Amy Binder, co-author with Kate Wood of Becoming Right: How Campuses Shape Young Conservatives, was on the guest spot of MSNBC’s “The Cycle” to debunk myths about conservative undergraduates:
As we come to the end of the holiday season and are almost to the New Year, we take the time to reflect on the magnum opus of the historian of late antiquity Peter Brown: Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD.
2012 has seen reviews of Brown’s important book in the New Republic, the New York Review of Books, and in the UK in BBC History Magazine, The Guardian, The Literary Review, and The Times Literary Supplement, to list just a few.
Why the interest in how Christianity and conceptions of wealth changed over a period of a two hundred years a few millenia ago? With ongoing discussions about how much each of us owes society (whether we’re talking holiday gifts or taxes and the so-called fiscal cliff), the issues around giving and our beliefs couldn’t be more timely–and it certainly can’t hurt that Brown is the top scholar to draw connections between the ancient past and today. As Glen W. Bowersock writes in the New Republic:
It is exciting to watch a historian who has already written so extensively on Late Antiquity absorb so much new scholarship, revise his old reviews, and re-imagine the world we thought we knew from him. . . . Through the Eye of a Needle is a tremendous achievement, even for a scholar who has already achieved so much. Its range is as vast as its originality, and readers will find everywhere the kinds of memorable aperçus and turns of phrase for which its author is deservedly famous. . . . There can be no doubt that we are in the presence of a historian and teacher of genius.
In his piece “A Masterpiece on the Rise of Christianity” in the New York Review of Books, Garry Wills (who also selected the title as his book of the year in the Chicago Tribune) says:
To compare it with earlier surveys of this period is to move from the X-ray to the cinema….Every page is full of information and argument, and savoring one’s way through the book is an education. It is a privilege to live in an age that could produce such a masterpiece of the historical literature.
Writing in his five-star online review at Christianity Today, Peter Leithart affectionately calls the book “deliriously complicated,” and goes on to write:
As usual, Brown leaves no stone unturned in his search for insight and evidence. … He paints a colorful social setting for early church debates about theology and ethics without becoming reductively sociological, and often overturns accepted mytho-history in the process. He quietly draws on contemporary theory but typically lets ancients speak for themselves because his aim is to introduce us to an exotic world. Through it all, he focuses on the masses of details by treating attitudes, beliefs, and practices about wealth as a ‘stethoscope’ to hear the heartbeat of late Roman and early Christian civilization. … Brown has captured the rough texture of real history. It is testimony to the success of Brown’s subtle, provocative, and beautifully written book.
Across the pond, Tom Holland champions Peter Brown and the book in History Today, BBC History Magazine, and Twitter. In History Today, Holland calls Brown the “greatest living historian of late antiquity.” He goes on in BBC History Magazine:
Through the Eye of a Needle is the crowning masterpiece of Peter Brown, the great historian who virtually invented late antiquity as a periodisation. The book’s theme might seem specialised: the evolution of attitudes towards wealth in the last century and a half of the Roman empire in the west, and the century that followed its collapse. In reality, like so many of Brown’s books, it gives us a world vivid with colour and alive with a symphony of voices. It is not only the most compassionate study of late antiquity in the west ever written, but also a profoundly subtle meditation on our own tempestuous relationship with money.
Meanwhile, Peter Thornemann of the Times Literary Supplement calls it “[O]utstanding. . . . Brown lays before us a vast panorama of the entire culture and society of the late Roman west.” And at The Guardian, Tim Whitmarsh writes,”His sparkling prose, laced with humour and humanity, brings his subjects to life with an uncommon sympathy and feeling for their situation.”
Through the Eye of the Needle has also been selected as a best book of the year at the Institute of Public Affairs blog, among others. Doubtless, the interest in the origins of how society balances faith and finances will continue well into 2013 and we would do well to heed the fascinating lessons of Brown’s much-lauded work.
To learn more about the author and his latest book:
Through the Eye of a Needle
Sometimes the headline says it all! Anne E. Bromley wrote up this feature about the long-awaited Fourth Edition of the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (PEPP), edited by an entirely new team of scholars under Editor in Chief Roland Greene.
The feature includes interviews with PEPP General Editor Stephen Cushman and Associate Editor Jahan Ramazani, both in the English Department at the University of Virginia.
If you’re on Facebook and are a fan of the new PEPP, make sure you check out (and “Like”) the Facebook page, where you can find this and other stories about the PEPP Fourth Edition.
Princeton University Press has four titles in the top ten of Library Journal’s most recent Best Sellers: Mathematics list! Elliptic Tales: Curves, Counting, and Number Theory by Avner Ash & Robert Gross comes in second place, followed closely by Fascinating Mathematical People: Interviews and Memoirs edited by Donald J. Albers & Gerald L. Alexanderson in third, Dana Mackenzie’s The Universe in Zero Words:The Story of Mathematics as Told through Equations in fifth, and Alexander Hahn’s Mathematical Excursions to the World’s Great Buildings in ninth. How’s that for a back to school special?
“Don Sapatkin, Deputy Science & Medicine Editor, 6:44pm, 2009.” Photograph by Will Steacy from his series Deadline, which documents the past four years at the Philadelphia Inquirer.
That’s Nancy Lutkehaus’s Margaret Mead: The Making of an American Icon in the bottom left! The photo ran alongside David Sirota‘s report, “The Only Game in Town,” published in the September issue of Harper’s Magazine.
The Comparative Urban Studies Project at the Woodrow Wilson Center in D.C. recently hosted author Daniel A. Bell for a great discussion around his recent book, The Spirit of Cities: Why the Identity of a City Matters in a Global Age, co-authored with Avner de-Shalit.
Bell was joined by John J. DeGioia, President of Georgetown University. This event was also co-sponsored by the Program on America and the Global Economy and the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States. You can download the full audio podcast and PowerPoint presentation on the event page on the Woodrow Wilson Center site.
Do you have any questions for Daniel A. Bell or Avner de-Shalit about cities? Let us know in the comments section!
With the possibility of record-breaking heat on this first day of summer, I plan to stay out of the sun, but it seems the unseasonably warm weather these past few weeks has meant that thousands of honeybees have ramped up their annual swarming in the Northeast. The bees are taking over!
Emily S. Rueb has been keeping readers like me up to date on the many clumps of homeless bees that have taken to swarming public spaces in New York City. Over at City Room, she’s also been posting bee-related features such as “The Blessing of the Bees,” this adorable “Kids Draw the News” feature, and this neat slideshow of urban beehives. I’m no apiculturist, but her articles have definitely piqued my interest in how honeybees settle on a hive to call home. Have you seen any swarming this season?
I’ve yet to see a honeybee swarm in person, but if you want to learn the science behind the swarms from the safety of your armchair, I highly recommend Thomas Seeley’s Honeybee Democracy. And if you’re the e-reading type, you can also check out Prof. Seeley’s The Five Habits of Highly Effective Honeybees (and What We Can Learn from Them) from Princeton Shorts. Don’t forget the early summer honey in your iced tea!
Today marks the anniversary of the Chinese warlord Koxinga’s victory over the Dutch during the Sino-Dutch War–China’s first war with Europe. Emory University has put together this fun book trailer for Tonio Andrade and his new book Lost Colony: The Untold Story of China’s First Great Victory over the West, which shows how Koxinga outfoxed the Dutch at every turn to capture Taiwan:
Happy Year of the Dragon!
Daniel A. Bell, co-author of The Spirit of Cities: Why the Identity of a City Matters in a Global Age with Avner de-Shalit, visited Hub’s Davos Pavilion and spoke with Hub Culture’s Executive Editor Edie Lush during his recent trip to the World Economic Forum. Professor Bell uses “I Heart NY” as the best known example of “civicism,” the term for urban pride he and de-Shalit coined in their recent PUP book, but from the looks of it, perhaps “I Heart Davos” is next:
Along with “quit smoking” or “lose weight,” “save more” is consistently one of the most popular new year’s resolutions. But that’s easier said than done, especially when millions of Americans still lack access to a basic bank account.
Sheldon Garon, Princeton professor and author of Beyond Our Means: Why America Spends While the World Saves, argues that there are ways to change that. In addition to the new reforms and protections recommended by the Dodd-Frank Act and the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, the U.S. Postal Service could provide services similar to the postal banks still popular in countries with high personal savings rates–such as Belgium, France, and Germany. In the process, the USPS might also “save” itself from its well-publicized financial woes.
Professor Garon recently talked with Kiyoshi Okonogi of the Asahi Shimbun about postal savings and other possible solutions–read the full Q&A here. (See also Reid Cramer’s post at the New America Foundation’s The Ladder blog, Felix Salmon’s article at Reuters, and Tim Fernholtz’s post at GOOD.)
Gregory Mills of the Urban Institute‘s MetroTrends blog wrote up a post earlier this week about the importance of making it easier for would-be small savers to access basic financial services. He goes on to argue that the U.S. could seriously benefit from “modern-day, higher-tech equivalents” of school or postal savings banks.
Want to add your two cents to the discussion? Prof. Garon will be speaking with Marty Moss Coane on WHYY’s “Radio Times” this coming Tuesday, January 3rd–call in with your questions!
Princeton Professor Sheldon Garon has done a few major interviews so far this week to discuss the big ideas in his new book, Beyond Our Means: Why America Spends While the World Saves.
His recent Q&A with NPR’s senior business editor Marilyn Geewax is the most popular post on the NPR site today: http://www.npr.org/2011/12/05/143149947/why-americans-spend-too-much
And Kimberly Blanton of the Squared Away Blog of the Financial Security Project at Boston College recently spoke with Prof. Garon about savings rates, “over-indebtedness,” and America’s “unusual” Christmas shopping season: http://fsp.bc.edu/united-states-of-credit/
You can also check out Prof. Garon’s interview yesterday with Marilyn Geewax and host Michel Martin on “Tell Me More” from NPR News: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=143141870
Daniel A. Bell, co-author with Avner de-Shalit of The Spirit of Cities: Why the Identity of a City Matters in a Global Age, was sent this fantastic iPad drawing of a recent book talk he gave at the Beijing Bookworm store:
Artist Wu Peng was in the audience at the talk–how cool is that!
If that wasn’t enough, Debra Bruno recently wrote a blog article featuring Daniel A. Bell and the book at The Atlantic Cities blog, which Chicago magazine’s staff blog The 312 picked up earlier today, with a Windy City twist.