What I’ve been reading

1. Michael S. Nieberg, When France Fell: the Vichy Crisis and the Fate of the Anglo-American Alliance.  It is difficult to find WWII material that is both interesting and fresh, but this book qualifies.  It is a look at how America processed the fall of France in 1940, and suddenly realized the whole thing was for real and that dangers to the homeland were not trivial.

2. Timothy Snyder, The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569-1999.  I fear this book will become increasingly relevant, as it is a good introduction to what appear to be a number of growing hotspots.  The 1569 Lublin Union created a Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.  How did that matter, how was it the ethnic issues in that region never were settled, and have we recreated a Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth today?  This book is good on all those questions and more.

3. John Markoff, Whole Earth: The Many Lives of Stewart Brand.  An excellent book, I have more to say about it and also Stewart’s life, but you’ll have to wait for my CWT with Stewart himself.  Stewart himself seems to like it, and he praised how the author’s archival research corrected many of his own faulty memories.

Edmond Smith, Merchants: The Community That Shaped England’s Trade and Empire.  There are some good recent books on the East India Company, this useful work looks at the phenomenon more generally.  The Muscovy Company was chartered in 1555, and survived until 1917, at which point it was turned into a “charity.”  Also of relevance for recent charter city discussions.

Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger’s Maria Theresa: The Habsburg Empress in Her Time is a comprehensive study of its chosen topic.  It doesn’t focus on the conceptual issues of liberalism that I care most about, but it is nonetheless by far the most detailed study out there.  Translated from the German.

Also new is David Autor, David A. Mindell, and Elisabeth B. Reynolds, The Work of the Future: Building Better Jobs in an Age of Intelligent Machines.

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