|Title:||Print Resources in History and Computing|
|Publication info:||Ann Arbor, MI: MPublishing, University of Michigan Library
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Print Resources in History and Computing
vol. 10, no. 3, December 2007
Print Resources in History and Computing
Julie Holcomb has worked for the Pearce Collections at Navarro College since 2001, serving first as the College and Special Collections Archivist and then as director of its Civil War and Western Art Museums and Archives. In this column she present reviews of print resources in history and computing and allied disciplines.
The Journal of the Association for History and Computing, JAHC, presents the latest print research in the use of computers and computing in historical studies. To that end, this column presents the latest print research in the application of computers to the field of history. However, this column recognizes that relevant print resources for readers of the JAHC cannot be narrowly defined by the fields of technology and history. Thus, print resources reviewed in this column address a broad array of disciplines and applications of computers and computing in these disciplines though always with attention to how such resources may inform and shape our practice of history.
Commentary and queries should be addressed to email@example.com
Entries are listed in alphabetical order by author
In the Print Resources column in this issue, books under review consider the development of Einstein's theory of relativity, the relationship between race and American identity, the history of electronic surveillance, and the craft and practice of historical research. Bruce Brazell reviews Einstein's Jury: The Race to Test Relativity, which is, as Brazell writes, "a classic adventure" story of "the challenge to understand the consequences of relativity." Privacy on the Line, reviewed by Genevieve Williams, is a much needed update of the history of electronic surveillance in the post 9/11 world. Katie Nash reviews The Price of Whiteness: Jews, Race, and American Identity, which considers the "long and complicated history" of American Jewish and African American identity and their relationship to the concept of whiteness. The Print Resources concludes with reviews of Dennis A. Trinkle and Scott Merriman's seminal Internet resource guides: The History Highway and The American History Highway as well as a review of Robert C. Williams' The Historian's Toolbox: A Student's Guide to the Theory and Craft of History. As reviewers Mary Hayes and Julie Holcomb point out, these three volumes are essential references for historians inside and outside the classroom.
Crelinsten, Jeffery. Einstein's Jury: The Race to Test Relativity. New Jersey: Princeton. Princeton University Press, 2006. xxiv + 397 pp. Notes, bibliography, index. $35.00 (paper), ISBN 0-691-12310-1.
In the book, Einstein's Jury: The Race to Test Relativity, Jeffery Crelinsten takes us down the long and arduous path from 1905 to 1930 as Einstein's relativistic theories become known to the world physics community and its implications are investigated by the leading astronomers of the time. Crelinsten's narrative reads like a classic adventure detailing the accounts of the many astronomers and physicists, both critics and proponents, who took up the challenge to understand the consequences of relativity and tackle the technological challenges of testing its validity.
The field of physics was forever changed by the introduction of Albert Einstein's relativity theories in the early 20th century. The Special Theory of Relativity, published in 1905, defined the concept of relativity and burst the bubble of absolute time and space-the very foundations of the Newtonian physics. Einstein reasoned that objects traveling in uniform motion could just a well be considered at rest. This simple velocity concept allowed Einstein to explore the implications of traveling at the speed of light and the equivalence of matter and energy. In a few short years, Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity was regarded as ground breaking theoretical work and he was approached to produce a popular account of this work. However, Einstein did not think it possible to write a description of relativity for mass consumption. As Crelinsten writes, "This reticence to popularize his theory would haunt him, and others, for decades. Together with it unfamiliar notions of time and space, relativity's lack of accessibility to the layperson would contribute to the myth that Einstein's theory is incomprehensible (6)."
In 1915, Einstein published his General Theory of Relativity which turned a critical eye to the problems of relativity applied to accelerating reference frames. A prediction of the General Theory stated that very a strong gravitation field would be able to divert the path of a beam of light. This consequence of general relativity lent itself to astronomical confirmation. The most logical situation during which to verify this phenomenon was to observe the position of stars near the Sun during a solar eclipse. Crelinsten gives an account of the astronomers and their observatories, especially the happenings at the Lick and Mt. Wilson observatories, which took up the challenge to attempt these observations.
The 1919 solar eclipse observations conducted by the British team of astronomers in Africa lead by Sir Arthur Eddington eventually became the basis for confirming Einstein's prediction that the Sun's gravitational field would deflect the paths of starlight along a direct line of sight of the Sun. However, Crelinsten's narrative shows that Eddington's announcement was not exactly greeted without criticism and controversy. In fact, although the popular press hailed the results as the ultimate confirmation, it took almost two decades for final acceptance from the astronomical community. In chapter six, Crelinsten details the worldwide reaction to Eddington's results. He writes, "If there was some interest in the Einstein theory before November 1919, there was a delirious fascination afterwards (146)." Einstein's supporters gleefully proclaimed victory while his detractors sought other explanations for the observed effects. In telling this tale, Crelinsten not only brings to life the story of relativity's acceptance, he also shows the difficult process that science goes through to test, confirm, and accept new ideas.
Crelinsten conducted extensive research to produce the book. He provides great details of the people, theory, terminology, and technology involved in the process of testing relativity. While the book will surely entertain the reader familiar with Einstein's theories and its history, it can also be enjoyed by the uninitiated. In fact, with so many books devoted the subject of the relativity, Crelinsten's book is a refreshing change from the standard discussion of the theory and its implications. Instead, the reader is treated to the thrilling story of how Einstein's theories of relativity revolutionized modern science. As Crelinsten writes in the book's "Final Reflections," "Where does this story leave the twenty-first-century reader? For one thing, it liberates us from a rigid understanding of how the scientific community accepts scientific theory. It is a messy process." (321) It is a popular notion that science is a neat and tidy process. Crelinsten clearly shows us that this is not so while, at the same time, demonstrating why Einstein's theory, even after a hundred years, is still not part of mainstream culture.
Diffie, Whitfield and Susan Landau. Privacy on the Line: The Politics of Wiretapping and Encryption. 2nd Edition. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2007. xvii + 472 pp. Glossary, notes, index. $27.95 (hardcover), ISBN 0-262-04240-1/978-0-262-04240-6.
The timeliness of this updated and revised edition of Diffie and Landau's exhaustive coverage of electronic surveillance requires little introduction. Since the publication of the first edition in 1999, national events have practically conspired to require a second. The new material merges fairly seamlessly with the old; in that sense, the explosive growth of digital communications on the one hand, and the events of September 11, 2001 and their aftermath on the other, are simultaneously unprecedented and resulted in governmental response that is, in hindsight, fairly predictable.
The expressed theme is privacy in the digitized world: one where written and voice communications take place primarily on digital networks, occur on a global scale, and are increasingly both at a distance and almost instantaneous. After a surge of interest in the 1980s and 1990s, encryption comes to take something of a back seat, even though there is arguably greater than ever reason for the average person to use it; nonetheless, predictions than a majority of communications would be encrypted by the new millennium has not come to pass. The book's introduction gathers together a number of crucial features of the past one hundred years that give Privacy on the Line its thrust: communication and the technologies which enable it are accelerating; modern communication technologies are interceptable, and more so than those which preceded them; society and government are attempting to enact a social and legal solution to a technological problem, which is that privacy of communication is no longer the default; cryptography is one potential solution to this problem; there are civil liberties implications to governmental "master key" access to communication; the rise of commerce in information and mobile communication make these issues all the more important.
Much of the book's first half is taken up by history: of cryptography, of communications, of the development and application of national security and law enforcement in the United States, of privacy as a concept and of private communication, and of wiretapping. This is probably the most exhaustively researched portion of the book; paradoxically, it also hangs together the least, being little more than lists of documented events strung together with commentary. As one might reasonably expect, the authors seem to be challenged by dealing with a topic many of whose salient points are shrouded in secrecy, particularly where government-run encryption, espionage, and wiretapping schemes are concerned. At the same time, however, one finishes these chapters without a clear sense of how these issues have developed, save technologically: the conclusion that it is now easier, if technically more complicated, to eavesdrop on communications is clearly drawn from the supporting documentation. The chapter on "Privacy: Protections and Threats" is particularly uneven; whether or not one agrees with the authors' obvious opinion that privacy is threatened by both governmental and commercial interests, one would hope for a clearer and better-constructed argument than is found here. (This reviewer also wishes for more in-depth discussion of this entire issue's legal ramifications; aside from mentioning a few well-known decisions such as Griswold v. Connecticut, little such discussion is present in this chapter or elsewhere in the book.)
Chapters previously titled "Communications: The Current Scene" and "Cryptography: The Current Scene" have been updated, with the words "The Current Scene" replaced by "In the 1990s". "And Then It All Changed" gives us the story so far for the new millennium, including the long-overdue replacement of government encryption standards and the advent of digital rights management. The discussion of the Internet wanders somewhat, resulting in a grab-bag of online socialization, e-commerce, and digital communications media. The major new update is the final chapter, "Après le Deluge", setting the stage before, during, and after the events of 9/11. Major discussion points include how the new complexity of communications technologies interferes with intelligence, and the ways in which the boundaries between phone and Internet, national and international, have blurred substantially over the past decade. This chapter includes an in-depth discussion of the political ramifications that is less substantial or even absent in earlier chapters. The book's conclusion explores several critical topics: the tension between the natural human inclination to communicate, which has driven such an explosion in communications technologies, versus the necessity of imposing limits; the vast changes in the telecommunications industry, particularly over the past thirty years; the problem of scalability in cryptography; the development of privacy as a concept in response to technological innovation; and the whole question of surveillance, including who should do it, when, and under what justification. Indeed, ultimately one wishes for a more thorough examination of these questions throughout the book.
As a historical study of the technological dimension of privacy and communication, Privacy on the Line offers an admirable survey of the role that computing has played in encryption, communications technologies, and surveillance. As a book on public policy, however, it could do with both a deeper exploration of the issue and some streamlining. There is no doubt, however, that these questions are of critical importance in a time when public policy scrambles to keep up with the technological wavefront. The next edition of Privacy on the Line should be even more interesting-and possibly more frightening.
Goldstein, Eric L. The Price of Whiteness: Jews, Race, and American Identity. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006. 307 p. $29.95 (hardcover) ISBN 978-0-691-12105-5.
Sharing a long and complicated history, American Jews and African Americans continue to struggle with claiming and receiving respect for their ethnic identities. Terms such as the "Jewish race" and "Hebrew blood" were often spoken of during the pre and post World War II eras (1). With this said, Goldstein discusses in depth how Jewish immigrants came to understand themselves as being "white" when most Americans did not.
Goldstein states in the introduction that "as this study argues, 'Jews' transition from 'racial' minority to part of the white mainstream was slow and freighted with difficulty, not only because native-born whites had a particularly difficult time seeing Jews as part of a unified, homogeneous white population, but also because whiteness sat uneasily with many central aspects of Jewish identity." (1) The Price of Whiteness is divided into four parts (for a total of eight chapters) encompassing many topics within each chapter about the Jewish culture in relation to African Americans, religion, racial identities, whiteness, and American culture.
The purpose of this book is to help the reader understand the obvious conclusion that American culture cannot simply be categorized as black and white. By actively including and focusing on the struggles that the Jewish community has had to endure over the years in their attempt to be recognized in the black and white social framework, Goldstein "reveals white Americans' anxious attempts to obscure the fissures that divided them internally, underscoring just how tenuous the notion of stable, monolithic whiteness has been in American life." (Goldstein, 3) Additionally, within each chapter Goldstein does an excellent job of explaining how the powerful concepts of the "American dream" and the "American vision" shape people's lives and their racial identities.
Not only does Goldstein capture the social and monetary effects of the Jewish community's attempt to embrace "whiteness" in America-but he also explains well the emotional costs that individuals have had to pay if and when they tried to pursue the "whiteness" path. Self-description and conception are common threads throughout the chapters that Goldstein highlights in regards to emotional suffering within the Jewish community. Goldstein explains that the transition of becoming a part of "white" society in America is not easy, and continues to present struggles for the Jewish community today. The epilogue focuses on contemporary issues that face the lives of American Jews.
This book is intended for includes historians, librarians, and students and researchers conducting more advanced research in the areas of Jewish culture, race relations, and other American identity topics.
Trinkle, Dennis A. and Scott A. Merriman, eds. The American History Highway: A Guide to Internet Resources on U.S., Canadian, and Latin American History. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 2007. xiv + 424 pp. Index, glossary, CD-Rom. $29.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-7656-1629.
The American History Highway is a comprehensive two-part primer that instructs the reader in the basics of internet use, online research and transferring files via FTP, then presents a detailed listing of reliable online educational websites. Part I of the book is an example-rich discussion concerning E-mail, newsgroups, blogging and the security issues associated with those activities. Part II, "Internet Sites for Historians," is the core of this book. It is an indispensable source of innovative and entertaining history and historical resources categorized by subject. Chapters include information on all periods of U. S., Canadian and Latin American History, as well as sections on African-American, Asian American, Military and Women's history. Later chapters include: "Living History and Historic Reenactment" (Chapter 27), "Resources for Teachers of History: K-12 and College" (Chapter 35), and "Archives and Manuscript Collections" (Chapter 37). In short, there is something for everyone. The accompanying CD is an ingenious addition-the included PDF contains the entire book text in an interactive format that facilitates use of the referenced websites. With a live internet connection, the reader can load the disc and read the included site descriptions, then click on the link for direct access to the sites. A wonderful time-saver for the educator or casual researcher, this collection of sound, reliable sites is a must for every historian's bookshelf.
Williams, Robert C. The Historian's Toolbox: A Student's Guide to the Theory and Craft of History. Second edition. Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe, 2007. xv + 200 pp. Tables, figures, bibliography, index. $55.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-7656-2026-2; $22.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-7656-2027-9.
Trinkle, Dennis A. and Scott A. Merriman, eds. The History Highway: A 21st Century Guide to Internet Resources. Fourth edition. Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe, 2006. xiv + 682 pp. Tables, figures, index, CD-Rom. $99.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-7656-1630-2; $39.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-7656-1631-9.
The Historian's Toolbox: A Student's Guide to the Theory and Craft of History and The History Highway: A 21st Century Guide to Internet Resources are two essential tools in any young historian's library.
Williams' book, The Historian's Toolbox, is an excellent primer in the craft and practice of history. Divided into three sections, Williams begins with a brief discussion of the craft of history introducing readers to basics like historiography and advanced concepts like postmodernism. Each chapter in this section concludes with suggestions for further reading. The second section covers the tools of history. Beginning with an overview of writing a history paper, Williams shows readers how to pick a topic, take notes, and write a good paper. Subsequent chapters treat important topics in greater depth. Of particular value are his chapters on sources. First, Williams describes how to evaluate resources. Williams does not limit his guidance to written materials. Rather, he describes how historians evaluate three-dimensional objects, photographs, and similar sources that many new historians may be unfamiliar with. A follow-up chapter describes how to acknowledge sources with a thorough discussion of footnotes, bibliographies, and plagiarism. Other chapters in this second section cover argument, interpretation, fiction, and forgeries as they relate to historical writing. The third section covers the relevance of history and discusses oral history, material culture, public history, and online history.
The History Highway, edited by Dennis A. Trinkle and Scott A. Merriman is an update of their seminal work first published in 1997. Nearly three times the length of that first edition, The History Highway remains a valuable volume in the historian's library. Trinkle and Merriman begin with a primer for getting on the World Wide Web as well as identifying, accessing, and evaluating historical information on the Internet. Given the varying quality of historical information available, Trinkle and Merriman's tutorial is a welcome introduction to online historical research. The heart of the book, section two, provides an annotated bibliography of historical sources available on the Internet. Categories range from the broad-"General History," "European History," and "United States History"-to the narrow-"Women's History," "Holocaust Studies," and "Urban History." Other chapters cover topics such as resources for K-12 teachers and maps and images. The included CD-ROM eases navigation between the book and the Internet by providing a PDF version of the book text with clickable links.
The Historian's Toolbox is a basic text geared toward an undergraduate theory and methods course. The History Highway is an excellent text for novice and experienced historians.