New and Note­wor­thy

THE (Times Higher Education) - - CONTENTS -

Rare & Won­der­ful: Trea­sures from Ox­ford Univer­sity Mu­seum of Nat­u­ral His­tory

Kate Dis­ton and Zoë Sim­mons

Bodleian Li­brary

When it opened in 1860, what was then called the Ox­ford Mu­seum was one of the world’s first pur­pose-built sci­ence mu­se­ums. In the same year, it was the scene of the great de­bate about evo­lu­tion be­tween the Bishop of Ox­ford and Thomas Hux­ley, one of Dar­win’s fiercest cham­pi­ons. It now houses more than 7 mil­lion spec­i­mens, in­clud­ing 5 mil­lion in­sects, about half a mil­lion fos­sils, crabs col­lected by Dar­win, a cel­e­brated dodo and me­te­orites from Mars. This lav­ishly il­lus­trated cel­e­bra­tion of its trea­sures, beau­ti­ful, haunt­ing and bizarre, in­cludes ev­ery­thing from in­flated cater­pil­lars to the fos­silised food once con­sumed by an ichthyosaur.

The Krem­lin Letters: Stalin’s Wartime Cor­re­spon­dence with Churchill and Roo­sevelt

Edited by David Reynolds and Vladimir Pechat­nov

Yale Univer­sity Press

Be­tween Hitler’s in­va­sion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 and the un­ex­pected death of Roo­sevelt in April 1945, FDR, Churchill and Stalin ex­changed 682 mes­sages. These shaped the Al­lied con­duct of the war and laid the foun­da­tions for much of the post-war world. Not­with­stand­ing some ten­sions and de­cep­tions, the three men formed what the ed­i­tors of this book call “one of the clos­est work­ing al­liances in his­tory”. The Krem­lin Letters brings to­gether about 75 per cent of the to­tal ma­te­rial, hith­erto avail­able only in “raw” form but now put in its full in­ter­na­tional con­text and linked to­gether with a de­tailed ed­i­to­rial com­men­tary.

Brief An­swers to the Big Ques­tions

Stephen Hawking

John Mur­ray

His life­time, writes Stephen Hawking, was “a glo­ri­ous time to be alive and do­ing re­search in the­o­ret­i­cal physics”. Yet along with his cut­ting-edge con­tri­bu­tions to cos­mol­ogy, Hawking was al­ways keen to pop­u­larise our lat­est un­der­stand­ing of the uni­verse, con­vinced that “most peo­ple can un­der­stand the ba­sic ideas if they are pre­sented in a clear way with­out equa­tions”. In his fi­nal book, he of­fers beau­ti­fully lu­cid and of­ten witty re­sponses to the 10 fun­da­men­tal ques­tions that he was con­stantly be­ing asked, from “Is there a God?” to “What is in­side a black hole?” and “Is time travel pos­si­ble?”

Our Amer­i­can Is­rael: The Story of an En­tan­gled Al­liance

Amy Ka­plan

Har­vard Univer­sity Press

Barack Obama had a tense re­la­tion­ship with the state of Is­rael, yet nonethe­less reaf­firmed his coun­try’s “un­break­able” bond with it. What ex­plains this deep af­fil­i­a­tion? It was far from in­evitable, ar­gues Amy Ka­plan, that the US af­ter the Sec­ond World War “would come to iden­tify with a small state for Jewish refugees, refugees who at that time were still be­ing turned away from the United States”. Ex­plor­ing mythol­ogy and fan­tasy as well as gen­uine joint in­ter­ests,

Our Amer­i­can Is­rael un­packs a unique “spe­cial re­la­tion­ship” and claims about “a com­mon bi­b­li­cal her­itage” and “shared po­lit­i­cal val­ues”, moral obli­ga­tions raised by the Holo­caust, and the no­tion that “the two coun­tries face threats from com­mon en­e­mies”.

The Trial of the Kaiser

Wil­liam A. Sch­abas

Ox­ford Univer­sity Press

At the end of the First World War, in what would have been the first in­ter­na­tional crim­i­nal tri­bunal, the Bri­tish, French and Ital­ians agreed to put the de­feated Ger­man Kaiser, Wil­helm II, on trial. David Lloyd Ge­orge even cam­paigned for re-elec­tion on the slo­gan “Hang the Kaiser”. Yet al­though the is­sue was in­tensely de­bated dur­ing the peace con­fer­ence, the Al­lies were far from unan­i­mous, and the Kaiser him­self even­tu­ally found refuge in the Nether­lands. The strange story of a cru­cial trial that never was (but that nonethe­less in­flu­enced sub­se­quent think­ing on in­ter­na­tional jus­tice) is here re­con­structed in de­tail for the first time.

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