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Late Stuart and Georgian England marked the creation of the great pillars of the English state. The Bank of England was founded, as was the stock exchange, the Church of England was fully established as the guardian of the spiritual life of the nation and parliament became the sovereign body of the nation with responsibilities and duties far beyond those of the monarch. It was a revolutionary era in English letters, too, a time in which newspapers first flourished and the English novel was born. It was an era in which coffee houses and playhouses boomed, gin flowed freely and in which shops, as we know them today, began to proliferate in our towns and villages. But it was also a time of extraordinary and unprecedented technological innovation, which saw England utterly and irrevocably transformed from a country of blue skies and farmland to one of soot and steel and coal.
In Fulton Missouri, Churchill alerted America to the reality of 'Uncle Joe' - a tyrant determined to dominate Europe at any cost. Churchill called for an Anglo-American alliance based on their shared values and the deterrent of America's possession of the atomic bomb. Churchill also urged the Americans to recognise the debt they owed Britain for opposing Hitler in 1940. In doing so, he contributed to the US thinking behind the need for the Marshall Plan. In Zurich, Churchill boldly proposed a partnership between France and Germany: a United States of Europe. The hatred stirred up by the war had to be replaced by partnership for Europe to recover its economic vitality and regain its moral stature. Together, the Anglo-American Alliance and a United States of Europe led by France and Germany would have the power to 'smite the crocodile' of Soviet ambition. To understand what Churchill intended with these two speeches requires perspective. The daring of his imagination and the scale of his architecture for a new Western Alliance was extraordinary. At the time, not many recognized the symmetry of what was proposed. At Churchill's funeral in 1965, commentators bemoaned the end of an era. In truth, Churchill was the catalyst of a new era-one built upon effective defence, economic revival, and European unity. His speeches have been added to UNESCO'S International Memory of the World Register.
Aphra Behn, first female professional writer. Sojourner Truth, activist and abolitionist. Ada Lovelace, first computer programmer. Marie Curie, first woman to win the Nobel Prize. Joan Jett, godmother of punk. The 100 revolutionary women highlighted in this gorgeously illustrated book were bad in the best sense of the word: they challenged the status quo and changed the rules for all who followed. From pirates to artists, warriors, daredevils, scientists, activists, and spies, the accomplishments of these incredible women vary as much as the eras and places in which they effected change. Featuring bold watercolour portraits and illuminating essays by Ann Shen, Bad Girls Throughout History is a distinctive, gift-worthy tribute.
The book includes letters from: Karl Marx, requesting UK citizenship, an anonymous writer purporting to be Jack the Ripper, Josef Kramer, the commandant of Bergen Belsen, from Winston Churchill to President Roosevelt requesting US support against Hitler, Clement Atlee to Harry S Truman following Hiroshima, the spies Burgess and Maclean, as well as the 'real Charlotte Gray' spy, Christine Granville, amongst others. Topics covered include: the Monteagle letter that warned about the Gunpowder plot, letters from the Wright brothers trying to get the War Office to fund their aeronautical research, a despatch on the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Christine Keeler's Russian/British love triangle that begat the Profumo affair, US disapproval of British trade with Cuba, a letter reporting on the first day of the trial of Nelson Mandela, the anonymous letter that framed the Krays.
For the century and a half before the Second World War, Britain dominated the Indian subcontinent. Britain's East India Company ruled enclaves of land in South Asia for a century and a half before that. For these 300 years, conquerors and governors projected themselves as heroes and improvers. The British public were sold an image of British authority and virtue. But beneath the veneer of pomp and splendour, British rule in India was anxious, fragile and fostered chaos. Britain's Indian empire was built by people who wanted to make enough money to live well back in Britain, to avoid humiliation and danger, to put their narrow professional expertise into practice. The institutions they created, from law courts to railway lines, were designed to protect British power without connecting with the people they ruled. The result was a precarious regime that provided Indian society with no leadership, and which oscillated between paranoid paralysis and occasional moments of extreme violence. The lack of affection between rulers and ruled finally caused the system's collapse. But even after its demise, the Raj lives on in the false idea of the efficacy of centralized, authoritarian power. Indians responded to the peculiar nature of British power by doing things for themselves, creating organisations and movements that created an order and prosperity of its own.
Shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2017. We face many clashing opinions about sleep today. But spare a thought for the hapless person in pre C18 England, harried by thoughts of sloth and religious foot-dragging. Hemmed around by different but still numerous sleep “rules” their view of darkness in these pre-electric-light days is also a fascinating subject. ~ Sue BakerLike for Like ReadingAt Day’s Close: A History of Nighttime, A Roger EkirchWild Nights, How Taming Sleep Created our Restless World, Benjamin Reiss Wolfson History Prize Judges “A book of sheer originality and novelty… Handley tackles an almost completely neglected subjected with disarming modesty.”
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.”
A comprehensive and vivid account of what it meant to play a part in the battle which has become famous for the biggest loss of life suffered by the British Army in a single day.
Who was Svetlana Alliluyeva? A little girl, her father's only daughter, his little sparrow ; instructed to bury her secrets in her heart by her mother, who shot herself soon after. An observer as her relatives were mercilessly killed and her first love exiled. A woman who tore through relationships with men, joined and abandoned various religions, and became the most famous defector to the United States. The victim of an inescapable truth: You are Stalin's daughter...You can't live your own life. You can't live any life. You exist only in reference to a name.
Republished to mark the centenary of the battle of the Somme Geoff Dyer's classic book is 'the great Great War book of our time' (Observer)
Shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2017. This year is the anniversary of the events that we hold responsible for the beginning of the European Reformation in 1517. As it turns out, along with most other things about Martin Luther, it wasn’t quite like that. Bodley Head announce this biographical history as “warts and all” and it is the more valuable for that, at last portraying Luther as a real man not the dim and distant waxwork figure from our schooldays. ~ Sue BakerLike for Like ReadingReformation: Europe’s House Divided 1490-1700, Diarmaid MacCullochThe Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England 1400-1580, Eamon Duffy Wolfson History Prize Judges: “Powerfully written with superb control of material, Roper’s book is highly skilled in opening up the vivid social context of Luther’s Germany.”
No conflict better encapsulates all that went wrong on the Western Front than the Battle of the Somme in 1916. The tragic loss of life and stoic endurance by troops who walked towards their death is an iconic image which will be hard to ignore during the centennial year.
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.