Archive for May 18th, 2014

Last month I reviewed a book that argues for why Christians should study history.  In light of all the good reasons for Christians to be intersted in history I try to read something historical from time to time as a good break from theology.  The following are collections of non-Christian books that touch on history that I read this Spring.

A History of the English People

A History of the English People

I started reading this book because of the name of the author was recommended to me by others.  This is the first book work by Paul Johnson that I read.  It covered a long history of the people in England (don’t let the title mistaken you to think it refer to English people as a whole, such as in America, Canada and Australia, etc).  It is a helpful narrative history.  One certainly get the sense that Johnson is very proud of England.  One thing that raised my eyebrows is his constant reference to Pelagius, and I think he’s overstretching Pelagian contribution to English history.

Get “History of the English People” over at Amazon

American Lion

American Lion

My first biography on Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States and I absolutely loved it.  I will be planning to read more biographies of Andrew Jackson as a result of reading this.  The book does a good job painting a portrait of Jackson and his colorful personality.  What I appreciate about this book is that it shows the president was more than just a bad temper old General—he was also a shrewd politician who was calculating and maneuvered accordingly.  Jackson was also a man who knew who to capitalize his reputation and his personality for political ends.  The part of the book that I enjoyed was the discussion of his family life and also what drove him concerning his policies against national banking and the Indian policies that he pursued.  Jackson’s Indian policies was probably the lowest point in his administration, filled with broken promises and forced removal.

Get “American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House” over at Amazon

The Politically Incorrect Guide to the South

Politically Incorrect Guide to the South

Our worst stereotypes are of those whom we think we know but we don’t.  Removing such prejudices is hard because we have very little incentive to find out more information since we are a “state of rest” when it comes to interests of knowing more about the particular group we think we know.  I believe that Southern people and culture is one such example for many non-Southerners.  I say this as someone from the West Coast who was exposed to Southern ways for the first time when I was in the Marines.

This is a book about the South.  Of course the topic of racism is in the back of the readers mind and early in the book the author is frank to disavow any support of racism and even said that not everything about the South is right when it comes to the topic of racism.  This helps for an outsider to hear this.  But like anything in life there are other complexity to account for and also other things of Southern culture and society that is good.

The author goes on in the book to show how the South is not all backward as some may assume.  For instance, currently Southern states have increasing rate of minorities moving in versus the decrease of minority population in the rest of region of the United States and in particular the more liberal Northeastern part of the country.   This was something I have never heard of before, being only familiar with the flight of African Americans from the Southern in certain era of American history.  The book also talks about how the South has grown as an economic powerhouse and certain part of its subculture have become a part of what defines America.

Besides food, sports, patriotism (Southerners historically contribute a lot to our military and still do), the part that interests me the most in the book is the topic of history.  While the section on religion was interesting to me as a Pastor, it’s the history that the book devotes the most time to.

The book discussion of the Civil War is excellent as it reveal the complexity of the origin of the war.  I think this book and other literature I have read demonstrate that the North wasn’t necessarily going to war to free the slaves as our popular narrative likes to tell it.  The North was as equally racist during that time as the South is.  One should also point out that the North’s treatment of those in their industry wasn’t necessarily better than the South with their slaves and at times could be worst than those in the South with their Patriarchal ways (observing this is not to condone it).  Today people celebrate and remember African American’s contribution in the Northern Army but we can easily forget that there were minorities in the Confederate army as well.  The book discusses Jews and blacks in the Confederate army.  “Black Southerners in Grey” is a wonderful chapter.  Sometimes people forget that people can fight in a war for various reasons and that just because one support one reason (for states rights for instance) doesn’t necessarily mean they fought for another reason.

The book also talks about the North’s atrocities against blacks as well by the Northern Army.  I admit this was a harder part for me to read but we must let history speak instead of conforming history to our expectations.  The book also discussed the tryanical ways of the North such as Lincoln jailing Maryland legislature, and the President issuing warrants against the Chief Justice (fortunately no Marshall agreed to carry out the warrants).  The North also forced a lot of immigrants to fight in a war that they didn’t know about.  The author also discussed the horrific ways the North fought against the South and how the North introduced total warfare by attacking civilians and the land rather than just the Southern Army.  Think “Sherman’s march to sea,” and other policies like it.  Most people may not realize it, but the Northern generals Sherman and Grant were against Emancipation Proclamation.
There is so much more that I learned in the book and I recommend it.

Get “The Politically Incorrect Guide to the South (and Why It Will Rise Again)” over at Amazon

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