Reading Ideas for the Historically Inclined

Empire of Cotton
by Sven Beckert

Cotton was (and still is) a quintessential global commodity, intimately woven into the history of modern capitalism. But as Beckert points out, we tend to ignore the moral economy of a material like cotton that has become detached from its origins. The cotton economy of the nineteenth century reinvigorated American slavery, transformed agriculture in the colonial world, and recast global industry and finance, not to mention fashion and consumption. We eat, drink, dress, and drive on top of hidden chains of commodities like cotton. This book teaches us where to look and what to look for.

Stanley Park
by Timothy Taylor

Fiction, funny, food, Vancouver. Get outside, read this entertaining send-up of Vancouver foodie culture on a park bench by English Bay, sipping your latte, lulled by the lapping waves and hum of in-line skates. It’s not all fun and games, though. There’s a murder, homelessness, and expensive real estate too. Beyond its compelling narrative, Taylor’s novel is a thoughtful exploration of the intersection of local and global culture and capital in Vancouver.


On Tyranny
by Timothy Snyder

In the Age of Trump, history matters more than ever. Snyder draws on his extensive research on Nazi and Soviet totalitarianism to advise fellow citizens on how to recognize and counter authoritarian politics. This is a quick read, but sobering. Our democracies are more fragile than we like to think.