Adam Hochschild’s books include King Leopold’s Ghost, To End All Wars, and Lessons from a Dark Time and Other Essays, which was published last fall. He teaches at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley. (December 2019)


Another Great Yesterday

LaVoy Finicum, the only fatality during the Oregon standoff, at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, January 2016

Shadowlands: Fear and Freedom at the Oregon Standoff—A Western Tale of America in Crisis

by Anthony McCann

No Man’s Land

a PBS Independent Lens documentary film directed by David Byars
The late Ryszard Kapuściński coined a striking term to describe those susceptible to demagoguery. They were believers, he said, in the Great Yesterday. In the last few years we’ve seen inflammatory strongmen, from Viktor Orbán to Narendra Modi to Donald Trump, evoking visions of Great Yesterdays, from a Greater Hungary …

Family Values

Former white nationalist Derek Black and his father, Don Black, on their radio show The Don and Derek Black Show, December 2011

Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist

by Eli Saslow
On the night in 2008 that Barack Obama was elected president, the American neo-Nazi website Stormfront got such an unprecedented volume of traffic that its server crashed. A Florida-based collection of blogs, chat rooms, streaming radio, and even a lonely-hearts page (for heterosexual white Americans only), Stormfront has long brought …

American Devilry

Robert Colescott: Knowledge of the Past Is the Key to the Future: Some Afterthoughts on Discovery, 1986; from ‘Figuring History,’ a recent exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum. The catalog is edited by Catharina Manchanda and includes essays by Jacqueline Francis and Lowery Stokes Sims. It is published by the museum and Yale University Press.

Beautiful Country Burn Again: Democracy, Rebellion, and Revolution

by Ben Fountain

Behold, America: The Entangled History of “America First” and “The American Dream”

by Sarah Churchwell
You don’t necessarily need an ethnic or religious scapegoat to be a thuggish strongman, but it sure helps. Narendra Modi rose to power in India in a party that has long demonized Muslims—and after doing conspicuously little to stop a massacre of them while running his home state of Gujarat.

Bang for the Buck

Donald Trump speaking at a campaign rally in Las Vegas, December 2015

Armed in America: A History of Gun Rights from Colonial Militias to Concealed Carry

by Patrick J. Charles

Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment

by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
If reason played any part in the American love affair with guns, things would have been different a long time ago and we would not have so many mass shootings like the one that took the lives of seventeen high school students in Parkland, Florida on February 14.

Ku Klux Klambakes

Ku Klux Klan paraders, Muncie, Indiana, 1922

The Second Coming of the KKK: The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s and the American Political Tradition

by Linda Gordon

Ku Klux Kulture: America and the Klan in the 1920s

by Felix Harcourt
Most of us who grow up in the United States learn a reassuring narrative of ever-expanding tolerance. Yes, the country’s birth was tainted with the original sin of slavery, but Lincoln freed the slaves, the Supreme Court desegregated schools, and we finally elected a black president. The Founding Fathers may have all been men, but in their wisdom they created a constitution that would later allow women to gain the vote. And now the legal definition of marriage has broadened to include gays and lesbians. We are, it appears, an increasingly inclusive nation. But a parallel, much darker river runs through American history.

When Dissent Became Treason

Boston police with seized radical literature, November 1919

America and the Great War: A Library of Congress Illustrated History

by Margaret E. Wagner, with an introduction by David M. Kennedy

The Great War

a three-part television series produced by Stephen Ives and Amanda Pollak for PBS’s American Experience
As our newspapers and TV screens overflow with choleric attacks by President Trump on the media, immigrants, and anyone who criticizes him, it makes us wonder: What would it be like if nothing restrained him from his obvious wish to silence, deport, or jail such enemies? For a chilling answer, we need only roll back the clock one hundred years, to the moment when the United States entered not just a world war, but a three-year period of unparalleled censorship, mass imprisonment, and anti-immigrant terror.

Our Awful Prisons: How They Can Be Changed

A shakedown of inmates in the main corridor of the Ellis Prison Farm, Huntsville, Texas, 1968; photograph by Danny Lyon from his 1971 book Conversations with the Dead, which has just been reissued by Phaidon. A retrospective of his work, ‘Danny Lyon: Message to the Future,’ will be on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, June 17–September 25, 2016.

Mr. Smith Goes to Prison: What My Year Behind Bars Taught Me About America’s Prison Crisis

by Jeff Smith

Understanding Mass Incarceration: A People’s Guide to the Key Civil Rights Struggle of Our Time

by James Kilgore
One private prison company alone, the Corrections Corporation of America, today runs the country’s fifth-largest prison system, after those of the federal government and the three biggest states. The less money such corporations spend on staff training, food, education, medical care, and rehabilitation, the more profits they make. States, at least in theory, have a financial incentive to reduce recidivism, but for private prisons, recidivism produces what every business wants: returning customers. No wonder these companies push hard for three-strikes laws and similar measures.


Into the Trenches in Red and Blue

Motorized gun carriage with an antiaircraft gun, Verdun, 1916

Because of the photography of their day, we tend to think of the world wars in black and white. Peter Walther’s The First World War in Colour feels like looking at a familiar scene through a different pair of eyeglasses. The first thing that stuns you is the brilliant colors of the uniforms. The French army of 1914 was the most snappily dressed in Europe.