Independence Lost -- Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution by Kathleen DuVal, Random House '15, $28, 435 pages, ASIN #1400068959. Index, notes, b&w images sprinkled through text.
"As the sky lightened in the early morning hours of March 9, 1781, British sailors on a frigate floating at the mouth of Pensacola Bay spotted a fleet heading straight for them," writes historian Kathleen DuVal in her latest book. "One sailor scrambled high on the mast, straining to see the flag flying over the lead ship. Hoping to see the red, white, and blue of the Union Jack, instead the lookout recognized the bold red and gold stripes of the Spanish King Carlos III's naval flag. The British frigate fired seven shots, whose thunderous sound warned the people of Pensacola of imminent invasion.
"These sailors were not surprised at the Spanish invasion -- Pensacola was the capital of British West Florida and the last line of defense against Spanish conquest of the entire colony. The sailors had only hoped that the Spanish would not arrive before reinforcements. However, readers today might be surprised by this North American battle adjacent to battles of a better-known war -- the American Revolution.
"While histories of the American Revolution include the Marquis de Lafayette and the French fleet at Yorktown, most Americans and even many historians do not know that the Spanish were fighting their own battles against the British at the same time. As Britain tried to put down the rebellion in 13 of its colonies, it was also defending its other 13 colonies on the North American mainland and in the West Indies against the Spanish and the French."
Author Kathleen DuVal teaches Early American history and American Indian history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is the author of numerous previous books.
Beyond -- Our Future in Space by Chris Impey, Norton '15, $27.95, 321 pages, ASIN #0393239306. Index, credits, notes, b&w images sprinkled through text.
"Space is inhuman," writes astronomy scholar Chris Impey. "We can't survive unprotected in a pure vacuum for more than a minute. Going there involves being strapped to a barely controlled chemical explosion. Low Earth orbit is equivalent to half an hour's drive straight up, but it's insanely expensive to get there. The set of people who have experienced zero gravity is one of the most exclusive clubs in history. Yet space travel is an expression of a fundamental human trait: the desire to explore.
"This book is an exploration of the past, present, and future of space travel. We're on the cusp of an important transition, where diverse technologies have matured to the point where space travel could be routine. A cadre of innovators and entrepreneurs is about to deliver space travel that's not just for astronauts and the super-rich. It will happen sooner than you think.
"Each of the four parts of this book is preceded by a fictional vignette delivering us into the world of a young pioneer about to undertake a journey to the stars. First, we look at the 'past' to learn about our genetic proclivity for exploration and our progress with rocketry that let us leave the Earth for the first time in the mid-20th century....Then, in the 'Present,' we see that the malaise of the space program will be cured by a new generation of entrepreneurs who are transforming our potential to leave the planet....
"Peering into the 'Future,' we look at how we can travel to the Moon and Mars, and we investigate the technologies needed to establish colonies there....Finally, we speculate 'Beyond' our current capabilities to the time when we can travel to the stars and become citizens of the Milky Way."
Author Chris Impey is a professor at the University of Arizona. He has written numerous critically acclaimed books, including two astronomy textbooks. He lives in Tucson, AZ.
The French Historical Revolution -- The Annales School, 1929--2014 by Peter Burke, Revised and updated second edition. Stanford UPress '15 paperback. 198 pages, ASIN #0804718377.
From the back cover:
"This book provides a critical history of the movement associated with the French journal Annales, from its foundation in 1929 to the present. This movement has been the single most important force in the development of what is sometimes called 'the new history.'
"In the 20th century, historians began arguing for new ways of doing history. This 'new history' movement called for a total history open to exploring every human activity. Instead of concentrating on the great deeds of statesmen and generals, new history considered the views and experiences of ordinary people. Instead of limiting themselves to official documents, new historians examined a greater variety of evidence, collaborating with sociologists, anthropologists, economists, linguists, and psychologists. Instead of traditional narratives, new history examined structures. And instead of claiming objective truth, new history acknowledged the prejudices associated with color, creed, or gender."
Author Peter Burke is Emeritus Professor of Cultural History at the University of Cambridge.