Book reviews

—————————— BOOKS I HAVE READ —————————–

27) DATE: 07/11/2022
TITLE: War is a Racket
AUTHOR: Major General Smedley D. Butler
ISBN: 9780922915866
SUMMARY: “It discusses how business interests commercially benefit, such as war profiteering, from warfare. It points to a variety of examples, mostly from World War I, where industrialists, whose operations were subsidised by public funding, were able to generate substantial profits, making money from mass human suffering. It makes three recommendations to disrupt the war racket.”

REVIEW: Well, that was a very quick read!  It is an extended version of a speech he gave many times.  It comprises a lot of facts and data about the huge profits made by corporations from American wars in the late 1800s to the Great War.  These profits were incredibly huge, paid for by the taxpayer and by the soldiers doing the fighting.  It gives a clear argument how the bankers and financiers and some manufacturers ensure wars happen to massively increase their own wealth.

It should be mandatory reading for teenagers and anyone in the peace sector should make themselves familiar with the arguments and evidence.

The author proposes changes to how society works to prevent such a situation happening again.  Personally, I think he was optimistic and I cannot see those changes happening as proposed.  But it shows that there is a problem in crippled and deranged soldiers being the ones who pay for these profits and things could be done about it.

SiR-Star-Stat: ★★★★★

26) DATE: 20/10/2022
TITLE: When the Clyde Ran Red: A Social History of Red Clydeside
AUTHOR: Maggie Craig
ISBN: 978 178027 506 2
SUMMARY: “This book paints a vivid picture of the days when the people of Clydeside fought for the right to work, the dignity of labour and a fairer society for everyone.  They did so in a Glasgow where overcrowded tenements stood no distance from elegant tea rooms, art galleries, glittering picture palaces and dance halls.  Glasgow was also home to Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the Glasgow Style and magnificent exhibitions showcasing the wonders of the age.  Political idealism and artistic creativity were matched by industrial endeavour: the Clyde built many of the greatest ships that ever sailed, and Glasgow locomotives pulled trains on every continent on earth.  From the bitter strike at the huge Singer Sewing machine plant in Clydebank in 1911, Bloody Friday in Glasgow’s George Square in 1919, the General Strike of 1926 and on through the Spanish Civil War to the Clydebank Blitz of 1941, this is the people’s history of Red Clydeside, told with warmth, verve and humour.”

REVIEW: This is clearly the author’s study notes from researching the history to produce her other fiction novels.  They are arranged by theme and chronologically and turned into not quite a story, more a narrative of what happened.  It is fascinating, engaging, educational, informative, heart-breaking, inspiring, and motivational.  You can’t know where you are going unless you know where you came from, and this book describes the social and living conditions of the 18th and early 19th century, making it clear how far we have come.  In so doing, it shines a light forward into how much further we have to go in removing disparity and abuse of power from society, things we cannot normally see as they are embedded in how society works.  By having a snapshot of an earlier, more grim, time, comparisons are possible and also trajectories of where the activists of the day were trying to take society which are not complete.

For anyone feeling the need to get angry about how things are now and understand why they should be angry and motivated, this book is an excellent starting point.  It also had a couple of sections that gave me ideas for blog posts, which reminded me I am supposed to be writing reviews of the books I read!

SiR-Star-Stat: ★★★★☆

25) DATE: 12/04/2019
TITLE: How to Use Politicians to Get What You Want
AUTHOR: Scott Colvin
PUBLISHED: 2011 by Biteback Publishing Ltd, London
ISBN: 978-1-84954-086-5
SUMMARY: “Politicians can be used to get what you want in a range of situations in everyday life. Scott Colvin has worked out how to use politicians to win a range of personal battles, both as a consumer and in his community, by using MPs and councillors either passively or actively to support his campaigns. Everyone could do the same if only they knew how. This book is an informal ‘how to’ guide to demonstrate how and when to use your national and local politicians to assert your rights as both a consumer and a citizen.”

REVIEW: Absolutely essential reading for anyone wanting to get the law changed.  Extremely useful for anyone wanting to take on big companies and complain successfully.

I was interested because Conscience:Taxes for Peace not War wants to change the law around taxation in the UK; the author was a political lobbyist.  It gives chapters on why lobbying is useful and legitimate, why and how companies and governments have lost touch, some case studies, how to do community campaigning, how to get hold of one’s MP and other politicians and then into the meat: how to lobby and how to run a campaign.

For a normal member of the public with the usual day-to-day contact with government through media stories and once-in-a-few-years election where one’s vote seems to disappear in the noise, it seems there is no way for us to influence politics or politicians.  This book gives the techniques for doing so and shows that with some thought and support, a campaign aiming to achieve a realistic outcome that might attract some publicity, is achievable by us little people.  And it tells us how to do it, what works and what does not.

For the amateur wanting to get a change made, this easy-to-read book will save lots of frustration from wasted effort and instead show whether it is worth progressing and, if it is, how to go about it.  I intend to buy a few copies for the Conscience office.

Utterly essential for the amateur campaigner.

SiR-Star-Stat: ★★★★★

24) DATE: 10/08/2018
TITLE: Unmasking the Crimes of the Powerful:Scrutinizing States and Corporations
EDITORS: Steve Tombs and Dave Whyte
PUBLISHED: 2009 by Peter Lang Publishing Inc., New York
ISBN: 978-0-8204-5691-1
SUMMARY: “Despite the enormous economic, physical and social impacts of crimes committed by states and corporations, they are still relatively under-researched within contemporary social science—partly because of the perpetrator’s ability to evade critical scrutiny. The contributions in this book map out the parameters of a political economy of researching the powerful, marking out the major problems encountered, and identifying ways in which these problems might be overcome or circumnavigated. To this end, the book brings together original essays which reflect upon researching the powerful in Britain, Canada, Finland, Ireland, Spain, Turkey and the United States. Together these chapters advance our understandings of what corporate and state power is, how this power operates, and how it might be more effectively resisted.”

REVIEW: The editors were both authors of some of the content for my most recent Open University module, DD301 Crime and Justice.  This book, although not a set text, underpins much of what was said in the module about power relations and how the criminal justice system does not deliver justice.

This multi-author book discusses and explains the difficulties in researching state and corporate crime, the inability get funding to do so, the ineffectiveness of financial regulation (and how weak it is relative to criminal punishment of individuals for far lesser crimes) and how research into state and corporate crime is suppressed.  Although not easy to read, it is very convincing about how the social harms caused by the powerful are not exposed to the public, nor examined in an academic way.  It goes some way to show how war can be held up as a good thing.

SiR-Star-Stat: ★★★☆☆

23) DATE: 02/07/2017
TITLE: The Command is Forward from The Stars and Stripes
AUTHOR: Sergeant Alexander Woollcott
PUBLISHED: 1919 by Century Co.
ISBN: 1990000206732
SUMMARY: “The most authentic report of American fighting on the Western Front” – I don’t think so!

REVIEW: If you want to see what early 20th century propaganda looked like, this is it. There’s nothing clever or subtle here, it is straightforward fictional accounts of supposed superhuman activities by everyday American troops or officers against cowardly and ineffective German troops (whose main role is to run away). Although a few have accurate details such as name, rank, town of origin and medal issued, most are anonymous stories of anonymous individuals performing acts that are beyond belief. The original stories were written by journalists and amateur writers for the benefit of troops at the front to improve morale and set exemplary standards for behaviour. This anthology is not a historical textbook or archive of accurate accounts.

The Stars and Stripes was a newspaper produced at the front in the Great War by American journalists who were based at the front for reading by the troops at the front. This is collection of the author’s own reports and articles in that paper.

Injuries are minor scratches or instant death, none of this screaming for hours in No Man’s Land from a disembowelling or limbs blown off that other countries’ troops reported. Officers don’t complain when dying, they just delegate authority to the next officer and quietly expire.

It is lots of accounts of how the idealised soldier should behave and fantastic exploits from other parts of the line that you too should be emulating. These remind me of the Voice of America stories of accounts of the Russian and Afghan troops in Afghanistan and how the Russians kept retreating over the same ground for months: individual accounts that sound great that when added together should have meant the front line moved to the Pacific coast.

There were some French and Belgian troops around as well, often joining the Americans because they preferred to fight for them. One can but wonder what they had been mucking about at for three years before the Americans turned up and quickly won the war.

For some of the accounts it is hard not to think “How could the person writing this have known this?” This is most obvious with the account of a stray dog that turns up in different places with different units, but having had the insight that some of the stories are fiction it reveals the same problem with a number of the other accounts.

I find it odd it refers to looting a number of times, emphatically stating that American troops helping themselves to the animals and possessions of the farms around them is perfectly legitimate, right down to the demolition of their homes for building materials. Conversely, the Germans doing so is a most despicable act. Allegedly the French were delighted at being able to assist their American liberators and gave them everything they had, all their food and hoarded wine. Odd their behaviour would be recorded so differently in the Second World War.

There is some allusion to the order for the cease fire at 11:00 on 11/11/18 being hard to distribute through the chain of command, despite many of the stories being of how the communication within the chain was held together very well through immense acts of heroism by runners and signallers. The allusion is to how German troops may not have known about it, rather than to how American General Pershing withheld the order and issuing attack orders that very morning and it being the Americans that were shooting Germans after 11:00, not the other way round.

As an historical artefact it is interesting to see how propaganda improved between 1917 and the 1940s. As a record of events and individuals it is worse than useless since it gives false impressions and fiction as fact.

The Library of Congress has a description of the Stars and Stripes newspaper of this period.

SiR-Star-Stat: ☆☆☆☆☆

22) DATE: 19/06/2017
TITLE: The Adventures of the Fourteen Points Points
AUTHOR: Harry Hansen (1884-1977)
PUBLISHED: October 1919 by The Century Co., New York

REVIEW: An account of an American newspaperman attendee at the peace talks at Versailles at the end of the Great War. It covers every detail of his experience from his arrival to departure and so gives an insight into how the whole operation was run. We discover the accommodation arrangements for the various countries, the many feasts held every day, who stayed in main street hotels and who had to arrive by carriage each day from accommodation in lesser parts of town. The bickering, the back-stabbing and the posturing. The compromising: the good and not good. It is essentially his personal diary with comments on the importance of some of the events going on around him. It concludes with a long section on how America had brought peace to Europe.

It was interesting enough, but I’m not sure what I learned that was of value.

SiR-Star-Stat: ★★☆☆☆

21) DATE: 18/06/2017
TITLE: Western Philosophy: An Anthology, 2nd edition
AUTHOR: edited by John Cottingham
PUBLISHER: Wiley-Blackwell
ISBN: 9781405124782
REVIEW: The set book for the Open University’s Level 2 module A222 Exploring Philosophy. Started it. Been through some of the essays for the module and found them like swimming through wet concrete. I can’t imagine myself returning to this book in any great rush.
SiR-Star-Stat: ☆☆☆☆☆

20) DATE: 11/06/2017
TITLE: The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale
AUTHOR: Joseph Conrad
PUBLISHED: 1907, Methuen & Co
REVIEW: Set in 1880s London, the story of a minor anarchist and spy being manipulated into planting a bomb and the impact on the bomber’s family. I was reading it when the bomb went off in Manchester at a girls’ music concert. It does a good job of explaining how such things could come about with no insanity or religious dogma required.
SiR-Star-Stat: ★★★★☆

19) DATE: 30/05/2017
TITLE: The Diary of a U-boat Commander
AUTHOR: Sir William Stephen Richard King-Hall
SUMMARY: The author is begged to return the diary of a U-Boat commander by another U-Boat captain and he refuses. Instead he keeps it and gets someone to translate it. Revealed is a very unpleasant German. It becomes apparent that the translation was done by the author, adding credibility to the diary and disingenuous modesty to the author.

REVIEW: Described on download sites as an invaluable insight into U-boat crew and military fact. It is actually complete fiction. Propaganda. All made up by the author. Sadly, it says more about the author than it does about U-boat crews or officers. An interesting historic artefact, but that’s all.
SiR-Star-Stat: ★☆☆☆☆

18) DATE: 30/05/2017
TITLE: America and the World War
AUTHOR: Theodore Roosevelt
PUBLISHED: January 1915

REVIEW: Tedious and hard work. A dozen chapters all repeating “pacifists are criminals, ultrapacifists don’t deserve to live, fighting and dying for a cause is the most noble thing there is, America needs to join the war in Europe” and “making war is the only real peace” over and over again. Basically, he saw an opportunity to be the great hero by demanding America joins in the war, contrary to Woodrow Wilson’s view.
SiR-Star-Stat: ★☆☆☆☆

17) DATE: 18/10/2016
TITLE: Dark Continent Europe’s Twentieth Century
AUTHOR: Mazower, Mark.
ISBN: 978-0-140-24159-4
Publication Information: Penguin History, 1999.

Text book for the Open University third level module A327 “Europe 1914-1989: war, peace, modernity“. Comprises 11 chapters plus epilogue for 410 pages of very small text that is too small to read in bed or on a train.

REVIEW: Clearly a self-published work, apparent by the lack of flow and an author-produced index. An editor would have helped hugely, as would a proof-reader and a proper indexer. The existing index is a waste of paper.

It reads as a series of essays, put into chronological order.

It is a very interesting read, and makes it clear that outside Western Europe, democracy is a fragile novelty.

A number of his claims are controversial, and some of these are not backed up with evidence or sources. I wish I had put more time into studying this book. To do this review justice, I would need to go back and re-read it.
SiR-Star-Stat: ★★★★☆

16) DATE: 12/06/2016
TITLE: Western Philosophy: An Anthology, 2nd edition
AUTHOR: edited by John Cottingham
PUBLISHER: Wiley-Blackwell
ISBN: 9781405124782
REVIEW: The set book for the Open University’s Level 2 module A222 Exploring Philosophy. Started it. Been through some of the essays for the module and found them like swimming through wet concrete. I can’t imagine myself returning to this book in any great rush.
SiR-Star-Stat: ☆☆☆☆☆

15) DATE: 16/01/2016
TITLE: Mein Kampf
AUTHOR: Hitler, Adolf
PUBLISHED: The Reynal and Hitchcock translation of 1939.
REVIEW: It starts with a tedious “Woe was me as a child and student” moan. Then we have Hitler on education: “Form your views, then only read stuff which supports them. Never read anything contrary as it dilutes your opinion and causes mental confusion. This is how children should be taught.” That anti-intellectualism explains the ignorance and belief in Nazi ideology by young Germans, who believed such things as Britain started WW2 and the need for de-nazification and democracy training of young people after the war. Then a chapter on how Jews are running politics and the media based on very little data, and far more on focused reading of racist material. His writing on how the German peoples have been divided and undermined could have been said of any number of racial groups in Europe.

His account of the Great War describes Germany as a nation of shy, peaceful folk reluctant being dragged unwillingly into a war because of an unwise alliance with Austria.

War is described as a very good thing and the natural state of affairs for keeping humanity strong by ensuring only the strongest survive. The privations it causes ensures the old and weak die in the winter, also described as a good thing for a society. A bleak social Darwinist view on life.

I’m now about ¾ of the way through and I have spent months slogging through to have already concluded it is the rantings of a bitter, poorly educated, buffoon. His claims do not stack up and there are some quite long sections of incoherent waffle he presents as evidence for his world view. But he also proudly proclaims to ignore anything and everyone who disagrees with him and strongly advises others to behave the same way. I can see why my mother advised me against reading it as a teenager: it is a good book for indoctrination of someone who is themselves limited in life experience or education.

It is interesting how the world view statements Hitler provides could actually be about anything. A few thousand words of how he was hard done to (mostly because of his own attitude) and then finish with “And it is all the fault of the [target group]“. Repeat umpteen times. You could turn it into a book targeting whatever group you want without too much effort. There is nothing of value in all that spiel other than to confirm what we already knew: Hitler was a dangerous nutter. I was so disappointed; I expected there to be a few gems of something exciting or challenging, but no, it’s just random hate rant. A bit like the comments on the Daily Mail web site all published in one book, but with better grammar.

Mein Kampf is just devising and propagating unfounded nonsense to generate united national hatred toward one group as a way to gain power, power which then has to be used to carry out the acts demanded by the hatred. The value in Main Kampf is as a historical artefact (that’s A327 showing through already!) showing how although Fascism is very attractive as an effective way of gaining power, the principal of “absolute power corrupts absolutely” inevitably applies and such a society rots from the core and ultimately creates its own destruction.

But without the context or critical appraisal, Mein Kampf is a dangerous book in that it advocates hate.

To be continued… if I can bring myself to continue with these rantings of an embittered ignoramus.
SiR-Star-Stat: ☆☆☆☆☆

Currently reading it.

14) DATE: 14/06/2015
TITLE: Let the People Sing
AUTHOR: J. B. Priestley
ISBN: 0 7493 2276 4
REVIEW: Indirectly relevant to peace studies in that it was commissioned by the BBC as a propaganda for radio broadcast at the start of WWII in 1939. A barely disguised allusion to European political affairs of the time as Irish Independence, Nazi oppression, Czech dissidents, social upheaval and fighting for justice and fair play for the people are all right on the surface of this story. It has untied loose ends and some implausible behaviour to make the plot move along, but it is a jolly good laugh.
SiR-Star-Stat: ★★★★☆

13) DATE: 03/04/2015
Metamorphosis by Ovid, translated by Ted Hughes. ISBN 34143000799294.
Was a jolly good read if you don’t mind hard poetry but have an interest in Greek mythology or the origins of some of our cultural references.

12) DATE: 13/03/2015
TITLE: Lord of the Flies
AUTHOR: William Golding
PUBLISHED: Faber and Faber, 1954
ISBN: 978-0-571-27357-7
REVIEW: Well, I can see why this was hated at school when it was compulsory reading for O Level for the year above me. 14 to 16 year-old boys do not tend to enjoy reading books that go straight into describing other boys’ naked bodies, stroking one another or naked wrestling. What was going through the minds of the middle-aged men who were prescribing this homoerotic soft porn about juvenile boys (which is the only way to describe the first chapter)? The later references to pushing things up bottoms does nothing in their – nor the author’s – defence.

Beside the dodgy sexuality, it is nonsense, written by someone with no recollection of what it was like to be a boy. A group of public / grammar school boys who between them cannot light a fire? Give over. Lads who think the cabin of an aircraft is called a ‘tube’? More likely they would have known, between them, the thrust capacity of its engines, its flight ceiling, fuel consumption, maximum speed and all manner of other trivia. Certainly within ten minutes of take-off because they would have found out. Then igniting a fire using a spectacle lens just before sun-down? Written by someone who has never lit a fire this way. It is as if the author set out to write an anti-Boys Own Adventure book.

There is a contrived circumstance for missing a rescue that was plainly obvious was going to happen 70 pages earlier. This is one a series of ridiculously unlikely events, the likelihood of the parachutist was not even farcical; there is suspending belief then there is being pathetic. Most of these are telegraphed, as if he had a quota of one per chapter. Whereas a well-told story reveals itself, this one is laid bare at the start and then unravels.

It is a novella, but would have been better as a short story given how little actually happens. It was as if it was made to go straight to DVD. The ending is like that of a newspaper weekend columnist: it suddenly ends as if he has either met the publisher’s deadline or reached his 60,000 word quota and could just stop. He may as well have said “Then they kissed and made up and lived happily ever after. The end.”

It is supposed to be some form of post-war social commentary. This book is actually rubbish. It is like an author’s first attempt at writing a story, the one the author looks back on in embarrassment. How on earth did it ever get published?

I now empathise with all those poor souls subjected to this rubbish as teenagers. I wonder how many were put off reading for life.

SiR-Star-Stat: ☆☆☆☆☆

11) DATE: 26/10/2014
TITLE: Wounded From Battlefield to Blighty, 1914 to 1918
AUTHOR: Emily Mayhew
PUBLISHED: Charnwood, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4448-2057-7
REVIEW: Thirteen people’s accounts describing the journey of wounded soldiers from the front to hospitals in Britain. Written from the viewpoint of the people involved, with quotes from their own biographies and letters, it is a detailed insight into just how bloody bad it all was, especially at the start when there was no provision for dealing with the injured. I thought the horror of leaving injured men to die alone of shock, blood loss or exposure on the battlefield was a medieval practice, not a 20th century one. But the book also describe how paramedics and medical professionals eventually started arriving and transformed the created a service for retrieval, assessment, first aid, care, transport and so on. Reading about Marie Curie’s contribution was an unexpected bonus. Horrific and fascinating.
SiR-Star-Stat: ★★★★★

10) DATE: 28/09/2014
TITLE: Cheshire Bantams
AUTHOR: Stephen McGreal
PUBLISHED: Pen & Sword, 2006
ISBN: 9781844153879
REVIEW: An account of the recruitment and use of men of short stature in the Great War who were put into dedicated units called the Bantam Battalions. By focussing on the Cheshire Bantam Battalions in particular and giving an account of their front-line contribution to the war, this is a fascinating account of what happened to those who signed up.

It gives the history of the Battalions – but not like a typical regimental history spanning a century or more as these men did not live long enough for their units to survive the war. It is an honest and accurate tribute to these men, researched from a number of sources, giving accounts of the medals earned and their actions in earning them.

It does not glorify war, but does show how ordinary men were made into heroes by circumstance. It also functions as a very good history of the Northern end of the Western Front and how it switched between stale-mate and the desperate periods of assault or defence. By not being concentrated on either, one can really see how lives were lived and how the time was spent.

The author—effectively a talented amateur at writing—has done a very good piece of work here. It was a fascinating, enjoyable, informative and quite intimate read. Not a dry work written by an academic or an excitable one written by a journalist but human stories presented in a digestible way.

This should be of particular interest to anyone from Birkenhead who wants to know what the Great War was really like. And if you ever doubted whether picking a fight with a small man was unwise: oh yes, oh so very yes!

SiR-Star-Stat: ★★★★☆

9) DATE: 05/09/2014
TITLE: We will not fight : the untold story of the World War One’s conscientious objectors
AUTHOR: Ellsworth-Jones, Will
PUBLISHED: Aurum, 2008
ISBN: 9781845134037
REVIEW: A fascinating read which I could not put down. This book concentrates on the 35 men who were totally opposed to killing and did not just refuse to fight but who refused to support the war effort in any way at all. It does so by following one individual in particular who had three brothers who supported or were active the Great War. Through his treatment by the army—actions withheld from the government—to court martial, it is surprising and shocking. It also covers what happened to other conscientious objectors of various sorts, including their treatment in civvy street and how many of them actually served in the Great War. It summarises the legacy of the courage—yes, courage—of the British conscientious objectors in conflicts and laws today. Spoiler alert: do not look at the photos in the middle of the book until you have finished reading it.
SiR-Star-Stat: ★★★★★

8) DATE: 05/09/2014
TITLE: SOE agent : Churchill’s secret warriors
AUTHOR: Crowdy, Terry
PUBLISHED: Osprey, 2008
SERIES: Warrior; 133
ISBN: 9781846032769
REVIEW: A fascinating description of the recruitment, training, operations and inevitable outcomes of the incredibly brave individuals who worked behind axis lines during WWII—the Special Operations Executive. The selection of ‘volunteers’ for this most sensitive of tasks and the somewhat unconventional combat training were as expected, but the primitive encryption methods were not. There are stories of particular agents including the humorous as well as the brave and highly effective. However, the story of the Dutch operatives was harrowing and the life expectancy of radio operators was shocking. Equipment, techniques, particular operations are covered. Done in the style of the popular adolescent’s books on regiments, this is an easily digested pictorial book with lots of interesting detail.
SiR-Star-Stat: ★★★★☆

7) DATE: 05/09/2014
TITLE: The art of war
PUBLISHED: Constable, 2012
ISBN: 9781780330013
REVIEW: Essentially, how to win a continental land war in feudal times. Relevant today? Only as a basic introduction to how war is waged on a large scale. This book also gives historical context and analysis and an insight into the woes of a translator. Modernised versions of the same work which tell you how to apply it to life or business are less accurate but easier to read and apply.
SiR-Star-Stat: ★★☆☆☆

6) DATE: 05/09/2014
TITLE: Chamberlain and the Lost Peace
AUTHOR: Charmley, John
ISBN: 0-340-50853-1
REVIEW: The author wrote it to make a statement about Chamberlain as a peacemaker and did so. It details Chamberlain’s ongoing battle to maintain a Europe-wide peace in minute detail. Tedious at times, but does make the point. I now understand Chamberlain was neither a coward, nor a fool, nor a nazi-sympathiser. He was simultaneously genuinely trying to avoid a major war, keep the government together, appease the French and buy time for armaments production to be stepped up. The man actually increased our chances of winning WWII by putting off the start.
SiR-Star-Stat: ★★★☆☆

5) DATE: 22/06/2014
TITLE: The Versailles settlement : Peacemaking in Paris, 1919.
AUTHOR: Sharp, Alan.
PUBLISHED: Macmillan Press Ltd, 1991.
SERIES: The Making of the Twentieth Century
ISBN: 9780333421406
REVIEW: Describes the desires and intents of the peacemakers at the end of The Great War. How politicians are forced down particular routes in negotiation and how lesser players are treated. Time started running short, the electorates started getting bored and it was a bit rushed at the end. However, it was an immense, and an immensely visionary, undertaking and a huge amount of work was done toward global peace. I found it fairly heavy going at times, but couldn’t put it down.
SiR-Star-Stat: ★★★★☆

4) DATE: 22/06/2014
TITLE: Peacemakers : the Paris conference of 1919 and its attempt to end war.
AUTHOR: MacMillan, Margaret
PUBLISHED: John Murray, 2002.
ISBN: 9780719562334
REVIEW: A spectacularly tedious plod through God-knows-what. Seriously boring.
SiR-Star-Stat: ★☆☆☆☆

3) DATE: 22/06/2014
TITLE: Peace work
AUTHOR: Milligan, Spike, 1918-2002
ISBN: 9780140149708
REVIEW: Straight after WWII, Spike Milligan shags his way across Europe blowing his trumpet while waiting for his big break at the BBC. Meh. Not his best, by far.
SiR-Star-Stat: ★☆☆☆☆

2) DATE: 22/06/2014
TITLE: 365 ways to change the world : how to make the world a better place every day.
AUTHOR: Norton, Michael.
PUBLISHED: HarperPerennial, 2006.
ISBN: 9780007242306
REVIEW: A very motivating book for anyone considering changing the world for the better. Packed with ideas and suggestions. Essential, novel, exciting.
SiR-Star-Stat: ★★★★★

1) DATE: 22/06/2014
TITLE: Peace poems and meditations on peace
AUTHOR: Kalu, Peter.
ISBN: 9780946745432
REVIEW: An hour or two’s reading that had the potential to be very enjoyable. Littered with peace-related quotes, it is an anthology of poems, many about peace but, unfortunately, some describing the horrors of violence. I wish the latter had been omitted as they spoiled this book for me; they negated the intended aim of bringing on a feeling of peace. Like finding a fish’s eyeball in a fruit yoghurt. At the end, each of the contributors had a paragraph to write something about themselves or their work. The content of that section would have been better put with the works themselves.
SiR-Star-Stat: ☆☆☆☆☆

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nn) DATE: dd/mm/yyyy
TITLE: Underground Humour in Nazi Germany 1933-1945
AUTHOR: F. K. M. Hillenbrand
PUBLISHED: 1995 by Routledge, London
ISBN: 0-415-09785-1
SUMMARY: “Not all Germans living under Hitler succumbed passively to the rhetoric and horror of the Nazi regime. Covert popular opposition in the form of humorous resistance was wider spread than is commonly thought. Embracing jokes, stories and 60 cartoons, this is the only collection in English of underground anti-Nazi humour. It is, as such, an invaluable contribution to the social history of the twentieth century.”

REVIEW: This is surprisingly amusing. It is also an excellent example of how to make a dog’s breakfast of endnotes.

SiR-Star-Stat: ☆★★★★

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TITLE: Pens for peace
AUTHOR: Flannery, Noel.
PUBLISHED: Irish Peace Institute, 2001.
ISBN: 9781874653646
Review: ?
SiR-Star-Stat: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

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Title: History of Western philosophy.
Author: Russell, Bertrand.
ISBN: 9780415325059
Summary: First published in 1946, History of Western Philosophy went on to become the best-selling philosophy book of the twentieth century. A dazzlingly ambitious project, it remains unchallenged to this day as the ultimate introduction to Western philosophy. Providing a sophisticated overview of the ideas that have perplexed people from time immemorial,nbsp;it is ‘long on wit, intelligence and curmudgeonly scepticism’, as the New York Times noted, and it is this, coupled with the sheer brilliance of its scholarship, that has made Russell’s History of Western Philosophy one of the most important philosophical works of all time.

SiR-Star-Stat: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

Started reading it.  Bit of a slog.

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Title: War, peace and social change in twentieth-century Europe
Author: Emsley, Clive.
Series: War, Peace and Social Change – Europe 1900-1955
ISBN: 9780335092901
Publication Information: Open University Press, 1989.

Text book for the (now finished) Open University third level course “xxx”. Comprises “nnn” essays on a variety of subjects.

SiR-Star-Stat: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

Started reading it.

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TITLE: Preparing for Peace
AUTHOR: various
ISBN: none on my copy but apparently 0-9550527-0-X
PUBLISHER: Westmorland General Meeting
SUMMARY: A simple idea: to pose a set of questions to experts on whether war works in today’s world. This was how Preparing for Peace started in 2000 among Quakers in Cumbria & Lancashire. From these diverse perspectives there emerges a disturbingly coherent picture of a human species placing itself in jeopardy. The primary agent of this jeopardy is war, and the usurper of the resources which might address its causes is war. The editors of PfP conclude that war is a redundant and obsolete institution and should be discarded. The twenty-first century offers a range of effective methods for transforming conflict and conducting peaceful international relationships. The book summarises the arguments from the 24 lectures and papers, and includes a sample of 8 of them.

SiR-Star-Stat: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

Read it, need to write the review.

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TITLE: Beyond Terror. The Truth About the Real Threats to Our World
AUTHOR: Chris Abbott, Paul Rogers & John Slobada
ISBN: 9781846040702

SiR-Star-Stat: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

Read it, need to re-read it and write a review.

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TITLE: Another Way. Positive Response to Contemporary Violence
AUTHOR: Adam Curle
ISBN: 1 897766 22 X

SiR-Star-Stat: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

Read it, need to re-read it and write a review.

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TITLE: There are Alternatives! Four Roads to Peace an Security
AUTHOR: Johan Galtung
ISBN: 0-85124-393-2 or 0-85124-394-OPbk-0

SiR-Star-Stat: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

Read it.  Need to write a review.

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TITLE: Peace is the Way. A Guide to Pacifist Views and Actions
AUTHOR: Compiled and edited by Cyril Wright and Tony Augarde
ISBN: 9-7188-2821-6

SiR-Star-Stat: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

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TITLE: Peace is Possible. Special short edition.
AUTHOR: Fredrik S. Heffermehl (editor)
ISBN: None.

SiR-Star-Stat: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

Read it, need to write the review.

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TITLE: Peace is Possible
AUTHOR: Fredrik S. Heffermehl (editor)
ISBN: 92-9006-01-1

SiR-Star-Stat: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

Read it, need to write the review.

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TITLE: Handbook for Nonviolent Campaigns
AUTHOR: War Resisters’ International
ISBN: 978-0-903517-21-8

SiR-Star-Stat: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

Got it, need to read it.

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TITLE: War is a Crime Against Humanity. The Story of War Resisters’ International
AUTHOR: Devi Prasad
ISBN: 0-903517-20-5 or 9780903517201

SiR-Star-Stat: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

Got it, need to read it.

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TITLE: The Peacemakers. Peaceful Settlement of Disputes since 1945
AUTHOR: Hugh Miall, Oxford Research Group
ISBN: 0-333-54708-X
SUMMARY: Drawing on case-studies, interviews with mediators, contemporary theories of conflict resolution and a comparative analysis of over eighty peaceful and armed conflicts, this book asks what can be learned from this historical experience.

SiR-Star-Stat: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

Read it, need to re-read it and write a review.

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SiR-Star-Stat: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

———————————— PENDING ————————————


SiR-Star-Stat: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

—————————— I NEED TO FIND & READ —————————-

  • Pike, J. (2014) War. Milton Keynes: Open University.  This was book 2 of the philosophy module A333 Key Questions in Philosophy.
  • Johnston. Harrison. Extracts from an Officer’s Diary. Geo Falkner & Sons. Manchester. 1919.
  • Putkowski. J. & Sykes. J. Shot at Dawn. Wharcliffe Publishing Ltd. Barnsley. 1989.
  • Bridger, Geoffrey; The Great War handbook : a guide for family historians & students of the conflict; Published: 2013; ISBN: 9781783461769
  • Harari, Yuval Noah; Sapiens : a brief history of humankind; Published: 2014; ISBN: 9781846558238
  • Anything by Geoff Bridger, an author with a reputation as a Great War expert.
  • Philip Gosse; Memoirs of a Camp Follower
  • Barker, Rachel; Conscience, Government and War, Conscientious Objection in Great Britain 1939-45, Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd., 1982
  • Most anything here: Choices Then and Now bibliography
  • Lin, NG, Abney, K, & Bekey, GA (eds) 2012, Robot Ethics : The Ethical and Social Implications of Robotics, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, USA. Available from: ProQuest ebrary. [25 November 2014]. In particular, Chapter 3 on military robots being pages 109 to 156. Print ISBN 9780262016667, E-book ISBN 9780262298636, online link
  • T.Nagel, “What Does it All Mean?” (Oxford University Press, 2004)
  • Roger Smither ‘Why is so much television history about war?’ in History and the Media, edited by David Cannadine (London: Macmillan. 2004).
  • Vera Brittain, Testament of Youth.
  • A Path Appears by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Apparently, this contains a number of inspiring stories showing how evidence-based methods can really make a difference in alleviating poverty. May be useful as I want to compile accounts of evidence-based methods for alternatives to war.
  • The three volume The Origins of the First World War by Italian Luigi Albertini published in the 1940s challenged the “The Great War was inevitable” view of the inter-war years; it may have been published in English either in 1952 or 2005.
  • Whatever the great historian A.J.P. Taylor has written. (His work focussed on the origins of WW2.)
  • Fritz Fischer’s Griff nach der Weltmacht in English which is probably Germany’s Aims in the First World War. This began ‘the Fischer controversy’ about who was responsible for The Great War. Probably published in 1967.
  • Rosa Brooks, How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything. BBC comment. Interview.
  • Beyond Duty: The Reasons Some Soldiers Commit Atrocities by Walter
    S. Zapotoczny Jr, published by Fonthill Media. ISBN-10: 1625451121 ISBN-13: 978-1625451125
  • The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker for a look at violence over human history.
  • Professor Niall Ferguson’s revisionist book The Pity of War. Apparently, blames England for the Great War. Creates historiography by claiming England’s entry escalated a continental war into a global one. Instead Germany would have created an EU-like institution, Britain would have kept its empire and WW2 would never have happened. The reviewers say it is brilliantly written nonsense. Actually, I don’t think I’ll bother with this one: “Ferguson sometimes champions counterfactual history, also known as “speculative” or “hypothetical” history”.
  • A Peace Congress of Intrigue – An Intimate Account of the Congress of Vienna, 1815. Compiled by Frederick Freksa; translated, and with an introduction and notes, by Harry Hansen. “The genesis of the war of 1914-1918 goes back to the Congress of Vienna, for here Prussia laid the foundation for the military domination of Germany which made it possible for her to disturb the peace of the world. Here the rulers turned a deaf ear to the misery of Poland; crushed the rising tide of liberalism in the German Confederacy; strengthened Bourbonism in France and set Hapsburg rule over Italian States that had to bleed half a century longer before they achieved unity. In this book the author has drawn upon the wonderful story of social and political intrigue told by the participants themselves in their memoirs; and here pass in review such figures as Harden berg, Wellington, Admiral Sir Sidney Smith, Gentz, Dal-berg, the Prince de Ligne, Count de la Garde, Frederick William of Prussia, Francis of Austria, Marie Louise and Napoleon’s son, the young King of Rome, the fascinating Countess Zichy, Archduke John of Austria and most of the princes and princesses, dukes and barons and crafty statesmen of an age the influence of which survived even down to our own time. “The Congress of Vienna” is so clearly an introduction to the Congress of 1919, and presents so many contrasts and similarities, that the reading of “A Peace Congress of Intrigue” in connection with “The Adventures of the Fourteen Points” is recommended as highly profitable and entertaining, as well as most instructive for the reader of history.
  • Ahmed Rashid, Pakistani journalist and author: Pakistan on the Brink – The Future of America, Pakistan and Afghanistan and Descent into Chaos and Taliban, first published in 2000, which became a bestseller.
  • The Lancaster University MA course in Peace Studies has this recommended bibliography for the Theorising Security and War module:Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature (Allen Lane, 2012)
    Gregoire Chamayou, Drone Theory (Penguin 2014)
    Zygmunt Bauman, Modernity and the Holocaust (Polity, 1989)
    Paul Virilio, Speed and Politics (Semiotexte, 2008)
    Stephen Graham, Cities Under Siege (Verso, 2011)
    Thomas Rid, Cyberwar will not take place (Hurst 2014)
    Foucault, Michel, Society Must be Defended (Allen Lane, 2003)
    Castells, Manuel, The Rise of the Network Society (Blackwell’s, 2000)
    Creveld, Martin van, The Transformation of War (Free Press, 1991)
  • The Lancaster University MA in Peace Studies has this recommended bibliography for the Conflict Management and Contemporary Conflicts module:
    Barash, David P. & Webel, Charles P. (2008) Peace and Conflict Studies, London: Sage.
    Darby J & Mac Ginty, R, Contemporary Peacemaking (Palgrave Macmillan, 2002)
    Eriksen, T. H., Ethnicity and Nationalism (Zed, 2010).
    Kaldor, M., New & Old Wars (Polity Press, 2006)
    Lyons, T. (2008) Conflict Management and African Conflicts – Ripeness, Bargaining and Mediation, London: Routledge, 2008)
    Misra, A. Afghanistan: The Labyrinth of Violence (Polity, 2004).
    Misra A., Politics of Civil Wars (Routledge 2008)
    Paris, R., At War’s End (Cambridge Univ. Press. 2005)
    Ramsbotham, O, Woodhouse T. & Miall, H, Contemporary Conflict Resolution – 3rd edition (Blackwell’s, 2010)
    Rupesinghe, K, Civil Wars, Civil Peace (Pluto Press, 1998)
    Zartman, I.W., Peacemaking in International Conflict (USIP, 2005)
    European Centre for Conflict Prevention, People Building Peace (1999)
    Wallensteen, P., Understanding Conflict Resolution (Sage, 2006)
  • The Ostrich Paradox: Why We Underprepare for Disasters by Robert Meyer and Howard Kunreuther. ISBN 9781613630808
  • Recommended to me by Peter van den Dungen after his lecture on the history of the peace movement at the Adam Curle Peace Symposium in 2016:
    • (Desiderius) Erasmus (of Rotterdam), The Complaint of Peace (1517);
    • William Penn, An essay towards the present and future peace of Europe by the establishment of an European dyet, parliament or estates (1693) (we got there 300 years later.)
    • Immanuel Kant, Perpetual peace (1795)
    • Henri de Saint-Simon, On the re-organisation of European society (1814)
    • Jan Bloch and his work on the War of the Future/The future of war (1899 in English summary edition)
    • There is plenty of information on Lewis Fry Richardson, Quaker pioneer of scientific weather forecasting, and peace research (with a full-length biography by Oliver M. Ashford, Prophet or Professor? The life and work of LFR).
    • There is very little about Raphael Dubois’ peace research, the French physiologist. I have written an article about him that was published in Peace & Change journal that you can read when you Google the title of the article: The scientific pacifism of Raphael Dubois: a curious episode in the history of peace research.
    • and in subsequent email conversation:
    • Since 1992 there is an International Network of Museums for Peace (INMP) of which I am general coordinator; see .
    • An excellent book on peace history is John Gittings, The glorious art of peace (Oxford Univ. Press, 2012).
    • Are you familiar with the writings of US author and peace activist, David Swanson, and his organisation? Just google him.
    • Also see the website of the Peace History Society (PHS) – which was founded by US historians at the time of the Vietnam War; it published an informative newsletter, and an academic journal (Peace & Change). Since about ten years, we have annual peace history conferences in this country, initiated and organised by the Movement for the Abolition of War (MAW); they have been held in London, but also in Manchester and Leeds.
  • Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars, 1977.
  • Konrad Lorenz, On Aggression, 1963 in German, 1966 in English,
  • Erich Fromm, “The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness”, 1973,
  •, Hannah Arendt, The Banality of Evil,
  • Anything and everything written by Johann Galtung!
  • Roland Paris, 2004 At War’s End, Cambridge University Press, Long review:, Blurb:
  • The Ethics of War, 1979, Barrie Paskins and Michael Dockrill
  • Ethics, Killing and War, 1995, Richard Norman

19 thoughts on “Book reviews

  1. The management of peace processes
    John Darby (John P.) Hugh Roger Macginty
    Darby, J. & Macginty, Hugh Roger, 2000. The management of peace processes, Macmillan.

    Contemporary peacemaking : conflict, peace processes and post-war reconstruction
    John Darby (John P.); Roger Mac Ginty
    2nd ed. 2008
    *NB: not the 1st edition.
    *NB: Or look at both and see what has changed.

  2. Engaging in Learning & Action Toward a Global Security System: an Alternative to War
    A Global Security System: An Alternative to War (2018-19 Edition)
    “You say you’re against war, but what’s the alternative?”
    (print version: ISBN 978-0-9980859-6-8 / e-book ISBN: 978-0-9980859-7-5).
    I have downloaded the 2017 edition as a .PDF

    I have bought the 2018-9 version and saved it in here:
    LUDocs\Dissertation\Useful papers\World without war book\WBW_Book-Final_Dec2018_update.pdf
    It gives an alternative world system.

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