Tuesday, October 24, 2006

New Books - Amerigo / The Americas

Felipe Fernandez-Armesto
The Americas: the history of a hemisphere
Phoenix, 2003, 970 FER

Felipe Fernandez-Armesto
Amerigo: the man who gave his name to America
Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2006, 970.01 FER

Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, who presented an
RSA lecture at the 2006 Edinburgh International Book Festival, is Professor of Global Environmental History at Queen Mary, University of London, and a member of the Faculty of Modern History at Oxford University. Whether in an entertaining biography of Vespucci Amerigo, the man after whom the American Continents were named, or in a biography of the continents themselves, Fernandez-Armesto is an evocative writer of history who manages to balance intellectual interrogation with a compelling style that appeals to a mass readership .

‘The Americas’ - From food to the spread of political ideas, the landmass from northern Canada to the southern tip of Argentina is complexly bound together, yet these connections are generally ignored. In this groundbreaking and vividly rendered work, leading historian Felipe Fernández-Armesto tells, for the first time, the story of our hemisphere as a whole, showing why it is impossible to understand North, Central, and South America in isolation, and looking instead to the intricate and common forces that continue to shape the region.With his trademark erudition, imagination, and thematic breadth, Fernández-Armesto ranges over commerce, religion, agriculture, the environment, the slave trade, culture, and politics. He takes us from man’s arrival in North America to the Colonial and Independence periods, to the “American Century” and beyond. For most of human history, the south dominated the north: as Fernández-Armesto argues in his provocative conclusion, it might well again.

‘Amerigo’ – In 1507 the cartographer Martin Waldseemuller published a world map with a new continent on it which he called America', after the explorer and navigator Amerigo Vespucci. The map was a phenomenal success and when Mercator's 1538 world map extended the name to the northern hemisphere of the continent, the new name was secure, even though Waldseemuller himself soon realised he had picked the wrong man. This is the story of how one side of the world came to be named not after its discoverer Christopher Columbus, but after his friend and rival Amerigo Vespucci.

Read a Felipe
Fernandez-Armesto interview with TMCQ.

Friday, October 13, 2006

New Book/DVD - Eating/Super size me

Peter Singer & Jim Mason
Eating: what we eat and why it matters
Arrow Books, 2006, 174.966 SIN

Morgan Spurlock
Super Size Me
Tartan Video, 2005, DVD SPU

Whether from a Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University or a maverick filmmaker who films the consequences of eating nothing but McDonald's for a month, the politics of eating has become a major issue within contemporary western society. Although sharing the conviction that what we eat matters, Eating and
Super size me approach the subject of food from distinctly different angles. Morgan Spurlock's popular documentary film focuses specifically on America and the social political and economic factors that have enabled damaging fast foods to become so prevalent within modern America, as well as the devastating consequences this is having on the health of a nation. Peter Singer focuses on the ethical complexity of food and its relationship with the individual, and is not so quick to place blame on fast food companies such as McDonald's. For example, in an interview with Mother Jones Magazine, Singer praises initiatives such as the burrito chain Chipolte which is owned by McDonald's and aims to use as much organic food as possible.

Super size me - the debate is a McDonald's website addressing many of the issues in Morgan Spurlock's film.

Read a
Guardian article on a laboratory replication of Morgan Spurlock's 'Super Size me' experiment.