab Anomaly, by Safwan M. Masri, with a foreword by Lisa Anderson. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

Friday, October 6th, 2017

Remembering Adam McKeown

Adam McKeown

Adam McKeown, a former editor of the series Columbia Studies in International and Global History, passed away recently. Together with Matthew Connelly, Adam founded this book series with Columbia University Press in 2007 and was behind its remarkable growth for a decade. Adam also contributed as an author to the series: his scholarly work Melancholy Order: Asian Migration and the Globalization of Borders was published in 2008 and quickly hailed as a masterpiece. Among other important interventions, Adam invited us to rethink the history of border control. In his eyes, state efforts to control migration mentally, physically and administratively, were first and foremost a result of globalization. As he showed, they were particularly related to nineteenth- and twentieth-century Asian migration flows in an increasingly hierarchical world.

Also in many other writings, Adam McKeown chose migration history and the history of statehood as the chain and thread to weave Asian history and global history into new fabrics. The outcome was grand and colorful – large-scale, daring writing rooted in deep local knowledge and a concomitant love for details. It is small wonder that already as a young scholar, Adam had a strong impact on a variety of research fields. He quickly made the transition from a graduate student to an influential scholar whose publications are being read around the world.

Adam McKeown was a humble person and at the same time a bold and powerful thinker. He loved academia for its intellectual environments but he felt definitely not equally passionate about institutional politics. He chose early retirement at a young age, and it is deeply saddening that a tragic accident ended this new period in his life so quickly and unexpectedly. His memory and his work remain deeply inspiring to us. As the current editors of Columbia Studies in International and Global History, we feel honored to continue at least some aspects of his work.

Cemil Aydin, Timothy Nunan, and Dominic Sachsenmaier
Series editors, Columbia Studies in International and Global History

Friday, September 1st, 2017

Encoding the Consumer: The Computerization of Credit Reporting and Credit Scoring

Columbia Studies in the History of U.S. Capitalism

“‘A prospective borrower is still asked the familiar questions about his age, marital status, whether he owns or rents a home, how long he has been on the present job,’ the New York Times reported. But there was a key difference in this new regime of credit evaluation. ‘By applying a scientifically determined series of weights to each factor and adding up a total score, the credit manager in thirty seconds is able to reject those applications almost certain to result in charge-offs.’ This new system was statistical credit scoring.” — Josh Lauer

This week, we are featuring two books from our exciting new Columbia Studies in the History of U.S. Capitalism series: Creditworthy: A History of Consumer Surveillance and Financial Identity in America, by Josh Lauer, and From Head Shops to Whole Foods: The Rise and Fall of Activist Entrepreneurs, by Joshua Clark Davis. For this final post of the feature, we have an excerpt from Creditworthy, in which Lauer tells the story of the rise of the rise of the automation of credit evaluation in the 1960s.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of both books!

Friday, September 1st, 2017

The Forgotten World of Communist Bookstores

Columbia Studies in the History of U.S. Capitalism

“As avowed anticapitalists, communists made for unlikely business owners. But as entrepreneurs, their objective was to promote ideology and cover costs, not maximize profits…. Their politics were also paradoxical. Unwavering supporters of Stalin abroad, American communists were relentless champions of democracy and civil liberties at home. And their bookstores helped them circulate a domestic agenda of racial and social equality.” — Joshua Clark Davis

This week, we are featuring two books from our exciting new Columbia Studies in the History of U.S. Capitalism series: Creditworthy: A History of Consumer Surveillance and Financial Identity in America, by Josh Lauer, and From Head Shops to Whole Foods: The Rise and Fall of Activist Entrepreneurs, by Joshua Clark Davis. In today’s post, we are delighted to share an excerpt from Joshua Clark Davis’s article on communist bookstores in Jacobin Magazine. You can read the article in full at the Jacobin website.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of both books!

The Forgotten World of Communist Bookstores
By Joshua Clark Davis

Their names proclaimed a new age: The Modern. The Progressive. The New Era. The New World. Others looked to the past, evoking American political heroes like Thomas Paine and Abraham Lincoln.

They were targets of FBI investigations and congressional hearings on “un-American activities.” J. Edgar Hoover condemned them for selling publications that “indoctrinate . . . members and sympathizers” of the Communist Party and “propagandize the non-communist masses.”

While largely forgotten today, communist bookstores were one of the most important public spaces for Marxism in the United States in the twentieth century. Most Americans didn’t personally know a communist. But in cities across the country, radicals made their presence known at unassuming bookstores. Teeming with texts by Marx, Engels, and Lenin, these stores also stocked the Daily Worker and the latest publications by party officials from the United States, the Soviet Union, and other countries around the world.

Communist bookstores provided a critical public space for radicals, operating in virtually every major American city. Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York had several apiece. Smaller and ostensibly less radical locales such as Birmingham, Houston, and Omaha, had communist bookstores, too.

Decades before alt-right trolls viciously attacked left-wing writers online, right-wing extremists targeted communist booksellers, accusing them of the most insidious crimes imaginable. “Visit any Communist bookstore in the United States and you will find books printed in Moscow and Peking in English for one, two, and three-year-old babies,” warned Fred Schwarz, author of the 1956 redbaiting bestseller You Can Trust the Communists (To Be Communists). “The Communists want the children. They do not care so much about the adults whom they consider as already contaminated with the disease of Capitalism and consequently of little use to them.”

It’s not entirely clear when communists first sold books in the US. But almost as soon as they split off from the Socialist Party of America to form their own parties in 1919, communists opened their own bookstores, too.

Communist booksellers immediately became targets of state repression as they faced an intense postwar backlash against so-called subversion. In 1919, the New York legislature established a committee to investigate “seditious activities” in the state. As part of the investigation, a group of fifty state police officers and right-wing volunteers led by Deputy Attorney General Samuel Berger raided the People’s House bookshop of the Rand School of Social Science, then New York’s premier radical educational center. The investigators seized communist books and papers, but prosecutors eventually failed to convict the bookstore’s employees of sedition.

As avowed anticapitalists, communists made for unlikely business owners. But as entrepreneurs, their objective was to promote ideology and cover costs, not maximize profits. Red bookstores spread rapidly as the ranks of the consolidated Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA) swelled during the Depression. By the end of the 1930s, roughly fifty communist bookstores were open for business. Their politics were also paradoxical. Unwavering supporters of Stalin abroad, American communists were relentless champions of democracy and civil liberties at home. And their bookstores helped them circulate a domestic agenda of racial and social equality.

Communists in the US were sophisticated marketers. International Publishers (IP), the official CPUSA publishing house operated by Alexander Trachtenberg, oversaw an extensive network for distributing communist publications in the US. Trachtenberg, a Ukrainian Jew who had fled Russian pogroms for the United States in 1906, managed IP since it was founded by the party and wealthy socialist A. A. Heller in 1924. The CP paid in advance for texts written by party leaders, typically placing bulk orders in the range of five thousand copies prior to publication but sometimes distributing as many as one hundred thousand. Every party branch across the country had an official “literature agent” that worked with the bookstores and IP to make sure that official texts ended up in the hands of party members (who received a discount of up to 60 percent on publications).

A 1941 advertisement in the Daily Worker suggests the CP’s sales priorities that year. The ad for the Workers Book Shop in New York announced “150,000 volumes to be sold” in “the greatest sale in our history.” In addition to classics like the collected works of Lenin and Marx and Engels’s writings on the American Civil War, the store offered less remembered (and more intimidating) titles like J. B. S. Haldane’s Marxist Philosophy and the Sciences, David Guest’s A Textbook of Dialectical Materialism, and Eugen Varga and Lev Mendelsohn’s New Data for Lenin’s Imperialism for as little as 49 cents apiece.

Despite these challenges, surviving communist bookstores enjoyed a small renaissance in the late 1960s and 1970s. The New Communist Movement — an ultra-left offshoot of the New Left — launched an array of Marxist-Leninist organizations and sought to radicalize existing unions in these years. But in the 1980s and ’90s, two unforeseen transformations overwhelmed this modest uptick in activity.

First, and most dramatically, nearly twenty Communist governments fell in a three-year-stretch. The Soviets had directed American Communists and overseen their bookstores for decades, so the Berlin Wall’s collapse and the implosion of state socialism — despite being a boon for free expression in the Eastern Bloc — had a deleterious effect on communist bookstores in the US.

Second, there was the rise of bookstore chains. As stores like Barnes & Noble and Borders aggressively expanded in the mid-to-late 1990s, they began to sell many of the books that had once been the specialty of more radical independents — not only Marxist booksellers, but also black leftist and feminist bookstores. And as online booksellers like Amazon became household names by the end of the decade, Americans could purchase virtually any book with an ISBN number with a just few clicks of a mouse. Today, many bestselling communist texts are available for free online on sites like Marxists.org.

Some radical brick-and-mortar bookstores still operate today. Few identify strictly as communist, and even fewer are associated with the CPUSA, a party that has struggled in recent decades to reach even ten thousand members. Newer independent radical bookstores such as Red Emma’s in Baltimore and Bluestockings in New York’s East Village draw customers with cafes and frequent speaker events.

Venture into one of these shops and you’ll glimpse the legacy of a bygone era, one in which communist bookstores — despite facing considerable financial and political hardships — helped their customers envision radical worlds that were often otherwise unimaginable in America.

Read the article in full at the Jacobin Magazine website.

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

Introducing Creditworthy

Columbia Studies in the History of U.S. Capitalism

“How did Americans become faceless names and numbers in an enigmatic network of credit records, scoring systems, and information brokers? How did financial identity become such an important marker of our personal trustworthiness and worth?” — Josh Lauer

This week, we are featuring two books from our exciting new Columbia Studies in the History of U.S. Capitalism series: Creditworthy: A History of Consumer Surveillance and Financial Identity in America, by Josh Lauer, and From Head Shops to Whole Foods: The Rise and Fall of Activist Entrepreneurs, by Joshua Clark Davis. Today, we are happy to present an excerpt from the introduction to Creditworthy.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of both books!

Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

Introducing From Head Shops to Whole Foods

Columbia Studies in the History of U.S. Capitalism

“The title of this book serves two purposes. By using the phrase ‘from head shops to whole foods,’ I am referencing the wide range of businesses this book examines. But, more importantly, I am highlighting a marked transition away from the collective goals of political progress that some, although not most, activist enterprises made between the late 1970s and the end of the twentieth century.” — Joshua Clark Davis

This week, we are featuring two books from our exciting new Columbia Studies in the History of U.S. Capitalism series: Creditworthy: A History of Consumer Surveillance and Financial Identity in America, by Josh Lauer, and From Head Shops to Whole Foods: The Rise and Fall of Activist Entrepreneurs, by Joshua Clark Davis. Today, we are kicking the feature off with an excerpt from the introduction to From Head Shops to Whole Foods.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of both books!

Monday, August 28th, 2017

Book Giveaway! Creditworthy and From Head Shops to Whole Foods

Columbia Studies in the History of U.S. Capitalism

“Lucid and packed with fascinating detail, Creditworthy is an essential guide to the intersection of finance and surveillance.” — Frank Pasquale

“[From Head Shops to Whole Foods] is critical for understanding contemporary companies that celebrate ethical practices and social change.” — Ibram X. Kendi

This week, we are featuring two books from our exciting new Columbia Studies in the History of U.S. Capitalism series: Creditworthy: A History of Consumer Surveillance and Financial Identity in America, by Josh Lauer, and From Head Shops to Whole Foods: The Rise and Fall of Activist Entrepreneurs, by Joshua Clark Davis. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about both books and their authors on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

Friday, July 28th, 2017

Horror, Disbelief, and Shame

Struggle on Their Minds

“Rather than simply humanize black Americans as did Du Bois, Wells described how black dehumanization was less an a priori truth and more a meticulous white supremacist social construction. Highlighting the intensity and methodical accuracy with which they dismembered Hose’s body piecemeal also reflected the wish to excise black people from humanity. Publicly destroying black bodies communicated white anxiety about black equality.” — Alex Zamalin

This week, our featured book is Struggle on Their Minds: The Political Thought of African American Resistance, by Alex Zamalin. For the final post of the feature, we are happy to present an excerpt from Zamalin’s chapter on Ida Wells and the antilynching movement in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Struggle on Their Minds!

Thursday, July 27th, 2017

Huey Newton, the Black Panthers, and the Decolonization of America

Struggle on Their Minds

“[The Black Panthers'] view that political power was more important than ethics and that freedom would be best secured through the factional competition of competing interests extended Madison’s arguments. Their conviction that public action centered on the common good needed to be divorced from moral considerations resonated with American civic republicans. Or, to put it differently, the Panthers thought politics needed to be conducted by political moralists rather than moral politicians.” — Alex Zamalin

This week, our featured book is Struggle on Their Minds: The Political Thought of African American Resistance, by Alex Zamalin. Today, we are happy to present an excerpt from the book’s chapter on the political and philosophical thoughts of Huey Newton and the Black Panthers.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Struggle on Their Minds!

Wednesday, July 26th, 2017

The Political Thought of African American Resistance

Struggle on Their Minds

“[This book's aim] is to provide an intellectual history of when resistance to racial inequality was palpable in key African American political movements. If resistance is at once an activity and an experience that resists comprehensive analysis because it has no singular essence—if there is no way ever to develop fully a philosophical definition of the practice itself—we should study moments in which what occurs can clearly be called ‘resistance.’” — Alex Zamalin

This week, our featured book is Struggle on Their Minds: The Political Thought of African American Resistance, by Alex Zamalin. Today, we are happy to present an excerpt from Zamalin’s introduction, in which he lays out the project for his book and explains what he means by “resistance” (and why the idea is such an important one).

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Struggle on Their Minds!

Monday, July 24th, 2017

Book Giveaway! Struggle on Their Minds: The Political Thought of African American Resistance

Struggle on Their Minds

“Fred Moten memorably wrote that the ‘history of blackness is testament to the fact that objects can and do resist.’ Alex Zamalin reaffirms this assertion through exquisite examination of narratives of resistance—not merely protest—by David Walker, Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells, Huey Newton, and Angela Davis. Zamalin’s deft treatise demonstrates how Afro-modern political thought refashions our fundamental understandings of resistance and the attendant ideals of democracy and freedom.” — Neil Roberts, Williams College

This week, our featured book is Struggle on Their Minds: The Political Thought of African American Resistance, by Alex Zamalin. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

The Historical Case for Asia Strategy

By More Than Providence

“Is the United States capable of grand strategy? Two centuries of American engagement with Asia and the Pacific strongly suggest that the answer is yes. American grand strategy has been episodic and inefficient, but in the aggregate it has been effective.” — Michael J. Green

This week, our featured book is By More Than Providence: Grand Strategy and American Power in the Asia Pacific Since 1783, by Michael J. Green. Today, we are happy to present an excerpt from the conclusion.

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

Introducing By More Than Providence

By More Than Providence

“Over the course of two hundred years, the United States has in fact developed a distinctive strategic approach toward Asia and the Pacific. There have been numerous instances of hypocrisy, inconsistency, and insufficient harnessing of national will and means. There have been strategic miscalculations— particularly before Pearl Harbor, on the Yalu River, and in Vietnam. In the aggregate, however, the United States has emerged as the preeminent power in the Pacific not by providence alone but through the effective (if not always efficient) application of military, diplomatic, economic, and ideational tools of national power to the problems of Asia.” — Michael J. Green

This week, our featured book is By More Than Providence: Grand Strategy and American Power in the Asia Pacific Since 1783, by Michael J. Green. Today, we are happy to present an excerpt from the introduction.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of By More Than Providence!

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

Michael Green on Rex Tillerson’s Beijing Visit

By More Than Providence

This week, our featured book is By More Than Providence: Grand Strategy and American Power in the Asia Pacific Since 1783, by Michael J. Green. In a recent appearance on NPR’s Morning Edition, Michael Green tells Steve Inskeep about what the Chinese think of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, as Tillerson meets with Chinese officials as part of a trip to Asia.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of By More Than Providence!

Monday, March 27th, 2017

Book Giveaway! By More Than Providence: Grand Strategy and American Power in the Asia Pacific Since 1783

By More Than Providence

“Michael Green’s magisterial study is a timely and insightful reminder of the deep and long-standing ties between East Asia and the United States, and the complex interplay between our economic and security interests, and our values, a dynamic which has shaped US policy for two and a half centuries. It is an indispensable point of reference for students and policy makers seeking to understand a critical region where history casts a long shadow, notwithstanding the extraordinary changes of recent years.” — James Steinberg, Syracuse University and former deputy secretary of state

This week, our featured book is By More Than Providence: Grand Strategy and American Power in the Asia Pacific Since 1783, by Michael J. Green. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

A Stroke of the Pen

Chow Chop Suey

“Forty years after the Johnson-Reed Act had slammed the door on immigration from most of the world, people had generally stopped expecting further chapters to unfold in the story of immigrant cooking. Not even culinary snobs had reason to suppose that the new law [the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965] would ever affect anybody’s ideas of what to have for dinner in Minneapolis, Tallahassee, Boise, Spokane, Houston, or New York.” — Anne Mendelson

This week, our featured book is Chow Chop Suey: Food and the Chinese American Journey, by Anne Mendelson. To start the week’s feature off, we are happy to present an excerpt from the book’s prologue.