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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.

The House by the Lake

The House by the Lake

Author: Thomas Harding Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/06/2016

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.

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The Life and Passion of William of Norwich

The Life and Passion of William of Norwich

Author: Thomas of Monmouth Format: Paperback Release Date: 25/09/2014

This is a fascinating surviving chronicle from 12th century England which holds a unique and terrible place in the history of anti-Semitism. The Life and Passion of William of Norwich gives a remarkable insight into life in a medieval cathedral city, brilliantly capturing the everyday concerns of ordinary people and focussing on the miraculous cures carried out at a shrine. But this was no ordinary shrine; fervent worshippers gathered around the burial-place where they believed that a boy was buried, a boy murdered by the Jews of Norwich. A chilling, highly significant document, The Life and Passion of William of Norwich is, as far as we know, the earliest version of what was to become the 'blood libel' which has haunted Europe ever since. Miri Rubin both superbly translates the book and in her introduction interprets the sequence of events that led to the monk Thomas of Monmouth's appalling narrative. The consequences of his fantasies have been incalculable.

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JFK's Last Hundred Days An Intimate Portrait of a Great President

JFK's Last Hundred Days An Intimate Portrait of a Great President

Author: Thurston Clarke Format: Paperback Release Date: 07/08/2014

Poignant, fascinating, entertaining and informative ...reminds us exactly how much did happen in that time span and of how many tantalising hints he left behind . (Financial Times). Brilliantly captures Kennedy's entire life through the prism of his final months ...the hero, like the devil, is in the detail . (Mark Mason, Spectator, Books of the Year). Wonderfully vivid . (Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times). A vivid portrait of Kennedy as an immensely complex human being: by turns detached and charismatic, a hard-nosed politician and a closet romantic, cautious in his decision making but reckless in his womanizing . (Michicko Kakutani, New York Times). A superb piece of writing - richly detailed and, considering that the end is all too well known, surprisingly enthralling . (Frank Gannon, Wall Street Journal). The great merit of Clarke's account is that it encompasses both sides of Kennedy: the statesman and the chancer; the moralist and the opportunist . (David Runciman, New Statesman). A superb book ...has the ominousness of a Shakespearean tragedy . (Roger Lewis, Daily Mail).

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Waterloo Four Days That Changed Europe's Destiny

Waterloo Four Days That Changed Europe's Destiny

Author: Tim Clayton Format: Hardback Release Date: 05/02/2015

The bloodbath at Waterloo ended a war that had engulfed the world for over twenty years. It also finished the career of the charismatic Napoleon Bonaparte. It ensured the final liberation of Germany and the restoration of the old European monarchies, and it represented one of very few defeats for the glorious French army, most of whose soldiers remained devoted to their Emperor until the very end. Extraordinary though it may seem, much about the Battle of Waterloo has remained uncertain, with many major features of the campaign hotly debated. Most histories have depended heavily on the evidence of British officers that were gathered about twenty years after the battle. But the recent publication of an abundance of fresh first-hand accounts from soldiers of all the participating armies has illuminated important episodes and enabled radical reappraisal of the course of the campaign. What emerges is a darker, muddier story, no longer biased by notions of regimental honour, but a tapestry of irony, accident, courage, horror and human frailty. An epic page turner, rich in dramatic human detail and grounded in first-class scholarly research, Waterloo is the real inside story of the greatest land battle in British history, the defining showdown of the age of muskets, bayonets, cavalry and cannon.

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Mr Selden's Map of China The Spice Trade, a Lost Chart & the South China Sea

Mr Selden's Map of China The Spice Trade, a Lost Chart & the South China Sea

Author: Timothy Brook Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/02/2015

In 1659, a vast and unusual map of China arrived in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. It was bequeathed by John Selden, a London business lawyer, political activist, former convict, MP and the city's first Orientalist scholar. Largely ignored, it remained in the bowels of the library, until called up by an inquisitive reader. When Timothy Brook saw it in 2009, he realised that the Selden Map was 'a puzzle that had to be solved': an exceptional artefact, so unsettlingly modern-looking it could almost be a forgery. But it was genuine, and what it has to tell us is astonishing. It shows China, not cut off from the world, but a participant in the embryonic networks of global trade that fuelled the rise of Europe - and which now power China's ascent. And it raises as many question as it answers: how did John Selden acquire it? Where did it come from? Who re-imagined the world in this way? And most importantly - what can it tell us about the world at that time? Brook, like a cartographic detective, has provided answers - including a surprising last-minute revelation of authorship. From the Gobi Desert to the Philippines, from Java to Tibet and into China itself, Brook uses the map (actually a schematic representation of China's relation to astrological heaven) to tease out the varied elements that defined this crucial period in China's history.

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The Nile Downriver Through Egypt's Past and Present

The Nile Downriver Through Egypt's Past and Present

Author: Toby Wilkinson Format: Paperback Release Date: 12/02/2015

From Herodotus's day to the present political upheavals, the steady flow of the Nile has been Egypt's heartbeat. It has shaped its geography, controlled its economy and moulded its civilisation. The same stretch of water which conveyed Pharaonic battleships, Ptolemaic grain ships, Roman troop-carriers and Victorian steamers today carries modern-day tourists past bankside settlements in which rural life - fishing, farming, flooding - continues much as it has for millennia. At this most critical juncture in the country's history, foremost Egyptologist Toby Wilkinson takes us on a journey up the Nile, north from Lake Victoria, from Cataract to Cataract, past the Aswan Dam, to the delta. The country is a palimpsest, every age has left its trace: as we pass the Nilometer on the island of Elephantine which since the days of the Pharaohs has measured the height of Nile floodwaters to predict the following season's agricultural yield and set the parameters for the entire Egyptian economy, the wonders of Giza which bear the scars of assault by nineteenth-century archaeologists and the modern-day unbridled urban expansion of Cairo - and in Egypt's earliest art (prehistoric images of fish-traps carved into cliffs) and the Arab Spring (fought on the bridges of Cairo) - the Nile is our guide to understanding the past and present of this unique, chaotic, vital, conservative yet rapidly changing land.

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1864 The Forgotten War That Shaped Modern Europe

1864 The Forgotten War That Shaped Modern Europe

Author: Tom Buk-Swienty Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/04/2015

The Battle of Dybbol, 1864. Prussian troops lay siege to an outpost in the far south of Denmark. The conflict is over control of the Duchy of Schleswig, recently annexed by Denmark to the alarm of its largely German-speaking inhabitants. Danish troops make a valiant attempt to hold out but are overrun by the might of the Prussian onslaught. Of little strategic importance, the struggle for Schleswig foreshadowed the same forces that, fifty years later, would tear Europe apart. Prussia's victory would not only rejuvenate its nascent militarism, but help it claim leadership of the new German Empire. Told in rich detail through first-hand accounts, Tom Buk-Swienty's magisterial account of the Schleswig conflict tells the story of this pivotal war. 1864 shows how a minor regional conflict foreshadowed the course of diplomacy that led to the First World War and brutally presaged the industrialised future of warfare. But most of all, in its human detail, from touching letters between husbands and wives to heartbreaking individual stories of loss, 1864 is a gripping, epic human drama that shows the effect all wars have on the soldiers, on families and on the individual men and women who must live its realities.

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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.