June 25, 2007 I. Books for Thought and Discussion



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Two-Dozen Recent, Good Books for Civic Educators

Selected and Annotated by Margaret S. Branson

June 25, 2007




I. Books for Thought and Discussion

Bell, Madison Smartt, Toussaint Louverture (New York: Pantheon Books, 2007)

Good to read as a follow-on to Bury the Chains. This biography is at times labored. It is, however, the first biography about Toussaint to appear in English in more than 50 years. It is a balanced portrait showing Toussaint as a slave then as a slaveholder. Paradoxically, he was a supporter of the King of France even as the French Revolution promised an end to slavery. Even so, 19th century abolitionists burnished his image and enshrined him in legend. Provides insight into Haiti’s turbulent, impoverished present.
Gould, Lewis L. The Most Exclusive Club: A History of the Modern United States Senate (New York: Basic Books, 2005)

An engaging history of the U.S. Senate in the 20th century. Chapters on LaFollette, McCarthy, Johnson, and Mansfield are especially good.


Broadwater, Jeff, George Mason: Forgotten Founder (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006)

A sympathetic portrait of a founder “underappreciated.” Nonetheless “the heroic Mason ought not be overdone.” A balanced, thoughtful portrait.

Greenburg, Jan Crawford, Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the U.S. Supreme Court (New York: Penguin Books, 2007)

An “inside” look at the Court, how nominees are chosen, and its current occupants. Written by a reporter, it’s interesting, but lacks depth of analysis. A popular read but not very thought-provoking.

Hochscheld, Adam, Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005)

The author of King Leopold’s Ghost has written another vivid, well-researched history. It was used as the basis for the film, Amazing Grace. Not to be missed.


Macmillan, Margaret, Nixon and Mao: The Week That Changed the World (New York: Random House, 2007)

Macmillan is author of the best selling Paris 1919. Great for insight into workings of the minds of Mao, Chou En-lai, Nixon, and Kissinger. Good review of U.S. China relations. Very readable.


Mann, Thomas E., and Ornstein, Norman J., The Broken Branch: How Congress is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006)

Two veteran “Congress Watchers” lament institutional decline. Early chapters on theory and practice are the best.


May, Larry, Crimes Against Humanity: A Normative Account (Cambridge, U.K. Cambridge University Press, 2005, paperback)

A study in philosophy and law. For teacher reading/reference. Includes: principles of international criminal law, prosecuting international crimes, the International rule of law, reconciliation and amnesty programs. See Xerox copy of pp 202-204 on concept of rule of law.

Norris, Pippa and Inglehart, Ronald, Sacred and Secular: Religion and Politics Worldwide (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004)

Drawing on evidence from accumulated World Values Survey data sets, these two leading political scientists provide rich fare. A rich, controversial, insightful look at gender politics, political culture, political change, and modernization. Good comparative analysis of public opinion and political participation.

Philbrick, Nathaniel, Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War (New York: Viking, 2006)

Winner of the National Book Award. A moving account of a dreadful voyage and the crucial half-century from 1620-1676. Brings to life both legendary characters such as William Bradford, Miles Standish, Massasoit, Squanto, and King Phillip, but also “ordinary” people. An unforgettable account of people facing great challenges–immigration, exile, and invasion.


Remini, Robert V., The House: The History of the House of Representatives (New York: Smithsonian Books in association with Harper Collins, 2006)

Winner of the National Book Award. A splendid, readable account of more than two centuries of dramatic experience of the House. Useful appendix on how today’s House is organized/operates.


Rosen, Jeffrey, The Supreme Court: The Personalities and Rivalries That Defined America (New York: Henry Holt, 2000)

He compares John Marshall and Thomas Jefferson; John Marshall and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.; Hugo Black and William O. Douglas; William Rehnquist and Antonin Scalia. He discusses the question and role of temperament. Interesting, easy to read, and informative. Used as basis for the televised program.


Rusesabagina, Paul, An Ordinary Man

The autobiography of the hotel manager who inspired the film, Hotel Rwanda. It is reminiscent of Thomas Keneally’s, Schindler’s List, and Nelson Mandela’s, Long Walk to Freedom. A powerful, moving book that helps one understand how and why genocide can happen.

Sen, Amartya, Identity and Violence (New York: W.W. Norton, 2006)

In the Issues of Our Times series, Nobel Prize winner, Sen writes of one of the explosive conundrums of today: identity and its dangers. Now in paperback–not to be missed.

Schooling Islam: The Culture and Politics of Modern Muslim Education (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2007, paperback) Robert W. Hefner and Muhammad Quasim Zamon, eds.

Includes chapters on Madrasas, Islam, and education in secular Turkey, Mali, India, Indonesia, and Britain.


Short, Philip, Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare (New York: Henry Holt, 2004)

A well-researched narrative that helps the reader understand how and why nearly two million people lost their lives in the years 1975-79 that Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge led “Democratic Kampuchea” (Cambodia.)


Tiger, Caroline, General Howe’s Dog: George Washington, the Battle of Germantown and the Dog Who Crossed Enemy Lines (New York: Chamberlain Books, 2005)

A “just for fun” book. Light, frothy–one animal lovers will enjoy.


Unger, Harlow Giles, John Hancock: Merchant King and American Patriot (New Jersey, Castle Books, 2005)

Story well told of how a poor, fatherless boy became a merchant king and how a Tory patrician became one of the staunchest supporters of the American Revolution.


Wood, Gordon S., Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different (New York: Penguin Press, 2006)

Pulitzer Prize winner. This is Wood’s second Pulitzer. The first was the still useful, incomparable, Radicalism of the American Revolution. A delight to read–fresh, insightful. See especially epilogue, “The Founders and the Creation of Modern Public Opinion.”

Young-Bruehl, Elisabeth, Why Arendt Matters (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006)

A short, thoughtful, provocative book written by one of Arendt’s students to commemorate the centenary of the great philosopher and political theorist’s birth. This is a book to be re-read and mulled over. It considers Arendt’s ideas in the perspective of the contemporary world.


II. Books on Search for Justice

Alexander, James, A Brief Narrative of the Case and Trial of John Peter Zenger, Stanley Nider Katz, ed., 2nd ed. (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1972)

This volume contains the full text of the trial of Zenger for seditious libel as well as the newspaper articles which were deemed seditious. A rich primary source.
Dershowitz, Alan M., America on Trial: Inside the Legal Battles That Transformed Our Nation (New York: Warner Books, 2004)

Good, short presentations of history-making trials by one of the United States’ leading lawyers. From trials in colonial America to Bush v. Gore and Guantanamo cases.


Fehrenbacher, Don E., The Dred Scott Case: Its Significance in American Law and Politics (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978, now available in paperback.)

Winner of Pulitzer Prize in history, it remains one of the best histories of a landmark constitutional case ever written. Very readable, very interesting.


Great World Trials: The 100 Most Significant Courtroom Battles of All Time, Edward W. Knappman, ed. (Detroit: Visible Ink, 1997, paperback)

Brief statements of context, issues, persona, and significance of trails from ancient history to 1996. Adaptable for role-playing.

Jordan, David P., The King’s Trial: Louis XVI vs. the French Revolution (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004, paperback)

A marvelous account of the most significant trial in French history. An engrossing, readable introduction to the vast subject of the French Revolution. Provides a springboard for discussion of procedural justice, law, and justice and its miscarriage.

Lewis, Jayne E., The Trial of Mary, Queen of Scots: A Brief History with Documents (Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 1999, paperback)

In the fine Bedford Series on History and Culture. Puts trial in context. Includes record of the State Trial and Elizabeth I’s speeches to Parliament. Accessible for high school students.


Robertson, Geoffrey, The Tyrannicide Brief: The Story of the Man Who Sent Charles I to the Scaffold (New York: Pantheon Books, 2005)

Written by a human rights lawyer, this is the previously untold story of John Cooke, a champion of the poor and a law reformer, who dared to prosecute a king who claimed to be above the law—and the personal price he paid for it. A splendid portrayal of England’s Civil War years—and an unforgettable story.


Scharf, Michael P. and Schabas, William A., Slobodan Milosevic on Trial: A Companion (New York: Continuum, 2002)

Written to be used while Milosevic was still alive, the book remains useful. It is short, readable, and a succinct introduction to Nuremberg, The Hague, and the International Criminal Court. Good glossary of key legal terms.


The Trial of Joan of Arc, Translated and introduced by Daniel Hobbens (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005)

A new translation based on the full record of the trial proceedings in Latin. The trial is set in its legal and historical context. A fine scholar has brought 15th century society and Joan of Arc to life.

Wise, Steven M., Though the Heavens May Fall: The Landmark Trial That Led to the End of Human Slavery (New York: DeCapo Press, 2006, paperback)

The case of James Somerset, an escaped slave which led to the abolition movement in England.


III. Books for Reference

Armitage, David, The Declaration of Independence: A Global History (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007)

A short, well-written work that looks at the Declaration in global perspective. Contains Declarations of Independence from Haiti (1804) to Liberia, Czechoslovakia, Vietnam, and Southern Rhodesia. Fine, new scholarship. Opening, lengthy essay is excellent, insightful.
A Documentary History of Human Rights: A Record of the Events, Documents, and Speeches That Shaped Our World, Jon E. Lewis, ed. (New York: Carroll and Graf, 2003, paperback)

A superb collection. Well-chosen documents ranging from Hammurabi’s Code to Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.


Glenn, H. Patrick, Legal Traditions of the World, 2nd Edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004)

The 1st edition was awarded the Grand Prize of the International Academy of Comparative Law. This 2nd edition has been enlarged and expanded. Deals with Talmudic, Islamic, Hindu, and Asian legal traditions, as well as Common and Civil Law traditions. Written primarily for lawyers and law students, it is a useful reference for teachers.

Institutions of American Democracy Series (Oxford University Press, 2005)

A joint project of the Annenberg Foundation Trust and the Annenberg Public Policy Center—Includes: the Judicial Branch, the Legislative Branch, the Executive Branch, the Press, and the Public Schools. Invaluable. Belongs in every high school library and for student and teacher reference. Five volumes also available in paperback.

Ishay, Micheline R., The History of Human Rights: From Ancient Times to the Globalization Era (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004)

A well-written history of the idea or ideas of human rights from early ethical contributions to the 21st century. Should be in every high school library.


Maddex, Robert L., Constitutions of the World, 3rd ed. (Washington D.C., Congressional Quarterly Press, coming Fall 2007)

Invaluable reference—Constitutions of 100 nations. Includes current revisions and editions. Expensive ($125) but a must for serious students.








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