Bookbeat: October 2011

Neglected Barbarians

Neglected Barbarians (Studies in the Early Middle Ages)

by Florin Curta
(Brepols Publishers, 2011)
Available through Amazon

Although barbarians in history is a topic of perennial interest, most studies have addressed a small number of groups for which continuous narratives can be constructed, such as the Franks, Goths, and Anglo-Saxons. This volume examines groups less accessible in the literary and archaeological evidence. Scholars from thirteen countries examine the history and archaeology of groups for whom literary evidence is too scant to contribute to current theoretical debates about ethnicity. Ranging from the Baltic and northern Caucasus to Spain and North Africa and over a time period from 300 to 900, the essays address three main themes. Why is a given barbarian group neglected? How much can we know about a group and in what ways can we bring up this information? What sorts of future research are necessary to extend or fill out our understanding? Some papers treat these questions organically. Others use case studies to establish what we know and how we can advance. Drawing on those separate lines of research, the conclusion proposes an alternative reading of Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages, viewed not from the ‘centre’ of the privileged but from the 'periphery' of the neglected groups. Neglected Barbarians covers a longer time span than similar studies of this kind, while its frequent use of the newest archaeological evidence has no parallel in any book so far published in any language.

Ctesias: On India, Translation and CommentaryCtesias: On India, 
    Translation and Commentary

by Andrew G. Nichols
(London: Bristol Classical Press, 2011)
Available through Amazon

A Greek doctor serving at the court of the Persian king Artaxerxes II in the fifth century BC, Ctesias met travellers and visitors from the far eastern reaches of the Persian Empire, merchants from along the Silk Road and Indians from near the Indus Valley. His Indika (On India), was the first monograph ever written on India by a western author, introducing its readers to such fantastic creatures as the unicorn and the martichora, along with real life subjects such as the parrot and the art of falconry.

Confirming pre-existing conceptions of what were considered to be the edges of the earth, Ctesias' Indika helped shape the Greek view of India. Offered here for the first time in over a century is a full English translation and commentary on all the extant fragments of the Indika, along with fragments of Ctesias' minor works never before translated into English.

The Politics of Disenfranchisement: Why Is It So Hard to Vote in America?The Politics of Disenfranchisement: 
          Why Is It So Hard to Vote in America?

by Richard K. Scher
Political Science
(M E Sharpe Inc, 2010)
Available via Amazon

This book asks a deceptively simple question: Why is it so hard to vote in America? We claim to encourage people to vote, but at the same time we put major, often insurmountable, barriers in the way of otherwise eligible voters, thus disenfranchising them. The book surveys the political and cultural forces that undercut the right to vote, and render it a privilege needing to be earned rather than a right to be conveyed. It looks at groups which historically and currently either have difficulty voting or are excluded from casting ballots. It examines in exhaustive detail the hoops through which a prospective voter must jump in order to vote; at any moment his efforts could be derailed and he will be denied the ballot. Even when he casts a vote, he has no way of knowing that it was accurately recorded and counted, or even tallied at all. As a result, voting in America is as much an act of faith as of civic responsibility. Finally, the book examines what happens when we functionally disenfranchise voters, by allowing them to cast ballots but through a variety of political, legal, and administrative devices ensure that their vote is rendered meaningless, and has no bearing on the outcome of the election. The book concludes with a discussion of the major obligations of the state to ensure that all voters have the right to vote, can cast ballots, and have them accurately recorded and counted; in other words, so they can exercise their franchise as democratic electoral systems demand.

Richard Scher has wide expertise on Southern and Florida politics and districting. For the last 20 years all of his work has been on voting rights, redistricting, and political campaigning. He has published books on each of these, and is completing a new book on the modern political campaign.

This book was selected as Choice magazine’s Outstanding Academic Title for 2011. More than 25,250 academic librarians, faculty, and key decision makers rely on the reviews in Choice magazine and Choice Reviews Online for collection development and scholarly research. Choice reaches almost every undergraduate college and university library in the United States.

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