The Problem of Democracy in the Age of Slavery -- Garrisonian Abolitionists & Transatlantic Reform by W. Caleb McDaniel, Louisiana State University Press '13, $48, 360 pages, ASIN #0807150185. Index, notes, no bibliography or illustrations.
When we think of the term "abolitionist" in the context of antebellum domestic policy, it's most commonly thought of as an American activity aimed at wiping out slavery and spearheaded by such leaders as William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, and Frederick Douglass.
But as historian W. Caleb McDaniel writes in this important book, these abolitionists also had deep dies to reformers and liberal thinkers in both Great Britain and Europe. "Between 1830 and 1870," he says, "American abolitionists led by Garrison developed extensive networks of friendship, correspondence, and intellectual exchange with a wide range of European reformers -- Chartists, free trade advocates, Irish nationalists, and European revolutionaries."
Emblematic of this reaching out by the American abolitionists is the motto Garrison printed on every issue of his newspaper, The Liberator: "Our Country is the World -- Our Countrymen are All Mankind."
"Through exposure to contemporary European thinkers -- such as Alexis de Tocqueville, Giuseppe Mazzini, and John Stuart Mill," according to the author, "Garrisonian abolitionists came to understand their own movement not only as an effort to mold public opinion about slavery but also as a measure to defend democracy in an Atlantic World still dominated by aristocracy and monarchy."
Author W. Caleb McDaniel is assistant professor of history at Rice University.
Modern Chinese Legal Reform -- New Perspectives, Edited by Xiaobing Li and Qiang Fang, UKentucky Press '13, $60, 284 pages, ASIN #0813141206. Index, contributors, chronology, chapter endnotes, b&w images sprinkled through text.
In their Introduction, the authors address themselves to the challenge of the task before them:
"Few areas of research in China studies pose more difficulties than that of the Chinese legal system, primarily because of its unique position in Chinese society and relationship to the legitimacy of the nation's Communist authority. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is still the state's dominant political party and controls the executive, legislative, and judicial systems. Since 1978, the CCP's leaders have launched the reform movement, and China has experienced a tremendous wave of change. The shifting nature of the ongoing reform, however, is plagued by contradiction, uncertainty, and the clash of tradition and modernity.
"The reform movement has produced three major problems confronting students of Chinese legal practice: continuing Party influence, frequent changes of laws, and a gap between the government's promise and the courtroom reality. That gap between the promise of legal reform and the reality of legal practice makes understanding Chinese law and order very difficult for Westerners."
About the editors:
Xiaobing Li is professor of history and director of the Western Pacific Institute at the University of Central Oklahoma and author or coauthor of several books.
Qiang Fang is assistant professor of East Asian history at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar -- A Novel, Dial Press '07, $22, 246 pages, ASIN #0385340435.
From the dust jacket:
"Libya, 1979. Nine-year-old Suleiman's days are circumscribed by the narrow rituals of childhood: outings to the ruins surrounding Tripoli, games with friends played under the burning sun, exotic gifts from his father's constant business trips abroad. But his nights have come to revolve around his mother's increasingly disturbing bedside stories full of old family bitterness.
"And then one day Suleiman sees his father across the square of a busy marketplace, his face wrapped in a pair of dark sunglasses. Wasn't he supposed to be away on business yet again? Why is he going into that strange building with the green shutters? Why did he lie?
"Suleiman is soon caught up in a world he cannot hope to understand -- where the sound of the telephone ringing becomes a portent of grave danger; where his mother frantically burns his father's cherished books; where a stranger full of sinister questions sits outside in a parked car all day; where his best friend's father can disappear overnight next to be seen publicly interrogated on state television."
Author Hisham Matar was born in New York City and spent his childhood in Tripoli and Cairo. In the Country of Men is his first novel and has been published in 22 languages.