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Dec 31, 2006 8:30 am


New Year's Eve Notes



Anthony Grafton,"The Way to Eden," TNR, 21 December, reviews Alessandro Scafi, Mapping Paradise: A History of Heaven on Earth. But then came payback time, says Sir Christopher Meyer. See: Meyer,"Farewell to Britain's US mortgage from hell," Times Online, 31 December. Thanks to Manan Ahmed for the tip.

I regret having to pass along Radley Balko's sad news that Cory May's appeal for a new trial in Mississippi has been denied. Unless Governor Haley Barbour intervenes, Cory May is condemned to spend the rest of his life in Parchman Prison.

Congratulations and best wishes to Kevin Levin, who has finished his manuscript on the Battle of the Crater and is about to send it off for a round of critics' reviews. At Civil War Memory, Levin hands out his Awards for 2006. Tim Greenman's Walking the Berkshires gets his nod for Best Blog; and Ray Arsenault's Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice for Favorite History Book of 2006. Otherwise, Kevin's Awards go to the Best Civil War Books of 2006. I'm especially pleased that the late Armistead L. Robinson's posthumous book, Bitter Fruits of Bondage: The Demise of Slavery and the Collapse of the Confederacy, 1861-1865, gets Kevin's nod for Best Confederate Study. Armistead struggled to bring it to fruition for the whole of his professional career and, for the trouble, a critic gave Robinson the honorific title,"Professor Forthcoming."

I've just heard from our colleague, KC Johnson, that he and Stuart Taylor, Jr., the respected columnist at National Journal, will co-author a book about the Duke lacrosse players and the prosecuting attorney who may yet be disbarred for his handling of the case against them. I like to think the book was born at Cliopatria and took on a life of its own at Durham-in-Wonderland. Is there a better example of a historian as an active public intellectual and the potential power of blogs to make a difference in the real world of public life? The book by Johnson and Taylor will, of course, be eligible for the $10,000 Lulu Blooker Prize.

Happy New Year to all the Cliopatricians and all of Cliopatria's community of history lovers!

Erm -- Clayton Cramer's new book, Armed America: The Remarkable Story of How and Why Guns Became as American as Apple Pie will appear on 16 January."His most intriguing argument is that, as they became ‘tied to defending political rights,' guns also became a symbol of citizenship," says Publisher's Weekly.

Cramer draws on many primary sources, from newspaper accounts to probate records, and compiles impressive data supporting his case. Still, he misses many opportunities for analysis and interpretation. For example, he finds that it was"not terribly unusual" for free women to own guns, but offers no nuanced discussion of what said gun ownership tells us about gender roles. His attack on academia—which, in Cramer's view, has been blinded by ideology and excludes political conservatives—distracts from his central theme and will only alienate pro–gun-control readers, leaving him with an equally narrow, if opposite, readership.

I read the book in manuscript. Sorry, Clayton, but it was a dog.

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Kevin Levin - 12/31/2006

Ralph, -- Thanks for the kind words re: the manuscript. I look forward to meeting you in Atlanta.

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