A solid contribution to the history of technology and commerce, with broad implications for the present.

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EMPIRE OF GUNS

THE VIOLENT MAKING OF THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION

Mr. Owen, meet Mr. Colt: a wide-ranging if overlong history of the role of arms manufacturing in the Industrial Revolution.

The rise of mechanized industry in Britain, writes Satia (History/Stanford Univ.; Spies in Arabia: The Great War and the Cultural Foundations of Britain's Covert Empire in the Middle East, 2009), corresponded to a period of “more or less constant war.” There was always France to fight, of course, but also the rebellious American Colonies and uprisings elsewhere in the empire, and the Dutch and the Spanish. An economy flourished, therefore, in the manufacture and sale of armaments and other military provisions. One of Satia’s perhaps unlikely case studies is Samuel Galton, a nominally good Quaker who managed to reconcile that belief system with making a fortune in weaponry. Then as now, the arms merchants were not especially particular about where their products wound up. As Satia observes, in the 18th century alone, millions of guns sprang forth from workshops and factories in the Midlands and London, winding up in the hands of buyers everywhere in the world; in 1715, “the government discovered that London gunsmiths were making 15,500 guns,” with some 4,000 of them “for Service not Known,” as a contemporary document put it. A century later, and more than 151,000 British guns were bound for India, Indonesia, and China. This early military-industrial complex also valued interchangeability, standardization, and mass production, which would come to define the manufacture of nearly everything else. While standardization was not commonplace until after the Crimean War, it was at a premium well before. After 1815, Satia writes, the gun business faded somewhat as slavery wound down, for the slave trade was bound up part and parcel in armaments. She closes with a sharp look at today’s mass shootings, which she considers “historically specific”—i.e., the product of a time in which guns are used for private grievances more than empire-building.

A solid contribution to the history of technology and commerce, with broad implications for the present.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2186-4

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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