PUP News of the World, April 18, 2014

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Each week we post a round-up of some of our most exciting national and international PUP book coverage. Reviews, interviews, events, articles–this is the spot for coverage of all things “PUP books” that took place in the last week. Enjoy!


k10177In today’s world, economic instability seems commonplace, but does it have to be? What are the key factors contributing to this problem and how do they vary between countries? Fragile by Design demonstrates that chronic banking crises and scarce credit are not accidents due to unforeseen circumstances. Rather, these fluctuations result from the complex bargains made between politicians, bankers, bank shareholders, depositors, debtors, and taxpayers. The well-being of banking systems depends on the abilities of political institutions to balance and limit how coalitions of these various groups influence government regulations.

Fragile by Design is a revealing exploration of the ways that politics inevitably intrudes into bank regulation. Charles Calomiris and Stephen Haber combine political history and economics to examine how coalitions of politicians, bankers, and other interest groups form, why some endure while others are undermined, and how they generate policies that determine who gets to be a banker, who has access to credit, and who pays for bank bailouts and rescues.

The book was recently reviewed in the New York Times Book Review, where the reviewer said,

“Brilliant….[I]f you are looking for a rich history of banking over the last couple of centuries and the role played by politics in that evolution, there is no better study. It deserves to become a classic.”

― Liaquat Ahamed, New York Times Book Review

Fragile by Design was also mentioned in another article for the New York Times  found here.

Beyond the New York Times, Fragile by Design was mentioned in a piece by the AEI Ideas blog by economic writer James Pethokoukis. You can find that article here.

If you’re interested in learning more about the economy and what makes it tick, start reading Chapter 1 of Fragile by Design here.


Fall2014International_April18We don’t know many people who would hope to be called a coward. It’s a deep insult that carries a lot of weight and can easily offend.  Not so surprisingly, there is an incredible amount of history and cultural context related to this word that we lose sight of in this day and age. What exactly is cowardice? When terrorists are called cowards, does it mean the same as when the term is applied to soldiers? Our forthcoming book Cowardice by Chris Walsh seeks to examine and explain this commonly understood insult.  Bringing together sources from court-martial cases to literary and film classics such as Dante’s Inferno, The Red Badge of Courage, and The Thin Red Line, Cowardice recounts the great harm that both cowards and the fear of seeming cowardly have done, and traces the idea of cowardice’s power to its evolutionary roots. But Chris Walsh also shows that this power has faded, most dramatically on the battlefield. Misconduct that earlier might have been punished as cowardice has more recently often been treated medically, as an adverse reaction to trauma, and Walsh explores a parallel therapeutic shift that reaches beyond war, into the realms of politics, crime, philosophy, religion, and love.

Although the book has not yet been released, author Chris Walsh has recently written on the topic of cowardice for Salon magazine as well as the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Judging by Walsh’s work on the subject, Cowardice is sure to be an impressing work on the topic of cowardice. Look out for this release in October of this year!


k10068Although quantum mechanics may not be the simplest topic of study, we can still understand the fact that made Einstein’s incredible contributions to the subject.  Einstein and the Quantum by A. Douglas Stone reveals for the first time the full significance of Albert Einstein’s contributions to quantum theory. Einstein famously rejected quantum mechanics, observing that God does not play dice. But, in fact, he thought more about the nature of atoms, molecules, and the emission and absorption of light–the core of what we now know as quantum theory–than he did about relativity.

A compelling blend of physics, biography, and the history of science, Einstein and the Quantum shares the untold story of how Einstein–not Max Planck or Niels Bohr–was the driving force behind early quantum theory. It paints a vivid portrait of the iconic physicist as he grappled with the apparently contradictory nature of the atomic world, in which its invisible constituents defy the categories of classical physics, behaving simultaneously as both particle and wave. And it demonstrates how Einstein’s later work on the emission and absorption of light, and on atomic gases, led directly to Erwin Schrödinger’s breakthrough to the modern form of quantum mechanics. The book sheds light on why Einstein ultimately renounced his own brilliant work on quantum theory, due to his deep belief in science as something objective and eternal.

A book unlike any other, Einstein and the Quantum offers a completely new perspective on the scientific achievements of the greatest intellect of the twentieth century, showing how Einstein’s contributions to the development of quantum theory are more significant, perhaps, than even his legendary work on relativity.

Einstein and the Quantum was recently reviewed in the April issue of Physics today.

“Einstein and the Quantum is delightful to read, with numerous historical details that were new to me and cham1ing vignettes of Einstein and his colleagues. By avoiding mathematics, Stone makes his book accessible to general readers, but even physicists who are well versed in Einstein and his physics are likely to find new insights into the most remarkable mind of the modern era.”–Daniel Kleppner, Physics Today

Want to start reading? Check out the Introduction to Einstein and the Quantum today.


k10195Thankfully, volcanic eruptions aren’t something we commonly have to deal with, but for this reason we can lose sight of the devastating and life-changing affects they can have.When Indonesia’s Mount Tambora erupted in 1815, it unleashed the most destructive wave of extreme weather the world has witnessed in thousands of years. The volcano’s massive sulfate dust cloud enveloped the Earth, cooling temperatures and disrupting major weather systems for more than three years. Amid devastating storms, drought, and floods, communities worldwide endured famine, disease, and civil unrest on a catastrophic scale. On the eve of the bicentenary of the great eruption, Tambora tells the extraordinary story of the weather chaos it wrought, weaving the latest climate science with the social history of this frightening period to offer a cautionary tale about the potential tragic impacts of drastic climate change in our own century.

The year following Tambora’s eruption became known as the “Year without a Summer,” when weather anomalies in Europe and New England ruined crops, displaced millions, and spawned chaos and disease. Here, for the first time, Gillen D’Arcy Wood traces Tambora’s full global and historical reach: how the volcano’s three-year climate change regime initiated the first worldwide cholera pandemic, expanded opium markets in China, set the stage for Ireland’s Great Famine, and plunged the United States into its first economic depression. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’s monster, inspired by Tambora’s terrifying storms, embodied the fears and misery of global humanity during this transformational period, the most recent sustained climate crisis the world has faced.

Tambora was recently reviewed in Nature magazine, which said

“Wood broadens our understanding beyond the ‘year without a summer’ cliché….Wood’s command of the scientific literature is impressive, and more than matched by his knowledge of world history during this horrific episode of catastrophic global climate change. With the mass of information he has assimilated, he skillfully weaves a tale full of human and cultural interest….”― Ted Nield, Nature

Author Gillen D’Arcy Woods also wrote a piece on climate change for Grist which you can find here.

Interested in learning more about this devastating natural disaster? Start reading the Introduction to Tambora here.

 

Time for Gardening

Calling green thumb gardeners and novices alike—sprouting season is finally here. After the winter thaw, it is time to break out the trowels, shears, and your favorite nature guides. Princeton brings you five comprehensive titles to accompany this year’s gardening season. From bees and other bugs to all things botanical, we invite you to peruse this collection for yourself.

k7713As we find ourselves tilling our garden beds and anxiously awaiting the first sprouts, inevitably our hard work will be swarmed upon by those infamous invaders: garden pests. But which insects are bad bugs and which ones are good? How can you identify the insect that is eating your green peppers or tomatoes? Garden Insects of North America: The Ultimate Guide to Backyard Bugs by Whitney Cranshaw is the most comprehensive and user-friendly guide to the common insects and mites affecting yard and garden plants in North America.  In a manner no previous book has come close to achieving, through full-color photos and concise, clear, scientifically accurate text, it describes the vast majority of species associated with shade trees and shrubs, turfgrass, flowers or ornamental plants, vegetables, and fruits– 1,420 or them, including crickets, katydids, fruit flies, mealybugs, moths, maggots, borers, aphids, ants, bees and many, many more. For particularly abundant bugs adept at damaging garden plants, management tips are also included.

k10219For more on your garden’s fuzzier tenants, check out Princeton’s new guide, Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide by Paul H. Williams, Robbin W. Thorp, Leif L. Richardson, and Sheila R. Colla. Learn how to identify bumble bees and how to attract them to your yard with this landmark publication. Gardeners will delight to discover chapters on “Attracting Bumble Bees” and “Bumble Bee Forage.” The authors describe how to insure your garden is full of the food sources, nest sites, and overwintering sites that bumble bees need, while a region by region listing of bumble bee foraging plants allows gardeners to easily plan bumble bee-friendly landscapes. Interested in learning more about bumble bees? Start reading the Introduction to Bumble Bees of North America here.

k9668This next book provides an in-depth look at spring-blooming wildflowers of the Northeast, from old favorites to lesser-known species. The exquisitely illustrated Spring Wildflowers of the Northeast: A Natural History by Carol Gracie features more than 500 full-color photos in a stunning large-sized format and delves deep into the life histories, lore, and cultural uses of more than 35 plant species. The rich narrative covers topics such as the naming of wildflowers; the reasons for taxonomic changes; pollination of flowers and dispersal of seeds; uses by Native Americans; related species in other parts of the world; herbivores, plant pathogens, and pests; medicinal uses; and wildflower references in history, literature, and art.

Are you ditching the garden gloves this season? Fear not—for nature lovers of all kinds, we bring you Trees of Western North America and Trees of Eastern North America by Richard Spellenberg, Christopher J. Earle & Gil Nelson.  Covering 630 and 825 species respectively, these are the most comprehensive, best illustrated, and easiest-to-use books of their kind. The easy-to-read descriptions present details of size, shape, growth habit, bark, leaves, flowers, fruit, flowering and fruiting times, habitat, and range. With superior descriptions, thousands of meticulous color paintings by David More, range maps that provide a thumbnail view of distribution for each native species, and an introduction to tree identification, forest ecology, and plant classification and structure, these books are a must have for anyone interested in learning more about the trees all around them. You can see what Trees of Eastern North America is like by checking out a sample entry here.

Capture

With the gardening season upon us, It’s helpful to be well informed before hitting the flower beds. We invite you to explore these titles on insects, flowers and trees from Princeton University Press to make the most of your gardening and time outdoors.

The fourth annual Princeton in Europe Lecture — Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch asks ‘What if Arianism had won?’

The most noticeable and remarkable thing about Western Europe in what we call the Middle Ages is its cultural and religious unity, united by a common alignment with the Pope in Rome, and a common language for worship and scholarship. Western Europeans tend to take this united medieval phase of their history for granted, but it is unique in human history for a region to be so dominated by a single form of monotheistic religion and its accompanying culture for a thousand-year period. The dominance of the Church which looked to the Bishop of Rome was a freak in human experience, albeit a freak with profound consequences for the present day.

With this exercise in counterfactual history, Diarmaid MacCulloch draws on his experience of writing and filming an overview history of Christianity to consider how easily matters might have been different in the Christian West. He identifies Martin of Tours as a key figure, but also speculates on the perfectly plausible event of an Arian outcome to Western Christianity’s emergence from the ruins of the Western Roman Empire.

For more information about this Lecture Series: http://press.princeton.edu/europe/content/pages/board/events/

An Alternative Passover Menu from Merry “Corky” White, author of Cooking for Crowds

Many family memories of Passover include delicious shared food experiences. I asked Merry “Corky” White, the reigning expert on Cooking for Crowds, for advice on how to shake up the traditional fare and introduce some new flavors and ideas to the Passover table. Here is her alternative Passover menu.

white-m[1]Forget the brisket–or relegate it to a nice memory of a great aunt who did it well–and choose a Belgian beef stew– Carbonnades Flamandes. Serve with small boiled potatoes.

A second idea, equally good and homey is the Greek Beef Stifatho, made either with beef or with lamb, which has some Sephardic possibilities, in the cinnamon and cumin. Leave out the feta if you are keeping kosher. If rice can be on your menu, serve it with rice: if not, saffron-tinged mashed potatoes with olive oil.

Stuffed Cabbage would be also a nice dish, but use ground beef and substitute 3 Tb olive oil for salt pork in the version for six people.

The best possible dessert for Passover is a flourless hazelnut torte and strawberries. Unfortunately I have no flourless tortes in the book but if it is permissible to use dairy in a meat menu, then Strawberries with Sabayon Sauce will do beautifully. Or the Toasted Almond Parfait, again, if dairy is permitted.

If you try any of these recipes, please leave us a note below. We’d love to hear from you!

Quick Questions for Diane Coyle, author of GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History

Coyle_GDP_author photoDiane Coyle is an economist specializing in the economics of new technologies and in competition policy. She has missions to improve both the public understanding of economics and the teaching of economics to new generations. A Visiting Research Fellow at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford, her previous books include The Economics of Enough and The Soulful Science: What Economists Really Do and Why It Matters.

We have just published GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History (“[A] little charmer of a book…” according to the Wall Street Journal). 

She writes an awesome blog called The Enlightened Economist that should be on your daily must-read list.

Now, on to the questions!

 

What inspired you to get into your field?

A brilliant tutor. I went to university with the aim of becoming a philosopher, planning for a career sitting in Parisian cafes thinking deep thoughts. But Peter Sinclair, now Professor of Economics at the University of Birmingham, inspired me with his enthusiasm for economics and its power to explain and perhaps even improve the world.


The way people think of ‘the economy’ has changed so much over time.


What is the biggest misunderstanding people have about what economists do?

Most people think that economics is mainly macroeconomic forecasting, and they think most economics is based on the assumption that we are all selfish and ultra-rational, and only care about money. A generation ago, a narrow approach to economics did dominate the subject, and there are still some economists who don’t see anything wrong with the reductionist version, but most of the economics practiced today is far, far more in touch with the ‘real world’. Unfortunately, the update hasn’t yet reached economics textbooks and courses – hence the importance of the INET CORE curriculum project.

What would you have been if not an economist?

A dancer – not that I’d have been good enough!

What was the most interesting thing you learned from writing GDP?

It was that the way people think of ‘the economy’ has changed so much over time. We have Angus Maddison’s figures based on calculations of GDP going back through time, but up until the mid-20th century this was not how people thought about the aggregate economy. GDP and Keynesian macroeconomics co-evolved.

What do you think is the book’s most important contribution?

To demystify GDP, which most people hear as gobbledygook on the news; and to remind or tell them that how we measure economic activity is the result of many conventions and judgments. There is no natural object called GDP out there – it is a human construction, and what it measures is not well-being or social welfare, but simply a specific definition of economic activity.

Describe your writing process. How long did it take you to finish your book? Where do you write?

I fit the research around day to day life but need to find chunks of time for writing. This means my patient family are used to me spending a couple of hours every day tapping away at my laptop when we’re on holiday. I managed one (short) book once on maternity leave, typing one handed with the baby on the other arm.


There is no natural object called GDP out there – it is a human construction.


Do you have advice for other authors?

Just start. Write a lot and read a lot, as writing is a craft skill. Read George Orwell on the English language if that’s the language you’re writing in. And for non-fiction, you have to find a system for organizing the ideas and material – I always find this the hardest part and there’s always a stage when I have pieces of paper with headings laid out over the floor of my study.

What are you reading right now?

Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century, and The Infatuations by Javier Marias.

What is your next project?

I’m helping out on that project. I’m writing a new public policy economics course to teach to undergraduates at the University of Manchester. In terms of research, I’m interested in two aspects of digital change: the continuing reshaping of supply chains, through both organizational and geographic change; and the implementation of public policy. There’s no point doing a wonderful economic analysis of a policy issue if you don’t also think about the political economy and practicality of implementation.

 


 

bookjacket GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History
Diane CoyleHardcover | $19.95 / £13.95 | ISBN: 9780691156798
168 pp. | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | 2 halftones. 2 line illus. 2 tables.eBook | ISBN: 9781400849970

Reviews

Table of Contents

Sample the Introduction[PDF]

 
 
 
 
 

Book Launch for Art Evans’s Beetles of Eastern North America at Stir Crazy Cafe on May 23, 2014

Beetles of Eastern North America_Poster_04 11 2014

Princeton University Press’s best-selling audio books

The Five Elements of Effective ThinkingWe’re changing things up a bit. Each week we list the best-selling titles according to BookScan, but today we’re focusing on our audio titles. These are Princeton University Press’s best-selling audio books for the final quarter of 2013. Click through to listen to samples or to add them to your book queue.

  1. The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking by Edward Burger & Michael Starbird
  2. Women Don’t Ask by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever
  3. Einstein and the Quantum by A. Douglas Stone
  4. Lost Enlightenment by S. Frederick Starr
  5. The Founders’ Dilemmas by Noam Wasserman

 

Announcing the #PhotoBigDay

big day logoThe brainchild of Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle, co-authors of The Warbler Guide, the Photo Big Day presents a fun, new challenge for birders of all levels. Big Days are established fundraising events — teams of four birders head out to spot as many birds as they can in the span of 24 hours. The big difference this time around is that every sighting has to be documented on film.

We are proud to be co-sponsoring and supporting this effort and we hope you will check out more information at the links below. Good luck to Team Warbler!!!

MORE INFORMATION:
http://www.bigbirdphotoday.org Find out about big photo days, start your own team, raise funds, and more!

http://www.listing.aba.org The official home of big day lists, allows ABA members to upload their totals and results and see records for any area, and will also be live blogging and tweeting the Big Photo Day!

http://www.warblerguide.com Scott Whittle and Tom Stephenson’s site, with info on the Big Photo Day, and much more

http://www.facebook.com/warblerguide For more updates and live posts from Team Warbler

Follow us on Twitter @thewarblerguide

And find out more with #PhotoBigDay

2014 Lawrence Stone Lecture Series to Feature Lorraine Daston

This year’s Lawrence Stone Lecture Series, featuring Lorraine Daston, will be held April 29 thru May 1. Entitled “Rules: A Short History of What We Live By,” the lecture will feature three different sessions:

April 29 — Rules of Iron, Rules of Lead: A Prehistory of an Indispensable and Impossible Genre

April 30 — Rules Go Rigid: Natural Laws, Calculations, and Algorithms

May 1 — Rules, Rationality, and Reasonableness

The events will be held in 010 East Pyne Building at 4:30 p.m.

The lecture series is co-sponsored by Princeton University Press, Princeton University’s History Department, and the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies. The Center was founded by former chair of the History Department, Lawrence Stone (1919-91). Each year, the lecture series features Princeton’s Lawrence Stone Visiting Professor, and the professor’s three lectures are then included in a book published by Princeton University Press.

Lorraine Daston is the executive director of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin as well as a visiting professor on the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago.

april 15 lecture

PUP News of the World: April 11, 2014

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Each week we post a round-up of some of our most exciting national and international PUP book coverage. Reviews, interviews, events, articles–this is the spot for coverage of all things “PUP books” that took place in the last week. Enjoy!


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DELPHI

Our first stop in this week’s News of the World takes us around the world from our Princeton and Oxford offices. It also takes us back a bit — we’re talking a jump back to A.D.

The oracle and sanctuary of the Greek god Apollo at Delphi were known as the “omphalos”–the “center” or “navel”–of the ancient world for more than 1000 years. Individuals, city leaders, and kings came from all over the Mediterranean and beyond to consult Delphi’s oracular priestess; to set up monuments to the gods in gold, ivory, bronze, marble, and stone; and to take part in athletic and musical competitions. This book provides the first comprehensive narrative history of this extraordinary sanctuary and city, from its founding to its modern rediscovery, to show more clearly than ever before why Delphi was one of the most important places in the ancient world for so long.

Michael Scott’s richly illustrated Delphi covers the whole history and nature of Delphi, from the literary and archaeological evidence surrounding the site, to its rise as a center of worship with a wide variety of religious practices, to the constant appeal of the oracle despite her cryptic prophecies.

Delphi was reviewed in the Wall Street Journal:

“Judicious, measured and thorough…Mr. Scott, like Pausanias before him, is a handy companion to what remains—and what we can only wish was still to be seen.”   – Brendan Boyle

Read Delphi‘s prologue and Chapter One here.

 FRAGILE BY DESIGN

The United States has had twelve systemic banking crises since 1840. In contrast, the United States’ northern neighbors in Canada haven’t had one. How can that be?

PUP’s Fragile by Design examines the ways that politics inevitably intrudes into bank regulation. Authors Charles Calomiris and Stephen Haber combine political history and economics to examine how coalitions of politicians, bankers, and other interest groups form, why some endure while others are undermined, and how they generate policies that determine who gets to be a banker, who has access to credit, and who pays for bank bailouts and rescues.

This title was reviewed in the New York Times Book Review:

“Brilliant….[I]f you are looking for a rich history of banking over the last couple of centuries and the role played by politics in that evolution, there is no better study. It deserves to become a classic.”   — Liaquat Ahamed

Fragile by Design was also mentioned in another New York Times Book Review article. Read Chapter One of the book here.

 

  THE GREAT ESCAPE

The inequality debate has gained new momentum in the US in recent months. However, PUP author Angus Deaton takes this conversation to a broader level as he discusses the remarkable story of how, starting 250 years ago, some parts of the world began to experience sustained progress, opening up gaps and setting the stage for today’s hugely unequal world.

The world is a better place than it used to be. People are wealthier and healthier, and live longer lives. Yet the escapes from destitution by so many have left gaping inequalities between people and between nations. Deaton takes an in-depth look at the historical and ongoing patterns behind the health and wealth of nations, and he addresses what needs to be done to help those left behind.

Deaton argues that international aid has been ineffective and even harmful. He suggests alternative efforts–including reforming incentives to drug companies and lifting trade restrictions–that will allow the developing world to bring about its own Great Escape.

Deaton’s recent book, The Great Escape, was reviewed this week by Bill Gates on his blog, Gates Notes:

“If you want to learn about why human welfare overall has gone up so much over time, you should read The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality“     – Bill Gates

 Check out the video below, and preview the introduction here

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TAMBORA

When Indonesia’s Mount Tambora erupted in 1815, it unleashed the most destructive wave of extreme weather the world has witnessed in thousands of years. The volcano’s massive sulfate dust cloud enveloped the Earth, cooling temperatures and disrupting major weather systems for more than three years.

Amid devastating storms, drought, and floods, communities worldwide endured famine, disease, and civil unrest on a catastrophic scale. On the eve of the bicentenary of the great eruption, Gillen D’Arcy Wood’s Tambora tells the extraordinary story of the weather chaos it wrought, weaving the latest climate science with the social history of this frightening period to offer a cautionary tale about the potential tragic impacts of drastic climate change in our own century.

Tambora is reviewed in the Asian Review of Books. Wood also contributes a piece to The Conversation. Check out Chapter One here.

THE SOUL OF THE WORLD

We are excited to report that a PUP book was listed as the fourth best-selling book at the Oxford Literary Festival. Robert Scruton’s The Soul of the World defends the experience of the sacred against today’s fashionable forms of atheism. He argues that our personal relationships, moral intuitions, and aesthetic judgments hint at a transcendent dimension that cannot be understood through the lens of science alone. To be fully alive–and to understand what we are–is to acknowledge the reality of sacred things.

Rather than an argument for the existence of God, or a defense of the truth of religion, the book is an extended reflection on why a sense of the sacred is essential to human life–and what the final loss of the sacred would mean. In short, the book addresses the most important question of modernity: what is left of our aspirations after science has delivered its verdict about what we are?

View Chapter One here.

Princeton University Press Europe at the Oxford Literary Festival 2014

 

By Hannah Dummett, Princeton University Press Europe intern

McCall SmithLast Sunday marked the end of the 2014 Oxford Literary Festival: “bigger, better and more ambitious than ever”. A whirlwind nine days of authors, talks, photographers, book signings and  lunches, and amongst all of it the Princeton authors met with full auditoriums and avid audiences, often followed by a glass of Prosecco in the green room.

The Soul of the World author Roger Scruton had the audience in stitches of laughter (perhaps not what you’d expect from a talk by a philosopher) as he shed light on his idea of the sacred, at the same time as shamelessly, and hilariously, plugging his new books. Meanwhile, David Edmonds entered a lively discussion with Nigel Warburton. The audience were eager to join in and soon the topic of moral dilemma had led to a debate on the fate of flight MH370.

As one of the festival’s better-known authors, Alexander McCall Smith was hounded by the ‘literary paparazzi’, and one of our publicists was even coerced into being used as a photographer’s assistant (read: prop-holder). Over at Christ Church, Averil Cameron took us back more than 2500 years in time and explained why Byzantium is key to our understanding of other historical periods. Michael Scott argued his own case for the Greek city of Delphi – and gave us all a reason to visit this summer.

His book may be over 800 pages long, but Robert Bartlett kept things succinct and made sure that his audience were keen to discover what the other 700 pages hold in store. He was even awarded a printed apology from the Oxford Mail’s Jeremy Smith after he commented on Bartlett’s “modest attire” while introducing the talk. Husband and wife astronomer/authors Jacqueline and Simon Mitton, both struck down with a virus picked up on a recent cruise, put on a brave face despite their illness and managed to plunge their audience into the depths of the history of the universe, visiting far-away galaxies via new-born stars and black holes.

The increasingly relevant topic of narcissism and self-love was examined by Simon Blackburn, discussing his new book Mirror, Mirror, and political journalist Edmund Fawcett kept the audience listening with an absorbing talk on differing forms of liberalism. To top it off, the “charming, charismatic” Ian Goldin gave an excellent lecture on how the recent financial crash could have an extreme effect on a wide range of factors in our everyday lives. We’ve been out of the office again this week, this time for London Book Fair – the fun is non-stop this month!

 

What’s in a name?: Gregory Clark examines how ancestry and names still determine social outcomes

 

By Hannah Lucas, Princeton University Press intern

son also risesEarlier this year, an Icelandic 15-year-old formally known on official documents as ‘Girl’ won the right to have her first name recognised by the authorities as Blaer. It was previously illegal for the name Blaer to be given to girls; it was restricted to use as a boy’s name. This case emphasises the ongoing regulations on first names in a number of countries, such as Germany, Sweden, China and Japan- in Germany, for instance, surnames are banned as first names. These constraints purportedly serve to protect children from distress, should their parents choose an inappropriate name. Yet how much does a name affect us as we go through life? We are assigned a first name, but our surname follows as a legacy of our family’s history. Indeed, names and the ancestral background that they evoke have ascribed social status for many years, whether this is restricting or elevating. The everyday significance of surnames and ancestry may have diminished from the historical rigid traditions of lineage, but it has not gone away, as Gregory Clark explores in The Son Also Rises. Clark uses modern Scandinavia as one of his areas of study, parallel to a diverse selection of cases, including fourteenth-century England and Qing Dynasty China.

The Son Also Rises deals with the potentialities of choice and predetermination in relation to ancestry and social mobility. As exemplified in the case of ‘Girl’, or Blaer as she is now known, modern-day Iceland – among many – impedes the choice of parents in the naming of their child, acting as a predetermining factor not dissimilar to that of a family history. Clark offers a fascinating insight into the significance of being out of control of the naming process, and how much these circumstances affect movement on the social ladder. He explores the influence of ancestors’ names and reputations on their descendants, and how long it takes to dislodge these connections, ultimately examining society’s response to whether ‘A rose / By any other name would smell as sweet’.

The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility by Gregory Clark was published last month.