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'It reads like fiction, but it is, astonishingly, history.' - The Times In 1917, an eccentric band of British spies is smuggled into newly-Soviet Russia. Their goal? To defeat Lenin's plan to destroy British India and bring down the democracies of the West. These extraordinary spies, led by Mansfield Cumming, proved brilliantly successful. They found a wholly new way to deal with enemies, one that relied on espionage and dirty tricks rather than warfare. They were the unsung founders of today's modern, highly professional secret services. They were also the inspiration for fictional heroes to follow, from James Bond to Jason Bourne.
In the summer of 1927, America had a booming stock market, a president who worked just four hours a day (and slept much of the rest), a devastating flood of the Mississippi, a sensational murder trial, and an unknown aviator named Charles Lindbergh who became the most famous man on earth. It was the summer that saw the birth of talking pictures, the invention of television, the peak of Al Capone's reign of terror, the horrifying bombing of a school in Michigan, the thrillingly improbable return to greatness of an over-the-hill baseball player named Babe Ruth, and an almost impossible amount more. In this hugely entertaining book, Bill Bryson spins a story of brawling adventure, reckless optimism and delirious energy. With the trademark brio, wit and authority that has made him Britain's favourite writer of narrative non-fiction, he brings to life a forgotten summer when America came of age, took centre stage, and changed the world for ever.
At the heart of the new queen's court lay Elizabeth's bedchamber, closely guarded by the favoured women who helped her dress, looked after her jewels and shared her bed. Elizabeth's private life was of public, political concern. Her bedfellows were witnesses to the face and body beneath the make-up and elaborate clothes, as well as to rumoured illicit dalliances with such figures as Robert Dudley. Their presence was for security as well as propriety, as the kingdom was haunted by fears of assassination plots and other Catholic subterfuge. For such was the significance of the queen's body: it represented the very state itself. This riveting, revealing history of the politics of intimacy uncovers the feminized world of the Elizabethan court. Between the scandal and intrigue the women who attended the queen were the guardians of the truth about her health, chastity and fertility. Their stories offer extraordinary insight into the daily life of the Elizabethans, the fragility of royal favour and the price of disloyalty.
This book, published to celebrate the 700th anniversary of the battle, draws on the latest scholarship and archaeological evidence to provide a fast-paced, highly readable and clear narrative of this important story. It also explores the modern legacy of the battle, as politicians delve into the past in order to support their vision of the future.
Coinciding with the terrifying height of World War Two, it was called The Society of Timid Souls. Seventy years later, as fear about everything from terrorism to economic meltdown has become part of our daily lives, Polly Morland reconvenes the society, setting out to discover what it means to be brave in an age of anxiety. Her journey - and this book - is full of amazing people and surprising ideas. It explores how and why people are brave, from battlefield to hospital ward, circus tightrope to suburban street, disaster zone to political protest. It throws light on some of the myths and lies that surround our favourite virtue. And most of all, it asks, can we learn to be brave?
Jon E Lewis has culled eye-witness accounts from over 180 first-hand witnesses, they come from all nationalities, male and female, at sea, in the trenches or toiling in the fields. Their words echo from 100 years ago, a witness to the horror and waste of war. Like for Like Reading The First World War: A Very Short Introduction, Michael Howard World War One: A short History, Norman Stone
The end papers of the book testify to the Catastrophe of the title, we start with an idyllic late Victorian boating scene and end with a scene of carnage at the Battle of the Marne. The tragedy of the war is caught brilliantly by Max Hastings who records not just the military and political views and actions but the experiences of the ordinary man and woman whose records brings an added vividness to the narrative. We see political grandstanding, armies coming to terms with the horrors of the new mechanical war and devastating loss of human life. I would also add praise for two things; Max Hastings’ decision to include the battlefronts of Serbia and Galicia thus extending our knowledge of the war and for his ability to separate the fact from the fiction, the amount of fakery and destroyed and corrupt material historians contend with is quite astounding. A remarkable record of a terrible year. Like for Like Reading1913: The World Before the Great War, Charles EmmersonThe War that Ended Peace: How Europe Abandoned Peace for the First World War, Margaret MacMillan
On leaving the plane I can only say I felt very lonely, except that the sky was full of bullets coming upwards. Fortunately, it wasn't long before my feet hit the ground with a thud. Almost as soon as my feet touched the ground, I was to find that I had landed directly in front of the muzzle of a German Machine Gun and I received a burst of fire straight at me. I can remember being hit and spinning round with a sudden yell of shock and finishing up flat on my back...I lay there rather dazed for a while, expecting to be hit again at any moment . (John Hunter, Parachute Regiment, Northants). Seventy years ago, on 6 June 1944, a great Allied Armada landed on the coast of Normandy. The invasion force launched on D-Day was a size never seen before and never likely to be seen again. 150,000 soldiers, more than 6,000 ships and 11,000 combat aircraft took part in the assault. The success of that attack led 11 months later to the final liberation of Europe from a ruthless dictatorship that had threatened to permanently enslave it. Such an undertaking on such a scale could not have been achieved without tremendous cooperation between Land, Sea and Air Forces. In We Remember D-Day we hear from the men and women who were involved in the assault; those who risked their lives for a better future. Their stories tell of human bravery and endeavour, pain and heartache, and, most importantly, freedom and hope.
One of the last men able to look back on the Dambuster raids and say they were there, George “Johnny” Johnston recalls his decision to join the RAF then on joining the 617 squadron and the relentless training for the raids. Published just 8 days before the 71st anniversary of the flight to the Ruhr valley, a day when 53 men out of his squadron of 132 men died in trying to halt Germany’s military output. This is how it was, a dangerous and one-chance only mission, a story of bravery, stoicism and good old British stiff-upper lip. Like for Like ReadingDam Busters: The Race to Smash the Dam, James HollandDambusters: A Landmark Oral History, Max Arthur
This is the story of a national obsession. Ever since the Ratcliffe Highway Murders caused a nation-wide panic in Regency England, the British have taken an almost ghoulish pleasure in 'a good murder'. This fascination helped create a whole new world of entertainment, inspiring novels, plays and films, puppet shows, paintings and true-crime journalism - as well as an army of fictional detectives who still enthrall us today. A Very British Murder is Lucy Worsley's captivating account of this curious national obsession. It is a tale of dark deeds and guilty pleasures, a riveting investigation into the British soul by one of our finest historians.
For our inconclusive times, there is an attractive resonance with 1832, with its 'rotten boroughs' of Old Sarum and the disappearing village of Dunwich, and its lines of most resistance to reform. This book is character-driven - on the one hand, the reforming heroes are the Whig aristocrats Lord Grey, Lord Althorp and Lord John Russell, and the Irish orator Daniel O'Connell. They included members of the richest and most landed Cabinet in history, yet they were determined to bring liberty, which whittled away their own power, to the country. The all-too-conservative opposition comprised Lord Londonderry, the Duke of Wellington, the intransigent Duchess of Kent and the consort of the Tory King William IV, Queen Adelaide. Finally, there were 'revolutionaries' and reformers, like William Cobbett, the author of RURAL RIDES. This is a book that features one eventful year, much of it violent. There were riots in Bristol, Manchester and Nottingham, and wider themes of Irish and 'negro emancipation' underscore the narrative. The time-span of the book is from Wellington's intractable declaration in November 1830 that 'The beginning of reform is the beginning of revolution', to 7th June 1832, the date of the extremely reluctant royal assent by William IV to the Great Reform Bill, under the double threat of the creation of 60 new peers in the House of Lords and the threat of revolution throughout the country. These events led to a total change in the way Britain was governed, a two-year revolution that Antonia Fraser brings to vivid dramatic life.
On the eve of marking the centenary of the opening of the hostilities that devastated the world and changed its history, old wounds gape rawly open. No two countries in Europe possess a stronger history of cultural and familial sympathy, trust and mutual respect than Britain and Germany. This book sets out the diverse stories of some of the people who contributed to the building of a house of shared dreams and aspirations, of mutual enlightenment and fruitful exchange. These are the stories of emperors, kings and queens, of travellers, writers, artists, students and political exiles; of ambassadors, reformers and the families so closely woven into the fabric of both countries that, when war came, divided loyalties ripped them apart. All these people have played their part. All, in their different ways, are remarkable; all deserve to be called noble for what they set out to achieve. All - glimpsed here only at the point where they contribute to the story of England and Germany - have earned their place in a history of the love and mutual admiration that two nations once shared - and that they deserve to share again.
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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