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HISTORY

1.
Michael F. Graham
The Blasphemies of Thomas Aikenhead: Boundaries of Belief on the Eve of the Enlightenment

This is the first modern book-length study of the case of Thomas Aikenhead, the sometime University of Edinburgh student who in 1697 earned the unfortunate distinction of being the last person executed for blasphemy in Britain.Taking a micro-historical approach, Michael Graham uses the Aikenhead case to open a window into the world of Edinburgh, Scotland and Britain in its transition from the confessional era of the Reformation and the covenants, which placed high emphasis on the defence of orthodox belief, to the polite, literary world of the Enlightenment, of which Edinburgh would become a major centre. Graham traces the roots of the Aikenhead case in seventeenth-century Scotland and the law of blasphemy which was evolving in response to the new intellectual currents of biblical criticism and deism. He analyzes Aikenhead’s trial and the Scottish government’s decision to uphold the sentence of hanging. Finally, he details the debate engendered by the execution, carried out in a public sphere of print media encompassing both Scotland and England. Aikenhead’s case became a media event which highlighted the intellectual and cultural divisions within Britain at the end of the seventeenth century.

2.
Emily Teeter
Before the Pyramids: The Origins of Egyptian Civilization

This catalogue for an exhibit at Chicago’s Oriental Institute Museum presents the newest research on the Predynastic and Early Dynastic Periods in a lavishly illustrated format.
Essays on the rise of the state, contact with the Levant and Nubia, crafts, writing, iconography and evidence from Abydos, Tell el-Farkha, Hierakonpolis and the Delta were contributed by leading scholars in the field. The catalogue features 129 Predynastic and Early Dynastic objects, most from the Oriental Institute’s collection, that illustrate the environmental setting, Predynastic and Early Dynastic culture, religion and the royal burials at Abydos. This volume will be a standard reference and a staple for classroom use.

3.
Robin Prior, Trevor Wilson
Passchendaele: The Untold Story, 2nd Edition

No conflict of the Great War excites stronger emotions than the war in Flanders in the autumn of 1917, and no name better encapsulates the horror and apparent futility of the Western Front than Passchendaele. By its end there had been 275,000 Allied and 200,000 German casualties. Yet the territorial gains made by the Allies in four desperate months were won back by Germany in only three days the following March. The devastation at Passchendaele, the authors argue, was neither inevitable nor inescapable; perhaps it was not necessary at all. Using a substantial archive of official and private records, much of which has never been previously consulted, Trevor Wilson and Robin Prior provide the fullest account of the campaign ever published.

The book examines the political dimension at a level which has hitherto been absent from accounts of “Third Ypres.” It establishes what did occur, the options for alternative action, and the fundamental responsibility for the carnage. Prior and Wilson consider the shifting ambitions and stratagems of the high command, examine the logistics of war, and assess what the available manpower, weaponry, technology, and intelligence could realistically have hoped to achieve. And, most powerfully of all, they explore the experience of the soldiers in the light—whether they knew it or not—of what would never be accomplished.

4.
Paddy Griffith
Battle Tactics of the Western Front: The British Army`s Art of Attack, 1916-18

Historians have portrayed British participation in World War I as a series of tragic debacles, with lines of men mown down by machine guns, with untried new military technology, and incompetent generals who threw their troops into improvised and unsuccessful attacks. In this book a renowned military historian studies the evolution of British infantry tactics during the war and challenges this interpretation, showing that while the British army’s plans and technologies failed persistently during the improvised first half of the war, the army gradually improved its technique, technology, and, eventually, its self-assurance. By the time of its successful sustained offensive in the autumn of 1918, says Paddy Griffith, the British army was demonstrating a battlefield skill and mobility that would rarely be surpassed even during World War II. Evaluating the great gap that exists between theory and practice, between textbook and bullet-swept mudfield, Griffith argues that many battles were carefully planned to exploit advanced tactics and to avoid casualties, but that breakthrough was simply impossible under the conditions of the time. According to Griffith, the British were already masters of “storm troop tactics” by the end of 1916, and in several important respects were further ahead than the Germans would be even in 1918. In fields such as the timing and orchestration of all-arms assaults, predicted artillery fire, “Commando-style” trench raiding, the use of light machine guns, or the barrage fire of heavy machine guns, the British led the world. Although British generals were not military geniuses, says Griffith, they should at least be credited for effectively inventing much of the 20th-century’s art of war.

5.
Steven Ozment
The Age of Reform, 1250-1550: An Intellectual and Religious History of Late Medieval and Reformation

Ozment s masterly synthesis of the intellectual and religious history of the period 1250-1550 clarifies the impact of late medieval ideas on early modern society. Its appeal derives from its breadth of scholarship and clarity of style. Ozment reviews the current state of research on late medieval intellectual history, explicates the basic ideas of the scholastic, spiritual, and ecclesio-political traditions, and analyzes the impact of these on Protestant reformers. Choice
It is not only a clear and coherent substantive history; it is also an extremely fair-minded discussion of the interpretations and issues involved. Gordon Leff, The Times Literary Supplement
As one would expect of Steven Ozment, he has produced a masterful study. . . an intellectual and religious history of late medieval and Reformation Europe. Christianity Today
A high level survey of current work on religious thought and practice from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century. For Ozment, the period involved was neither the waning of the Middle Ages nor was it the dawning of a new era. Rather, it was a period in which the people of Europe at all levels underwent a series of intellectual and spiritual crises culminating in the Protestant Reformation. . . . A stimulating, readable survey of late medieval Reformation religious thought that will be of interest to both teachers and students. James Muldoon, History”


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