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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
There is nothing quite as beautiful as an English country house in summer. And there has never been a summer quite like that Indian summer between the two world wars, a period of gentle decline in which the sun set slowly on the British Empire and the shadows lengthened on the lawns of a thousand stately homes. Real life in the country house during the 1920s and 1930s was not always so sunny. By turns opulent and ordinary, noble and vicious, its shadows were darker. In The Long Weekend, Adrian Tinniswood uncovers the truth about a world half-forgotten, draped in myth and hidden behind stiff upper lips and film-star smiles.
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.
WINNER OF THE BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE FOR NON-FICTION SHORTLISTED FOR THE SLIGHTLY FOXED BEST FIRST BIOGRAPHY AWARD AND JQ-WINGATE LITERARY PRIZE The first is the hidden story of two Nuremberg prosecutors who discover, only at the end of the trial, that the man they are prosecuting may be responsible for the murder of their entire families in Nazi-occupied Poland, in and around Lviv. The two prosecutors, Hersch Lauterpacht and Rafael Lemkin, were remarkable men, whose efforts led to the inclusion of the terms 'crimes against humanity' and 'genocide' in the judgement at Nuremberg. The defendant, Hans Frank, Hitler's personal lawyer and Governor-General of Nazi-occupied Poland, turns out to be an equally compelling character. The lives of these three men lead Sands to a more personal story, as he traces the events that overwhelmed his mother's family in Lviv and Vienna during the Second World War. At the heart of this book is an equally personal quest to understand the roots of international law and the concepts that have dominated Sands' work as a lawyer. Eventually, he finds unexpected answers to his questions about his family, in this powerful meditation on the way memory, crime and guilt leave scars across generations, and the haunting gaps left by the secrets of others.
Using up to the minute archaeological research together with the latest scientific insights, Alice Roberts provides a thoroughly readable introduction to the world of the Celts. There are intriguing new theories overtaking the established ideas we have of the Celts – ideas that have political implications even today. She's very good at balancing what the established Greek and Roman records give us with what is likely propaganda and what we know. The book accompanies a forthcoming BBC series, The Celts, and there you will be able to see some of the evidence discussed in the book, the sites, the art, including some amazing early sculptures, and the gravegoods that tell us so much about our ancestors. Like for Like Reading A History of Ancient Britain, Neil Oliver The Ancient Paths: Discovering the Lost Map of Celtic Europe, Graham Robb
World War Two - we are an island, don't produce enough food, enough raw materials, armaments or men to fight - Britain's unique vulnarability. It led to The Battle of the Atlantic, fighting back against the German planes, U-boats and battle ships. What a desperate fight it was and how well Jonathan Dimbleby illuminates the confusion, the losses and the resistance to the superior German forces. He gives us the course of the battle(s), the strategies and plans – or lack of them but what I found most humbling was the human story he brings us, the sacrifice and bravery of the ordinary seamen, the sheer terror of being bombed and shipwrecked, lost in the vast ocean, prey to the enemy and to the cold. Like for Like Reading. The Cruel Sea (Novel), Nicholas Monsarrat. Citizen Sailors: The Royal Navy in the Second World War, Glyn Prysor.
'I do not live in a corner. A thousand eyes see all I do.' Elizabeth I The Tudor monarchs were constantly surrounded by an army of attendants, courtiers and ministers. Even in their most private moments, they were accompanied by a servant specifically appointed for the task. A groom of the stool would stand patiently by as Henry VIII performed his daily purges, and when Elizabeth I retired for the evening, one of her female servants would sleep at the end of her bed. These attendants knew the truth behind the glamorous exterior. They saw the tears shed by Henry VII upon the death of his son Arthur. They knew the tragic secret behind 'Bloody' Mary's phantom pregnancies. And they saw the 'crooked carcass' beneath Elizabeth I's carefully applied makeup, gowns and accessories. It is the accounts of these eyewitnesses, as well as a rich array of other contemporary sources that historian Tracy Borman has examined more closely than ever before.
'Well written and persuasive ...objective and well-rounded...this scholarly rehabilitation should be the standard biography', Andrew Roberts, Mail on Sunday 'A true judgment of him must lie somewhere between hero and zero, and in this detailed biography Gary Sheffield shows himself well qualified to make it ...a balanced portrait' The Sunday Times 'Solid scholarship and admirable advocacy' Sunday Telegraph Douglas Haig is the single most controversial general in British history. In 1918, after his armies had played a major role in the First World War, he was feted as a saviour. But within twenty years his reputation was in ruins, and it has never recovered.
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.