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Since it first aired in 2011, Game of Thrones galloped up the ratings to become the most watched show in HBO s history. It is no secret that creator George R.R. Martin was inspired by late 15th century Europe when writing A Song of Ice and Fire, the sprawling saga on which the show is based. Aside from the fantastical elements, Game of Thrones really does mirror historic events and bloody battles of medieval times but how closely? Game of Thrones versus History: Written in Blood is a collection of thought-provoking essays by medieval historians who explore how the enormously popular HBO series and fantasy literature of George R. R. Martin are both informed by and differ significantly from real historical figures, events, beliefs, and practices of the medieval world. From a variety of perspectives, the authors delve into Martin s plots, characterizations, and settings, offering insights into whether his creations are historical possibilities or pure flights of fantasy. Topics include the Wars of the Roses, barbarian colonizers, sieges and the nature of medieval warfare, women and agency, slavery, celibate societies in Westeros, myths and legends of medieval Europe, and many more. While life was certainly not a game during the Middle Ages, Game of Thrones versus History: Written in Blood reveals how a surprising number of otherworldly elements of George R. R. Martin s fantasy are rooted deeply in the all-too-real world of medieval Europe. Find suggested readings, recommended links, and more from editor Brian Pavlac at gameofthronesversushistory.com.
May 2017 Non-Fiction Book of the Month. This immersive book works as both a personal and public examination of the legal attempts to hold Nazi warmongers to account at Nuremberg, some of the first stirrings of international law. We are introduced to two Nuremberg judges who, after the prosecution of Hans Frank, Hitler’s Governor General of Poland, found he might well have been responsible for the destruction of their people and homeland, circumstances Phillipe Sands finds echoed in his own personal story through his Mother’s family. Already a deserved multi-prize-winner, East West Street manages to thread together multiple strands into one truly compelling history. ~ Sue BakerLike for Like ReadingThe Nuremberg Interviews: Conversations with the Defendants and Witnesses, Leon GoldensohnBloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin, Timothy Snyder
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
The Wicked Boy is a grim, dark and insightful examination of a controversial Victorian murder. In 1895, thirteen-year-old Robert Coombes was accused of killing his mother in cold blood, fuelling media frenzy and a highly publicised trial. There was much speculation at the time over what led to Emily Coombes’ murder, with no definitive conclusions. The first half of The Wicked Boy focuses on the trial itself, providing a well-researched insight into early psychiatry, law courts and forensic methods, at a time of social and political unrest. The book highlights neglect and the class divide and whether cheap adventure stories could be fuelling children’s delinquent behaviour – not so different to the computer games discussions of the modern age. The second half of the book focuses on the ‘after’ – what happened to Robert Coombes and his family once the trial was over. I found this particularly fascinating, and even uplifting and fulfilling, as Kate Summerscale turned a story of a shocking crime into one of redemption, resilience and rehabilitation. I won’t forget the story of the Coombes family very easily, thanks to her compelling storytelling, as The Wicked Boy provides proof that murder and murderers aren’t always what they seem.
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
Their missions are uniquely diverse, ranging from counter-terrorist responses at home and abroad; counter-insurgency in collaboration with US Delta Force and other foreign Special Forces; mobile operations in support of conventional forces; targeting terrorist leaders and man-hunting war criminals, to 'direct action' raids. This book charts the changing organization and operational emphases of the Regiment over the past 25 years; its individual deployments and operations, including those planned but aborted, joint missions with other British and foreign units.
Compiled by the team behind Whitaker's Almanack, Chronologica is a fascinating journey through time, from the foundation of Rome to the creation of the internet. Along the way are tales of kings and queens, hot air balloons, comets...and monkeys in space. Travel through 100 of the most incredible years in world history and learn why being a Roman Emperor wasn't always as good as it sounds, how the Hundred Years' War didn't actually last for 100 years and why Spencer Perceval holds a rather unfortunate record. Chronologica is an informative and entertaining glimpse into history, beautifully illustrated and full of incredible facts. While Chronologica tells the stories of famous people in history such as Thomas Edison and Alexander the Great, this books also recounts the lives of lesser-known individuals including the explorer Mungo Park and sculptor Gutzon Borglum. This historical compendium is certain to entertain readers young and old, and guaranteed to present even the biggest history buff with something new!
A masterly account of how the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome came into being, by a prize-winning Cambridge classicist whose writing is as accessible as it is scholarly. A secure grasp of the nature of our Greek and Roman heritage is absolutely fundamental to a true understanding of contemporary European society and culture. Nigel Spivey outlines and explains that heritage with supreme passion, rigour and clarity.
This book offers a major new interpretation of how one of the great figures of Christian history came to write the greatest of all autobiographies. Augustine is the person from the ancient world about whom we know most. He is the author of an intimate masterpiece, the Confessions, which continues to delight its many admirers. In it he writes about his infancy and his schooling in the classics in late Roman North Africa, his remarkable mother, his sexual sins ('Give me chastity, but not yet,' he famously prayed), his time in an outlawed heretical sect, his worldly career and friendships and his gradual return to God. His account of his own eventual conversion is a classic study of anguish, hesitation and what he believes to be God's intervention. It has inspired philosophers, Christian thinkers and monastic followers, but it still leaves readers wondering why exactly Augustine chose to compose a work like none before it. Augustine's heretical years as a Manichaean, his relation to non-Christian philosophy, his mystical aspirations and the nature of his conversion are among the aspects of his life which stand out in a sharper light. For the first time Lane Fox compares him with two contemporaries, an older pagan and a younger Christian, each of whom also wrote about themselves and who illumine Augustine's life and writings by their different choices. More than a decade passed between Augustine's conversion and his beginning the Confessions. Lane Fox argues that the Confessions and their thinking were the results of a long gestation over these years, not a sudden change of perspective, but that they were then written as a single swift composition and that its final books are a coherent consummation of its scriptural meditation and personal biography. This exceptional study reminds us why we are so excited and so moved by Augustine's story.
The unpredictable origins and etymologies of our cracking Christmas customs. We don't know that the date we celebrate was chosen by a madman, or that Christmas, etymologically speaking, means 'Go away, Christ'. Nor do we know that Christmas was first celebrated in 243 AD on 28 March - and only moved to 25 December in 354 AD. We're oblivious to the fact that the advent calendar was actually invented by a Munich housewife to stop her children pestering her for a Christmas countdown. And we would never have guessed that the invention of crackers was merely a way of popularizing sweet wrappers.
A Waterstones History Book of the Year Shortlisted for the inaugural Jhalak Prize In Black and British, award-winning historian and broadcaster David Olusoga offers readers a rich and revealing exploration of the extraordinarily long relationship between the British Isles and the people of Africa. Drawing on new genetic and genealogical research, original records, expert testimony and contemporary interviews, Black and British reaches back to Roman Britain, the medieval imagination and Shakespeare's Othello. It reveals that behind the South Sea Bubble was Britain's global slave-trading empire and that much of the great industrial boom of the nineteenth century was built on American slavery. It shows that Black Britons fought at Trafalgar and in the trenches of the First World War. Black British history can be read in stately homes, street names, statues and memorials across Britain and is woven into the cultural and economic histories of the nation.
Winner of The Edward Stanford Travel Book of the Year 2017. An investigation into an intriguing subject – Islands that feature in myth, even been found on historical maps, they all have one thing in common, they don’t exist - by Malachy Tallack whose 60 Degrees North was published to acclaim recently. I much enjoyed reading about the history of these islands and was frequently distracted by the beautiful full-colour illustrations by Katie Scott, who has previously worked with the New York Times, Kew Gardens and the BBC. This is a book to cherish and to dip in and out of when time allows. Like for Like ReadingThe Book of Imaginary Lands, Umberto Eco An Atlas of Countries that Don’t Exist: A Compendium of Fifty Unrecognized and Largely Unnoticed States, Nick Middleton
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.