For me the book never got dry or boring it was never full of dates/names with out relevant and interesting stories. Overall, it was very well written! A hefty book to be sure, but Ms. Smith covered a lot of information very well and concisely, I thought.
I have a new interest in the royal family and can’t wait to see what happens next. I wish we had better coverage of all the news about them here in the states. If anyone has some links to share to good websites I would really appreciate it. Also, anyone “in-the-know” about the royal family could perhaps share a few more book recommendations? I am very interested in learning more about the next generation of royals that Ms. Smith covered in the last chapter.
I wish there had been more about each of the Queen’s children, but it was of course a book about her and not her children.
A couple of things that I found interesting about the queen.
Although the text seems to call out the fact that the queen is very cold not a very loving or personable individual, Ms. Smith went to lengths to try to say that was okay over and over again. I thought this was odd. Almost as if the author was defending the queen’s iciness.
Here is a questions for the group. Do you think the Queen was a good mom? For me I would have to say no, but is that really so bad, I mean for the kids yes, but is she a queen first or a mother first? How does her mother/leader role differ from that of the first lady here in the states?
Why doesn’t the queen give interviews or write a biography? Over again and again was the point that the British people needed to know her better, wouldn’t an interview/book do that?
Hi all, well it only took me 6 years, but I have finally imported all of the blogger content from my old site (on blogger) to this new fancy-dancy website here. You can see them in all their glory in the ‘imported from blogger‘ category. Also, in other behind the scenes news I also acquired the historypodcast.org domain. Yeah me! Now if only I could get the .com! That is all.
I didn’t have high hopes Enemies: A History of the FBI, I thought it would be dry based on its topic and thickness. However, I really like how the book was laid out, covering an era at a time and what was going on in the nation and how the FBI reacted to it. It made the book very easy to follow and a nice read. While I was not very excited about the story, it was not the first book I picked up when I had time to read, it was well written. It did have some fairly excited parts for me like when discussing spies especially. I wish there would have been more discussed about spies as that is very interesting to me. However, I realize that this would have left the book astray of its intended topic.
I learned a lot about the history of the FBI so the book succeeded in its goal. I had no idea that Hoover was such a large part of the agency. For the first 2/3 of the book I felt like I was reading his biography.
Overall, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in the FBI. I now feel I have a better understanding of one of our nations super secret agencies.
On April 16, 1947 at around 8am people noticed a red glow from the ship Grandcamp which was docked in the Port of Texas City in Texas City, Texas. The Grandcamp was originally called the SS Benjamin R. Curtis, named for the American attorney and US Supreme Court Justice. It went into service in 1942 and served in World War II. After the war the ship was decommissioned. In a cold war, gesture the ship was given to the French Line, a shipping company established during 1861 as an attempt to revive the French merchant marine.
The ship’s cargo was Ammonium nitrate, a chemical frequently used as fertilizer. I spread some on my lawn this weekend actually. It is also used as an ingredient in explosives. Ammonium nitrate is a very common cargo.
About 600 feet away the High Flyer was was docked. Its cargo also consisted of ammonium nitrate. 961 tons of it. Not to mention 1,800 tons of sulfur. To make all this worse, the two ships were adjacent to a warehouse which stored more fertilizer. All of this was on its way to farmers in Europe.
At 8am the red glow from the cargo hold on the Grandcamp was noticed and they began to try to put out the fire. All attempts failed.
Just before 9am the captain ordered the hold steamed. A common method used to try to put out the fire while not damaging the cargo. The hold began to expand because of the pressure from the steam. Meanwhile, crowds began to gather at what they thought was a safe distance. They noted to each other that the water around the ship was boiling. And when water splashed up against the hull it immediately turned to steam and evaporated.
At 9:12 am the cargo detonated. Sending a massive 15 foot wave out into the ocean from the port. The blast leveled almost 100 buildings on the shore. The explosion destroyed the Monsanto Chemical Company plant on shore and it also ignited refineries and chemical tanks on the waterfront. It was a gigantic explosion, which hurled the Grandcamps anchor 1.6 miles into the city. Creating a 10 foot deep crater. The blast shored off the wings of a sightseeing plane flying overhead and launched bales of flaming twine from the Grandcamps deck into the air.
10 miles from the explosion people in Galveston, Texas were thrown to their knees from the blast and in Houston, Texas, 40 miles from the explosion windows were shattered. The blast was felt as far as Louisiana, 100 miles from the blast. The grandcamp ship did not fair well either. Most of its 6,350 tons of steel were blown into the air with its cargo. Some at supersonic speeds. All of the crew that were aboard the Grandcamp died and many of those around the ship were either blown instantly to bits or burned alive. The official death toll was 567, which is believed to be underestimated. All but one of the Texas City volunteer firefighters, who were fighting the fire survived the explosion.
The High Flyer’s cargo was set afire from the blast on the Grandcamp and after 15 hours of fighting that fire and trying to move the ship away unsuccessfully, the High Flyer also exploded. That explosion killed two more and completely demolished the SS Wilson B. Keene docked nearby. One of the High Flyer’s propellers was blown a mile inland. It is now part of a memorial park, and sits near the anchor of the Grandcamp. The propeller is cracked in several places, and one of the blades has a large piece missing from it, a mute testament to the destruction that took place that day.
This disaster is widely considered to be the worst industrial accident in US history. The estimated property damage in 1947 dollars was 100 million, which in current dollars would equate to around 1.04 billion. It is believed that there were at least 468 deaths and 5,000 injured. Around 2,000 people were left homeless.
Hundreds of lawsuits were filed in the aftermath of the disaster under the recently enacted Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). On April 13, 1950, the district court found the United States responsible for a litany of negligent acts of omission and commission by 168 named agencies and their representatives in the manufacture, packaging, and labeling of ammonium nitrate, further compounded by errors in transport, storage, loading, fire prevention, and fire suppression, all of which led to the explosions.
On June 10, 1952, the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned this decision, finding that the United States maintained the right to exercise its own “discretion” in vital national matters. On June 8, 1953, the US Supreme Court upheld that decision.
This will be a quick post to tell you about the great book group I found on goodreads.com. It is for people who like to read history books. Every month the book group reads different books. You can choose to participate in all group reads or just in the ones that are reading books you are interested in.
The best part is the free books. Ever once and a while the group leader will receive free books from publishers. Around 30 copies are usually sent to him. He then ask who would be willing to read the book and participate in the group discussion online. If you agree you are put in the running to receive the book. No shipping fees, nothing. Just a free book with the understanding that you will participate in the discussion once it begins. I did this already once for Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch. It was a great read and the discussion was wonderful.
If this sounds like something you would like to do head on over to Goodreads History Book Club. Joining Goodreads is free and joining the history book club is free. Right now the free book that we are all reading is Enemies: A History of the FBI. It is not too late to join in the discussion on this book if you want to pick up the book yourself and join in the conversation. Everyone is welcome.
On July 9, we start reading Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman. You still have plenty of time to pick this one up. There are also other book readings going on in this group at the same time. So, have a look around and see if there is anything you are interested in. The Catherine read has already maxed out on the free books available, but join the group now so you don’t miss out on the next free book group read.
If you start reading the FBI or Catherine book as part of the online group read, please let me know on the goodreads discussion boards. I’d like to know if some history podcast listeners are out there. I will be reading the books right along with you.
I recently read Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff. This was a great history book. It has all the things I look for in a history book. Zuckoff is not a historian but a journalist so he tells a story. It is not a dry retelling of facts in chronological order. The book is about an obscure military base that is very remote. I love obscure history, I hate re-reading what I already know about with just a few new facts thrown in here and there, or worse yet someone else’s “new” observations.
Zuckoff writes in a way that is very readable especially for those with no interest in history. There is action, adventure and drama in this great book. It all happens during WWII but there is very little about the war in this book, it all about a small group of people stranded after a plane crash. I don’t want to say anything more because this book is very much worth your time if you decide to read it. I really enjoyed this book and I think any reader of this site will too. If you have read it please let me know what you thought of it in the comments. Happy reading!
I recently listened to the unabridged audio production of Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. I can’t say that I really enjoyed this book. If you don’t mind a completely basic run through of how the three subjects have impacted human history you might be okay with this book. I however, thought this book was extremely dry and often found my mind wondering while I listened to it.
I should mention that I am one of the few people who did not enjoy this book. It has a 3.94 out of 5 star rating on Goodreads with 3,186 reviews. It has similar ratings on Amazon.com, 4 stars out of 5, with 1,201 reviews.
Here is the publishers blurb about the book:
Explaining what William McNeill called The Rise of the West has become the central problem in the study of global history. In Guns, Germs, and Steel Jared Diamond presents the biologist’s answer: geography, demography, and ecological happenstance. Diamond evenhandedly reviews human history on every continent since the Ice Age at a rate that emphasizes only the broadest movements of peoples and ideas. Yet his survey is binocular: one eye has the rather distant vision of the evolutionary biologist, while the other eye–and his heart–belongs to the people of New Guinea, where he has done field work for more than 30 years.
For a long time I have wanted to write a post about what I do to produce a podcast. For episode 119 The Thirty Years War I first did a lot of research. I read about the war on wikipedia, then I searched the Internet for other sources. I found Hank’s History Hour episode on the religious wars, and I found Nathan Barber’s website. I listened to what Mr. Barber had on his website and I read the materials he had there. Then I started writing long hand, 10 pages. I also stopped at my local library to see what they had as far as books. I borrowed The Thirty Years War: Europe’s Tragedy and Eyewitness Accounts of the Thirty Years War 1618-48. I took a couple of tid-bits from the latter book, but the first book is huge and I just thumbed through it.
Then it was time to start recording. Easier said then done though. There are a few problems to recording. First finding the time to have a quiet house. For those who don’t know I have a little girl that is currently 2 and a half. If you know two and a half year-olds, then you know they are not a quiet group. Secondly, my microphone is packed up and at my in-laws home, since we have been trying to move for a year now, with no luck. The housing market in Southern California is less than ideal. So I had to record on the built in microphone on my laptop.
I went back and started using Audacity to record my podcast with. It is free and easy to use. After recording I use another program to normalize the audio so it is not too quiet or too loud anywhere. That software is called levelator. Then I import back into Audacity for finishing touches, like adding the intro music. After which I usually add the tags to the podcast using iTunes, but I think I forgot to do that this last time, so you may notice that.
Then it is already to go and I upload to Libsyn. After they have it, it is time to update my rss feed for the podcast and post the accompanying blog article. Thats it. Well, thats it for the audio portion of the podcast. For the Thirty Years War I also did a video, a PDF history guide and a timeline. I haven’t always done all these “extras”. I probably won’t continue to do them either. I didn’t get any feedback on any of the extras and I received very little feedback on the actual audio podcast.
There it is. If there are any questions just post them in the comments and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Thanks!
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