Big Pacific – Mysterious Pacific

Watch the first episode of Big Pacific, “Mysterious Pacific,” tonight on PBS at 8pm Eastern. The companion book is now available from Princeton University Press.

The scale of the Pacific Ocean is almost incomprehensible. This single body of water covers a greater area than all six continents combined; its deepest point, the Marianas Trench, lies far further below the surface than the summit of Everest stands above it. Much of this vast realm is unexplored, inaccessible to the human eye, and even the shallow waters with which we are familiar are home to many strange and mysterious things.

Horseshoe Crab

The horseshoe crab – one of the planet’s “living fossils”

Among them are species that predate humankind, and indeed all mammals, by hundreds of millions of years. The four species of horseshoe crabs are the last remaining members of a family that first appears in the fossil record some 450 million years ago. Horseshoe crabs are not true crabs, being more closely related to arachnids such as spiders and scorpions. Despite their long tenure on this planet, horseshoe crab populations are in decline. Pollution, overfishing, and development along the Pacific shorelines where they mate are all taking a toll on these living fossils, and efforts are underway to protect them and improve their survival rate.

Nan Madol

The abandoned city of Nan Madol

Even the short span of human history presents enigmas. Off the eastern shore of the Micronesian island of Pohnpei lies the magnificent complex of Nan Madol. Comprised of over ninety artificial islets linked by a network of canals, Nan Madol is thought to have been home to the political and religious elite of Pohnpei. Construction of the complex was a monumental task: some 750,000 tonnes of black basalt were transported from the far side of Pohnpei to build monumental structures with walls up to 49 feet in height and 16 feet in thickness. More remarkable still, it seems to have been achieved without even the benefit of simple machines such as pulleys or levers—the building methods used remain unknown. Despite the enormous efforts that went into the building of Nan Madol in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the site was abandoned in the sixteenth century after the Saudeleur dynasty was toppled by invasion from without. Today it is a UNESCO heritage site.

Pufferfish circle

The tiny white spotted pufferfish at the center of his circle

Recent years have brought to light a smaller but no less fascinating construction project. In 1995 divers off the coast of Japan noticed unusual circular patterns in the seabed. Formed too perfectly to be the work of chance, these circles featured concentric rings of sand with furrows radiating from the central point like the spokes of a bicycle wheel. It was not until nearly twenty years later, in 2013, that the mysterious architect of these circles was identified. Despite the scale of the circles, up to six feet in diameter, they are the work of a species of small pufferfish, only a few inches in length. The male pufferfish works diligently, fanning the sand with his fins or using his body to shovel it aside, in order to construct his circle, which he then maintains carefully in the hope of attracting a mate. Even if he is successful in doing so, the female pufferfish does not stick around to admire his homemaking skills—having laid her eggs, she quickly departs leaving the male to care for and defend them.

With the vast depths of the Pacific largely unexplored, we can be sure that it has many more mysteries to offer us.

Watch the trailer to learn more.

Browse Our New History of Science & History of Knowledge 2017 Catalog

Our new History of Science and History of Knowledge catalog includes a fascinating account of the spread of Einstein’s theory of relativity, a timeless defense of the value of basic research, and a new history of archaeology from Eric Cline.

In The Road to Relativity, Hanoch Gutfreund and Jürgen Renn explored Einstein’s original paper, “The Foundation of General Relativity”. Gutfreund and Renn’s new book, The Formative Years of Relativity, follows the spread and reception of Einstein’s theory, focusing in particular on the Princeton lectures that formed the basis for his 1922 book, The Meaning of Relativity. Drawing on Einstein’s letters and contemporary documents, many of which are reproduced within, The Formative Years of Relativity provides invaluable context for perhaps the most important scientific breakthrough of the twentieth century.

The Formative Years of Relativity by Hanoch Gutfreund and Jurgen Renn

In 1939, Abraham Flexner, founding director of the Institute for Advanced Study, wrote an essay on The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge arguing that basic research into fundamental questions has always driven scientific innovation and warning against focusing too narrowly on immediately “useful” knowledge. In a time where pressure is constantly increasing on researchers to apply themselves to practical problems, we are pleased to bring Flexner’s enduring essay back into print, accompanied by a new essay from the current director of the Institute he founded, Robbert Dijkgraaf.

Use

We can think of no better person to present the history of archaeology than Eric H. Cline, author of 1177 B.C. Cline’s Three Stones Make a Wall gives a vivid account of the legendary excavations and the formidable personalities involved in archaeology’s development from amateur’s pastime to cutting edge science. As capable with a trowel as he is with a pen, Cline draws on his three decades of experience on digs to bring the how and the why of archaeology to the page alongside the history.

Cline Jacket

Find these and many more new titles in our History of Science & History of Knowledge 2017 catalog.

Fighting for Land in the City of Dreams

City of Dreams - Jerald PodairOn Friday, May 8th, 1959, in front of a waiting audience of newspaper journalists and television cameras, the City of Los Angeles commenced the eviction of the Arechiga family from their two homes in Chavez Ravine. Sheriff’s deputies broke down the barricaded doors and dragged the Arechigas from the buildings before bulldozers moved in to demolish them. Local television stations showed live footage of the eviction and demolition. It was the latest and most dramatic episode in the tangled story of the Brooklyn Dodgers move to Los Angeles.

The Arechigas were among the last remnants of an established Mexican-American community in Chavez Ravine. The semi-rural canyon had provided homes for Mexican-American families for decades, but its location just north of downtown Los Angeles made it an obvious target for redevelopment following the Second World War, as the city struggled to house a rapidly growing population. Initially the Ravine was slated for an enormous public housing project, planned for over 3,300 units, in buildings designed by modernist architects Richard Neutra and Robert Alexander. The City Housing Authority moved rapidly to relocate residents, using federal funds to acquire the land via eminent domain. However, McCarthy-era Los Angeles proved unsympathetic to these “socialist” plans, and in 1953 newly-elected mayor Norris Poulson made good on his election promises to block the Chavez Ravine development.

Through the mid-’50s, Chavez Ravine was a ghost town, with only a handful of residents clinging on. The Arechigas continued to fight the condemnation orders against their homes, arguing that the abandonment of the housing project rendered the orders void, and attempted to pay taxes on the property. The City, for its part, declined the payments, and allowed the case to continue through the courts.

In 1957 the situation changed as a group of LA politicians and administrators, Poulson among them, pitched Los Angeles to Brooklyn Dodgers-owner Walter O’Malley as a new home for the team. O’Malley considered a new, substantially larger stadium essential to the Dodgers’ future, but the land on which to build it was not to be had in New York. Could Chavez Ravine offer a solution? O’Malley found himself embroiled in a complex political and legal battle between rival factions that was ultimately decided by the California Supreme Court in January 1959. The land could be used to build his stadium. But the land was not yet empty, and the massive publicity around the eviction of the Arechigas threatened to derail the stadium plan.

Four days after the eviction, there was a stunning new development. An article in the Mirror News newspaper revealed that the Arechiga family owned no less than seven other homes. Public opinion rapidly turned against the Arechigas. A few days previously they had been pitied as penniless citizens made homeless by a heartless administration; now they were pilloried as grasping obstructionists determined to wring a higher price for their land from the taxpayer. Their battle was lost; the Arechigas did not accept the condemnation payment on the property until 1962, but they could only look on as construction began on Dodger Stadium.


Read the full story of the Dodgers’ move to Los Angeles, and the battles surrounding the construction of Dodger Stadium, in Jerald Podair’s City of Dreams, available now from Princeton University Press.

Browse Our New Art & Architecture 2017 Catalog

Our new Art & Architecture catalog includes a major new work by Hans Belting, a stunning reinterpretation of the paintings of Bosch and Bruegel, and the latest in Michel Pastoureau’s series on color, Red.

If you will be at the CAA meeting in New York next week, please stop by booth 609 where we will have all these books on display and you can pick up a copy of the catalog in person. In addition, we will be holding a special event on the Thursday evening:

Reception and Book Signing
Princeton University Press, Booth 609
Thursday, February 16, 2017
5 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Princeton University Press celebrates the publication of the two most recent volumes in the A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts series, Bosch and Bruegel: From Enemy Painting to Everyday Life, by Joseph Leo Koerner, and Chinese Painting and its Audiences, by Craig Clunas. Please join us for wine and cheese. Joseph Koerner will be signing copies of Bosch and Bruegel. The A. W. Mellon Lectures are published in association with the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Following his acclaimed books Black and Green, Michel Pastoureau digs into the history of a color with powerful cultural associations, from warfare and religion to love and passion: Red. Through February we will be giving away copies of Red on Goodreads, Twitter and Instagram: visit our Giveaways page for further details on how you can enter the giveaway.

Red by Michel Pastoureau

Based on his lecture series for the  2008 A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts, Joseph Leo Koerner’s Bosch and Bruegel: From Enemy Painting to Everyday Life analyses the links between the great Dutch painters Hieronymous Bosch and Pieter Bruegel and demonstrates the emergence of Bruegel’s scenes of everyday life from Bosch’s hellish phantasmagorias.

Bosch and Bruegel, by Joseph Leo Koerner

In Face and Mask, Hans Belting embarks on a full cultural history and anthropology of the face across the full breadth of human civilization, and explores the paradox by which, despite ever increasing verisimilitude, representations of the face inevitably become a hollow signifier, the mask.

Face and Mask, by Hans Belting

Find these titles and many more in our Art & Architecture 2017 catalog.

Browse our Economics & Finance 2017 Catalog

Our Economics & Finance 2017 catalog features new books from some of the most distinguished names in the field, including Kenneth S. Rogoff (co-author of This Time is Different) and Nobel Prize-winner Jean Tirole.

Browse the catalog below, or visit our stand at ASSA this weekend (1/6–1/8) in Chicago and pick up a copy in person: we’ll be at booths 107 and 109 with a full range of our books across the social sciences, we hope to see you there!

In The Curse of Cash, Kenneth S. Rogoff presents the startling argument that our economies are awash with too much cash. For most of us electronic transactions are increasingly supplanting cash, yet more cash is in circulation than ever before, much of it in large denomination bills that are rarely used in routine transactions. Instead, Rogoff argues, these large bills sustain a wide range of illegal activities ranging from tax evasion to terrorism, and we would be better off without them. Is it time to abolish the $100 bill?

Rogoff

Following his receipt of the Nobel Prize in 2014, Jean Tirole found himself cast into the role of public intellectual, regularly asked to comment on the issues of the day. In Economics for the Common Good Tirole takes to the role with gusto, issuing a clarion call to his fellow economists to join him in engaging in public debate, and applying his formidable knowledge to major issues ranging from unemployment to climate change and the digital revolution.

Economics for the Common Good by Jean Tirole

Economic inequality is an increasingly central and divisive issue in public life, but how can it be tackled? A sweeping survey covering human civilization since the Stone Age, Walter Scheidel’s The Great Leveler demonstrates that increased economic equality has typically followed in the wake of violent catastrophe: wars, revolutions, the collapse of states, and virulent plagues. Are peace and stability inexorably linked with economic inequality?

Scheidel Great Leveler jacket

Find out about these titles and many more in our Economics & Finance 2017 catalog.

The New Ecology

The New Ecology by Oswald J. SchmitzIn The New Ecology, Oswald Schmitz provides a concise guide to ecological thinking for an era in which the activity of one species—humans—has become the dominant influence on the environment, the Anthropocene. Much traditional ecological thinking has attempted to analyze the natural world in isolation from the social world of human life, regarding the human world as an external disturbance to the state of nature. The New Ecology seeks to bridge this nature/human divide and understand human life as an integral part of local and global ecosystems. In turn, it seeks also to recognize the scale of human influence on the environment and to promote an ethic of environmental stewardship, of responsible use and husbandry of the resources embodied in the ecosystem.

Two fields that might seem paradoxical areas of study for ecologists are industry and the city. One might think that the factory and the concrete jungle are as far removed from ecological concerns as one can get. However Schmitz points out that neither can be considered in isolation from either the natural world or the global economy, and that both can benefit from ecological thinking. Much modern industry is dependent on raw materials extracted through mining, raw materials which are necessarily finite in supply, meaning that in the long term these industries cannot be sustainable. Schmitz suggests that these industries could be reconfigured to mirror the cycles of food chains in which different organisms act to produce, to consume, and to decompose food to once again become raw material for the producers. To some extent, the practice of recycling follows this cycle, but we are a long way from recycling enough to supply all the raw materials needed for production. Massive quantities of these raw materials are being lost to landfill. One step in the right direction would be to design products with their ultimate decomposition in mind, to make it as easy as possible to break down and recycle the constituent materials. Taking things further, we can think of industries as making up complementary clusters in which, as in ecosystem food chains, the waste products from one industry become inputs for another. Schmitz notes the example of a development in Denmark in which “an electric power company, a pharmaceutical plant, a wall-board manufacturer, and an oil refinery exchange and use each other’s steam, gas, cooling water and gypsum residues.” (p.174) Another potential resource is the enormous quantities of raw materials embodied in our cities—could cities become the mines of the future?

Cities also need to be considered as their own distinct type of ecosystem. The urbanization of the global population continues; it is estimated that as much as 90% of the the world’s population will live in cities by the year 2100 (p.180). The sustainability of these cities will depend in part on the extent to which they can produce the materials needed for operation and minimize dependence on external resources. Thanks to ecological study we are increasingly aware of the vital role played by urban trees and greenspaces in filtering pollutants from the air, cooling the urban environment (in turn reducing energy use for cooling buildings), and controlling rainwater run-off. These unpaid services can be valued at hundred of thousands of dollars (p.184). But cities themselves form parts of larger systems, drawing on and affecting vast hinterlands, and often affecting distant parts of the globe in their demand for resources. Only through deepening our understanding of these complex interactions, including industrial and urban ecology, can we hope for long-term sustainability.

Browse Our Literature 2017 Catalog

The highlights in our Literature 2017 catalog include a fascinating analysis of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice fairy tale by Jack Zipes, a major history of French literature, and the final volume in Reiner Stach’s definitive biography of Kafka. #MLA17 is coming up on January 5th, so make sure to stop by our booth and check out some of these books in person. Browse the full catalog below:

Today the story of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice is best-known from the classic sequence in Disney’s Fantasia in which Mickey Mouse, tired of lugging heavy buckets of water, enlists magical help to complete his chores but finds the situation rapidly spiraling out of control. But did you know that variations on this tale have been told in countless cultures across the centuries? Fairy tale scholar Jack Zipes collects over seventy versions of the story in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, written by authors ranging from Ovid to the Brothers Grimm.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice - Jack Zipes

For A History of Modern French Literature, Christopher Prendergast marshals a team of over thirty leading scholars to produce an accessible yet thorough study of French literature from the sixteenth century to the modern day. From Rabelais to Beckett and beyond, every facet of French literature is covered in this compendium.

A History of Modern French Literature, edited by Christopher Prendergast

Kafka: The Early Years completes Reiner Stach’s monumental biography. Drawing on a plethora of sources, many unpublished, Stach draws an unparalleled picture of Kafka’s youth, and the nineteenth-century city of Prague in which he was raised. This is a probing study of the formative events in the life of one of literature’s most psychologically profound writers.

Kafka: The Early Years, by Reiner Stach

Find these new titles and many more in our Literature 2017 catalog.

Browse Our Earth Science 2017 Catalog

Our new Earth Science catalog features a host of new titles on subjects ranging from the new ecology of the Anthropocene era to the microscopic life forms that inhabit the world’s most extreme environments – browse the full catalog below:

The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus expressed his philosophy of perpetual change and flow with the words “No man ever steps in the same river twice.” In Where the River Flows, Sean W. Fleming takes us on a comprehensive scientific tour of rivers, the arteries of planet’s water system. Through the lens of applied physics, Fleming explores the rich interconnections between land, sky and biosphere represented by waterways as grand as the Mississippi and as modest as a backyard creek. No less capable a photographer than a writer, Fleming also provided the photograph of Lake Mead for the cover of the catalog.

Where the River Flows by Sean Fleming

In Deep Life, Tullis C. Onstott turns the spotlight on the extraordinary organisms that have been discovered living deep below the surface of the Earth, in locations where life was previously thought to be impossible. Onstott introduces us to bacteria living encased meters deep in solid rock, and plumbs the depths of subterranean lakes that have been cut off from the surface for millions of years. The burgeoning field of geomicrobiology is broadening our understanding of the limits of organic life and holds significant implications for the search for life on Mars.

Deep Life by Tullis Onstott

The scale of human impact on the ecology of our planet is now so extensive that our era is becoming known as the Anthropocene, the age in which human activity is the dominant influence on climate and the environment. Oswald J. Schmitz’s The New Ecology offers a concise guide to contemporary thinking in ecology, and the possibilities that it offers for responsible stewardship of the planet’s ecosystem for the benefit of future generations.

The New Ecology by Oswald J. Schmitz

Gods or Fighting Men?

Ireland's Immortals by Mark Williams“…the Dagda, with his overflowing cauldron, Lug, with his spear dipped in poppy juice lest it rush forth hot to battle, Aengus, with his three birds on his shoulder, Bodb and his red swineherd, and all the heroic children of Dana…”
—W. B. Yeats, “Rosa Alchemica”

The style of Yeats’s recitation will be immediately familiar to anyone who has read the myths and legends of Ireland, with their richly allusive lists of characters and the extraordinary deeds for which they are known. But what do we actually know of Tuatha Dé Danann (the Peoples of the goddess Danann), of the Sidhe, of the Fianna? And how were the Tuatha Dé understood by the pre-Christian Irish? As gods? Or as something different? The tales in which they appear come down to us in the form of manuscripts written centuries after the tales were first composed. Moreover, these manuscripts were made by monks, whose fervent Christian understanding of the world must surely have colored their view of these pagan figures. Some stories come to us in multiple, widely varying versions, or are frustratingly incomplete. Others must be inferred from entries in monastic glossaries, or from the dindshenchas, the traditional lore of Irish placenames.

In Ireland’s Immortals, Mark Williams describes the efforts of succeeding generations to frame and define the mythic figures of ancient Ireland. The monastic writers struggled to explain the superhuman feats of the Tuatha Dé and their frequent transformations of physical form without ascribing them some measure of divinity. The writers of the Celtic Revival brought their own agenda. Yeats’s fascination with ritual magic led him to attempt to found an Order of Celtic Mysteries (p.332), modeled on the hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, with figures such as Lug, Manannán and Brigit as the focus of its rituals. His friend and fellow poet and artist AE (George Russell) was one of several writers who instead saw them as aspects of the gods of Hindu mythology, under the influence of the Theosophical teachings of Madame Blavatsky. The Scottish writer William Sharp developed the fictional persona of Hebridean folklorist and revealer of mysteries Fiona Macleod to express his blend of pagan and Christian mysticism. So successful were Fiona Macleod’s dewy evocations of druids giving tribute to the ancient gods that she received extensive fan mail and even an offer of marriage. Sharp had his sister answer the letters for fear that his masculine handwriting might give the game away (p.372.)

In this ongoing process of reinterpretation and reframing, the errors, conjectures and creations of one generation became part of the corpus of accepted knowledge for the next. Manannán mac Lir is a well-attested figure in the myths and legends, usually associated with the sea. It must have seemed reasonable, given that “mac” means “son of” in Irish, to suppose the existence of a sea god, Lir, as his father and Lir starts to appear in manuscripts from the thirteenth century onwards. By the nineteenth century, AE was depicting Lir as no less than the primordial infinite from which the universe emerged. Yet the absence of Lir from the earliest sources strongly suggests that he is a back-formation who would have been unknown to the early Irish. To add to the confusion, an unrelated Lir appears in the story of the Children of Lir, in which a stepmother’s curse transforms King Lir’s four children into swans. The story is evidently of Christian origin as, after nine hundred years, it is the tolling of a church bell that finally returns the children to human form (terribly aged, they survive only long enough to receive baptism.) Yet some identify the two Lirs, exemplifying the confusion and contradictions that surround Ireland’s immortals. Mark Williams is a fascinating guide to their long life and presence in the literature and culture of Ireland.

Judith Herrin awarded 2016 Heineken Prize for History

Judith Herrin portraitPrinceton University Press congratulates Professor Judith Herrin (emerita, Kings College London) on receiving the 2016 Dr A. H. Heineken Prize for History. The prize is awarded in recognition of Prof. Herrin’s lifetime contribution to the field, in particular her work on the medieval cultures of the Mediterranean, and the Byzantine Empire. The statement from the prize jury notes that “[Herrin’s] work paved the way for a non-theological view of the influence of Christendom on Medieval society. Thanks to Herrin, the place of the Byzantine Empire in history is now assessed at its true value and thanks to her tenacity, the many varied contributions made by women to Byzantine society are now appreciated.”

We are proud to have an enduring working relationship with Prof. Herrin that began with the 1987 publication of The Formation of Christendom, a classic in the history of Dark Ages Europe. The three decades since have seen major works on the Byzantine Empire: Women in Purple (2002) and Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire (2008). Most recently, we published two volumes of collected essays, Margins and Metropolis, and Unrivalled Influence. We look forward to many more years of working together.

Previous recipients of the $200,000 prize include Jonathan Israel, Joel Mokyr, Jacques Le Goff and Peter Brown.

Karl Marx—Into the Inferno

The Open Society and Its Enemies jacket imageOn the 198th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx, his ideas retain a vital place in the intellectual landscape. The global financial collapse has refocused attention on his theory that capitalism must inevitably be shaken by recurrent and increasingly violent crises. His analysis of the destructive nature of capitalism rings true in an era when the explosive economic growth of human society threatens irrevocable changes in the climate of the entire planet. Marxian concepts such as the exploitation of labor and alienation seem shockingly prescient when we consider the impoverished working conditions in a modern fulfillment centre, where the employee’s every action is monitored, measured and mechanized to the utmost. Of the great nineteenth century thinkers, only Charles Darwin equals Marx in the scope and scale of his influence.

Princeton University Press has published several books dealing with Marx and his work. Perhaps the best known is The Open Society and Its Enemies by Karl Popper. Popper sharply criticized Marx’s theories on historical development, seeing in them the roots of the totalitarian ideologies that dominated Europe in the years leading to the Second World War. Conversely, in Karl Marx’s Theory of History G. A. Cohen sought to defend and reconstruct historical materialism in one of the seminal works of analytical Marxism. Isaiah Berlin’s intellectual biography Karl Marx measures the full range of Marx’s work in characteristically polished prose and remains an excellent introduction.

Forthcoming at the end of this year, Marx’s Inferno by William Clare Roberts undertakes an entirely new reading of Marx’s magnum opus Capital. Roberts argues that Marx modeled Capital on Dante’s Inferno, playing the role of a Virgil guiding the worker through the social Hell engendered by insatiable capitalism. Rather than focusing exclusively on Capital as a work of political economy, Roberts returns us to the debates within nineteenth century socialism from which Capital emerged, while demonstrating their relevance to political life today. There can be no greater tribute to a thinker than that his ideas continue to generate such new readings and new thinking long after his death. Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag, Herr Marx.

Jackie Robinson: Militant Black Republican

The Loneliness of the Black RepublicanToday is Jackie Robinson Day, the anniversary of the day in 1947 on which Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers, becoming the first black player in eighty years to play major league baseball.

Not only was Robinson an outstanding athlete, playing in six world series and named Most Valuable Player in the National League in 1949, he became a powerful voice in the burgeoning civil rights movement. But Robinson raised his voice from within the Republican party.

Leah Wright Rigueur (The Loneliness of the Black Republican) tells the story:

On a Saturday evening in February of 1966, over a thousand mostly white Republican men and women crowded into a Cleveland hotel banquet hall, eager to hear Jackie Robinson’s opening keynote for the annual Ohio Republican Conference. The baseball icon-turned-political activist did not disappoint.

“I am not what is known as a good Republican,” Robinson declared upon taking the stage. “I am certainly not a safe Republican. I am weary of the black man going hat in hand, shoulders hunched and knee pads worn, to ‘Uncle Tom’ to the enemies of our progress.”

Read the rest of the story at The Root.