Secular Missionaries -- Americans and African Development in the 1960s by Larry Grubbs, UMass. Press '09, 243 pages, ASIN #155849734X. Index, notes, no bibliography or illustrations.
Historian Larry Grubbs has served up an eye-opener for anyone interested in the development of sub-Saharan Africa over the past half-century. He begins with President Kennedy's "Decade of Development," starting in 1961, during which American policymakers, academics, and Peace Corps volunteers were dispatched there to promote economic growth and nation building.
Unfortunately this bold initiative came acropper, and Grubbs "exposes the contradictions at the core of a self-serving idealism that promised to 'win' the continent of Africa for the West in the context of the Cold War. While many Americans workng in Africa considered themselves opponents of ethnocentricism, the modernization goals they served carried an ingrained, if unacknowledged, cultural and ideological sense of superiority and faith in American exceptionalism. Similarly, persistent myths about African backwardness and primitiveness continued to afflict U.S. policy."
Soberingly, Grubbs concludes that these retrograde ideas still infect "contemporary discussions of the ongoing 'crisis' in Africa, from the campaigns to 'Save Darfur' and stop the spread of AIDS to efforts to eliminate 'blood diamonds' and forgive African debts." Larry Grubbs lectures in history at Georgia State University.
Lincoln -- A President for the Ages -- Essays from leading writers and scholars that offer fresh insights into the complex legacy of America's most fascinating icon, edited by Karl Weber, PublicAffairs '12 paperback. $14.99, 273 pages, ASIN #1610392639. Index, notes, b&w images sprinkled through text, no bibliography.
Whether you've yet seen Steven Spielberg's new film Lincoln or not, your experience will be enhanced by reading this Participant Guide. From the back cover:
"The first American, frontiersman and backwoods attorney. Teller of bawdy tales and a spellbinding orator. A champion of liberty some called a would-be tyrant. Savior of the Union and the Great Emancipator.
"All these are Abraham Lincoln -- in his time America's most admired and reviled leader, and still our union's most enigmatic and captivating hero.
"....Would Lincoln have dropped the bomb on Hiroshima? How would he conduct the War on Terror? Would he favor women's suffrage or gay rights? Would today's Lincoln be a star on Facebook and Twitter? Would he embrace the religious right or denounce it?
"The answers come from an all-star array of historians and scholars, including Jean Baker, Richard Carwardine, Dan Farber, Andrew Ferguson, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Allen C. Guelzo, Harold Holzer, James Malanowski, James Tackach, Frank J. Williams, and Douglas L. Wilson.
"....Whether you're a lifetime admirer of Lincoln or newly intrigued by his story, Lincoln: A President for the Ages offers a fascinating glimpse of his many-sided legacy."
City Dreams, Country Schemes -- Community and Identity in the American West, Edited by Kathleen A. Brosnan and Amy L. Scott, UNevada Press '11 paperback, 325 pages, ASIN #0874178517.
Historians Kathleen A. Brosnan and Amy L. Scott have gathered a collection of essays about the American West, dividing them into three parts: Part 1 -- The Metropolitan Retreat to the Eco-Urban, Part II -- Tourism, Memory, and Western Urban Identities, and Part III -- From Cultural and Geographic Margins to Urban Centers."
From the rear cover:
"The contributors to City Dreams, Country Schemes utilize an interdisciplinary approach to explore how diverse ideas about the proper balance between physical space and community identity influenced the construction of cities, suburbs, and other urban forms in the twentieth-century American West. They also consider the ways that westerners inhabited their urban spaces, constructing neighborhoods and cultural identities that often reflected alternative understandings of the modern community.
"The chapters include examinations of debates over public art in 1920s New Mexico, the development of San Francisco's LGBT community, the role of tourism in developing national parks, historical sites, and California's Napa Valley, and the influence of corporate aims in shaping the growth of Irvine, California.
Kathleen A. Brosnan is an associate professor of history at the University of Houston. Amy L. Scott is an assistant professor of history at Bradley University.
God of Liberty -- A Religious History of the American Revolution by Thomas S. Kidd, BasicBooks '10 paperback. Index, notes, no bibliography or illustrations.
From the back cover:
"At the dawn of the Revolutionary War, America was already a nation of diverse faiths - the First Great Awakening and Enlightenment concepts such as deism had endowed the colonists with varying and often opposed religious beliefs. Despite their diferences, however, Americans found common ground against British tyranny and formed an alliance that would power the American Revolution.
"In God of Liberty, historian Thomas S. Kidd offers the first comprehensive account of religion's role during this transformative period. A compelling testament to evangelical Christians' crucial contribution to American independence. God of Liberty is also a timely appeal for the same spiritual vitality that gave form to our nation and sustained it through its tumultuous birth."
Author Thomas S. Kidd teaches history at Baylor University and has written several books on American history.