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100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens. How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations and human rights; to trust money, books and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come? In Sapiens, Dr Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the earth to the radical - and sometimes devastating - breakthroughs of the Cognitive, Agricultural and Scientific Revolutions. Drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, palaeontology and economics, he explores how the currents of history have shaped our human societies, the animals and plants around us, and even our personalities. Have we become happier as history has unfolded? Can we ever free our behaviour from the heritage of our ancestors? And what, if anything, can we do to influence the course of the centuries to come? Bold, wide-ranging and provocative, Sapiens challenges everything we thought we knew about being human: our thoughts, our actions, our power ... and our future. 'Here is a simple reason why Sapiens has risen explosively to the ranks of an international bestseller. It tackles the biggest questions of history and of the modern world, and it is written in unforgettably vivid language. You will love it!' - Jared Diamond
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.
Exploring black music and social movements from Motown, soul and the civil rights movement, through the Black Panther Movement, Jimi Hendrix and Black Woodstock, this trilogy is a triumphant mix of meticulous research and an author’s palpable passion for his subject. Set against the tinderbox backdrop of the Vietnam War and widespread civil unrest, the trilogy begins in Detroit, 1967, and tells the twelve-month story of a city on the edge, with one of the world’s most famous record labels – Detroit-based Motown – at a pivotal point in its history, while riots in the city prove pivotal to the wider country. Taken as a whole, this smart sequence provides a multi-angled view of the time, and it’s clear how social deprivation and a spirit of resistance led to both political action and revolutions of a musical kind. In-depth, enlightening, entertaining and affecting, these forensically evocative books will make you want to delve deeper into the work of the seminal musicians who wrote the soundtrack to this seminal period of American history.
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.
I’m really not sure where to start. A book has never held my attention so much, nor has one made me think so hard. In a good, good way, but in an uncomfortable way. About being white, about white privilege, about how white is the default, how white is neutral. Having always seen myself as an anti-racist, I am embarrassed by how little I knew about black British history until I read this book. How little I knew about things that happened on my doorstep in my home town of Liverpool, originally Britain’s biggest slave port and where I live now in multicultural London. How I thought I understood but realised that unless you have experienced racism, you can never really understand. Unless we acknowledge that as white people we enjoy systemic privilege, how can we ever make a difference? As a white mother of mixed race children, the section talking about colour blindness was frighteningly enlightening and it has really made me consider what my children’s needs might be as mixed race kids. Everyone should read this book. It’s so well-researched, so powerfully written, so personal and yet so eloquent and poignant. It’s an enlightening and essential book about race that gets you thinking about the inherent racism in our nation: the fear of the black planet, feminism and class and race all intertwined. In February 2014 Reni Eddo-Lodge published a post on her blog on the topic of race, about the vast majority of white people refusing to accept the legitimacy of structural racism and its symptoms. As Reni states, it wasn’t a cry for help or a plea for white people’s understanding, it was about self-preservation. This book is the result of five years’ worth of awkward conversations following the publication on that blog. Within the pages Remi quotes the late Terry Pratchett who once said: “There’s no justice. Just us.” This book is a tool, it’s an education, it’s a call to action. Please read it.
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
By the time of the ‘Scramble for Africa’ in the late nineteenth century, Africa had already been globally connected for many centuries. Its gold had fuelled the economies of Europe and the Islamic world since around 1000 CE, and its sophisticated kingdoms had traded with Europeans along the coasts from Senegal down to Angola since the fifteenth century. Until at least 1650, this was a trade of equals, using a variety of currencies – most importantly shells: the cowrie shells imported from the Maldives, and the nzimbu shells imported from Brazil. Toby Green’s groundbreaking new book transforms our view of West and West-Central Africa. A Fistful of Shells draws not just on written histories, but on archival research in nine countries, on art, praise-singers, oral history, archaeology, letter and the author’s personal experience to create a new perspective on the history of one of the world’s most important regions.
1913: the last long summer before the war. The country is gripped by suffragette fever. These impassioned crusaders have their admirers; some agree with their aims if not their forceful methods, while others are aghast at the thought of giving any female a vote. Meanwhile, hundreds of women are stepping out on to the streets of Britain. They are the suffragists: non-militant campaigners for the vote, on an astonishing six-week protest march they call the Great Pilgrimage. Rich and poor, young and old, they defy convention, risking jobs, family relationships and even their lives to persuade the country to listen to them. This is a story of ordinary people effecting extraordinary change. By turns dangerous, exhausting and exhilarating, the Great Pilgrimage transformed the personal and political lives of women in Britain for ever.
The Doomsday Machine is Ellsberg's hair-raising account of the most dangerous arms build-up in the history of civilisation, whose legacy - and proposed renewal under the Trump administration - threatens the very survival of humanity. It is scarcely possible to estimate the true dangers of our present nuclear policies without penetrating the secret realities of the nuclear strategy of the late Eisenhower and early Kennedy years, when Ellsberg had high level access to them. No other insider has written so candidly of that long-classified history, and nothing has fundamentally changed since that era. Ellsberg's discussion of recent research on nuclear winter shows that even a 'small' nuclear exchange would cause billions of deaths by global nuclear famine. Framed as a memoir - a chronicle of madness in which Ellsberg acknowledges participating - this gripping expose reads like a thriller with cloak-and-dagger intrigue, returning him to his role as whistle-blower. It is a real-life Dr Strangelove story, but an ultimately hopeful - and powerfully important - book.
From rebel writers and outrageous occultists, to mayhem-making musicians, the exuberant individuals described herein are a heady hotchpotch of hell-raising, trailblazing outsiders, united by their links to London. As the author notes in his introduction, the city has “always been home to outsiders. To people who won't, or can't, abide by the conventions of respectable society” and, beginning with the rabble-rousing antics of Shakespeare’s unrulier contemporaries, this entertaining book takes readers on an exhilarating journey, with the Big Smoke’s most rebellious residents as tour guides. We encounter familiar flamboyant figures afresh - William Blake, Mary Shelley, Oscar Wilde, Virginia Woolf, Dylan Thomas. We also meet lesser-known figures, such as the wealthy women at the heart of the Bright Young Things scene of the twenties and thirties. Later, we are thrust into the Swinging Sixties, and propelled into punk, which opened a door for London’s working class youth to make their own music and art, and thereby make something of themselves. This miscellany of miscreants comes highly recommended for anyone with an interest in London’s colourful cultural history, and for readers who are fuelled by the flames of rebellion. ~ Joanne Owen BUY DIRECT FROM THE PUBLISHER
Auntie's War is a love letter to radio. While these were the years when her sometimes bossy tones earned the BBC the nickname `Auntie', they were also a period of truly remarkable voices: Churchill's fighting speeches, de Gaulle's broadcasts from exile, J. B. Priestley, Ed Murrow, George Orwell, Richard Dimbleby and Vera Lynn. Radio offered an incomparable tool for propaganda; it was how coded messages, both political and personal, were sent across Europe, and it was a means of sending less than truthful information to the enemy. At the same time, eyewitness testimonies gave a voice to everyone, securing the BBC's reputation as reliable purveyor of the truth. Edward Stourton is a sharp-eyed, wry and affectionate companion on the BBC's wartime journey, investigating archives, diaries, letters and memoirs to examine what the BBC was and what it stood for. Full of astonishing, little-known incidents, battles with Whitehall warriors and Churchill himself, and with a cast of brilliant characters, Auntie's War is much more than a portrait of a beloved institution at a critical time. It is also a unique portrayal of the British in wartime and an incomparable insight into why we have the broadcast culture we do today.
An examination of 10 meals, not celebrated for any gourmet delights that might have been on show but for when they happened and who was at the dinner table. These meals changed history, starting with dinner on the eve of the Battle of Culloden through to Jimmy Carter’s peace brokering between Egypt and Israel. Accompanying the history, Chef Tony Singh has researched and recreated the meals to give a full picture of what was on the table at these momentous meetings. ~ Sue Baker Like for Like ReadingA History of Food in 100 Recipes, William Sitwell £16.99 Paperback 352 pages William Collins 12th March 2015 9780007412006Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat, Bee Wilson £9.99 Paperback 416npages Penguin 24th October 2013 97801410849083
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.