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States and Nations

By December 13, 2008

I just finished The War of the World: Twentieth-Century Conflict and the Descent of the West (Penguin, 2006), an 800-page tome by Niall Ferguson, the Lawrence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard and a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution. [Tisch and Hoover, an interesting pair of sponsors.] Ferguson recounts the violent first half of the 20th century with reference to nations (in the classical sense of “peoples” or, more modernly, ethnic groups) rather than states, but doesn’t leave much hope for improvement as we move through the first half of the 21st century.  I’ll throw out a lifeline [hint: religion] in the closing paragraph.

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Facing East

By November 15, 2008

I just finished Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America (Harvard Univ. Press, 2001) by Daniel Richter, a history professor at the University of Pennsylvania.  This fine book (a finalist for the 2002 Pulitzer in history) tells early American history from an entirely different perspective, that of Native Americans looking east as scattered groups of Europeans make visits, then trade, then settle, fight, and spread along the Atlantic seaboard and beyond.  More than just being good history, Facing East also helps the LDS reader appreciate the religious and cultural lens through which early Mormons, like other early Americans, viewed North American Indians. Below are comments on some of the more interesting examples of this I found in the book.

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Getting Hooked

By November 6, 2008

Michael CrichtonMichael Crichton passed away this week.  As a measure of the stature he has attained in popular culture, the news penetrated the roar of a presidential election to make a headline or two in just about every media source.  One that caught my eye is “Michael Crichton got my son hooked on reading.”  Yup, I remember reading The Terminal Man as a kid and thinking it was sort of different — it was science fiction, but without ray guns or spaceships.  But science fiction is an easy hook compared with history.  This being a history blog, the question we need to ask is: When did you get hooked on history?  What was the first history book that made you sheepishly approach the reference desk at the local library and say, “Did this guy write any other books?”

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A Thin Line Between Good and Evil

By September 26, 2008

Dave B. has been a longtime blogger at Mormon Inquiry and a regular commenter here at Juvenile Instructor. Once upon a time he earned a master’s degree in economic history, but he comes by his knowledge of and interest in Mormon history the old-fashioned way, by reading books. We’re happy to have him as a JI guest blogger for a few weeks.

Last week I heard Ron Walker conduct a Q&A about Massacre at Mountain Meadows with a small group in Southern California. He made a couple of comments in passing that are worth discussing. When asked for one thing that could be learned from the whole episode, he said that in his view the men who brought to pass the massacre were not evil men, but that there is often not much separating goodness from evil in individuals. He said that he has gained a greater appreciation for the simple virtues like kindness, patience, and gentleness and their effect of keeping us on the right side of that narrow divide.

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Ben P on Series Preview: Introductions to: “...and to quickly add, I would hope that whoever writes a Lee bio would do so in a way that appropriately reflects the #MormonMeToo concerns.”

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