European history

Femina

Femina

Author: Janina Ramirez Format: Hardback Release Date: 21/07/2022

Sink into medieval times (and glimpse other ages), explore new thoughts and become more aware of the women who are part of our history. Author Dr Janina Ramirez looks beyond and behind the obvious masculine influence and features the women who were as much a part of history. History is in its very nature manipulated by the tellers and even people who are yet to come. I love the introduction, where we start and why, it really does hit home. Although featuring females, this feels larger and more complete in scale, actually, perhaps it’s just that is is balanced, as it should be. The text is supported by artwork, ranging from photos, posters, paintings and maps, to drawings, mosaics, and plans. By the way the cover is beautiful and I exclaimed in pleasure when I met the picture further in and further on, it’s always fabulous when you are given enough information to want to explore beyond the book you are reading. Dr Janina Ramirez explains that this is just the start of the conversation, and at the end invites you to explore on your own. Joining my Liz Picks of the Month, Femina sparkles with what it achieves, a fresh voice and beautifully engaging ideas.

Star Books
The Elizabethan Mind

The Elizabethan Mind

Author: Helen Hackett Format: Hardback Release Date: 24/05/2022

The first comprehensive guide to Elizabethan ideas about the mind What is the mind? How does it relate to the body and soul? These questions were as perplexing for the Elizabethans as they are for us today-although their answers were often startlingly different. Shakespeare and his contemporaries believed the mind was governed by the humours and passions, and was susceptible to the Devil's interference. In this insightful and wide-ranging account, Helen Hackett explores the intricacies of Elizabethan ideas about the mind. This was a period of turbulence and transition, as persistent medieval theories competed with revived classical ideas and emerging scientific developments. Drawing on a wealth of sources, Hackett sheds new light on works by Shakespeare, Marlowe, Sidney, and Spenser, demonstrating how ideas about the mind shaped new literary and theatrical forms. Looking at their conflicted attitudes to imagination, dreams, and melancholy, Hackett examines how Elizabethans perceived the mind, soul, and self, and how their ideas compare with our own.

The War on the West

The War on the West

Author: Douglas Murray Format: Hardback Release Date: 28/04/2022

The brilliant and provocative new book from one of the world's foremost political writers 'The anti-Western revisionists have been out in force in recent years. It is high time that we revise them in turn...' In The War on the West, international bestselling author Douglas Murray asks: if the history of humankind is one of slavery, conquest, prejudice, genocide and exploitation, why are only Western nations taking the blame for it? It's become perfectly acceptable to celebrate the contributions of non-Western cultures, but discussing their flaws and crimes is called hate speech. What's more it has become acceptable to discuss the flaws and crimes of Western culture, but celebrating their contributions is also called hate speech. Some of this is a much-needed reckoning; however, some is part of a larger international attack on reason, democracy, science, progress and the citizens of the West by dishonest scholars, hatemongers, hostile nations and human-rights abusers hoping to distract from their ongoing villainy. In The War on the West, Douglas Murray shows the ways in which many well-meaning people have been lured into polarisation by lies, and shows how far the world's most crucial political debates have been hijacked across Europe and America. Propelled by an incisive deconstruction of inconsistent arguments and hypocritical activism, The War on the West is an essential and urgent polemic that cements Murray's status as one of the world's foremost political writers.

Queen of Our Times

Queen of Our Times

Author: Robert Hardman Format: Hardback Release Date: 17/03/2022

The definitive biography of Her Majesty The Queen by one of Britain’s leading royal authorities. With original insights from those who know her best, new interviews with world leaders and access to unseen papers, bestselling author Robert Hardman explores the full, astonishing life of our longest reigning monarch in this compellingly authoritative yet intimate biography. Elizabeth II was not born to be queen. Yet from her accession as a young mother of two in 1952 to the age of Covid-19, she has proved an astute and quietly determined figure, leading her family and her people through more than seventy years of unprecedented social change. She has faced constitutional crises, confronted threats against her life, rescued the Commonwealth, seen her prime ministers come and go, charmed world leaders, been criticised as well as feted by the media, and steered her family through a lifetime in the public eye. Queen of Our Times is a must-read study of dynastic survival and renewal, spanning abdication, war, romance, danger and tragedy. It is a compelling portrait of a leader who remains as intriguing today as the day she came to the throne aged twenty-five.

The Dark Queens

The Dark Queens

Author: Shelley Puhak Format: Hardback Release Date: 03/03/2022

Reading Dark Queens by Shelley Puhak, I found myself astounded that the two women at the centre of the book ­– Brunhild and Fredegund – are not known far and wide. This isn’t the kind of feminist retelling of well-known stories we rightly lap up today. It’s simply a telling; proof of their existence at all – and I soaked up every detail. Puhak takes us to Merovingian France during the 6th Century. In this most bloody of bloody Middle Ages, the Romans have left a power vacuum, and the Franks are fighting among themselves for the spoils. This is not a world we would assume is for women, who are normally depicted sewing and sitting dutifully beside their husbands. Brunhild and Fredegund are out to stake their claim to power, with brutal consequences. It’s fascinating how these female characters seem as though they were fashioned in our modern-day image – women who wielded real power and shaped the people and land they presided over for decades. It’s thanks to Puhak’s wonderfully detailed storytelling that we are so engaged. I loved the countless other characters, too, whose lives could fill a dozen sequels. Required reading, for lovers of medieval fiction and non-fiction alike.

Hard Choices

Hard Choices

Author: Peter Ricketts Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/03/2022

The international order put in place after World War II is rapidly coming to an end. Disastrous foreign wars, global recession, the meteoric rise of China and India, and the Covid-19 pandemic have undermined the power of the West's institutions and unleashed the forces of nationalism and protectionism around the world. Britain faces unprecedented dilemmas: how do we influence events outside the EU? Can we protect ourselves from cyber attacks and terrorism? Will we accept our diminished role in the international arena? In this lucid and wide-ranging book, one of Britain's most experienced senior diplomats explores how the country moves forward, arguing that international co-operation and solidarity are the surest ways to prosper in a world more dangerous than ever.

The Lyrics

The Lyrics

Author: Paul McCartney, Paul Muldoon Format: Hardback Release Date: 02/11/2021

A self-portrait in 154 songs, by our greatest living songwriter 'More often than I can count, I've been asked if I would write an autobiography, but the time has never been right. The one thing I've always managed to do, whether at home or on the road, is to write new songs. I know that some people, when they get to a certain age, like to go to a diary to recall day-to-day events from the past, but I have no such notebooks. What I do have are my songs, hundreds of them, which I've learned serve much the same purpose. And these songs span my entire life.' In this extraordinary book, with unparalleled candour, Paul McCartney recounts his life and art through the prism of 154 songs from all stages of his career - from his earliest boyhood compositions through the legendary decade of The Beatles, to Wings and his solo albums to the present. Arranged alphabetically to provide a kaleidoscopic rather than chronological account, it establishes definitive texts of the songs' lyrics for the first time and describes the circumstances in which they were written, the people and places that inspired them, and what he thinks of them now. Presented with this is a treasure trove of material from McCartney's personal archive - drafts, letters, photographs - never seen before, which make this also a unique visual record of one of the greatest songwriters of all time. We learn intimately about the man, the creative process, the working out of melodies, the moments of inspiration. The voice and personality of Paul McCartney sings off every page. There has never been a book about a great musician like it. Each volume is 480 pp, not available separately

Free

Free

Author: Lea Ypi Format: Hardback Release Date: 28/10/2021

'I never asked myself about the meaning of freedom until the day I hugged Stalin. From close up, he was much taller than I expected.' Lea Ypi grew up in one of the most isolated countries on earth, a place where communist ideals had officially replaced religion. Albania, the last Stalinist outpost in Europe, was almost impossible to visit, almost impossible to leave. It was a place of queuing and scarcity, of political executions and secret police. To Lea, it was home. People were equal, neighbours helped each other, and children were expected to build a better world. There was community and hope. Then, in December 1990, a year after the fall of the Berlin Wall, everything changed. The statues of Stalin and Hoxha were toppled. Almost overnight, people could vote freely, wear what they liked and worship as they wished. There was no longer anything to fear from prying ears. But factories shut, jobs disappeared and thousands fled to Italy on crowded ships, only to be sent back. Predatory pyramid schemes eventually bankrupted the country, leading to violent conflict. As one generation's aspirations became another's disillusionment, and as her own family's secrets were revealed, Lea found herself questioning what freedom really meant. Free is an engrossing memoir of coming of age amid political upheaval. With acute insight and wit, Lea Ypi traces the limits of progress and the burden of the past, illuminating the spaces between ideals and reality, and the hopes and fears of people pulled up by the sweep of history.

Queens of the Crusades

Queens of the Crusades

Author: Alison Weir Format: Paperback Release Date: 21/10/2021

Crusading queens, queens in rebellion against their king, queen seductresses, learned queens, queens in battle - the Plantagenet queens broke through medieval constraints to exercise power and influence, for good and sometimes for ill. Beginning with the formidable Eleanor of Aquitaine whose marriage to Henry II sows the seeds for some of the most destructive family conflicts in history and ending with Eleanor of Castile, the grasping but beloved wife of Edward I, Alison Weir's ground-breaking history of the queens of medieval England provides an enthralling new perspective on a dramatic period of high romance and sometimes low politics, with determined women at its heart.

The Library

The Library

Author: Arthur der Weduwen, Andrew Pettegree Format: Hardback Release Date: 14/10/2021

A fascinating in-depth history of the library, this book weaves its way through time and is overflowing with tidbits and facts. The Library calls itself a: “fragile history”, and as beleaguered as our public libraries are today, you can see their past suffering too. This isn’t a light and breezy offering, it is serious, and seriously epic in its scope. I took my time, and soaked up the information, from learning about the gathering of baked clay tablets in Mesopotamia, how Popes, Kings, and Monasteries affected Libraries, the arrival of vertical shelving rather than trunks, all the way through and past the Second World War. I have always supported the idea of the library, but never before really thought about how they came into being, how books are selected, the discrimination and censorship that has taken place. Libraries should be a safe welcoming place for everyone, but that of course depends on a huge range of factors, all of which are detailed here. Arthur der Weduwen and Andrew Pettegree have spent time in over 300 libraries and archives, their acknowledgements and research material is listed. If you are interested in a detailed thought-provoking look into the history of the library, then The Library will answer your call. Chosen as a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month.

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
Aftermath

Aftermath

Author: Harald Jähner Format: Hardback Release Date: 17/06/2021

Germany, 1945: a country in ruins. Cities have been reduced to rubble and more than half of the population are where they do not belong or do not want to be. How can a functioning society ever emerge from this chaos? In bombed-out Berlin, Ruth Andreas-Friedrich, journalist and member of the Nazi resistance, warms herself by a makeshift stove and records in her diary how a frenzy of expectation and industriousness grips the city. The Americans send Hans Habe, an Austro-Hungarian Jewish journalist and US army soldier, to the frontline of psychological warfare - tasked with establishing a newspaper empire capable of remoulding the minds of the Germans. The philosopher Hannah Arendt returns to the country she fled to find a population gripped by a manic loquaciousness, but faces a deafening wall of silence at the mention of the Holocaust. Aftermath is a nuanced panorama of a nation undergoing monumental change. 1945 to 1955 was a raw, wild decade poised between two eras that proved decisive for Germany's future - and one starkly different to how most of us imagine it today. Featuring black and white photographs and posters from post-war Germany - some beautiful, some revelatory, some shocking - Aftermath evokes an immersive portrait of a society corrupted, demoralised and freed - all at the same time.

Ancestors

Ancestors

Author: Alice Roberts Format: Hardback Release Date: 27/05/2021

THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER An extraordinary exploration of the ancestry of Britain through seven burial sites. By using new advances in genetics and taking us through important archaeological discoveries, Professor Alice Roberts helps us better understand life today. 'This is a terrific, timely and transporting book - taking us heart, body and mind beyond history, to the fascinating truth of the prehistoric past and the present' Bettany Hughes We often think of Britain springing from nowhere with the arrival of the Romans. But in Ancestors, anthropologist, broadcaster and academic Professor Alice Roberts explores what we can learn about the very earliest Britons, from burial sites and by using new technology to analyse ancient DNA. Told through seven fascinating burial sites, this groundbreaking prehistory of Britain teaches us more about ourselves and our history: how people came and went and how we came to be on this island. It explores forgotten journeys and memories of migrations long ago, written into genes and preserved in the ground for thousands of years. This is a book about belonging: about walking in ancient places, in the footsteps of the ancestors. It explores our interconnected global ancestry, and the human experience that binds us all together. It's about reaching back in time, to find ourselves, and our place in the world.