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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.
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.
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.
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.
It is 50 years since Thomas Kuhn published the million-selling Structure of Scientific Revolutions, and the work reviewed here rightly acknowledges Kuhn’s to be ‘by far’ the most cited and discussed 20th-century book about science (pp. 415–16). What has the history of science come to in the intervening half century?
Firing off ideas and arguments in all directions, Jussi Parikka’s What is Media Archaeology? is an exciting and excitable contribution to cultural theory. The book begins by outlining the strands of historical and cultural enquiry, as well as the artistic practices, that currently constitute what he terms ‘media archaeology’.
In this study of energy policy, looking primarily at the period since the Gulf War, and in particular the first decade of the 21st century, Daniel Yergin continues to focus on the subject matter of his Pulitzer prize winning book The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power.(1) Since the publication of that book, and the success of the accompanying TV se