Erstwhile blogger Caroline Grego presents a grab-bag of the most intriguing history and environmental writing from across the vasts of the Internet each month, according to her subjective and limited perspective.
The Case for Reparations: A Narrative Bibliography by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Okay, so this one is cheating a bit. This is a four-part series written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, who is, for my money, the greatest essayist now writing. It was published at the end of June. However, because Coates is at Middlebury College’s (shout-out to my alma mater!) French Language School for the summer, to which he has sworn a vow to write, speak, and read only French, I argue that his June essays are intended to last us the summer. Coates’ narrative bibliography for his massive story, “The Case for Reparations,” exemplifies the hybrid, flexible nature of his scholarship. The bibliography decidedly betrays his roots as a history major at Howard University: great classics, contemporary works, carefully crafted magazine stories, books intended to pique, all appear in his bibliography. Each part has a theme, on which Coates expounds before providing the book list: race and racism; slavery; urban histories and segregation policy; and…well, Part Four has apparently been abandoned for the bucolic hills of Vermont and Middlebury’s strict language pledge. In any case, this series is immensely useful for any scholar looking for some reading on the oft intersecting topics of race, the development of cities, and governance in 19th and 20th century United States.
Lake Mead Drops to Record Low as Western Drought Deepens, by Brett Walton
What are the mechanics and logistics of damming and using water from the Colorado River? What is the significance of the latest drought? How do the actions of consumers, farmers, and government policies impact the drought? Brett Walton of Circle of Blue explains.
The Unknown History of Latino Lynchings, by Maximo Anguiano
I came to this piece as a link through the Lawyers, Guns, and Money blog, which I follow mostly for the commentary of Erik Loomis, an environmental historian now teaching at the University of Rhode Island. This is a grim review by scholar Maximo Anguiano of a Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review article, “Law of the Noose: A History of Latino Lynching” by Richard Delgado. Delgado discusses the recent scholarship of the lynchings of Latinos in the southwestern United States from 1846 to 1925. Covered only by Spanish-language newspapers and perpetrated or condoned by local Anglo officials (the Texas Rangers among them), these lynchings were routinely condemned by the Mexican government to U.S. counsel in Mexico, concerned for their descendants across the border, but such pleas went unheard. This article is significant because Delgado illuminates how bureaucrats, law enforcement officials, and Anglo journalists were able to silence accounts of these lynchings for years. And yet, accounts of these lynchings were easy to find on the pages of Spanish-language newspapers. How do we find and build our histories? Delgado’s research suggests the importance of language-learning to historians.
How Coffee Fueled the Civil War by Jon Grinspan
Over at the New York Times’ Opinionator, Grinspan delves into soldiers’ consumption of coffee during the Civil War. Though the bean was plentiful north of the Mason-Dixon line, northern soldiers often had to—and did—make theirs with dirty water. Confederate soldiers were forced to be even more resourceful because Union blockades prevented shipments of coffee into the southern states: they roasted and ground up sweet potatoes, corn, rye, chicory, or beets to create a simulacrum brew to fortify and strengthen their spirits. Union and Confederate alike drank their coffee in huge amounts—one of the few comforts in wartime.
How to Talk to Babies about Marxist Theory, by Mallory Ortberg
This isn’t historical scholarship. This is just funny and has something of a history bent to it.