Ancient Egypt, Chinese Aspirations, & More | History Previews, Mar. 2017, Pt. 3

Ellsberg, Daniel. The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner. Bloomsbury. Mar. 2017. 384p. ISBN 9781608196708. $30. POLITICAL SCIENCE
In 1961, when Ellsberg served as a consultant to the Department of Defense and the White House, he helped draft Secretary Robert McNamara’s plans for nuclear war. Then he leaked the Pentagon Papers, and the rest is history. Along with those papers, Ellsberg took documents concerning the America’s nuclear program in the 1960s, the foundation for our current policies. He is releasing frenchthem now owing to concern about nuclear threat and the direction of U.S. nuclear policy today. Watch this one.

French, Howard W. Everything Under the Heavens: How the Past Helps Shape China’s Push for Global Power. Knopf. Mar. 2017. 352p. ISBN 9780385353328. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385353335. Downloadable: Random Audio. HISTORY
A former New York Times Asia correspondent and the author of China’s Second Continent, short-listed for the Economist business book of the year, French frames China’s push to become a regional and global power in historical terms. After all, China’s mighty imperial past looms large, and as it builds its navy and starts making territorial claims, it seems to be looking for the same kind of future. With a 30,000-copy first printing and a five-city tour to Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC, plus multiple media appearances.

Miller, Scott. Agent 110: An American Spymaster and the German Resistance in WWII. S. & S. Mar. 2017. 384p. ISBN 9781451693386. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781451693409. HISTORY
During World War II, Agent 110—that is, Allen Dulles—was tasked with helping members of the German resistance plotting to assassinate Hitler and negotiate surrender. But they wanted assurances Dulles couldn’t deliver that Germany would be treated humanely at war’s end. Meanwhile, the Soviets were positioning themselves for a postwar power grab in eastern Europe. Miller, a former millerscottcorrespondent for the Wall Street Journal, tells a real-life (and historically significant) cloak-and-dagger story.

Nichols, David A. Ike and McCarthy: Dwight Eisenhower’s Secret Campaign Against Joseph McCarthy. S. & S. Mar. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9781451686609. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781451686623.HISTORY
President Dwight Eisenhower thoroughly disliked inflammatory senator Joseph McCarthy, but as has often been commented, he never confronted McCarthy directly. Instead, argues Eisenhower expert Nichols (e.g., Eisenhower 1956), he used surrogates to conduct a clandestine campaign aimed at discrediting McCarthy, even spilling personal information about McCarthy’s aides. With information drawn from previously unavailable or underused resources.

Romer, John. A History of Ancient Egypt. Vol. 2. From the Great Pyramid to the Fall of the Middle Kingdom. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. Mar. 2017. 512p. ISBN 9781250030139. $29.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466849594. HISTORY
Romer has been working on key archaeological digs throughout Egypt since 1966 and in the late romer1970s served as leader of the Brooklyn Museum expedition to excavate the tomb of Ramesses XI. Obviously, he knows his stuff, as evidenced by the strong reviews for the first of Romer’s two-book study of ancient Egypt. (LJ gave it a star.) Here he profiles Pharaonic culture at its height, when writing first flourished, and argues from his findings that Egypt was not the arena of cruel rulers and constant warfare initially envisioned by archaeologists.

Roper, Lyndal. Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet. Random. Mar. 2017. 592p. ISBN 9780812996197. $40; ebk. ISBN 9780812996203. HISTORY
On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther issued his Ninety Five Theses, which roundly critiqued the practices of the Church at the time. Thus began a revolt that split Western Christianity in two. In time for the 500th anniversary of the event, Roper, the first woman to hold the Regius Chair in history at Oriel College, Oxford, offers a full-scale study of a man who was both revolutionary and reactionary.

Snyder, Christina. Great Crossings: Indians, Settlers, and Slaves in the Age of Jackson. Oxford Univ. Mar. 2017. 408p. ISBN 9780199399062. $29.95. HISTORY
In early 1800s America, white settlers heading west with a dream, Indians determined to hold onto their lands, and individuals of African descent converged on Great Crossings, an experimental community in Kentucky representing an important moment of race mixing and cultural exchange. Eventually, the community would shelter both a school for Indians and a widely known interracial family. Snyder (Slavery in Indian Country), Thomas and Kathryn Miller Associate Professor of tremlettHistory at Indiana University, tells the story.

Tremlett, Giles. Isabella of Castile: Europe’s First Great Queen. Bloomsbury USA. Mar. 2017. 624p. ISBN 9781632865205. $35. BIOGRAPHY
Isabella of Castile’s marriage to Ferdinand of Aragon united two kingdoms, setting the stage for the political unification of Spain; the final reconquest of lands from the Moors, the commencement of the Inquisition, and the sponsorship of Christopher Columbus’s voyage to America all lie at the feet of these two monarchs. And that’s probably all most people know about Isabella. Tremlett, Madrid correspondent for the Economist and author most recently of Catherine of Aragon, offers a bigger picture.

Tucker, Holly. City of Light, City of Poison: Murder, Magic, and the First Police Chief of Paris. Norton. Mar. 2017. 352p. ISBN 9780393239782. $26.95. HISTORY
In the late 1600s, with the particularly heinous deaths of two magistrates, Louis XIV directs Nicolas de La Reynie to bring law and order to Paris. Soon La Reynie is shocked to discover that there’s a nasty network of witches, poisoners, and priests whose fearsome power extends all the way to Versailles. It sounds like a juicy historical novel, but actually it’s juicy history, based on court transcripts and other research by Vanderbilt professor Tucker. Conveniently, her teaching areas are French and biomedical ethics and society.

Watson, Paul. Ice Ghosts: The Epic Hunt for the Lost Franklin Expedition. Norton. Mar. 2017. 384p. ISBN 9780393249385. $27.95. HISTORY
Recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Headliner Award, the George Polk Award, and the Robert watsonpaulCapa Gold Medal, Watson can be trusted to deliver a well-researched account of the lost Franklin Expedition of 1845 and the discovery of the flagship’s wreck in 2014. In fact, he was on the icebreaker that led the discovery expedition, so this is truly eyewitness news. The discovery was assisted by Inuit in the area, who have claimed for a century that they knew the ship’s whereabouts and turned out to be right.

Weinberger, Sharon. The Imagineers of War: The Untold Story of DARPA, the Pentagon Agency That Changed the World. Knopf. Mar. 2017. 496p. ISBN 9780385351799. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780385351805. Downloadable: Random Audio. HISTORY
Founded by the Department of Defense in response to the Soviet Union’s 1957 launch of Sputnik, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is tasked with developing new technologies for the military. These technologies have often had a large impact on society as a whole, with the nuclear challenge prompting the development of computer networking and hence the Internet and recent work on self-driving cars. On the other hand, it’s also responsible for Agent Orange. Currently national security editor at the Intercept, longtime journalist Weinberger not only interviewed former DARPA and Pentagon officials but read numerous documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act to write this work. with an 30,000-copy first printing.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.