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Roger D. Launius (Washington, D.C., United States)

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The Chancy War: Winning China, Burma, and India in World War II
The Chancy War: Winning China, Burma, and India in World War II
by Edward Fischer
Edition: Hardcover
18 used & new from CDN$ 3.40

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4.0 out of 5 stars CBI--Certainly Different than any Other Theater of WWII, June 8 2004
One of the most neglected areas of study in the history of World War II has been the Chine-Burma-India (CBI) theater. Seen as important, both then and since, chiefly because of geo-political ramifications, few have dealt with the CBI much beyond the level of high diplomacy and the repercussions it held for the postwar fight for control of China.
Eschewing such a lofty perspective, Edward Fischer tells in an interesting memoir what it was like for the soldiers fighting--or supporting the fighting--in the CBI Theater. Written by a junior officer who arrived there in 1944, "The Chancy War" is an interesting memoir of this backwater of military operations during the conflict. In fact, Fischer begins his account by tying his title, "The Chancy War," to low priorities assigned to the theater by senior Allied officials. A disheartened supply sergeant told him soon after he arrived in the theater, "Over here, we are fighting a chancy war. If you ask the States for something, there is a slim chance you'll get it and a greater chance you won't. A chancy war!" (p. 1).
Edward Fischer makes clear that World War II in the CBI was foremost a war that relied on long logistical pipelines through some of the harshest country on the planet. The issue of supply and maintenance, and the problems associated with them, come through at every turn. For instance, Fischer was a young logistics specialist assigned to Fort Riley, Kansas, in mid-1944 where he was trained to handle pack-mules for the Army. The first section of the book is an interesting recollection of the Army's process of training mule-handlers for supply operations in difficult terrain, something that became virtually outmoded in the postwar U.S. Army. It was, however, a critical component of the mobility element of the American-supported rebels in Afghanistan during the 1980s and some of the American foreign aid involved airlifting to rebels mules for use as pack animals in the mountains.
When Fischer arrived at the military base near Myitkyina, Burma, he learned that he was not needed. "We don't use mules anymore," a superior officer told him. "We airdrop everything now. Fly in low. Kick it out" (p. 4). Fischer was quickly reassigned as a public affairs officer and assigned to help squire around the media as the first convoys traveled up the Ledo Road to China. He also flew on the famous Hump airlift from India to China, the tenuous aeronautical pipeline that kept China in the war between 1942 and early 1945. Later he was assigned to write official histories of the Army in the theater. Fischer recounts all of these episodes with insight and compassion, emphasizing the everyday life of Americans fighting a war in Asia.
Edward Fischer has some telling anecdotes about the conduct of war in the jungles of the CBI. He describes many of the instances of in-fighting between senior military leaders in China, especially between General Joseph Stilwell, Lord Louis Mountbattan, and Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. These are interesting but not nearly so telling as insights derived from his personal experience and recounted with considerable vigor.
In some instances his narrative offers alternatives to conventional conclusions. Recent historical scholarship has emphasized the racism of Americans as a means of explaining the brutality with which the war against Japan was prosecuted. Fischer offers an intriguing explanation of this brutality beyond the race issue: "I came upon five Americans who had seen much fighting. I was struck by how little credit they would give the Japanese soldier, a tough competitor....I think the setting led to these primitive feelings. In Europe the war was waged through cities and towns and across cultivated fields, and mainly with the enemy at some distance; in Burma the jungle was primitive and the fighting often close up, eye-to-eye" (p.50). The dehumanization of the enemy was, according to Fischer, due to the circumstances of jungle fighting. An intriguing idea that the author does not develop thoroughly.
This book is one of the better memoirs of war in the CBI in World War II. Well-written and insightful, "The Chancy War" is an unusually detailed and vivid account of one officer's experiences in Asia during the last months of the fighting. Fischer has produced an interesting book that will be useful to academics and, more important, interesting to non-specialists. An important addition to our understanding of the details of soldier life in the China-Burma-India Theater, "The Chancy War" is well worth the attention of military historians or students of the era.

by Leonard J. Arrington
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 36.50
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Superb General History by Two Masters of Mormon History, June 6 2004
I eagerly awaited publication of this general history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when it first appeared in 1979, and was not disappointed. I recently reread "The Mormon Experience" because I realized that 25 years had now passed since it first appeared and I wanted to see how well it has faired over the years. Let me report that it has indeed stood the test of time very well. Taking a roughly chronological approach, with individual topical chapters, authors Arrington and Bitton, both lifelong members of the Latter-day Saint Church, produced a masterpiece. Their task was straightforward, but most difficult, to produce a readable one-volume history of the church that was honest, legitimate, and responsive to the needs of both believing churchmembers and nonmembers.
This book appeared during a time of encouragement and inescapable excitement about Mormon history. Leonard J. Arrington, then LDS Church Historian, was modernizing the LDS archives and sponsoring varied and far-reaching research of which this book was a notable contribution. There was a fleeting esprit de corps within the community of scholars working in the field, and much of significance resulted from far-reaching historical efforts. Indeed, Davis Bitton, one of Arrington's associates in the LDS Historical Department and co-author of this book, designated the decade between 1972 and 1982 a golden age, "a brief period of excitement and optimism--that someone has likened to Camelot" (Davis Bitton, "Ten Years in Camelot: A Personal Memoir," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 16 (Autumn 1983): 9-20, quote from p. 9).
We did not realize it at the time, but "The Mormon Experience: A History of the Latter-day Saints" was very nearly the last official attempt to record the history of the Mormon Church in an honest and unblemished manner. In 1981 Mormon Apostle Boyd K. Packer threw down a gauntlet to historians of the Church that they should exclusively show "the hand of the Lord in every hour and every moment of the Church from its beginning till now" (Boyd K. Packer, "'The Mantle is Far, Far Greater than the Intellect'," Brigham Young University Studies 21 Summer 1981): 261-78, quote from p. 262). With such a perspective, church-mandated interpretations of the Mormon past are not easily overcome. Soon Arrington was quietly replaced as official LDS Church Historians and he and most of his associates in the Church Historical Department were transferred to Brigham Young University.
What Arrington and Bitton produced here was exceptional. In 16 chapters divided into three parts-"The Early Church," "The Kingdom in the West," and "The Modern Church"-they range broadly over the history of the movement from its origins by Joseph Smith to its growing pains after World War II as it became a world religion. They based their work on the explosion of historical research that took place in the 1960s and 1970s, offering reinterpretations of early Mormonism, the middle period of frontier Utah with its characteristic plural marriage patterns, and the twentieth century church.
"The Mormon Experience" deals candidly with difficult aspects of the church's creation mythology. This includes such issues as the discovery of multiple accounts of the "First Vision" that seemingly contradict each other. Arrington and Bitton summarize the problems and reconciliation of the various accounts in a way that would be acceptable to most Mormons: "If the later version was different, this was not a result of inventing an experience out of whole cloth, as an unscrupulous person might readily have done, but rather of reexamining an earlier experience and seeing it in a different light" (p. 8). It deals equally successfully with Joseph Smith's militarism and Mormon plural marriage in the Great Basin. In the modern era Arrington and Bitton explore the exceptionally important issue of priesthood for Blacks, which was offered by the Mormon leadership for the first time only in 1978. In every case, the authors successful tread the tightrope between divergent positions on these issues and offer interpretations legitimate both to believers and those outside the church.
This was no small accomplishment and both authors should be commended for their honesty and forthrightness. "The Mormon Experience" is as classic work. It is an unbiased, well-written, interesting, and informed work written by two masters of Mormon history. What more could anyone ask?

Jedediah Smith and the Opening of the West
Jedediah Smith and the Opening of the West
by Dale L. Morgan
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 20.22
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5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Analysis, Elegantly Written, June 6 2004
I first read this book in graduate school in the late 1970s and despite its age--it was first published in 1953--it greatly impressed me with its depth of research, elegance of writing, and power of interpretation. I recently reread the book and although it is now more than fifty years old it remains the critical work of history on the subject. Dale Morgan should have been proud to produce such an ageless classic. "Jedediah Smith and the Opening of the West" remains essential reading on the subject.
This book captures the critical elements of Smith's career. He went to the Rockies in 1822 to become a fur trapper and trader and over the next decade his efforts in that commercial activity lead to explorations that opened the region to U.S. expansion. Smith's explorations of the Rockies and Far West in the 1820s rank as some of the most significant expeditions of the nineteenth century. His skill as a frontiersman, as well as his undeniable ambition to develop a preeminent position for his company in the fur trade, combined with these expeditions to establish Smith as a heroic figure in the American West. In addition, his stoical persona and religious countenance became a role model for his fellow traders.
Well told in this important book is Smith's 1824 expedition that effectively discovered South Pass, in present-day Wyoming, opening a much easier route for trappers to cross the Rockies into the Great Basin without using the Missouri River. It also meant that settlers using wagons could take an easier route along the Platte and Sweetwater Rivers, then over the mountains using South Pass, and on to Oregon or California. It made possible the great overland migrations along the Oregon Trail beginning in the 1840s.
Most important, Morgan tells the story of Jedediah Smith's 1826-1827 expedition that traveled overland from the Great Basin to California and back. Undertaken to locate new trapping grounds, the expedition explored in a bull boat the Great Salt Lake and moved southward onto the Colorado Plateau. Pioneering along the Colorado River, Smith journeyed to the Mohave Desert and visited San Gabriel, California, there making contact with Spanish officials. He explored northward through the San Joaquin Valley and then turned eastward across the Sierra Mountains, the first people recorded to have crossed eastward, via the American River. By the time of Smith's return to the trappers' rendezvous the next summer, he had acquired more geographical knowledge about the Far West than any other American.
Smith's last great expedition took place in 1827-1828 when he retraced his route to southern California. There he renewed contacts with officials of New Spain. He then moved northward along the American west coast, travelling by ship from San Gabriel to San Francisco, and eventually reached Fort Vancouver, the Hudson's Bay Company outpost in the Oregon territory under the command of Dr. John McLoughlin. In the summer of 1828 he returned to the Great Basin trappers' rendezvous. Once again, Smith's efforts led to the rapid expansion of geographical knowledge about the American West, but he also ascertained and gave to U.S. authorities much about the strength of Spanish and British claims on the region.
In summary, Dale Morgan notes that Jedediah Smith must be credited with being the first to find and recognize the natural gateway to the Oregon country through South Pass; the first overland traveler to reach California; the first white man of record to cross the Sierra Nevada; and the first to travel overland from California to the Columbia. Unlike most other explorers of the nineteenth century, Smith's expeditions were not underwritten by the federal government but were the byproduct of efforts to further his company's fur trading business.
This book provides an excellent discussion of these critical explorations, as well as an interesting window into the larger fur trade of the Rocky Mountains and the colorful cast of characters that engaged in it, such as Jim Bridger, "Broken Hand" Fitzpatrick, and Hugh Glass. It also tells of the demise of Smith, who decided in 1830 to retire from fur trade and enter the Santa Fe trade. The next spring he left Independence, Missouri, with a wagon train bound for Santa Fe, but on May 27, 1831, he was killed by Comanche Indians while searching for water for the wagon train on the Santa Fe trail. He was only 32 at the time.
This is still an essential work for anyone who seeks to understand the exploration of the Trans-Mississippi West. Jedediah Smith ranks second only to Lewis and Clark as an explorer of this region and Dale L. Morgan's biography stands up remarkably well to the changing perspectives on the history of this subject in the fifty-plus years since its first publication. Highly recommended!

Red Man's America: A History of Indians in the United States
Red Man's America: A History of Indians in the United States
by Ruth Murray Underhill
Edition: Paperback
29 used & new from CDN$ 0.63

4.0 out of 5 stars A Pretty Good Basic Overview of the Subject, June 5 2004
First published more than fifty years ago, in 1953, the revised edition of "Red Man's America" remains one of the most important works to appear on the history and culture of Native Americans in the twentieth century. It provides an exhaustive exploration of the first peoples of America from Stone Age hunter/gatherer tribes to the highly organized civilizations of later eras. Underhill emphasizes the origins, backgrounds, and customs of the various North American First Peoples and explores their commonalties and divergences. The book is a fine work of history, sociology, and anthropology.
In fourteen chapters, Underhill discusses the migration of peoples from Siberia over the Bering Strait to the American Northwest. She then moves on to the development of agriculture, the rise of the so-called "civilized" tribes of the Southeast, and the encounters with Europeans in the Southeast. Underhill then moves to the Northeast, treating the development of Algonquin culture and the Iroquois Confederacy. Then she explores the history and culture of the Calumet of the Great Lakes and the Upper Mississippi. This is followed with a discussion of the horse culture of the Great Plains and the agricultural civilizations of the Southwest.
The latter portion of the book deals with the Navaho and Apache, whom Underhill characterizes as the late arrivals to America. She then investigates the Native Americans of the Great Basin, California, and the Potlatch culture of the Pacific Northwest. The last chapter deals with the relationship of the United States government to native peoples. This is a rather troublingly positive assessment of the government's activities on the American Indians' behalf, when the beneficial aspects of the relationship might be considered a definite minority of all that has transpired between the Native and Anglo populations.
"Red Man's America" is still a very good book despite how dated it is, and may be read profitably as an overview of the subject. Indeed, despite the large number of books on the history of Native Americans, this remains one of the best on the subject.

Women, Family, and Utopia: Communal Experiments of the Shakers, the Oneida Community, and the Mormons
Women, Family, and Utopia: Communal Experiments of the Shakers, the Oneida Community, and the Mormons
by Lawrence Foster
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 25.26
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5.0 out of 5 stars What do the Mormons, Shakers, and Oneidaist Have in Common?, June 4 2004
Lawrence Foster, professor of history at the Georgia Institute of Technology, is well-known as one of the outstanding scholars working in the "New Mormon History." Specializing in the interpretation of the socio-cultural and religious contexts of gender relationships in the early nineteenth century, Foster's earlier book--Religion and Sexuality (Oxford University Press, 1981)--was a trailblazing work dealing with the Shakers, the Mormons, and the Oneida perfectionists. This newer study brings together Foster's already published essays on this subject, although they are much revised from the originals, and offers a thoughtful and in many cases provocative investigation into alternative lifestyles among early American communal groups.
Foster goes beyond his earlier research in this work by looking at the marriage and family patterns of those three groups and how they might illuminate present concerns over gender and family relationships in society. He suggests that the unrest in the early nineteenth century prompted an intense examination of virtually every social institution of the nation. A central part of that examination revolved around marriage and family life, especially as earlier means of enforcing sexual behavior broke down in response to the pressures wrought by industrialization, western conquest and expansion, and intellectual ferment. In religion the emphasis on millennialism and Christ's advent prompted the development of especially radical groups. The Shaker practice of celibacy was an outgrowth of preparation for the coming millennium. Mormonism's plural marriage system had roots in the same concerns, but was propelled more by the quest for knowledge about humanity's state after death. The Oneida "complex marriage" system also aimed toward perfection of humanity in preparation for its encounter with deity.
After an introduction Foster included three chapters each on the Shakers and the Oneida community, each raising interesting questions and posing challenging interpretations. It is the four chapters on the Mormons, however, that made the most significant contribution of the book and offers the most insights about present concerns of patriarchy and gender relationships. Partly this is because Mormonism is a highly successful religious sect in the latter twentieth century and partly because Foster carries the story up to the recent stand of the Mormon church opposing the Equal Rights Amendment. He finds in all of Mormon history, moreover, a greater acceptance of patriarchy and second class position for women than in the other communal groups. with the exception of allowing more than one wife for much of its nineteenth century history, Mormonism's gender relationships were more in concert with larger American society than either the Shakers or the Oneida community. One intriguing question ( but giving a plausible answer would entail imaginative and probably counter factual investigation: did Mormonism's acceptance of patriarchy have anything to do with its great success vis-à-vis the other communal groups?
"Women, Family, and Utopia" is a delightful and useful book, which adds appreciably to our understanding of these early communal groups. It is especially valuable in offering assistance in interpreting family and gender relationships. It will be fascinating to those interested in the early development of communal religions and is a worthwhile companion and sometimes counterpoint to other works reinterpreting the history of American sacred life in the nineteenth century.

Desert Tiger: Captain Paddy Graydon and the Civil War in the Far Southwest
Desert Tiger: Captain Paddy Graydon and the Civil War in the Far Southwest
by Jerry D. Thompson
Edition: Paperback
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Civil War Certainly Spread to the American Southwest, June 3 2004
There is an endless fascination with the American Civil War. It was, perhaps, the American Iliad. One estimate is that a book on the Civil War has appeared for every day that has passed since Lee surrendered to Grant. That is an awesome production. Jerry D. Thompson's monograph, Desert Tiger is one of that number, and it will find a place among a small group of Civil War aficionados.
The central character of this book is James "Paddy" Graydon, a 21 year old Irish immigrant who came to the United States in 1853. Once in the U.S. he joined the Army and served in the Southwestern frontier. In 1858 Graydon left the Army to become proprietor of the United States a bar/hotel/whore house near Fort Buchanan, known as one the toughest "watering holes" in the region. Graydon gained fame as a man who could hold his own against anyone.
In addition to personal daring, which he demonstrated repeatedly, Graydon mastered the difficult skills of "westering," gaining fame as a scout, hunter, and Indian fighter. When the Civil War erupted in 1861 Graydon entered military service and commanded a company of volunteers in the Arizona/New Mexico region. Thompson asserts that Graydon quickly became the "eyes and ears" of Federal forces in New Mexico His success in command resulted from impressment of civilians into his unit and questionable (even for that time and place) disciplinary actions that led to rampant desertion and even more impressments to keep his command at full strength.
The author also describes two of Graydon's less than heroic military exploits. The first took place on the night before the battle of Valverde in February 1862. On that occasion Graydon placed boxes of lit howitzer shells on the backs of two pack mule and sent them into the Confederate lines with the intent of blowing up some rebels and creating a little havoc. But the animals got scared and ran back toward the Union camp where the shells exploded killing only the mules. The "mule raid" was a source of amusement for Federal troops--none of whom appear to have been animal rights activists--thereafter.
More suspicious was the murder of a party of Mescalero Apaches by Graydon and his men in October 1862 in what was called the "Gallinas Massacre." The massacre led directly Graydon's murder on November 5, 1862, because of a disagreement with a union surgeon named John Whitlock over the nature of the engagement. In an exchange of gunfire between the two, Graydon was mortally wounded and some of his company then killed Whitlock.
This small study tells what there is to know about "Paddy" Graydon. Thompson has done a commendable job of telling the story of a disagreeable character in the history of the American Southwest.

British Scientists and the Manhattan Project: The Los Alamos Years
British Scientists and the Manhattan Project: The Los Alamos Years
by NA NA
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 189.95
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5.0 out of 5 stars International Atoms?, June 3 2004
Almost every belligerent nation of World War II organized massive scientific efforts to develop weapons that they believed would alter the course of the conflict. The Germans, among other projects, built and launched several thousand V-2 rockets against London and other European cities. The Japanese worked on an ill-conceived and unrealizable "death ray." Only the American effort to build the atomic bomb, however, fulfilled the promise of a truly revolutionary weapon that had the potential of changing the war's outcome. The history of the Manhattan Project--as well as both the significance and terror of the nuclear weapons that emerged from the effort--has been exhaustively documented since 1945.

While most knowledgeable readers are aware that there were also efforts to develop nuclear weapons by other nations, notably in Germany, the making of the atom bomb has largely been told as an American story with the far-ranging efforts of the Manhattan Project taking center stage. But atomic science was an international endeavor and even the Manhattan Project was more of an allied effort than most have traditionally understood. As a result, Ferenc Morton's Szasz's "British Scientists and the Manhattan Project" serves as a useful corrective to many earlier accounts that have all but buried any knowledge of the British role in the project.
Beginning in December 1943 the British government sent to the remote New Mexico site of Los Alamos, where J. Robert Oppenheimer was presiding over a cadre of physicists and other scientists and technicians to design an atomic weapon, a small group that eventually numbered about 30 scientists to assist with the project. They worked long hours side-by-side with the Americans, witnessed the explosion at the Trinity site, and viewed the success with the same horror and amazement as their U.S. colleagues. Most of their names are unknown to all but a few specialists in the history of high energy physics, and the one that is not--Klaus Fuchs--is remembered only as an atomic spy for the Soviet Union. This short book does much to rescue the group from obscurity, as well as to set the record straight on Fuchs. It is an important addition to the literature of Los Alamos and the Manhattan Project.

A Consuming Faith: The Social Gospel and Modern American Culture
A Consuming Faith: The Social Gospel and Modern American Culture
by Susan Curtis
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 45.94
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5.0 out of 5 stars Exploring the Roots of Modern American Morality, June 2 2004
"A Consuming Faith" is an important study of the ideology of the Social Gospel movement present among American Christians during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Susan Curtis argues that the Social Gospel provided a necessary linkage between the Protestant-Victorian construct of society of the nineteenth century and the more secular consumer culture that emerged following World War I. Most Social Gospel reformers of the 1890s shared middle-class origins and a concern for the underside of America civilization. They have been portrayed, usually accurately, as a generation of Christian reformers who gave up their middle-class comforts to enter a world of squalor and hopelessness to help others. They ministered in ways that were fundamental to an urban underclass.
Curtis confesses in her preface that she was skeptical of the "do-gooder" image of those involved in the Social Gospel movement. Not surprisingly, therefore, she found good reason for skepticism. "For these American Protestants, responsible for acts of courage and kindness in the name of social justice," she wrote, "were also men and women bedeviled by private anxieties that impelled them into the arena of reform" (p. xi).
Carrying farther the well-established theories of status anxiety developed for progressive reformers of the same era by George D. Mowry and Alfred D. Chandler, Jr., Curtis argued that they not only honestly wanted to accomplish good in the world but also desired to find meaning in a world undergoing rapid and sustained change in response to forces collectively identified as modernity. According to Curtis a range of motivations propelled the Social Gospelers and their activities; some overt and others subconscious, some lofty and others more base.
The Social Gospel, Curtis suggested, emerged in response to the dislocations of the industrial revolution in the late nineteenth century, including large-scale immigration and rapid and sustained urbanization. In its early expression the Social Gospel brought to the fore a sustained critique of industrial capitalist society and helped to displace the traditional American Christian concern for afterlife and eternity with an emphasis on the welfare of humanity in the here and now.
For Social Gospelers the Kingdom of God was very much of this world and not the next. It was something of a utopian vision that represented a spiritual condition where righteousness and justness are partners with goodwill and charity. The result would be what Washington Gladden, one of the reformers profiled here, defined as "social salvation." To accomplish it Social Gospel advocates organized cooperative ventures, undertook political activism, and engaged in a variety of reform efforts with specific goals. The heart of Curtis' interesting and convincing thesis is that some of the elements of the Social Gospel's ideology, as well as its members' desires, sought a place not in opposition to industrialism and modern society but in concert with it. Bound up in a dramatic cultural transformation as the older Protestant- informed Victorian order gave way to a modern, secular American society after World War I, the Social Gospel moved more in parallel rather than in apposition with these trends. By the 1920s, Curtis concluded, the adherents to the Social Gospel's ideas and actions made it easier for Protestant Americans to embrace a secular culture in which Protestantism was not prominently featured. They contributed to an American culture that validated abundance, consumption, and self-realization. Social Gospelers, reformers though they were, created not a critique of modern capitalism, but rather a consuming faith in the material abundance it promised (p. 278).
The Social Gospelers, therefore, not only accomplished positive social ends on a broad front but also established an intellectual rationalization for modernity that allowed contentment with the world. Curtis demonstrates this thesis through a series of biographical portraits of fifteen Americans involved in a variety of Social Gospel activities. In subtle ways these individuals came to embrace modernity and the secular social system that emerged in the 1920s.
There is much to praise and little to criticize in "A Consuming Faith." Susan Curtis argues her case well, and offers a convincing thesis explaining certain aspects of the paradigm shift that took place in American society between the 1890s and the 1920s. The most important caution I would offer, of course, relates to how far the intellectual leaders of any group reflected the opinions of the rank and file. Howard Zinn's warning is appropriate in this instance: "There is an underside to every Age about which history does not often speak, because history is written from records left by the privileged. We learn...about the thinking of an age from its intellectual elite" (Howard Zinn, "The Politics of History" (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1970), p. 102). Can a series of fifteen elites accurately define the ideological origins and development of such an amorphous movement as the Social Gospel? That question may be unanswerable, certainly it would require some very detailed and imaginative historical research to arrive at a satisfactory answer. Having raised this question, I should add that this is not a major flaw of A Consuminq Faith. I would suggest, however, that readers bear the question in mind when considering the book.
"A Consuming Faith" is an important discussion of a significant reform effort that helped shape modern American society. It is one of several refreshing books to appear recently on the development of American religion. It should be of use to anyone interested in the development of American religion and culture at the beginning of the twentieth century. As a sophisticated analysis of several historical trends focused through the lens of the Social Gospel, it is at once religious, social, and intellectual history and probably some other types of history yet unnamed. Those seeking staid history with emphasis on the minutiae of organizations and denominations will be disappointed. Those readers pondering broader vistas, however, will be rewarded by considering Curtis' work.

A Proud American: The Autobiography of Joe Foss
A Proud American: The Autobiography of Joe Foss
by Joe Foss
Edition: Paperback
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not a Great Autobiography, May 31 2004
The story recounted here makes Horatio Alger look like an also-ran. At first Joe Foss was not unlike most other teenage boys on South Dakota farms during the Depression of the 1930s. He worked to help his family make ends meet and longed for escape to something more exciting. Also like many of his contemporaries he was enthralled by airplanes, but at that point his life took a different turn from that of most other rural South Dakotans. He was able to attend the state university--through which he is quick to point out he worked his way--and followed his dream of aviation by beginning flying lessons in 1937 and going through the Civilian Pilot Training Program run by the Civil Aeronautics Authority as a war preparedness measure in the late 1930s.
As soon as he graduated from the University of South Dakota, Vermillion, in 1940, Foss joined the U.S. Marine Corps and entered pilot training. In the fall of 1942, fresh from pilot training and service as an instructor, he arrived in the Pacific Theater and was assigned to a Marine aviation unit at Guadalcanal. When Foss reported for duty, Guadalcanal was one of the hottest combat zones in the world, with daily attacks by the Japanese on the American foothold on the island. During six weeks of combat, Foss flew several dozen sorties and recorded 23 air victories. He received the Medal of Honor for his actions and became a public hero in the eyes of an America that was desperate for heroes. Foss' later World War II career never equaled that early success and fame, but that was in part, he says, because the Marine Corps was hesitant to have a genuine war hero get back into real combat where his death might hamper morale.
Foss' war record set him in good stead after the hostilities. He was able to start a small aviation business in South Dakota, and his hero status served as a springboard for his election to the state House of Representatives in the latter 1940s. From there he ran for governor and eventually served two terms in the mid-1950s. Afterward Foss was appointed commissioner of the infant American Football League, serving between 1959 and 1966 and helping to build an organization that could challenge and eventually function on an equal basis with the much older NFL. He was also an avid outdoorsman and found a way to make hunting and fishing pay by hosting ABC-TV's "American Sportsman" between 1962 and 1965 and later hosting his own syndicated series. All this time he was a senior officer of the South Dakota Air National Guard. He remained active in civic, benevolent, and business affairs until his death.
This book ballyhoos Foss' successes and slides over his faults and failures. That is not particularly unusual in autobiographical writing. The occasional honest and straightforward memoir will appear, such as that of Ulysses S. Grant, but they are more rare than not. This book is the rule rather than the exception. It is also not bald-faced apology, like Richard Nixon's memoir, but it tends to self-aggrandizement. Readers are supposed to be mesmerized by all the wonderful things that Foss has done and all the celebrities, powerful politicians, and high-profile businessmen he has known. At one moment he describes his charity work and at another his hobnobbing with movie stars. While a little of this namedropping is impressive, there is too much of it here. It is clear that Foss had a strong sense of ego.
From an analytical perspective there is a subtext of conservative Americanism that runs through this autobiography like the jet stream, and it tells historians much about the man and the era. Without question Foss had a strong sense of national pride as well as political and social conservatism. His commentary on why he fought in World War II is telling in this regard. "The Japanese were our enemies, and they had some ideas I didn't like," he wrote. "They wanted to do away with our great country, and I liked America. And that's when I finally realized, for real, that if I didn't do my part in the war, I wouldn't have a farm to go back to" (pp. 80-81). Foss' linkage of his participation in World War II to the preservation of the nation reminds me of a conservative nationalist position that the defense of the American homeland must begin on the far shores of the Atlantic and Pacific.
Foss' defense of conservative Republican politicians is also significant. He praises such demagogues as Joseph McCarthy, saying that he "was a dedicated American who was willing to put his life on the line in actual combat, and I was there to witness it" (p. 177). He also describes his relations with Richard Nixon as exceptionally friendly, even to the extent of pushing Nixon to continue his political career after his 1960 defeat for the presidency (pp. 158-59). Foss also champions the cause of the National Rifle Association and claims unqualified gun ownership--which, to his credit, he always describes as a responsibility not to be taken lightly--as a fundamental right of every American citizen.
The pervasiveness of American conservative values expressed in A Proud American will probably be troubling to some in our post-modern, multi-cultural society. The book does, however, provide important insights into sectors of twentieth century American society, business, and politics. As such it will be a useful primary source document for future historians.

The Power of Culture: Critical Essays in American History
The Power of Culture: Critical Essays in American History
by Richard Wightman Fox
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 42.01
19 used & new from CDN$ 0.06

5.0 out of 5 stars A Pot Pourri of Cultural Studies at its Best, May 31 2004
This is an important collection of essays on culture in the history of America. It bears all of the strengths and weaknesses of an anthology, repetition and disjointedness as well as insight and sometimes brilliant analysis. The nine original essays in this volume run the gamut from analysis of early American murder narratives through middlebrow culture to representations of technology at the 1964 New York World's Fair and Richard Serra's "Tilted Arc" as public art. In each the authors seek to explore the culture of Americans and how it relates to larger public and private issues.
The study of American history has been in crisis for some years, as older constructs have succumbed to the onslaught of deconstruction and other methodologies for exploring the past. Perhaps cultural analysis-a combination of sociology and anthropology applied to historical episodes-would help historians out of this cul-de-sac. As the editors comment: "At a time of deep intellectual disarray, 'culture' offers a provisional, nominalist version of coherence: whatever the fragmentation of knowledge, however centrifugal the spinning of the scholarly wheel, 'culture'--which (even etymologically) conveys a sense of safe nurture, warm growth, budding or ever--present wholeness--will shelter us" (p. 1).
I found two of the essays in this volume especially interesting. The first was Karen Halttunen's "Early American Murder Narratives: The Birth of Horror," chapter 3 in the volume. She argues that the dominant narrative of murder was dramatically transformed in the latter half of the eighteenth century from a salvation story of the condemned murderer into a secular account of the horror of the murder itself. In other words, earlier accounts emphasized a jeremiad of redemption in which the murderer might make amends and achieve foregiveness through the forfeiture of life. The innocent slain played a critical role here not for the gruesome nature of their murders, but for providing the act for which the murderer needed salvation. It was very much, according to Halttunen, a morality play in which the condemned prisoner received justice and atonement. Evil is punished and those suffering are redeemed. Because of the Enlightenment and its secularization of culture this began to change. Instead of emphasizing the redemption of the murderer, the accounts after the end of the eighteenth century began to move away from questions of good and evil to discuss the nature of horror without the explicit value judgments associated with characterizing good and evil and religious terms.
The other essay that I found especially interesting was Michael L. Smith's "Making Time: Representations of Technology at the 1964 World's Fair," chapter 8 in the volume. The 1964 New York World's Fair was, in the words of Robert Moses, "an Olympics of Progress" and "an endless parade of the wonders of mankind" (p. 223). Smith argues that historians have long commented on the failure of depictions of the past and the future in such extravaganzas to reflect reality. "In so doing," Smith writes, "many of us have overlooked not only the particular dynamics by which these fairs (and corporations, and governments) codify and represent cultural values, but also the tactics with which the 'audience' receives or reappropriates what they see" (p. 224). Smith suggests that the depiction of the future in the 1964 World's Fair strove "to be comforting, to evoke of sense of change only in the most cosmetic and unthreatening forms" (p. 226). In this context social strife disappeared, any other problems-economic or political or religious or cultural-also homogenized into a gentle positivistic structure in which all participated. Smith added, "the future it depicted, like its versions of the past, was an exercise in nostalgia. Its corporate exhibits applied images of technology as a way of dressing belief systems of the past in the trappings of future wonders" (p. 226). The inevitable march of "progress," as Smith notes, solidifies and supports the dominant vision of the United States. The World's Fair, in essence, omits more than it portrays and in so doing offers a powerful commentary on the nature of American society in the 1960s.
"The Power of Culture" is an impressive book in many ways. The Halttunen and Smith essays represent what I consider the best of the book, but all of the essays may be read with profit. I certainly recommend this work as an example of cultural studies at the end of the twentieth century.

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