How technology and capitalism shaped America after the civil war

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The Republic for Which It Stands: The United States During Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896. By Richard White. Oxford University Press; 928 pages; $35. To be published in Britain by OUP in October.

“THE Oxford History of the United States” is one of the great achievements of modern historical scholarship. The series, which began appearing in 1982 and has since won three Pulitzer prizes, includes some exceptional individual volumes, such as James McPherson’s “Battle Cry of Freedom”, about the civil war, and David Kennedy’s “Freedom From Fear”, which covered the Depression and the second world war. It maintains a consistently high standard of excellence throughout and is notably better, on average, than the “Oxford History of England”. David Kennedy, the current series editor, deserves the highest praise.

Fans of the series have been waiting for the latest volume with particular eagerness. The era from…Continue reading

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Personal pronouns are changing fast

NOT so long ago a man could be jailed in Texas for sex with another man. In 2015 a county clerk in Kentucky was jailed for refusing to certify the marriage of two men. Gay rights in America proceeded at an extraordinary rate between Lawrence v Texas (2003), in which …

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Giorgio Vasari, the man who created art history

Vasari made craftsmen into stars The Collector of Lives: Giorgio Vasari and the Invention of Art. By Ingrid Rowland and Noah Charney. Norton; 432 pages; $29.95 and £23.99. TOWARDS the end of his life Michelangelo Buonarroti, the most famous artist of the Italian Renaissance, began burning his drawings. He did …

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Esther Kinsky muses on a river in England

Esther Kinsky goes with history’s flow River. By Esther Kinsky. Translated by Iain Galbraith. Fitzcarraldo; 368 pages; £12.99. To be published in America this autumn by Transit Books. IN HER post-war childhood beside the Rhine, the narrator of Esther Kinsky’s third novel learns that “every river is a border.” Flowing …