Intensively researched, lovingly compiled, more accessible than ever, whatever your subject of interest - this is where you’ll find it.
Shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2018 Combining exemplary investigative research with enthralling readability and a radiant human touch, this book will surely transform commonly-held perceptions of sixteenth century England, and the role of minorities in British history. Through detailed portraits of ten fascinating individuals whose stories have gone untold, this book lays bare the varied and often vital roles played by Africans who lived free and varied lives in Tudor times. As the author points out in her introduction, the popular view is that “people of African origin first arrived in England when the Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury in 1948.” Not so, and the author also rebuffs the assumption that African presence in Tudor England was always an experience of “enslavement and discrimination”. Among these absorbing pages we discover John Blanke, a King’s trumpeter, most likely to have been born in North or West Africa, and Jacques Francis, a salvage diver who was the first known African to testify before an English court. Then there’s Moroccan Mary Fillis who came to England as a child and was baptised. This riveting reassessment of an oft-explored era deserves to be widely read. ~ Joanne Owen
The acclaimed history of the rise of the Nazis based on fascinating first-hand accounts. One of the Daily Telegraph's Best Books of 2017; A Guardian `Readers' Choice' Best Book of 2017; Without the benefit of hindsight, how do you interpret what's right in front of your eyes?; Based on fascinating firsthand accounts, this illuminating book asks what it was like to travel in the Third Reich during the interwar era. Was it possible to know what was really going on? Was it possible for a visiting outsider “to grasp the essence of National Socialism”? The accounts of a multitude of travellers are surveyed - ordinary tourists, academics and athletes, alongside royalty, celebrities and creative types like Samuel Beckett, Francis Bacon, Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West. Their experiences and responses are recounted in all their intriguing variation - bewilderment, obliviousness, internal outrage, scholarly outrage. I found the chapter on African American academic and Germanophile Professor William Edward Burghardt Du Bois particularly engrossing. Du Bois visited Germany in 1936 seeking to study race prejudice, but the organisation that commissioned his trip instead permitted him to investigate education and industry. He returned to report the “vindictive cruelty” of the “campaign against the Jews” and, while he experienced no “personal insult or discrimination” himself, he posited the view that matters might be different “if there were any number of Negroes in Germany”. Spritely in tone, and finely researched, this is an engaging must-read for those with an interest in German history, and in social history per se. It might also serve as a cautionary tale to pay closer attention to the world around us. ~ Joanne Owen
Perfect for fans of Kate Summerscale, this is the chilling true tale of Dr John Bodkin Adams, the family doctor suspected of murdering 160 of his patients in 1950s Eastbourne.
As a gripping piece of true historical crime, this will appeal to the many fans of The Suspicions of Mr Whicher
Shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2018 An absolutely engrossing work of micro-history exploring how one tiny North Sea archipelago played an improbably large role in defining modern Europe. Located 300 miles off the east coast of England, and 29 miles off the German coastline, Heligoland has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Following a period under Danish sovereignty, the land became Britain’s smallest colony for most of the nineteenth century. After a spell as a seaside spa for European liberals, Britain ceded the land to Germany in 1890, whereupon it was transformed into a naval base by the Kaiser and later Hitler, thereby consolidating its pivotal role in Anglo-German relations. The land was fiercely fought over in both world wars - in fact, Britain directed the largest non-nuclear explosion in history at the island in 1947. But, as the author shows through his crisply engaging style, drawing upon endlessly varied sources of archival information – literature, art, film – the island’s symbolic importance continued deep into the twentieth century. I came away with untold new insights, and the utmost admiration for the author’s nimble melding of scholarly excellence with readability. ~ Joanne Owen
Shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2018 | April 2018 Book of the Month At once astonishingly detailed and succinctly incisive, this remarkably readable work lays bare the fascinating story of how China came to be the powerful country it presently is. “Nationalism matters in China, and what matters in China matters to us all,” and, the author argues, China’s “new nationalism” and present-day power can be traced back to the early twentieth century, and (perhaps surprisingly) to past weaknesses - to periods of invasion and partial subjugation when , for example, parts of major cities were governed by Britons, Japanese, Germans and Russians. With a keen and engaging interweaving of cultural history, the author explores the formation, development and trajectory of outside powers within China from the post-WWI era. Naturally, high-level politics is explored with scholarly sharpness, but this places people at its heart, relating lived experiences alongside policy shifts and grapples. Truly this is narrative history at its understand-the-past-to-understand-the-present best. ~ Joanne Owen
Shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2018 "In the 1840s, operative surgery was a filthy business fraught with hidden dangers. It was to be avoided at all costs”. So states the author near the opening of this grippingly grisly work. But despite (or perhaps because of) these risk-riddled conditions, medical voyeurism became a sought-after source of Victorian entertainment. This was an era in which pus was seen as a sign of healing; when surgeons rarely washed their instruments or hands; an era in which theatres of death rang with the screams of patients and the gasps of shocked spectators. It was among such a medico-cultural environment that a young surgeon named Joseph Lister voiced the audacious idea that germs were the cause of infection, and they could be treated. Dripping with gory detail, drama and reverence for a medical visionary, this is absolutely fascinating stuff - a lively, enlightening journey through social and medical history, a brilliant biography of an ingenious doctor whose invention of antisepsis was nothing short of revolutionary. ~ Joanne Owen
Shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2018 With compelling clarity Tim Grady demonstrates how “Germany’s path through the First World War not only destabilised German politics and society; it also opened people’s minds to the power of violence and destruction”, which – ultimately - created the conditions that led to the rise of National Socialism and the genocide of 6 million Jews. This pioneering work shows that since German Jews stood together with non-Jews in defending their country, they contributed to creating these conditions. They were “joint protagonists”, with some 100,000 Jewish soldiers serving in the German military, and many being passionate patriots, particularly supportive of Germany’s desire to colonise the East, for example. But, at the same time, and fuelled by the emerging “nonchalant attitude towards mass death” and a poisonous fear of “the other”, Jewish citizens found themselves on the wrong side of a unifying Imperialist ‘them and us’ division, and the stab-in-the-back myth began to thrive. Drawing on a breadth of fascinating sources, this is an engrossing and important study - rigorously researched, and written with vigour. ~ Joanne Owen
A remarkable narrative set against the dark days of World War Two, from one of the country's foremost social historians. Our Uninvited Guests perfectly captures the spirit of upheaval at the beginning of the Second World War when thousands of houses were requisitioned by the government to provide accommodation for the armed forces, secret services and government offices as well as vulnerable children, the sick and the elderly, all of whom needed to be housed safely beyond the reach of Hitler's Luftwaffe. Julie Summers gives the reader a behind-the-scenes glimpse of life in some of Britain's greatest country houses that were occupied by people who would otherwise never have set foot in such opulent surroundings.
Shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2018 Remarkably researched, incisively argued and brimming with authoritative verve, Professor Peter Marshall’s Heretics and Believers will surely become a seminal text on this seminal period, providing as it does a painstakingly laid path through a myriad of tangled theories, while positing a fresh approach. Arguing that to see the English Reformation as an ‘act of state’ is ‘almost the most unhelpful thing that can be said’, he posits that religion be viewed as a driving entity in its own right, and considers the experiences of individuals who were affected by – and themselves affected – the religious upheavals of the period. The individual and personal is brilliantly positioned within the ‘bigger picture’ backdrop, with in-depth pre-Reformation contextualisation. This is a mightily exhaustive scholarly triumph, told with a storyteller’s touch. ~ Joanne Owen
After so many books devoted to how the nation’s Home Front cooked and gardened during WWI it’s refreshing to see Julie Summers tackling the question of how peoples dealt with clothing themselves. Making do, mending, using unorthodox fabrics and ingenuity kept the country clothed and even fashionable in an age of hardship. Like for Like Reading Millions Like Us:Women's Lives during the Second World War, Virginia Nicholson Jambusters: The Story of the Women's Institute in the Second World War, Julie Summers
I felt, reading this book that we might well have lost the war without the Women’s Institute, if society had a glue then they provided it, not just the jam, but with canteens, medicines, evacuee children, anywhere help was needed. Julie Summers uses some wonderful memoirs and diaries to help write the book - sadly few are available to read in their entirety so their words are confined to Jambusters, a lovely piece of social history.
A Person, a Country, The World
History is such a broad and universal subject. After all, we’re all living through it and we all have our own. Here’s where you can get new perspectives on past events, discover a subject you’ve never explored or broaden your existing knowledge.
Our resident expert, Sue Baker, has compiled a wide range of great books covering everything from the major wars, or the creation of nations to the life-journeys of world-changing individuals. From social history (Family Britain by David Kynaston) and the World Wars (Swansong 1945 by Walter Kempowski) to the much loved periods of popular fiction authors (The Wars of the Roses by Dan Jones; The Rise of the Tudors: The Family that Changed Britain by Chris Skidmore): From the realities of often romanticised times (The Knight who saved England by Richard Brooks) to the lives of history’s extraordinary people (Cecily Neville: Mother of Kings by Amy Licence). You’ll find a resource here to fascinate on many levels. History without histrionics.
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