Saturday, March 31, 2018

Cities of the Empire: The British Colonies and the Creation of the Urban World

Tristam Hunt's trip through the British Empire starts in 17th Century Boston and ends in 1980s Liverpool.  As he travels from the early stages of the empire to the riots and racial tension of an English city in a loosely affiliated commonwealth, the British desire to impose their ossifying social structure on every city they took over.  While the British do deserve credit for the roads, buildings, and cultural institutions they left in Cape Town, Hong Kong, and New Delhi, they also brought segregation and suppressed local cultures.  The British Empire made the modern world, but at what cost?

Heretics: Adventures with the Enemies of Science

I'm not sure how I feel about Heretics.  Some segments were engrossing, but others (including the first three, on militant creationists, ghost hunters, and a meditation retreat), were a plodding mixture of dry facts and Will Storr's oversharing.  Storr's writing-as-therapy faded as his delved into more interesting topics, and I found the chapter on implanted memories of (presumably) false abuse particularly fascinating.  He finished the book, though, road tripping with Holocaust deniers, which I can only describe as disturbing.  Perhaps a better writer could have explained how these people developed their horrifying obsession, but such a task is far beyond Storr's skills.  Still, there were enough interesting topics and adequately written chapters for me to not quite regret reading it.