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The Submarine: a History.

The Submarine: A History

Thomas Parrish

Viking Penguin

ISBN: 0670033138 $29.95 576 pp.

Thomas Parrish is one of those rare writers who writes to invite, and despite the title of his latest work, he demonstrates that the best writers of the history of science do not produce the last word. The Submarine, like the author's previous Encyclopedia of the Cold War and American Codebreakers, leads readers into sharing a sense of fascination, into an urge to dig deeper and know more. Parrish's particular area of expertise is military history. It seems to me that, especially recently, we have been deluged with books about this subject, and as a person who normally prefers other kinds of history, I avoid the "chaps and maps" books with nearly the same enthusiasm that I do Tom Clancy. Had I not received The Submarine as a gift, and had I not read the first few pages in the presence of the giver, I would have missed a great book.

I do like books on the history of science and technology, especially recent ones. Science has a social dimension, a story, and the history of technology has become, especially lately, almost coextensive with the social history of organizational culture. Bureaucracies determine funding, and the history of bureaucracy is much more to my taste than is yet another map of the Battle of X. When someone writes a sentence such as "Something on the surface of the earth has always made us try to leave it", however, I am well and truly hooked.

Replete with anecdotes, aphorisms and warnings from Leonardo Da Vinci, tales of corporate and contracting scandals, The Submarine commanded my attention for more than five hundred pages, taught me more about naval warfare than either a history degree or any of my previous reading, and made a mockery of my firm resolutions to read for no more than an hour past bedtime. For general readers, and for those who, like me, must learn history by other means, The Submarine is the vehicle of choice.
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Author:Riggs, Michael
Publication:Reviewer's Bookwatch
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Nov 1, 2004
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