The Progressive Movement: 1900-1915, edited by Richard Hofstadter (Simon & Schuster: $6.95). No sooner did America regain unity after the Civil War than a new rift began to emerge, this one prompted not by whites exploiting blacks but by industrialism exploiting whites and blacks. The Progressive Movement achieved few policy changes at the federal level, but it remains significant today because it paved the way for the welfare state and emphasized the need for at least some government intervention in the marketplace. To the credit of Richard Hofstadter, this book's main emphasis is not on the relatively well-known muckrakers of the period, but on the leaders who issued more timeless messages about political responsibility (Woodrow Wilson's concern that "individuality is being swallowed up" by giant organizations) and political agendas ("The Socialists point out the connection between industrial maladjustment and individual wrongdoing," said Jane Addams, a sociologist, "but certainly . . . the obligation to eradicate vice cannot belong to one political party").
The Origins of War: From the Stone Age to Alexander the Great, Arther Ferrill (Thames & Hudson: $10.95). A man-ape from the Pleistocene era, glowing with pride after having discovered the destructive potential of a bone, thrusts the bone high into the air. The image of the bone, twirling slowly in the sky, fades into the image of a space station revolving above the Earth. This scene from the beginning of Stanley Kubrick's film, "2001: A Space Odyssey," reflects how closely our notion of progress is tied to technology. In the minds of historians and military strategists, technology plays a particularly prominent role, for while popular myth and legend might glorify the accomplishments of Hannibal, Caesar and Napoleon, most histories covering the period from the Stone Age to Alexander the Great look not at people, but at sticks and arrows in the prehistoric era, the stirrup in the Early Middle Ages, and gunpowder in the Late Middle Ages. In fact, Arther Ferrill writes in this intriguing 1985 work, the periods between these technological triumphs were anything but dark. Ferrill convincingly demonstrates that while the strategies of ancient Near Eastern warfare (particularly in integrating cavalry, skirmishers and light infantry) might not fend off forces in today's Nuclear Age, they remained largely unchallenged until the Industrial Age gathered steam in the 18th Century. Histories of war that begin with the recognition that "war is hell" and then move on to enthusiastically recount "heroic" exploits should be suspect. At times this book does just that--Ferrill is particularly fond of Alexander, for instance, boasting that "Western medieval armies could not have held their ground in the face of Alexander's attack"). For the most part, however, "The Origins of War" is an unusual demonstration of the continuity of military technology and the triumphs of early political leadership.