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RAT CITY

OVERCROWDING AND URBAN DERANGEMENT IN THE RODENT UNIVERSES OF JOHN B. CALHOUN

A largely fascinating book combining sociology, nature, and urban studies.

A consideration of an ecologist who spent three decades studying rats as a method for understanding how humans might react as urban density grew.

From 1947 to 1977, John B. Calhoun, employed by the National Institute of Mental Health to study the consequences of overcrowding, built large-scale rat habitats designed to allow his subjects to display their innate social behaviors. Over time, deprived of space to expand as the population grew, the rodents’ “escalating social disorder collapsed to violent extinction.” Overcrowded conditions led to infant neglect, lower fertility rates, aggressive sexual activity, and rampant violence. Interestingly, rats who opted for social withdrawal as a survival technique were calm and healthy. Adams, a former BBC New Generation Thinker, and Ramsden, a historian of science at Queen Mary University of London, offer detailed histories of urban development, in cities like Baltimore and New York, showing how rat infestations have always accompanied human population growth. They explain when and how rats were used as models for psychological and behavioral research, as well as conclusions from various approaches to eradicating rats—i.e., poisoning is only a temporary solution. “Rats had lived in American cities as long as people had: either both belonged there, or neither did,” write the authors. When Calhoun built his first citylike habitat (the Towson enclosure) in the 1950s, he documented every detail. His 1963 book, The Ecology and Sociology of the Norway Rat (the result of two years of daily observations, followed by six years of analyzing and writing his discoveries) “was, and remains, the most comprehensive and complete account of rodent behavior ever produced.” The authors also explore biographical details, from Calhoun’s background and personal life to the evolution of his interests. More academic and less entertaining than Robert Sullivan’s Rats, this book is nonetheless comprehensive.

A largely fascinating book combining sociology, nature, and urban studies.

Pub Date: July 9, 2024

ISBN: 9781685890995

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Melville House

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2024

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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