Yale University Press London staff have recommended their favourite titles set in different parts of the world. Which book will you pick?
February’s Staff Pick: Seeing Like a State by James C. Scott
Office Manager, James Evans recommends Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed by James C. Scott.
A strong critique of high modernism and top-down socio-economic planning. He looks at how forced collectivization in the USSR and villagization in Tanzania were based on crude simplifications, and at their disastrous results. How the Ethopian famine of the 1980s was at least in part man-made. And how these errors were made with the best intentions.
The connections between early Soviet state agriculturalists and American agribusiness were surprising. Thoroughly recommended.
International Sales Executive, Kit Yee Wong recommends Massacre, The Life and Death of the Paris Commune of 1871 by John M. Merriman
In the run-up to the 150th anniversary of the Paris Commune (March–May 1871), now would be a good time to read John Merriman’s excellent Massacre: The Life and Death of the Paris Commune of 1871, first published in 2014. After France’s humiliating defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, Napoleon III’s Second Empire collapsed in 1870. This is where Merriman takes up the dramatic account of the Paris Commune.
While France’s capital was under siege — with Paris encircled by Prussian troops — a civil war was taking place in the city, which would finally end in the death of thousands of men, women and children perpetrated by the government of ‘moral order’. The civil war was between the conservative provisional government and the left-wing Communards. Long-standing issues had come to a head when militants attempted to stand up for the working classes by forming a Commune. Under the Second Empire, the working class had not been able to benefit from the growing prosperity of the period and were physically alienated from their own city through the bulldozing of their communities through Baron Haussmann’s rebuilding of the city into long boulevards in the 1850s and ‘60s.
As well as giving the city the modern look we all know today, the medieval streets had been transformed into straight ‘power alleys’ for troops to march down. The ten-week Commune ended in ‘Bloody Week’ in May 1871, when the provisional government ordered soldiers to retake Paris by force. Merriman has written an immensely readable history of the event, which has many surprising human details peppered within the broader picture. He matches the drama with a thriller-like writing style. With the recent assault on the US Capitol encouraged by ex-President Trump, the book is a relevant read for our times by reminding us that social and class divisions can be incendiary if left unattended.
Academic Marketing Manager, James Williams recommends To Begin the World Over Again by Matthew Lockwood.
Matthew Lockwood’s To Begin the World Over Again tells the personal stories of people throughout the world whose lives were changed forever by the devastation of the American Revolution. The stories include Michaela Bastidas, a Peruvian revolutionary who led a rebellion against Spanish rule in South America, Dean Mahomet, who opened Britain’s first Indian restaurant, the Hindoostane Coffee House in London and Eliza Fay, who travelled from England to Malabar in South India and was imprisoned on arrival by order of the ferociously anti-British Sultan of Mysore.