2014 draws to its termination and it is time to present another list of useful and recommended readings from this past year. This is a practice occurring in many periodical publications and I’ll make my small contribution to this genre. In a year featuring travel to the Netherlands and Belgium, I took the opportunity to immerse myself in the literature on these countries historical and contemporary development. Femme S. Gaastra’s The Dutch East India Company: Expansion and Decline provided illuminating analysis on this merchant empire’s rise and fall and its contemporary relevance. The Story of Delft by the Delfia Batavorum Historical Society provided illuminating vignettes on the historical and cultural development of this Dutch urban center of technology and the arts featuring remarkable churches, a science and technology oriented university, the home of the artist Johannes Vermeer and the residence of Hugo de Groot who is regarded as the founder of international law. A day trip to Antwerp provided the opportunity to see the Plantin-Moretus Museum and the Visitor’s Guide to this attraction provides beautiful illustrations and detailed background on the rise and fall of this family publishing enterprise. Anne Applebaum’s Gulag: A History is a searing analysis of the Soviet Union’s monumental forced labor camps whose extend surpassed Nazi concentration camps and is only rivaled by China’s Laogai camps.
I still retain a distinct and passionate interest in Australian developments. This interest was whetted this year by Ian Hoskin’s Coast: A History of the New South Wales, David Horner’s The Spy Catchers: The Official History of ASIO, 1949-1963 (The Australian Security Intelligence Organization) is Australia’s internal security agency and this is the first volume, of a projected and authorized three volume history, of this agency and its challenges it maintaining Australian internal security during this critical period of the Cold War. I also enjoyed Australian political writer and analyst Paul Kelly’s Triumph and Demise: The Broken Promise of a Labour Generation which chronicles the soap operatic and dysfunctional Labor Party Governments of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard between 2007-2013. Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, the second longest serving Prime Minister in that country’s history has written a political biography The Menzies Era of his predecessor and ideological compatriot Robert Menzies who is the longest-serving Australian Prime Minister whose premiership expanded from 1939-1941 and 1949-1966.
Kristie Macrackis’ Seduced by Secrets: Inside the Stasi’s Spy-Tech World chronicles how the notorious East German intelligence and internal security organization used and misused technology to achieve its aims of protecting this regime’s security. David Kilcullen’s Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla argues that urban areas, particularly those adjacent to large bodies of water, are likely to becoming increasing important centers of conflict due to increased urbanization and environmental stress.
Turning to U.S. history, I found William Harris’ Lincoln and the Border States: Preserving the Union to be an instructive guide on how Lincoln carefully managed his administration’s policy toward Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri to keep them within the Union. My continuing interest in U.S. state and regional history was augmented this year by Norman K. Risjord’s Dakota: The Story of the Northern Plains and by James H. Madison’s Hoosiers: A New History of Indiana updating this Indiana University historian emeritus’ previous work The Indiana Way.
A subsequent posting will cover useful government and military documentation from 2014.