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Intensively researched, lovingly compiled, more accessible than ever, whatever your subject of interest - this is where you’ll find it.
Any historian dealing with the Vikings must firstly fight myth – those horned helmets to name but one and then there’s the sparsity of evidence from a people with so little in the way of written record. We do get a lot of sword-play and blood-lust but there are also the sharp-eyed merchants trading across the known world. But mostly it’s the swords with men fighting for dominance and allegiance. While I would have liked to know more about the lives of Viking women (about 12 pages, having checked the index) Tom Williams is very good at putting the Vikings into a historical context, looking at their legacy and the mark they made on our country. ~ Sue Baker Like for Like Reading Vikings by Neil Oliver Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings by Peter Sawyer
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
October 2017 Non Fiction Book of the Month Richard Blandford shows London as represented in art from the C17 to C21, arranged by district it enables us to see the changes – to London and to artistic styles. This is best shown in the illustration of two drawings with a 400-year gap between them – Visscher’s 1616 Panorama of London and Robin Reynolds with Visscher Redrawn in 2016. This book presents a good overall view of London and its portrayal in paint, but I must ask why one of the most beautiful of London street views, George Scharf’s Monument from Crooked Lane hasn’t been included and sadly there is not one single Atkinson Grimshaw who surely deserves a place for his pictures of Hampstead and of the River. However, one of my favourite London paintings, Sir William Logsdail’s St Paul’s and Ludgate Hill graces the cover and although two personal favourites are missing I’ve found many other painters and pictures to enjoy. ~ Sue Baker Like for Like Reading: Victorian Babylon: People, Streets and Images in Nineteenth Century London by Lyndon Nead Edward Bawden’s London by Peyton Skipwith
Each chapter centres on different motives, exploring them through the stories of famous spies, such as the Cambridge Five, Sidney Reilly and Aldrich Ames, following the path they took that lead, finally, to their treachery. Through in-depth insider knowledge, Michael Smith also uncovers new and unknown cases, including ISIS, President Trump's links with Russia and Edward Snowden's role as a whistleblower to offer compelling psychological portrait of these men and women, homing unerringly on the fault-lines and shady corners of their characters, their weaknesses and their strengths, the lies they tell other people, and the lies they always end up telling themselves.
June, 1940. German troops enter Paris and hoist the swastika over the Arc de Triomphe. The dark days of Occupation begin. How would you have survived? By collaborating with the Nazis, or risking the lives of you and your loved ones to resist? The women of Paris faced this dilemma every day - whether choosing between rations and the black market, or travelling on the Metro, where a German soldier had priority for a seat. Between the extremes of defiance and collusion was a vast moral grey area which all Parisiennes had to navigate in order to survive.
From the secret SAS archives, and acclaimed author Ben Macintyre: the first ever authorized history of the SAS. In the summer of 1941, at the height of the war in the Western Desert, a bored and eccentric young officer, David Stirling, came up with a plan that was radical and entirely against the rules: a small undercover unit that would inflict mayhem behind enemy lines. Despite intense opposition, Winston Churchill personally gave Stirling permission to recruit the toughest, brightest and most ruthless soldiers he could find. So began the most celebrated and mysterious military organisation in the world: the SAS.
Shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2017. One and a half times the size of Western Europe Siberia has acted as an open prison for centuries. Through physical work the mad, the bad and the dangerous were thought to find the true path to citizenship. There are accounts of such breathtaking savagery it is hard to remember this is truth not fiction. Siberian exile is now remembered as part and parcel of Stalin’s regime, House of the Dead reminds us that the roots of this cruelty go deep into the Tsarist past. ~ Sue BakerLike for Like Reading In Siberia, Colin ThubronGulag: A History of the Soviet Camps, Anne Applebaum Wolfson History Prize Judges: “Elegantly written and finely researched, Beer deploys an impressive array of archival sources in this highly original work.”
The relationship between horses and humans is an ancient, profound and complex one. For millennia horses provided the strength and speed that humans lacked. How we travelled, farmed and fought was dictated by the needs of this extraordinary animal. And then, suddenly, in the 20th century the links were broken and the millions of horses that shared our existence almost vanished, eking out a marginal existence on race-tracks and pony clubs. Farewell to the Horse is an engaging, brilliantly written and moving discussion of what horses once meant to us. Cities, farmland, entire industries were once shaped as much by the needs of horses as humans. The intervention of horses was fundamental in countless historical events. They were sculpted, painted, cherished, admired; they were thrashed, abused and exposed to terrible danger. From the Roman Empire to the Napoleonic Empire every world-conqueror needed to be shown on a horse. Tolstoy once reckoned that he had cumulatively spent some nine years of his life on horseback. Ulrich Raulff's book, a bestseller in Germany, is a superb monument to the endlessly various creature who has so often shared and shaped our fate.
A gorgeously expressive and captivating novel, set in 1930’s India at the height of the struggle for independence against British rule. 28 year old photographer Eliza agrees to document the royal family and subjects of one of the princely states. Eliza spends time with Jay, brother of the prince, and as they become closer they open their minds to new ideas, however their relationship comes under scrutiny. Dinah Jefferies always transports thoughts, feelings, and senses, not only to the place, but also the time, so completely, it’s a shock when you look up from page and come back to reality. For me, there was an additional quality to this novel, the land is important, the descriptions are striking, and the history of this time absolutely fascinating; yet the relationship here feels vital, pronounced, and completely essential to the storyline. It is the relationship, with the different customs and cultures, and how it affects the people surrounding Eliza and Jay, that really provoked my feelings. With the issues affecting women taking centre stage, ‘Before the Rains’ is a beautiful novel, subtle yet striking, full of impact, and full of love.
What does it mean to eat like a queen? Elizabeth gorged on sugar, Mary on chocolate and Anne was known as 'Brandy Nan'. Victoria ate all of this and more. The Greedy Queen celebrates Victoria's appetite, both for food and, indeed, for life. Born in May 1819, Victoria came 'as plump as a partridge'. In her early years she lived on milk and bread under the Kensington system; in her old age she suffered constant indigestion yet continued to over-eat. From intimate breakfasts with the King of France, to romping at tea-parties with her children, and from state balls to her last sip of milk, her life is examined through what she ate, when and with whom. In the royal household, Victoria was surrounded by ladies-in-waiting, secretaries, dressers and coachmen, but below stairs there was another category of servant: her cooks. More fundamental and yet completely hidden, they are now uncovered in their working environment for the first time.
Through their diaries, letters and memoirs, meet the women who defied convention and followed their convictions to defend the less fortunate and fight for their country. Follow British Flora Sandes as she joins the Serbian Army and takes up a place in the rearguard of the Iron Regiment as they retreat from the Bulgarian advance. Stow away with Dorothy Lawrence as she smuggles herself to Paris, steals a uniform and heads to the front. Enlist in Russia's all-female 'Battalion of Death' alongside peasant women and princesses alike. The personal accounts of these women, who were members of organisations such as the US Army Signal Corps, the Canadian Army Medical Corps, the FANY, WRAF, WRNS, WAAC and many others, provide a valuable insight into what life was like for women in a male-dominated environment.
One hundred years on...On 18 July 1917, a heavy artillery barrage was unleashed by the Allied forces against an entrenched German army outside the town of Ypres. it was to be the opening salvo of one of the most ferociously fought and debilitating encounters of the First World War. Few battles would encapsulate the utter futility of the war better that what became known as the Battle of Passchendaele. By the time the British and Canadian forces finally captured Passchendaele village on 6 November, the Allies had suffered over 271,000 casualties and the German army over 217,000. Passchendaele: Requiem for Doomed Youth shows how ordinary men on both sides endured this constant state of siege, with a very real awareness that they were being gradually, deliberately felled. Here, Paul Ham tells the story of an army caught in the grip of an extraordinary power struggle - both global and national. As Prime Minister Lloyd George and Commander Haig's relationship deteriorated beyond repair, so a terrible battle of attrition was needlessly and painfully prolonged. Ham lays down a powerful challenge to the ways in which we have previously seen this monumental battle.
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.