I'm interested in thinking about the ways that history of science wins a place in broader conversations in American history. As part of my investigation, I've been skimming book review sections of JAH and similar journals. I thought you all might benefit as well from an abstract for each of the reviews published in Dec. 2011 that struck me as dealing with HOS in a significant way. Reviewed works include Philip Mirowski's Science-Mart, Nick Cullather's Hungry World, and Andrea Wulf's Founding Gardeners.
Read past the break for more.
Science-Mart: Privatizing American Science. By Philip Mirowski. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011. Reviewed by Cyrus Mody.
Notes: "Part history of economics, part history of science, part lament for the decline of American academia, Philip Mirowski's Science-Mart is an enlightening, engaging, sometimes maddening tour through the 'Temples of Mammon' that Mirowski believes universities
have become. Science-Mart begins by surveying economists’ evolving views on the organization of science." Mirowski also offers a periodization of American science that I'd like to explore more at some other time.
The Hungry World: America’s Cold War Battle against Poverty in Asia. By Nick Cullather. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010. Reviewed by Robert J. McMahon
Notes: Cullather wrote a terrific article on the "Foreign Policy of the Calorie" a few years back. This is the bigger book that he was writing alongside that article. "Indeed, in one of his signal contributions, Cullather explodes the
popular myth of the transformative 'Green Revolution.'
He depicts the oft-told tale of “miracle” wheat and
rice strands averting starvation and spurring spectacular agricultural
growth in postwar Asia as a comforting story
constructed by self-interested actors that bears little resemblance to
Pox: An American History. By Michael Willrich. New York: Penguin, 2011. Reviewed by Howard Markel.
Notes: "Perhaps Willrich's most important contribution to this burgeoning
literature, however, is his superb analysis of the legal
and individual rights involved in public health
programs that mandate vaccination for the greater good even over the
of individuals who desire to opt out of such
interventions. Pox is a sweeping account of how mass smallpox
vaccination programs helped contribute to the development and growth of
agencies as the U.S. Public Health Service, the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institutes
Health, along with the rise of municipal and state
Founding Gardeners: The Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation. By Andrea Wulf. New York: Knopf, 2011. Reviewed by Kim Kleinman.
Notes: "In 1787 a
visit by several key delegates to Bartram’s Garden in
Philadelphia during the Constitutional Convention helped break a
around representation in the legislature." Kleinman compares it to Phil Pauly's recent, great book: "Pauly’s book, however, is more comprehensive, sustained, and
challenging, arguing that “From the early nineteenth century
onward, horticulturalists reasonably argued that
[their] high culture … would lead to higher culture—to the refinement of
public taste” (Pauly, Fruits and Plains, p. 6). But Wulf’s is a fine, engagingly written book, with eighty pages of notes and an extensive bibliography, that shows
how the 'founding gardeners,' as gardeners, shaped the American nation"
Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception across the Color Line. By Martha A. Sandweiss. New York: Penguin, 2009. Reviewed by Kenneth R. Janken.
Notes. I've talked about this before. "Martha A. Sandweiss excavates King's well-documented life and offers informed speculation about Ada Todd, whose appearance
in the historical record is scant....Though most racial passing went in the other direction, the author historicizes meanings
of race and the mutability of identity."
Paranormal America: Ghost Encounters, UFO Sightings, Bigfoot Hunts, and Other Curiosities in Religion and Culture. By Christopher D. Bader, F. Carson Mencken, and Joseph O. Baker. New York: New York University Press, 2010. Reviewed by Sarah M. Pike.
Notes: Thinking about some alternative ways of knowing--- "Bigfoot hunters, haunted houses, psychic readings, and unidentified flying object abductees are common in “paranormal America,”
a world that includes a diverse spectrum of ordinary people...But historical depth and nuanced analysis aside,
Paranormal America is entertaining sightseeing in a world that is often trivialized by academics, and readers will at the least come away with
a glimpse of its complexity"
Measuring America: How Economic Growth Came to Define American Greatness in the Late Twentieth Century. By Andrew L. Yarrow. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2010. Reviewed by W. Elliot Brownlee.
Notes: Why do we care about GDP? I have wondered about this before. "Andrew L. Yarrow reaches two key, intertwined conclusions in this book.
The first is that “Beginning in earnest in the postwar
era, opinion-shaping elites in politics, business,
academia, media, schools, and public diplomacy gloried in America's
economy as the ‘measure of the nation’” (p. 2). The
second conclusion is that “Economic ideas came to have vastly greater
influence on American culture” as they “dovetailed
with” the assertions of elites that “the meaning and value of the United
States increasingly resided in its growing,
quantifiable abundance” (p. 3)."