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The modern state is defined by its capacity to classify and order its peoples, argues James Scott in his seminal Seeing Like a State. To do so, officials needed to count the population and estimate its future growth. Karl Ittmann explores the rise, fall, and frustrations of colonial demography in the 20th-century British Empire.
I could say this is a story of two halves but I can’t bear football, so I won’t. Instead I will say that this book is both a narrative about the polio virus (particularly in America), its long history and the drive to treat and prevent it and it is a rich unfolding of the complex and messy tale of medical research.
Psychoactive drug restrictions and prohibitions have typically followed a reactionary pattern. From tobacco to LSD, the introduction of novel drugs has prompted therapeutic experimentation. Officials showed little concern until these substances also became popular recreational intoxicants.
The year was 1964, and there were good reasons to feel ‘stressed out’. Presidential candidate Lyndon B. Johnson stoked American anxieties. His campaign team broadcast a television commercial that graphically illustrated the predicament of the modern world. In it, an innocent young girl plucks the petals off a daisy as she tentatively counts from one to ten.
Electromagnetism, photographic reproduction, grand operas, phantasmagorias, automatons and socialist utopias: what do these have in common? According to John Tresch, they were all manifestations of a common ‘mechanical romanticism’ that permeated Paris between the fall of the first Napoleon in 1815 and the triumph of his nephew Napoleon III in 1851.
The quest for saltpeter, the ‘inestimable treasure’ of Tudor and Stuart monarchs, crucial for the production of gunpowder, is the subject of David Cressy’s work, which spans the reign of the first Tudor, Henry VII, to the industrialised warfare of the 20th century.
The field of food studies has gained significant traction over the previous two decades. Across a range of disciplines, from religious studies to anthropology to history, among others, a growing body of books, articles, and conference papers has explored the history of particular foods.
Controversies over nuclear issues are no strangers to New Zealand. To some this is a surprise. Often regarded in the northern hemisphere as a country both remote and insular (one of ‘eternal Sundays’ as playwright Alan Bennett has written), it is a locality that at times jolts with a seismic unpredictability.
Over 40 years ago, Robert Darnton proposed to evaluate the Enlightenment from its authors’ perspectives. After all, he observed, they were ‘men of flesh and blood, who wanted to fill their bellies, house their families, and make their way in the world’.(1) But with what did they fill their bellies, and when, and how much?
At first sight this looks like another of those increasingly common commodity books, some of which are intended to be global in scope, and which include studies of chocolate, sugar, cod, salt and many others (digestible or not!). As Riello points out, commodities are a good way to tell a global story since many of them have been traded throughout the world for centuries.