George F. Kennan: Biography of a Bureaucrat

Review of George F. Kennan:  An American Life, by John Lewis GaddisMagisterial, thousand-page, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographies are usually reserved for presidents, emperors, generals, and saints.  With John Lewis Gaddis’ definitive  George F. Kennan:  An American Life, the epic treatment is given to a 20th Century American bureaucrat.  Who was George Kennan, and why does he deserve an exhaustive work by a renowned historian?Kennan was the intellectual father of “containment,” the strat … [Read more...]

Gilead and the Calvinist Desire for Christ

Review of Gilead by Marilynne RobinsonBy JUSTIN HAWKINSMarilynne Robinson’s authorship of Gilead is the most convincing argument for reincarnation that has ever entered my mind.  That is not because the book is in any way about Eastern religion; it is not.  Rather, it is entirely from the perspective of an Iowan pastor in his seventies.  But Robinson makes his perspective so rich, so full of Christian joy and pathos – in sum, so very real – that one is sure she must have been just such a … [Read more...]

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Anti-Christian Screed (The Swerve)

Review of The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen GreenblattBy PAUL D. MILLEROn one level, The Swerve is the biography of a minor figure in Renaissance Florence (Poggio Bracciolini) and an entertaining story of how he recovered a lost work of Roman poetry (Lucretius’ On the Nature of Things). This part of The Swerve is well-written and --researched and surprisingly gripping. I especially enjoyed the descriptions of the technology of reading—papyrus versus vellum, scroll versus … [Read more...]

A Panegyric for Keynes

Review of Lords of Finance by Liaquat AhamedBy PAUL D. MILLERIt seems an odd time to write a history book in praise of John Maynard Keynes.  We live in an economic world largely shaped, for the last seventy years, by his ideas.  It isn’t doing too well at the moment.Nonetheless, that is what Liaquat Ahamed has done with Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World.  The book, which won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in History, traces the economic history of the developed world from jus … [Read more...]

What Lincoln Can Teach the Tea Party

Review of The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery by Eric FonerBy PAUL D. MILLERAbraham Lincoln was a racist who believed Africans were intellectually inferior to whites and should not have equal political rights with their racial superiors. He opposed immediate abolition and favored only gradual emancipation, coupled with compensation for slave owners deprived of their property, and followed by the deportation of ex-slaves back to Africa, or colonized in South America. His … [Read more...]