What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

Roger Brown, professor of higher education policy, Liverpool Hope University, is reading Robert O. Paxton's Vichy France: Old Guard and New Order 1940-1944 (Columbia University Press, 2001). "Paxton makes it clear, on the basis of exhaustive scholarship embracing both the French and German archives, that the Vichy regime was not just a response to the French defeat and the German occupation but an attempt to create a system of government that had more in common with Nazi Germany than with that of the Allies. He also makes it clear that until quite late in the war, the regime enjoyed overwhelming popular support. I am finding it eye-opening."

Gary Day, principal lecturer in English, De Montfort University, is reading Selected Letters of Philip Larkin 1940-85, edited by Anthony Thwaite (Faber and Faber, 1992). "Philip Larkin. What a git. Just look at his letters - I am, and most of them are about work, love, neighbours and chit-chat about literature. Wordsworth is 'bloody dull' and H.G. Wells 'couldn't bastard write'. Hanging over all, the pall of failure and disappointment. 'I am not much more than a five-finger exercise after Auden.' He couldn't have been more wrong."

Tim Hall is lecturer in human geography, University of Gloucestershire. He is reading Carolyn Nordstrom's Global Outlaws: Crime, Money, and Power in the Contemporary World (University of California Press, 2007) "in which an anthropologist (literally) 'walks the pathways of global crime', producing an ethnographically rich, peopled account of the global economy. An antidote to the more abstract accounts that have predominated to date."

Stephen Halliday, lecturer at the Institute of Continuing Education, University of Cambridge, is reading Richard Overy's 1939: Countdown to War (Penguin, 2009). "Overy's account of the days and weeks leading up to the outbreak of the Second World War raises the intriguing possibility that by doing a deal over Danzig, the Poles, who had a misplaced confidence in their ability to repel the German armies, could have ended up siding with the Germans against Russia. Although it is hard to imagine that, in such an event, the Nazis would have treated the Poles with much more sympathy than they did. Fascinating."

Grace Lees-Maffei, reader in design history, University of Hertfordshire, is reading Kjetil Fallan's Design History: Understanding Theory and Method (Berg, 2010). "One of a number of recent publications that testify to the disciplinary maturation of design history, Fallan's methodological survey is opinionated, sharp and persuasive. Rather than attempting the impossible task of comprehensively charting design history's intellectual promiscuity, Fallan argues instead for the particular relevance of methods drawn from science and technology studies. This is an extremely useful and engaging account."

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