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ASHES TO ASHES

By Richard Kluger

America’s Hundred-Year Cigarette War, the Public Health, and the Unabashed Triumph of Philip Morris

Here for the first time, in a story full of the complexities and contradictions of human nature, all the strands of the historical process—financial, social, psychological, medical, political, and legal—are woven together in a riveting narrative. The key characters are the top corporate executives, public health investigators, and antismoking activists who have clashed ever more stridently as Americans debate whether smoking should be closely regulated as a major health menace.

We see tobacco spread rapidly from its aboriginal sources in the New World 500 years ago, as it becomes increasingly viewed by some as sinful and some as alluring, and by government as a windfall source of tax revenue. With the arrival of the cigarette in the late-nineteenth century, smoking changes from a luxury and occasional pastime to an everyday—to some, indispensable—habit, aided markedly by the exuberance of the tobacco huskers.

This free-enterprise success saga grows shadowed, from the middle of this century, as science begins to understand the cigarette’s toxicity. Ironically the more detailed and persuasive the findings by medical investigators, the more cigarette makers prosper by seeming to modify their product with filters and reduced dosages of tar and nicotine.

We see the tobacco manufacturers come under intensifying assault as a rogue industry for knowingly and callously plying their hazardous wares while insisting that the health charges against them (a) remain unproven, and (b) are universally understood, so smokers indulge at their own risk.

Among the eye-opening disclosures here: outrageous pseudo-scientific claims made for cigarettes throughout the ’30s and ’40s, and the story of how the tobacco industry and the National Cancer Institute spent millions to develop a “safer” cigarette that was never brought to market.

Dealing with an emotional subject that has generated more heat than light, this book is a dispassionate tour de force that examines the nature of the companies’ culpability, the complicity of society as a whole, and the shaky moral ground claimed by smokers who are now demanding recompense.

THE POPE AT WAR

By David I. Kertzer Read by Arthur Morey

Based on newly opened Vatican archives, a groundbreaking, explosive, and riveting book about Pope Pius XII and his actions during World War II, including how he responded to the Holocaust, by the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Pope and Mussolini

When Pope Pius XII died in 1958, his papers were sealed in the Vatican Secret Archives, leaving unanswered questions about what he knew and did during World War II. Those questions have only grown and festered, making Pius XII one of the most controversial popes in Church history, especially now as the Vatican prepares to canonize him.

In 2020, Pius XII’s archives were finally opened, and David I. Kertzer—widely recognized as one of the world’s leading Vatican scholars—has been mining this new material ever since, revealing how the pope came to set aside moral leadership in order to preserve his church’s power.

Based on thousands of never-before-seen documents not only from the Vatican, but from archives in Italy, Germany, France, Britain, and the United States, The Pope at War paints a new, dramatic portrait of what the pope did and did not do as war enveloped the continent and as the Nazis began their systematic mass murder of Europe’s Jews. The book clears away the myths and sheer falsehoods surrounding the pope’s actions from 1939 to 1945, showing why the pope repeatedly bent to the wills of Hitler and Mussolini.

Just as Kertzer’s Pulitzer Prize–winning The Pope and Mussolini became the definitive book on Pope Pius XI and the Fascist regime, The Pope at War is destined to become the most influential account of his successor, Pius XII, and his relations with Mussolini and Hitler. Kertzer shows why no full understanding of the course of World War II is complete without knowledge of the dramatic, behind-the-scenes role played by the pope. “This remarkably researched book is replete with revelations that deserve the adjective ‘explosive,’” says Kevin Madigan, Winn Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Harvard University. “The Pope at War is a masterpiece.”

THE SPLENDID AND THE VILE

By Erik Larson
A Saga of Churchill, Family and Defiance During the Blitz

On Winston Churchill’s first day as prime minister, Adolf Hitler invaded Holland and Belgium. Poland and Czechoslovakia had already fallen, and the Dunkirk evacuation was just two weeks away. For the next twelve months, Hitler would wage a relentless bombing campaign, killing 45,000 Britons. It was up to Churchill to hold his country together and persuade President Franklin Roosevelt that Britain was a worthy ally—and willing to fight to the end.

In The Splendid and the Vile, Erik Larson shows, in cinematic detail, how Churchill taught the British people “the art of being fearless.” It is a story of political brinkmanship, but it’s also an intimate domestic drama, set against the backdrop of Churchill’s prime-ministerial country home, Chequers; his wartime retreat, Ditchley, where he and his entourage go when the moon is brightest and the bombing threat is highest; and of course 10 Downing Street in London. Drawing on diaries, original archival documents, and once-secret intelligence reports—some released only recently—Larson provides a new lens on London’s darkest year through the day-to-day experience of Churchill and his family: his wife, Clementine; their youngest daughter, Mary, who chafes against her parents’ wartime protectiveness; their son, Randolph, and his beautiful, unhappy wife, Pamela; Pamela’s illicit lover, a dashing American emissary; and the advisers in Churchill’s “Secret Circle,” to whom he turns in the hardest moments.

The Splendid and the Vile takes readers out of today’s political dysfunction and back to a time of true leadership, when, in the face of unrelenting horror, Churchill’s eloquence, courage, and perseverance bound a country, and a family, together.

THE PEACEMAKER

By William Inboden
Ronald Reagan, the Cold War, and the World on the Brink

A masterful account of how Ronald Reagan and his national security team confronted the Soviets, reduced the nuclear threat, won the Cold War, and supported the spread of freedom around the world.

With decades of hindsight, the peaceful end of the Cold War seems a foregone conclusion. But in the early 1980s, most experts believed the Soviet Union was strong, stable, and would last into the next century. Ronald Reagan entered the White House with no certainty of what would happen next, only an overriding faith in democracy and an abiding belief that Soviet communism—and the threat of nuclear war—must end.

The Peacemaker reveals how Reagan’s White House waged the Cold War while managing multiple crises around the globe. From the emergence of global terrorism, wars in the Middle East, the rise of Japan, and the awakening of China to proxy conflicts in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, Reagan’s team oversaw the worldwide expansion of democracy, globalization, free trade, and the information revolution. Yet no issue was greater than the Cold War standoff with the Soviet Union. As president, Reagan remade the four-decades-old policy of containment and challenged the Soviets in an arms race and ideological contest that pushed them toward economic and political collapse, all while extending an olive branch of diplomacy as he sought a peaceful end to the conflict.

Reagan’s revolving team included Secretaries of State Al Haig and George Shultz; Secretaries of Defense Caspar Weinberger and Frank Carlucci; National Security Advisors Bill Clark, John Poindexter, and Bud McFarlane; Chief of Staff James Baker; CIA Director Bill Casey; and United Nations Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick. Talented and devoted to their president, they were often at odds with one another as rivalries and backstabbing led to missteps and crises. But over the course of the presidency, Reagan and his team still developed the strategies that brought about the Cold War’s peaceful conclusion and remade the world.

Based on thousands of pages of newly-declassified documents and interviews with senior Reagan officials, The Peacemaker brims with fresh insights into one of America’s most consequential presidents.  Along the way, it shows how the pivotal decade of the 1980s shaped the world today.

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