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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.
Known simply as M, Maxwell Knight is seen today as one of MI5's greatest spymasters. He was the first in MI5 to grasp the potential of training female agents. This book reveals the names and stories of seven men and women recruited in MI5 by Knight, and then asked to infiltrate the most dangerous political organizations in Britain at that time. Drawing on declassified documents, private family archives and interviews with retired MI5 officers as well as the families of MI5 agents, M reveals not just the shadowy world of espionage but a brilliant, enigmatic man at its centre.
The Ypres offensive represents the modern impression of the First World War: splintered trees, water-filled craters, muddy shell-holes.
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.
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.
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.