Books by Jules Archer

Released: Aug. 1, 1998

Archer (A House Divided, 1994, etc.) offers brief biographies of four people he considers "central to the American Environmental Movement" along with succinct coverage of the history of that movement. The lives of John Muir, founder of the National Park System; Rachel Carson, scientist and author of Silent Spring and other titles; Canadian David McTaggert, organizer of Greenpeace; and Dave Foreman, former head of Earth First! are covered in approximately 60 pages each. While the sections on Muir and Carson (a shy, methodical scientist who might be surprised to find herself in the company of such extroverted eccentrics) are pedestrian compared to other available accounts, firsthand interviews with McTaggert and Foreman yielded lively and exciting coverage. That coverage, however, is one-sided as McTaggert recounts his battles to save the animals and the environment from hunters, poachers, and nuclear explosions, and Foreman is linked to spiking trees and sabotaging logging equipment while hotly denying accusations of conspiracy to cut the power lines to the Central Arizona Power plant. Archer relies on such reports, leaving readers to search elsewhere for more balanced information. The title is already dated with references to Love Canal as largely a ghost town, and the last threat of nuclear explosion ending with France in 1995. For those doing research, the volume has a good bibliography but is limited by vague sourcing: "Also consulted were PBS TV documentaries, and articles in and news from: ACLU; Alternatives; American Forests; American Historical Review . . ."—a list that includes House Beautiful, Utne Reader, and 75 others. (b&w photos, index, not seen) (Nonfiction. 10-12) Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 1994

Writing a joint biography of the two outstanding commanders of the Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee, is of course attractive. Southern gentleman Lee and drunken maverick Grant were such contrasting characters that examining their lives side by side can only amaze the Civil War novice. The only potential difficulty is in arranging the story so that it functions as a complete narrative—a tricky feat considering that Lee's and Grant's lives only intersected briefly in 1846, during the Mexican War, before they clashed decisively on the battlefield in 1864. But Archer (Rage in the Streets, p. 626, etc.) pulls off a comprehensive history of these two men, while at the same time presenting a clear account of the Civil War. He follows Lee, from his poor but aristocratic upbringing and spectacular West Point years through his fine military career, simultaneously tracking Grant's vastly different childhood, his near failure at West Point, and his forced resignation from the army after the Mexican War as the result of alcoholism. Throughout his life, Lee distinguished himself as a man of honor, a gentleman, and a scholar, while Grant failed in everything he attempted except warfare. At Appomattox, however, Lee surrendered his army to his scruffy little opponent. Grant had won. A superb story well told. (Bibliography; index) (Nonfiction. 8-12) Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1994

Classifing types of ``whens'' (``When Court Decisions Trigger Violence''; ``When Americans Fear Losing Their Daily Bread''; etc.), Archer (The Incredible Sixties, 1986) takes a historical approach. Each mini-section (Rodney King, the Palmer Raid, the Boston Tea Party) is presented as a tightly constructed newspaper report; chapters are tied together by brief summaries. An introduction gives insight into the psychology of mob behavior as incited by failure to achieve goals peacefully, the anonymity of the occasion, and/or arousal (e.g., post-football rioting) that permits out-of-control actions abnormal to individuals involved. The nature of various sparks to violence—religious, governmental, prejudicial—suggests that we Americans (and perhaps all humans) can be a miserable lot. Archer dedicates the book to his granddaughters, who might, if we're lucky, benefit from the remedies he proposes. Best for report writers. Illustrations not seen. Bibliography; index. (Nonfiction. 12+) Read full book review >
THEY HAD A DREAM by Jules Archer
Released: Aug. 1, 1993

Subtitled The Civil Rights Struggle from Frederick Douglass to Marcus Garvey to Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X: engagingly written biographies of four civil rights leaders, mentioning the mistakes and weaknesses—as well as the strong moral sense, high purpose, and outstanding courage—of each. Archer also places each firmly in his historical context, including numerous details and incidents that vividly evoke the social climate—a prominent white abolitionist can't bring himself to walk side by side in public with Frederick Douglass; conflicts between Marcus Garvey and W.E.B. DuBois over Garvey's flashy posturing; or class differences among supporters of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. Archer's carefully balanced approach extends to a long concluding chapter on ``The Black Struggle Today and Tomorrow,'' discussing political events since King's death, new forms of racism, and last year's Rodney King case. An excellent resource. Bibliography, including interviews with well-known civil rights activists. Index not seen. (Biography. 10+) Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 1991

The influences on American feminists—from Lysistrata to abolitionism, as well as the personal impact of parental strengths and—enhance this multiple biography. Archer involves readers in the drama: Anthony in a court case, Sanger attending a woman injured in a self-induced abortion, Friedan planning a march to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 19th Amendment despite Mayor Lindsay's ban. Each personal history includes sources for the woman's ideas (e.g., Sanger developing the idea of widespread clinics after studying clinics in the Netherlands) and dramatizes the difficulties in establishing precedents for what are now norms (in her fight to make dispensing birth-control information legal, Sanger served eight prison terms). Each section also portrays its subject's larger circle: Stanton and Mott; Debs, Goldman, Darrow; Steinem. Anthony said, ``I love to make history but hate to write it.'' Archer gives the history an exciting flourish; thanks to his protagonists, his audience will come to it better prepared than any of theirs. Bibliography. (Nonfiction. 10+) Read full book review >