A Book Review by Dianne Bynum
“Dead Wake The Last Crossing of the Lusitania”
Erik Larsen has become one of my favorite writers of historical novels. I really enjoyed, and learned a lot, from “The Devil in the White City.” Both novels are about events I knew very little about. I knew that the sinking of the Lusitania was a reason for the US to enter WWI but I didn’t know much else. Larsen personalizes this tragedy by introducing us to the passengers of the Lusitania during the voyage. The reader can’t help but wonder who survives and who doesn’t. It was also interesting learning about our president and his personal challenges during the days leading up to the First World War. I would recommend this novel to history buffs and to those that love a good story.
During the mid-eighteenth century, there was a place in Delaware known as Murdering Town. The folks who lived there were from Germany and believed strongly in the separation of church and state. They developed into a pacifist society migrating to Pennsylvania where they built the town of Harmony, which sounds like a far cry from Murdering Town. These folks couldn’t seem to stick in one place for long and in the early nineteenth century, they moved their Harmony Society again, this time to the state of Indiana.
In Indiana, these peace-loving people gave all their worldly possessions to the Society which in turn provided for all their needs. They developed an existence dedicated to harmony and for a few years all was good, but then they made a fatal mistake. They adopted celibacy as a way of life, and “the rest is history,” as the saying goes. Eventually, the founders became extinct and the town was re-established by Mennonites who gradually faded away and closed their church there.
Today New Harmony is a wonderful place to visit and certainly appears to be an idyllic place to live. The old town once plagued by calamities such as fire and tornadoes has been restored. While full of interesting places to visit, eat and be entertained, it remains a quiet and peaceful village.
The homes are restored and surrounded by beautiful gardens. The public spaces are verdant in every direction. To visit there is to experience going back to a time of true harmony and tranquility.
Nearby is a 3,500 State Park, known as Harmonie. It offers hiking, horse and bike trails, campsites, fishing, and rental cabins. The park also has Interpretive Naturalist Service in the summer months as well as picnic areas and swimming in an Olympic sized pool and the Wabash River.
In the next post, I’ll tell you a bit about my personal retreat in New Harmony a couple of years ago.
“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.” Thomas Merton
The Half Has Never Been Told
Slavery And The Making Of American Capitalism
by Edward E. Baptist
This is not a book to be undertaken lightly. It is a hard read, or at least it was for me. It covers not only slavery, which I thought I knew a lot about but war, politics, economics and as the title says, “The Making of American Capitalism.” In his emphasis on the development of capitalism on the backs of slaves, the author does not leave out the inhumanity of slavery and the cruelty with which this population was controlled.
One of the facts that I never fully appreciated was the sheer number of the enslaved. Millions of people, mostly from Africa, but also from other countries were sold and resold throughout the United States from the beginning of the settlement of this country. These human beings were a commodity like any crop or manufactured tool and depending upon the prevailing economy, their selling price, i.e., their “worth,” might fluctuate from several hundred dollars to well over one thousand.
It is easy to think of slaves on idyllic southern plantations, but this is the exception as Baptist’s historical account covering 1783 through 1937 makes clear. His research is thorough and well documented in around 700 footnotes and references.
I recommend this book for a more accurate understanding of United States history. I promise it will dispel some of your long-held assumptions and provide a fresh view of today’s race challenges in this country. Actually, I finished this book with a whole new view of how the entire world, not just the U.S. benefited from the ownership of other human beings here in our country.
“Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.” Abraham Lincoln