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History Books

Intensively researched, lovingly compiled, more accessible than ever, whatever your subject of interest - this is where you’ll find it.

Belles and Whistles Five Journeys Through Time on Britain's Trains

Belles and Whistles Five Journeys Through Time on Britain's Trains

Author: Andrew (Professor) Martin Format: Hardback Release Date: 04/09/2014

In the heroic days of rail travel, you could dine on kippers and champagne aboard the Brighton Belle; smoke a post-prandial cigar as the Golden Arrow closed in on Paris, or be shaved by the Flying Scotsman's on-board barber. Everyone from schoolboys to socialites knew of these glamorous 'named trains' and aspired to ride aboard them. In Belles and Whistles, Andrew Martin recreates five of these famous train journeys by travelling aboard their nearest modern day equivalents. Sometimes their names have survived, even if only as a footnote on a timetable leaflet, but what has usually - if not always - disappeared is the extravagance and luxury. As Martin explains how we got from there to here, evocations of the golden age contrast with the starker modern reality: from monogrammed cutlery to stirring sticks, from silence on trains to tannoy announcements, from compartments to airline seating. For those who wonder whatever happened to porters, dining cars, mellow lighting, timetables, luggage in advance, trunk murders, the answers are all here. Martin's five journeys add up to an idiosyncratic history of Britain's railways, combining humour, historical anecdote, reportage from the present and romantic evocations of the past.

ebook of the month
First Day of the Somme The Complete Account of Britain's Worst-Ever Military Disaster

First Day of the Somme The Complete Account of Britain's Worst-Ever Military Disaster

Author: Andrew Macdonald Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/04/2016

It took several million bullets and roughly an hour to effectively destroy General Sir Douglas Haig's grand plans for the first day of the Somme, 1 July 1916. By day's end, 19,240 British soldiers were dead, crumpled khaki bundles scattered across pasture studded with the scarlet of poppies and smouldering shell holes. A further 35,493 were wounded. This single sunny day remains Britain's worst-ever military disaster. Responsible were hundreds of German machine guns and scores of artillery batteries that had waited silently to deal death to the long-anticipated attack. Reviewing the day's events fully from, for the first time, both the British and German perspectives, Andrew Macdonald explains how and why this was a disaster waiting to happen. While laying the blame for the butchery squarely on widespread British command failure, he also shows that the outcome was a triumph of German discipline, planning and tactics, with German commanders mostly outclassing their opposite numbers.

The Men Who Lost America British Command During the Revolutionary War and the Preservation of the Empire

The Men Who Lost America British Command During the Revolutionary War and the Preservation of the Empire

Author: Andrew O'Shaughnessy Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/07/2014

The loss of America in 1781 has traditionally been blamed on incompetent British military commanders and political leaders whose arrogant confidence and out-dated tactics were no match for the innovative and determined Americans. But this is far from the truth. Weaving together the personal stories of ten prominent characters, including King George III, Prime Minister Lord North, General Burgoyne, and the Earl of Sandwich, Andrew O'Shaughnessy demolishes the myths, emerging with a very different and much richer account of the conflict - one driven by able and even brilliant leadership.

ebook of the month
Elegy The First Day on the Somme

Elegy The First Day on the Somme

Author: Andrew Roberts Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/06/2016

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.

Trains to the Trenches The Men, Locomotives and Tracks That Took the Armies to War 1914-18

Trains to the Trenches The Men, Locomotives and Tracks That Took the Armies to War 1914-18

Author: Andrew Roden, Annie Winsland Format: Hardback Release Date: 30/10/2014

Without the railways for the Great Powers, the most terrible conflict the world has ever known would have taken a very different form - if it had happened at all. In a remarkable historical railway journey through Britain and Europe, author Andrew Roden tells the story of the men and women who manned the tracks and the trains, and who relied on them to get them to battle and back home again. Drawing on diaries, memoirs and archive material he reveals the personal stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things, and pays tribute to their overlooked contribution. Supported with remarkable illustrations and photography, Roden interweaves memories of his own present day travels by train with diary excerpts of ambulance train nurses, returning POWs, drivers that put their lives in danger for everyone on board and other key voices. Roden takes the reader on a gripping journey, from the secret planning rooms in Berlin, through to the killing fields of the trenches, as well as the home fronts of the key combatants. Looking at defining moments of railway history on both sides of the Great War they build a unique and very human picture of a wartime railway across Europe.

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.