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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.
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.
Shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2017. He was the son of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II, brother to the future Richard the Lionheart and “wicked” King John yet never King in his own right. Destined never to get the Roman Numeral after his name he was a co-ruler with his father, kept as a “gelding” which led to rebellion and he was to die, ingloriously, of dysentery in an awkward pause between one King and another. A slight life perhaps, but Matthew Strickland ensures that we know all about this young King in waiting throwing true historical perspective on a period many of us only recognise from the film The Lion in Winter. ~ Sue BakerLike for Like ReadingEleanor of Aquitaine: By the Wrath of God, Queen of England, Alison WeirThe Greatest Knight: The Remarkable Life of William Marshal: The Power behind Five English Thornes, Thomas Asbridge Wolfson History Prize Judges: “A joy to read… Strickland has a remarkable eye for detail and fluently opens up a huge amount of new ground in uncovering an engrossing subject.”
Between 1 July and 18 November 1916 Britain s new volunteer army took the leading role in a battle on the Western Front for the first time. The Somme off ensive was intended to achieve a decisive victory for the British and French Allies over the Germans, yet the Allies failed to achieve all of their objectives and the war was to continue for another two years.
Karen Farrington starts her books before 1940 showing the development of flying and how soon the military saw its potential for war. Then there were the bombs themselves, at first hand grenades tossed out of cockpits before more lethal firepower was invented. Finally, there is Coventry, Karen Farrington fills in the manufacturing history detailing the vital engineering works surrounding and in the City, filled with war workers, a crowded and important place. It all comes together in 14th November 1940 when Coventry is the target, 515 German bombers attacked the city, the first of three major raids. Using the words and experiences of those who suffered she paints a vivid picture of the experience and the aftermath of the bombing. Like for Like Reading The Secret History of the Blitz, Joshual Levine The Blitz: The British under Attack, Juliet Gardiner
On 1 July 1916, after a five-day bombardment, 11 British and 5 French divisions launched their long-awaited 'Big Push' on German positions on high ground above the Rivers Ancre and Somme on the Western Front. Some ground was gained, but at a terrible cost. In killing-grounds whose names are indelibly imprinted on 20th-century memory, German machine-guns - manned by troops who had sat out the storm of shellfire in deep dugouts - inflicted terrible losses on the British infantry. The British Fourth Army lost 57,470 casualties, the French Sixth Army suffered 1,590 casualties and the German 2nd Army 10,000. And this was but the prelude to 141 days of slaughter that would witness the deaths of between 750,000 and 1 million troops.
SHORTLISTED FOR THE COSTA BIOGRAPHY AWARD 2015. LONGLISTED FOR THE ORWELL PRIZE 2016. A RADIO 4 BOOK OF THE WEEK. A passionate memoir. (Neil MacGregor). A superb portrait of twentieth century Germany seen through the prism of a house which was lived in, and lost, by five different families. A remarkable book. (Tom Holland). Personal and panoramic, heart-wrenching yet uplifting, this is history at its most alive. (A.D. Miller). In the spring of 1993, Thomas Harding travelled to Berlin with his grandmother to visit a small house by a lake. It was her 'soul place', she said - a sanctuary she had been forced to leave when the Nazis swept to power. The trip was a chance to see the house one last time, to remember it as it was. But the house had changed. Twenty years later Thomas returned to Berlin. The house now stood empty, derelict, soon to be demolished. A concrete footpath cut through the garden, marking where the Berlin Wall had stood for nearly three decades. Elsewhere were signs of what the house had once been - blue tiles showing behind wallpaper, photographs fallen between floorboards, flagstones covered in dirt. Evidence of five families who had made the house their home over a tumultuous century. The House by the Lake is a groundbreaking work of history, revealing the story of Germany through the inhabitants of one small wooden building: a nobleman farmer, a prosperous Jewish family, a renowned Nazi composer, a widow and her children, a Stasi informant.
Jacky Colliss Harvey explores red hair in the ancient world, the prejudice manifested against redheads across medieval Europe, and red hair during the Renaissance as both an indicator of Jewishness and the height of fashion in Protestant England, thanks to Elizabeth I. Colliss Harvey also examines depictions of red hair in art and literature, looks at modern medicine and the genetic decoding of redheads, and considers red hair in contemporary culture, from advertising to 'gingerism' and bullying.
'War is too important to be left to the generals' snapped future French prime minister Georges Clemenceau on learning of yet another bloody and futile offensive on the Western Front. One of the great questions in the ongoing discussions and debate about the First World War is why did winning take so long and exact so appalling a human cost? After all this was a fight that, we were told, would be over by Christmas. Now, in his major new history, Allan Mallinson, former professional soldier and author of the acclaimed 1914: Fight the Good Fight, provides answers that are disturbing as well as controversial, and have a contemporary resonance. He disputes the growing consensus among historians that British generals were not to blame for the losses and setbacks in the 'war to end all wars' - that, given the magnitude of their task, they did as well anyone could have. He takes issue with the popular view that the 'amateur' opinions on strategy of politicians such as Lloyd George and, especially, Winston Churchill, prolonged the war and increased the death toll. On the contrary, he argues, even before the war began Churchill had a far more realistic, intelligent and humane grasp of strategy than any of the admirals or generals, while very few senior officers - including Sir Douglas Haig - were up to the intellectual challenge of waging war on this scale. And he repudiates the received notion that Churchill's stature as a wartime prime minister after 1940 owes much to the lessons he learned from his First World War 'mistakes' - notably the Dardanelles campaign - maintaining that in fact Churchill's achievement in the Second World War owes much to the thwarting of his better strategic judgement by the 'professionals' in the First - and his determination that this would not be repeated. Mallinson argues that from day one of the war Britain was wrong-footed by absurdly faulty French military doctrine and paid, as a result, an unnecessarily high price in casualties. He shows that Lloyd George understood only too well the catastrophically dysfunctional condition of military policy-making and struggled against the weight of military opposition to fix it. And he asserts that both the British and the French failed to appreciate what the Americans' contribution to victory could be - and, after the war, to acknowledge fully what it had actually been.
The first day of the battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916, was the most devastating event of the First World War for the British army. In Zero Hour, 14 superlatively photographed panoramas (each one a four-page gatefold, opening to nearly 1 metre wide) show the Somme's major sites as they look today. Taken from the exact viewpoints of the front-line British troops as they began their advance towards the German trenches at 7.30 a.m., these hauntingly peaceful present-day views are annotated (in the handwritten military style of the time) to show the lethal German defensive positions at the moment of the attack.
'Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived': so goes the famous mnemonic by which we recall the varied destinies of Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard and Catherine Parr. The stories of these six consorts of the second Tudor king - their fates the brutal corollary of the stark dynastic imperatives of the royal succession - have assumed mythic status in the annals of English history. Only three of these women would give Henry a child that survived infancy: two girls (Mary and Elizabeth) and one boy (Edward). All three would inherit the crown worn by their mighty father, but the Tudor dynasty would not outlive their deaths. Suzannah Lipscomb's crisply authoritative and insightful accounts of the lives of these six queens are embellished by beautiful images of the principal players in this most compelling of royal dramas.
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.