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Current Reading - January 2020

History Fans

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Jan 3, 5:04pm Top

I finished The Secret History of the War, Volume 2 by Waverly Root. This fascinating, if somewhat over-detailed, work about World War 2 by journalist Waverly Root was published in 1945 after the end of the war in Europe but before the Japanese surrender. However, some of the chapters were written even before V-E Day and so speak of the war in Europe as still ongoing. The "Secret" of the title refers to the fact that Root's primary themes are not the military conduct of the war (although that is certainly referred to), but the diplomatic, propaganda and economic machinations of the various powers, both public and, as the word suggests, clandestine. Although Root writes about events and power relationships all over the globe, his two main theses are that a) France was betrayed by traitors highly placed within their government and military who were themselves fascists and wanted to see the Republic eliminated and that b) the U.S. State Department made one wrong-headed move after another, particularly when it came to their decision to legitimize the collaborators within the Vichy government and freeze out De Gaulle and his Free French movement as much as possible, despite the fact that Vichy was willingly cooperating with the Axis and De Gaulle was actually fighting alongside the U.S. and England. The book's final 140-page chapter details at great length the ways in which this dynamic played itself out in France's vast colonial territories before, during and after the Allied invasion of North Africa. Root's thesis about why the State Department was so consistently pointed in the wrong direction was that the department was basically a clubhouse of Ivy Leaguers and others of the patrician class who had little comfort with or respect for the average American and, in actual practice, the ideals of Democracy. He believed that these men were more comfortable with their fellow rich kids within the Vichy government and not particularly uncomfortable with the fascist leanings.

I read Volume 1 of this set last year.

Edited: Jan 4, 4:30pm Top

Finished the Kindle version of Under the Red Sea Sun by Edward Ellsberg. I've read two other of the author's books and like those this is a first person history of the author's experiences in naval salvage. Very well written, fairly exciting and informative.

Jan 7, 12:50am Top

Completed an enjoyable The Windjammers by Oliver E. Allen, part of the Time-Life Books series The Seafarers. Like most of the T-L books I have, it was well written, lavishly illustrated and very informative while being fun to read.

Edited: Jan 7, 8:40am Top

So far I've knocked off The Notorious Bull Nelson (C-) and Floodpath (A). The first is a life of the genuinely notorious officer who possibly saved Kentucky for the Union, but who left numerous enemies in his wake, until he crossed the wrong man and was essentially assassinated; this monograph is undermined by the author's dead prose and the publisher's mediocre editing. The second is an excellent examination of a horrific dam failure and what it says about California history.

Jan 7, 11:06am Top

Think its time for me to finally pick up Little Women Abroad off my bookshelf, what with the new movie out an all. Its bit of a slow go - he intro has 62 pages of back story and backgrouns which I do fins nteresting but I think I'll skip the res and start on the letters today.

Jan 7, 12:01pm Top

>5 cindydavid4: Good idea. I might have to dig my copy out and get serious. I think I didn't get past the intro when I first acquired it. But my Alcott shelf demanded I have it.

Jan 7, 1:06pm Top

As did mine. Thing is, the background information really was well writtne, and interesting, but it ultimately just proved to much (I think much of it would have worked better as intro to each letter) Ah well, I'll come back to it aftre I finish the lettre section

Jan 9, 9:07am Top

>7 cindydavid4: You hit me. Ordered it and another title …. and a film.

Jan 11, 3:35pm Top

Finished an excellent biography, Anna Held and the Birth of Ziegfeld's Broadway by Eve Golden. The book isn't as much about Ziegfeld as the title much suggest, which is fine since Anna Held is a far more interesting person than the character we saw played by Luise Rainer in the movie The Great Ziegfeld. Highly recommended.

Jan 14, 5:34pm Top

Completed an excellent Our Man in Charleston: Britain's Secret Agent in the Civil War South by Christopher Dickey. The title is a bit misleading, as the central character was actually the British consul to Charleston, South Carolina, assigned there in 1853 and staying until just before the Union attack in early 1863. He was very instrumental in keeping the British government aware of the impending crisis and the true state of the political realities of the secessionist movement. Very much worth reading.

Jan 14, 6:43pm Top

>11 jztemple: That sounds really interesting.

Jan 15, 10:23am Top

>12 rocketjk: It was eye opening for me, especially gauging secessionist motivations. Dickey used primary source documents - letters and journals of Robert Bunch - that relayed his first hand witness behind many closed doors. It also gave a good framework for the timeline of events in South Carolina and the nation.

Jan 15, 4:57pm Top

Finished reading Naval Gun by Ian V. Hogg and John Batchelor. I'm a sucker for these more technical books, although this one is more of an overview of the development of naval guns rather than an in-depth treatment. It was released in 1978 so it is rather out of date for the reader more interested in modern trends, but it is very information about the development of the "big gun" up through the first half of the twentieth century.

Jan 16, 10:55pm Top

Completed Fort Sisseton by Harold H. Schuler. This is a history of the fort which is in northeastern South Dakota and was operational from 1864 to 1889. It is more than just a record of the events at the fort, there is also some excellent discussions of the many features of the fort and the people there. Chapters about how the officers and enlisted men lived, how they were fed, clothed and paid, medical treatment, communications and a number of other topics. The final chapter wraps up the story with how the fort buildings and grounds went from owner to owner and how, eventually, it became a state park and the buildings restored and preserved. Highly recommended.

Edited: Jan 17, 8:55pm Top

I completed

A history of Philadelphia : with a notice of villages, in the vicinity... up to the year 1839; also, the state of society, in relation to science, religion, and morals; with an historical account of the military operations of the late war including the names of over two thousand patriotic officers, and citizen soldiers ... In 1812, -13, & 14

I try to get something like this in every decade. It's fun to see what they call part of the city, center city, country, etc. There are interesting ads in the back on different color paper.

Yesterday, 12:15pm Top

>16 ulmannc: I agree, those old histories are often extremely fascinating.

Yesterday, 6:32pm Top

So much reading this early in the year! I have lots of free time on my hands, so another day, another book. This one is To Ascend from a Floating Base: Shipboard Aeronautics and Aviation, 1783-1914 by R. D. Layman. Pretty much what the subtitle says is what the book is about. It is a reasonably fun read, as much as this kind of history can be, and has a number of interesting photographs and illustrations.

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