Reconstruction had the potential to make good on the promise of America's founders, bringing freedom and equality to all. Yet this promise was undermined by defiant Southern whites determined to protect their own privilege. Earlier interpretations of this period often blamed the failures of Reconstruction on black people. But Foner's analysis concluded that Reconstruction was an overall failure because whites prevented African Americans from becoming equal citizens.
In his 1986 book War Without Mercy, American historian John Dower examines Japanese-American relations during World War II and investigates links between popular culture, stereotypes, and extreme violence. He argues that it was the concept of racism - used equally by both sides - that underpinned the military conflict and led to a particularly brutal war in the Pacific and East Asia.
First published in 1948, Antonio Gramsci's Prison Notebooks is an important Marxist work that says we must understand societies both in terms of their economic relationships and their cultural beliefs. Gramsci wanted to explore why Russia had undergone a socialist revolution in 1917 while other European countries had not. So he developed the concept of hegemony, which is the idea that those who hold power in a society can maintain and use that power because of their own grip on cultural values and economic relationships.
Published by sociologist and historian W. E. B. Du Bois in 1903, this series of essays addresses the plight of African Americans facing everyday racism in the United States at the turn of the 20th century. It has become one of the most important works on race and identity across the world. Du Bois sets out to explain how black interaction with a white world has caused psychological anguish and argues that blacks should demand total equality in their daily realities.
Under the title "Civil Disobedience", American author Henry David Thoreau's essay was originally published in 1866, four years after his death in 1862. It is based on a lecture, "Resistance to Civil Government", that Thoreau gave many years earlier, in 1848. "Civil Disobedience" asked when an individual should actively oppose a government and its justice system. Thoreau's answer was that opposition was legitimate whenever government actions or institutions were unacceptable to an individual's conscience.
Some people think nationhood is as old as civilization itself. But for anthropologist, historian, and political scientist Benedict Anderson, nation and nationalism are products of the communication technology of the era known as the modern age, which began in 1500. After the invention of the printing press around 1440, common local languages gradually replaced Latin as the language of print. Ordinary people could now share ideas of their own.
Nineteenth-century American politician John C. Calhoun was unashamedly pro-slavery. So it may seem odd that A Disquisition on Government (1850), written in part to protect that practice, is so respected today. But South Carolina-born Calhoun was undoubtedly a great political thinker. Calhoun - who served his country as senator, vice president, secretary of war, and secretary of state - believed that "majority rule" inevitably led to abuse of power.
One of the most influential works of political theory ever written, The Federalist Papers collects 85 essays from 1787 and 1788, when the United States was a new country looking to find its way politically. Thomas Jefferson, author of the country's Declaration of Independence and a future US president, called the work "the best commentary on the principles of government which ever was written".
The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution, 1770-1823 offers a thorough account of the emergence of the antislavery movement in Britain and the United States. But what makes the work unique is the way it explores and unpicks the complex relationships between changes in our understanding of what is moral, the impact of political action, and its effect on social change.
British-born American political activist Thomas Paine wrote Rights of Man in 1791 in response to Reflections on the Revolution in France, Edmund Burke's attack on the French Revolution. Burke was wary of tearing down old institutions of government. But Paine argued that revolution is acceptable - in fact, necessary - when government ignores the rights of its people. Not surprisingly, Rights of Man proved very popular in the newly liberated United States, selling over 100,000 copies.
What really happened when the world's two greatest superpowers went head to head during the Cold War? We Now Know is a major reappraisal of the struggle for political and ideological supremacy between the United States and the Soviet Union from 1945 to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.
The emergence of China as a major player on the international stage is one of the most significant developments in contemporary geopolitics - the study of the effects of geography (both human and physical) on international relations. Kang's call for understanding of and engagement with China, rather than containment and confrontation, makes China Rising a "must-listen" for anyone interested in international politics.