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Readers less interested in speculating about who Jack the Ripper was in favour of learning more about the women murdered in London’s East End have had little reason to clear shelf space – until now. Finally, a decade on from Neal Shelden’s book, which skims the surface of victims’ stories, Hallie Rubenhold offers a deep-dive into their lives. Divided chronologically in terms of their deaths in 1888, parts covering ‘Polly’, ‘Annie’, ‘Elizabeth’ and ‘Kate’ contain four chapters each; the fifth, ‘Mary Jane’, contains two and is relatively weak. Illustrations are uninspired. Notwithstanding the lack of archival material leading Rubenhold to interchange between telling specific stories of the “canonical” five and a general social history of the Victorian period, meticulous research undergirds captivating portraits akin to those featured in her histories of Georgian women. Shelden is the only Ripperologist widely cited by a historian who arguably pays insufficient acknowledgement to researchers who have revealed much of the known information on these vulnerable women. This is not to say they have nothing to learn, however, unless they know of Polly’s husband’s infidelity, Annie’s treatment in a sanatorium for alcoholism or are versed in Liz’s upbringing in Sweden. Rubenhold’s thesis that three of the five slept – not solicited – on the streets is as intriguing as her tendency to fill gaps in the source material with speculation is irksome, yet no serious Ripperologist can ignore The Five. More significantly, the book’s indictment of past and present misogyny will help ensure such discrimination has no future. Lee Ruddin
'Behind every great woman is a man who tried to stop her.' A century on from the first votes for women in the UK, award-winning author Jeanette Winterson asks what we still stand to learn from the Suffragettes. Examining recent women's rights movements, the worlds of politics and technology, social media and changes in the law, Winterson celebrates how far we have come but demands that we do more. There is still so far to go, so much courage we still need to find. Witty and wise, incisive and inspiring, Courage Calls to Courage Everywhere is a powerful reminder of the need for true equality and an urgent call to arms.
A third spellbinding book from Yuval Noah Harari that looks at the most important issues we face today. Featured in Episode 5 of the LoveReading Podcast
Letters from Alice is an enchanting mix of mystery, social history and family dynamics. It focuses on the work of almoners (usually women), who were the forerunners to modern social workers, responsible for the welfare of hospital patients and their families. Petrina Banfield brings to life the sounds, sights and aromas of 1920s London in a cleverly crafted drama that reads like fiction but is steeped in fact. I was mesmerised by almoner Alice Hudson’s story, which is based on original archive material – reports, newspaper articles, letters, receipts and even weather reports. Letters from Alice was hard to put down, with its realistic colourful characters, a mystery to solve and vivid descriptions of the grit and grime of the poorest parts of London. This is a thought-provoking read and also incredibly moving, highlighting the hardships experienced by many families at that time. Yet despite the sadness of the story, I also found myself full of hope, knowing that these hardworking almoners were fighting for patients’ rights and welfare. If you have an interest in social history (whether non-fiction or fiction), this is a perfect choice for you - a delightful story, a learning experience and a joy to read. Perfect for fans of Call the Midwife and other British dramas.
Costa Biography Award Winner 2018 The enthralling story of a man's search for the truth about his family's past The last time Lien saw her parents was in the Hague when she was collected at the door by a stranger and taken to a city far away to be hidden from the Nazis. She was raised by her foster family as one of their own, but a falling out well after the war meant they were no longer in touch. What was her side of the story, Bart van Es - a grandson of the couple who looked after Lien - wondered? What really happened during the war, and after? So began an investigation that would consume and transform both Bart van Es's life and Lien's. Lien was now in her 80s and living in Amsterdam. Reluctantly, she agreed to meet him, and eventually they struck up a remarkable friendship. The Cut Out Girl braids together a powerful recreation of Lien's intensely harrowing childhood story with the present-day account of Bart's efforts to piece that story together. And it embraces the wider picture, too, for Holland was more cooperative in rounding up its Jews for the Nazis than any other Western European country; that is part of Lien's story too. This is an astonishing, moving reckoning with a young girl's struggle for survival during war. It is a story about the powerful love and challenges of foster families, and about the ways our most painful experiences - so crucial in defining us - can also be redefined.
100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens. How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations and human rights; to trust money, books and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come? In Sapiens, Dr Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the earth to the radical - and sometimes devastating - breakthroughs of the Cognitive, Agricultural and Scientific Revolutions. Drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, palaeontology and economics, he explores how the currents of history have shaped our human societies, the animals and plants around us, and even our personalities. Have we become happier as history has unfolded? Can we ever free our behaviour from the heritage of our ancestors? And what, if anything, can we do to influence the course of the centuries to come? Bold, wide-ranging and provocative, Sapiens challenges everything we thought we knew about being human: our thoughts, our actions, our power ... and our future. 'Here is a simple reason why Sapiens has risen explosively to the ranks of an international bestseller. It tackles the biggest questions of history and of the modern world, and it is written in unforgettably vivid language. You will love it!' - Jared Diamond
The acclaimed history of the rise of the Nazis based on fascinating first-hand accounts. One of the Daily Telegraph's Best Books of 2017; A Guardian `Readers' Choice' Best Book of 2017; Without the benefit of hindsight, how do you interpret what's right in front of your eyes?; Based on fascinating firsthand accounts, this illuminating book asks what it was like to travel in the Third Reich during the interwar era. Was it possible to know what was really going on? Was it possible for a visiting outsider “to grasp the essence of National Socialism”? The accounts of a multitude of travellers are surveyed - ordinary tourists, academics and athletes, alongside royalty, celebrities and creative types like Samuel Beckett, Francis Bacon, Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West. Their experiences and responses are recounted in all their intriguing variation - bewilderment, obliviousness, internal outrage, scholarly outrage. I found the chapter on African American academic and Germanophile Professor William Edward Burghardt Du Bois particularly engrossing. Du Bois visited Germany in 1936 seeking to study race prejudice, but the organisation that commissioned his trip instead permitted him to investigate education and industry. He returned to report the “vindictive cruelty” of the “campaign against the Jews” and, while he experienced no “personal insult or discrimination” himself, he posited the view that matters might be different “if there were any number of Negroes in Germany”. Spritely in tone, and finely researched, this is an engaging must-read for those with an interest in German history, and in social history per se. It might also serve as a cautionary tale to pay closer attention to the world around us.
A remarkable narrative set against the dark days of World War Two, from one of the country's foremost social historians. Our Uninvited Guests perfectly captures the spirit of upheaval at the beginning of the Second World War when thousands of houses were requisitioned by the government to provide accommodation for the armed forces, secret services and government offices as well as vulnerable children, the sick and the elderly, all of whom needed to be housed safely beyond the reach of Hitler's Luftwaffe. Julie Summers gives the reader a behind-the-scenes glimpse of life in some of Britain's greatest country houses that were occupied by people who would otherwise never have set foot in such opulent surroundings.
Shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2018 Remarkably researched, incisively argued and brimming with authoritative verve, Professor Peter Marshall’s Heretics and Believers will surely become a seminal text on this seminal period, providing as it does a painstakingly laid path through a myriad of tangled theories, while positing a fresh approach. Arguing that to see the English Reformation as an ‘act of state’ is ‘almost the most unhelpful thing that can be said’, he posits that religion be viewed as a driving entity in its own right, and considers the experiences of individuals who were affected by – and themselves affected – the religious upheavals of the period. The individual and personal is brilliantly positioned within the ‘bigger picture’ backdrop, with in-depth pre-Reformation contextualisation. This is a mightily exhaustive scholarly triumph, told with a storyteller’s touch. ~ Joanne Owen
1913: the last long summer before the war. The country is gripped by suffragette fever. These impassioned crusaders have their admirers; some agree with their aims if not their forceful methods, while others are aghast at the thought of giving any female a vote. Meanwhile, hundreds of women are stepping out on to the streets of Britain. They are the suffragists: non-militant campaigners for the vote, on an astonishing six-week protest march they call the Great Pilgrimage. Rich and poor, young and old, they defy convention, risking jobs, family relationships and even their lives to persuade the country to listen to them. This is a story of ordinary people effecting extraordinary change. By turns dangerous, exhausting and exhilarating, the Great Pilgrimage transformed the personal and political lives of women in Britain for ever.
The Doomsday Machine is Ellsberg's hair-raising account of the most dangerous arms build-up in the history of civilisation, whose legacy - and proposed renewal under the Trump administration - threatens the very survival of humanity. It is scarcely possible to estimate the true dangers of our present nuclear policies without penetrating the secret realities of the nuclear strategy of the late Eisenhower and early Kennedy years, when Ellsberg had high level access to them. No other insider has written so candidly of that long-classified history, and nothing has fundamentally changed since that era. Ellsberg's discussion of recent research on nuclear winter shows that even a 'small' nuclear exchange would cause billions of deaths by global nuclear famine. Framed as a memoir - a chronicle of madness in which Ellsberg acknowledges participating - this gripping expose reads like a thriller with cloak-and-dagger intrigue, returning him to his role as whistle-blower. It is a real-life Dr Strangelove story, but an ultimately hopeful - and powerfully important - book.
A Person, a Country, The World
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.
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