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Review: Spain 1812-2004 – by Christopher J Ross

spain 1812-2004

I have read this book as I am doing a university course next year on Spanish History in the Modern Period. The book is devised for language students and at the end of each chapter excerpts in Spanish are provided, with translations, which are really useful. The book has some great side notes, detailing often Spanish phrases for the various political bodies, organisations and specialist terms one encounters in the text. If I was to be critical of the book it is to say that it focuses very much on politics and maybe goes into too much depth at the expense of wider cultural issues. Certainly the last few chapters make tough reading and are perhaps more intrinsically focussed than say the wider world knowledge of the Spanish Civil War and enduring Franco régime. Spain is often an international anomaly in its history, from Empire to international isolationism through to its modern period of more fiercer European integration. There was a lot of detail on regionalism that I found most intriguing, in particular the cases of Catalonia and the Basque country. I feel that the book is well worth reading and now feel suitably historically enlightened about the state and home of the Spanish language. I am sure that I will find plenty of future use of the book as a reference tool.

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Review: Cartels At War – by Paul Rexton Can

cartels at war

  The author is a military expert and the phrase he coins to determine Mexico’s narcotics problem is a ‘mosaic cartel war’. This book analyses in detail the various cartels that are present in Mexico that operate in a highly competitive, highly profitable, highly illegal, immensely violent global industry. The Mexican cartels mainly provide a distribution service for the drug-producing areas of South America, and provide the market pathway into the riches of the United States. Thus, the problem in Mexico is very much in tandem a US problem and therefore a valid area of study for the US Military. The cartels are vast and all very different: Sinaloa, Tijuana, Gulf, Beltrán-Leyva,Juarez, La Familia Michoacana & Los Zetas – these are the main cartels although subdivisions exist and other splinter groups may assist various different bodies in the distribution and enforcement of the criminal activity. There are alliances among the cartels in addition to disputes and the intra-cartel warfare can be particularly brutal. The Mexican State utilise many strategies from military to political to law enforcement policing, and they are often backed up from the USA with it Merida initiative. Solutions to the conflicts and problem are provided in detail and range from legalisation of drugs, in particular in the USA and also improved military and law enforcement tactics. This study is comprehensive and provides much detail on a very complex subject. I don’t think that any immediate solution is on the horizon for Mexico and for if it is not to exist as a failed state the cartels and their power are an issue which must not be allowed to further escalate out of control.

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Review: The Rise Of Islamic State – by Patrick Cockburn

rise of islamic state

This is an excellent introductory text for those wishing to better understand the complex details of the rise of Islamic State, ISIS or ISIL. From its arrival due to the Syrian Civil War and its cancerous spread into post-war Iraq, this extremist-terrorist Sunni Islamic (Wahhabi) nation/fundamentalist organisation, has been indefatigable. The best minds and theorists on the region have been unable to prevent ISIS success and growth, even with tacit US military support and backing virtually every possible political rival. This book looks at the reasons for this emergence of IS and it briefly analyses the possible solutions to its successful cessation. It is clear that a lot of the problem comes from the wider Sunni-Shia split across the Islamic world. The failure to establish a genuine alternative to the Saddam Hussein régime in Iraq has left a vacuum in particular among the Sunni populations of Northern Iraq where ISIS predominate. The failure of the Assad opposition in the Syrian revolution/civil war has also created the perfect conditions for this new state, the inheritor of post Bin Laden Al Qaeda, and the recipient of such massive Sunni Wahhabist support across the Middle Eastern oil-rich kingdoms. Every player in the region has its interests invoked and post-imperialist powers plus global nuclear superpowers are all involved in the rising anarchistic conflict. What is clear from the author’s well-studied work is that this ISIS / Sunni Revolution situation is far from an anomaly and is a reality and a problem which is here to stay in the short term at least. In order for any solutions for the problem to be found, then studies on the ISIS phenomenon will become ever so important. A great introductory read, packed full of condensed information.

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Review: Women and the Second World War in France, 1939-1948: Choices and Constraints – by Hanna Diamond

women ww2 france

This book focuses on the role of French women during World War 2 and the immediate aftermath. It is clear that the women of France bore the brunt of dealing with the occupier, very often their men away, detained as prisoners of war or, for example, sequestered to work abroad in the Fatherland, Germany. Women had to cope with running family businesses, looking after the family, acquiring food. They may have chosen to either be collaborationists or to have joined the resistance. I found it particularly interesting hearing of the women who collaborated with the enemy, either seeking roles within Vichy or directly engaging with the German soldiers. The shorn heads of collaborators at Liberation cast powerful images in the reader. Women became, I feel, more valued in society as a result of their wartime activities and although they may have gone back to their roles afterwards as second class citizens within the family and society, they did earn themselves suffrage and I feel moved women as a whole towards parity with their male counterparts. The book is written in feminists tones, though without being to alienist to the male reader. It is factual and interesting and provides a good basis for further study for the university course I anticipate studying on the subject of Women in World War 2 France.

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Review: 2017 War With Russia: An Urgent Warning from Senior Military Command – by General Sir Richard Shirreff

2017 war with russia

When I first purchased this book I thought it would be a work of non-fiction, but instead I discovered it was actually fiction. The author, a former Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe, was, in his employment, well-used to war-gaming scenarios with, in particular, Russia. This book, aimed at the general public, introduces many real aspects of NATO and is about a potential imminent future conflict with Russia. The thrills of the well-built characters as they journey through a potential MAD (Mutually-Assured destruction) Nuclear scenario, set in the Baltics, makes the novel a real fast page-turner. I was surprised by the often negative light the author holds NATO in, with its often complicated command structure and this book must have been written with real-life experience. It makes me wonder about shedding defence force budgets and what problems we actually would face were a potential conflict with Russia in Europe actually break out (which of course if you include Ukraine it actually has). In light of the potential Brexit vote in the UK, I think that this book shows the potential value of unity and the necessity of an international alliance in defeating dangerous foes. An excellent read.

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Review: Hidden Dangers – Mexico on the Brink of Disaster – by Robert Joe Stout

Hidden Dangers

Stout’s book is a detailed study of the status quo in Mexico and its relationship with its uber-powerful Northern neighbour. Based in Oaxaca, Robert Joe Stout’s writing often reflects detailed local knowledge and overall, his grip on Mexican and Mexican-USA affairs is profound. The book falls into 5 main chapters where various ‘landmines’ awaiting explosion are discussed. From migration to the cutthroat ‘War on Drugs’, from the environment to political activism and corruption. The poise of Stout is always of an educated man yet he has a Derridean presence, enough to see the wider picture and to target a worldwide readership. I love the way he interlinks words and phrases from Mexico such a ‘Cuatear’ and ‘debajo el agua’. I found the War on Drugs to be a noteworthy chapter – it is very difficult to see a solution to this militarized situation and with 50000 deaths already and 70% of Mexico’s cash being generated by the illegal drug industry, there are no easy solutions to this landmine. The author’s work here builds on other detailed studies I have read on this situation such as Joan Grillo’s ‘El Narco’. I found the chapter on corruption to be where the author was most freeflowing and insightful. The detail in this chapter, combined with direct local knowledge and research gives this book an edge on other contemporary studies on Mexico. Overall, I loved Stout’s revelations in ‘Hidden Dangers’ and as a Translation / Hispanic Studies student at Cardiff University I hope that this book and its contents can be featured on future courses at the institution. Five Star Rating.

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