Category Archives: Bookshelf

Secret History of the War on Cancer

Cancer remains such a prolific killer, says the author, because the medical community focuses on treatment rather than prevention of the root causes.Davis (When Smoke Ran Like Water: Tales of Environmental Deception and the Battle Against Pollution, 2002, etc.), an epidemiologist and director of the Center for Environmental Oncology at University of Pittsburgh’s Cancer Institute, offers a detailed history of workplace and environmental carcinogens that predates Nixon’s “war” on cancer in the ’70s.

She reminds us of Sir Percival Pott’s observations of scrotal cancers in English chimney sweeps, the radiation-induced cancers that followed the discovery of X-rays, the Curies’ work with radium and, less well-known, the research of Nazi scientists who linked tobacco to cancer and led officials to discourage Germans from smoking during World War II. Continue reading Secret History of the War on Cancer

Truth and Lies

From Publishers Weekly
South African photographer Jillian Edelstein’s stark, memorable black-and-white photographs are the centerpiece of Truth & Lies: Stories from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. Between 1996 and 2000, Edelstein photographed dozens of victims, witnesses and perpetrators ANC activists, apartheid police officers and government officials, family members of those tortured and killed at the hearings and at their homes across South Africa. Continue reading Truth and Lies

War Against the Weak Review

The plans of Adolf Hitler and the German Nazis to create a Nordic “master race” are often looked upon as a horrific but fairly isolated effort. Less notice has historically been given to the American eugenics movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Although their methods were less violent, the methodology and rationale which the American eugenicists employed, as catalogued in Edwin Black’s Against the Weak, were chilling nonetheless and, in fact, influential in the mindset of Hitler himself.

Funded and supported by several well-known wealthy donors, including the Rockefeller and Carnegie families and Alexander Graham Bell, the eugenicists believed that the physically impaired and “feeble-minded” should be subject to forced sterilization in order to create a stronger species and incur less social spending. These “defective” humans generally ended up being poorer folks who were sometimes categorized as such after shockingly arbitrary or capricious means, such as failing a quiz related to pop culture by not knowing where the Pierce Arrow was manufactured.
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Preaching Eugenics


“Quite aside from the intellectual and religious arguments that Rosen canvases, her book offers a panoply of colorful personalities (many of them appear in portrait photographs) that help to show how eugenics was sold to the public. The minibiographies of the eugenics star, so to speak, help to make this an enteraining as well as an instructive work of scholarship.” –Magill’s Literary Annual

“Preaching Eugenics is not simply revealing history, but an insightful commentary on contemporary debates.”–Claremont Review of Books

“…this book takes an important first step in grappling with the role that religious leaders during the twentieth century played in public discussions concerning the regulation of childbirth.”–American Historical Review
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Better for All the World

From Publishers Weekly
In the early years of the 20th century, a fixation on eugenics led several states to approve forced sterilization to keep thousands of Americans from producing “morally inferior” or “feeble-minded” offspring. Bruinius’s greatest accomplishment in his retelling of this blot on our nation’s history is forcing readers to recognize the humanity of the victims of these policies. He begins with Carrie Buck, a young Virginia woman used by state medical authorities as a test case to get the courts to legitimize their program.
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The Unfit Review:
I am going to say it clearly and succinctly: this brand-new book is one of the most important scholarly works of the year. Seeking to understand why some people were poor, homeless, criminally inclined, mentally ill, and in other ways socially inadequate, 19th-century theorists turned to the science of eugenics, the concept of genetically unfit people. This stunning book is an exploration of the profound contemporary resonance of this concept and how it directly contributed to such persecutions as the Holocaust.

Certain individuals were judged “degenerate” as early as biblical times, and the condition was viewed as a punishment for religious transgression. Noted author Elof Axel Carlson traces the idea that degeneracy was biologically determined and shows how the social application of the label changed throughout the last century as the new academic discipline of sociology emerged. Carlson describes the failures and abuses of the social movements in the United States and Europe with their sorry history of racism, anti-Semitism, and violations of basic human rights.

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Racial Hygiene

From Library Journal
Despite a significant body of writing on medical science and dogma under National Socialism (e.g., Alan Beyerchen’s Scientists Under Hitler , LJ 10/1/77, and Robert Jay Lifton’s The Nazi Doctors , LJ 9/15/86), this book provides depth and perspective on a historical period that still must be studied. Proctor (New School for Social Research) gives a rich explanation of the interaction of culture, politics, and science that engages and alerts the reader. Though Proctor is too good a historian to indulge in moralistic judgments, his careful research seduces the reader into doing so. If one accepted Aryan supremacy, Proctor shows how decisions, such as the Nuremberg Race Laws of 1935, became eminently rational. Proctor reveals a superb knowledge of the proliferation of medical literature under National Socialism. A work of stature and significance belonging in all academic libraries.Frances Groen, McGill Univ. Medical Lib., Montreal
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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In the Name of Eugenics Review
In the 19th century, when the idea of eugenics (selective breeding to generate superior members of a species) was invited off the farm and into the parlor, it was a far-fetched notion with little possibility of success driven by clearly racist motivations. But at the end of the 20th century, biotechnological techniques and other agendas are making forms of human eugenics plausible. Rich in anecdote, narrative, and fact. An important book.

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Unfinished Business: South Africa, Apartheid and Truth

“A brilliant and important book that should be read by everybody interested in the truth behind the ‘truth and reconciliation’ hype of the new South Arica. In the finest tradtiions of fearless, independent journalism, Terry Bell reveals the cover-ups and charades that allowed the shock troops of apartheid to get away with a crime against humanity.” — John Pilger

“Incredibly illuminating … woven together into a narrative with great skill.” – Mahmood Mamdani

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