Book Reviews

The Historian is the publication for general members of the HA. One of its regular features is book reviews. The reviews cover everything from the popular new history books to some of the more obscure, specialist books that make you proud that publishers still value history books. Find out what is hot on the history shelves here.

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  • The Great Passion

    Article

    The Great Passion, James Runcie, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2022, 260p, £16.99. ISBN 978-1-4088-8551-2. One of my academic mentors, Professor Alan Everitt, believed that novels set in carefully researched setting could be a very reliable contemporary source for historians. My experience confirms his judgement: Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat...

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  • S.E.19: My London Life, 1937-63

    Article

    S.E.19: My London Life, 1937-63, Roger Ward, Over Bite Press, 2022, 222p, £10-00. ISBN 978-1-9­­15292-39-1. This is a deeply personal book, written by Professor Roger Ward to describe and explain his early life in Upper Norwood for his children. It is reminiscent of Roy Hattersley’s A Yorkshire Boyhood [1983] and...

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  • Clarke, Petit and St Mark’s: A 19th Century journey on the Isle of Man

    Article

    Clarke, Petit and St Mark’s: A 19th Century journey on the Isle of Man, Philip Modiano, RPS Publications, 2022, 44p., £9.00 [plus postage]. ISBN 9781916493117. Contact via enquiries@revpetit.com In this extraordinary booklet Philip Modiano explains the architectural and personal relationship built up between the notable water-colourist, the Revd John Louis Petit,...

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  • London’s Railway Stations

    Article

    London’s Railway Stations, Oliver Green, Shire Publications, 2022, 64p, £9.99. ISBN 978 1 78442 505 0  Genuinely authentic Londoners will be familiar with all thirteen of its railway terminuses and this book, by a recognised expert on London’s railway provision, provides an excellent introduction to the topic which will now...

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  • Ten Cities that Led the World: From Ancient Metropolis to Modern Megacity

    Article

    Ten Cities that Led the World: From Ancient Metropolis to Modern Megacity, Paul Strathern, Hodder and Stoughton, 2022, 260p, £25-00. ISBN 978-1-529-35934-2. This book has such a level of coherence and insight that it will be read in a single session. Any book that manages to encompass the notion of...

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  • Uncommon Courage: The Yachtsmen Volunteers of World War II

    Article

    Uncommon Courage: The Yachtsmen Volunteers of World War II, Julia Jones, Adlard Coles, 2022, 310p, £20-00. ISBN 978-1-4729-87105 Historians are frequently obsessed with defining what constitutes a primary source, a source which will be guaranteed to yield reliable data. What Julia Jones has done is to produce a book which...

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  • The Grand Tour

    Article

    The Grand Tour, Mike Rendell, Shire Publications, 2022, 64p, £8-99. ISBN 978-1-78402-695-4.  ‘The Grand Tour’ became a major rite of passage for many young aristocrats and was at its peak in the mid-18th century, when Europe experienced a rare three decades of relative peace. It was inspired by Catholic priest and...

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  • Victorian Stained Glass

    Article

    Victorian Stained Glass, Trevor Yorke, Shire Publications, 20222, 64p, £8-99. ISBN 978-1-78442-483-1 This is an extraordinarily helpful introduction to the art and manufacture of stained glass. Its extra attraction is that it offers much more than the title suggests. Trevor Yorke provides a very succinct but clear explanation of the...

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  • Wingfield: Suffolk’s Forgotten Castle

    Article

    Wingfield: Suffolk’s Forgotten Castle, Elaine Murphy, Poppyland Publishing, 2021, 396pp., £19.95. ISBN 978-1-909796-88-1.  Grade 1 listed Wingfield Manor, ancestral home of the Wingfield family was inherited by Michael de la Pole, earl of Suffolk, in 1385, less than four weeks after his marriage to Katherine Wingfield, sole heir of her...

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  • Europe’s 100 Best Cathedrals

    Article

    Europe’s 100 Best Cathedrals, Simon Jenkins, Penguin Books Ltd, 2021, 360pp., £30, ISBN: 978-0-241452-63-9. Ever leafed through one of the visitor books found in many of our churches and read the comments? ‘Very peaceful’, ‘Lovely’, ‘Beautiful’, and similar well-meaning but bland observations are typical. Coming up with something more meaningful isn’t...

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  • How Norwich Fought Against the Plague: Lessons from the Past

    Article

    How Norwich Fought Against the Plague: Lessons from the Past, Frank Meeres, Poppyland Publishing, 2021, 138p, £9.95. ISBN 9781909796898 The importance of this book has already been acknowledged at a regional level by having been awarded the 2021 East Anglia Book Award for History and Tradition. What Frank Meeres has...

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  • The Historic Sporting Landscape

    Article

    The Historic Sporting Landscape, Trevor James, Lichfield Press, 2021, 114p, £10-00. ISBN 978-0-905985 978  Having in a recent book effectively surveyed England’s saintly landscape, Trevor James has now turned his attention to the rather less saintly sporting landscape. He believes implicitly that England has been and is ‘the most enthusiastically...

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  • Beleaguered and Besieged: A Year in a Place of Rocks

    Article

    Beleaguered and Besieged: A Year in a Place of Rocks, Hugh Gault, Gretton Books, 2021, 124p, £10-00. ISBN 978-1-999851-9-5 Long-standing contributor to The Historian Hugh Gault has developed a novel approach to the study of the siege of Mafeking. The novelty occurs in two forms. He has created a diary...

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  • The Radical Potter: Josiah Wedgwood and the Transformation of Britain

    Article

    The Radical Potter: Josiah Wedgwood and the Transformation of Britain, Tristram Hunt, Allen Lane, 2021, 323pp., £25. ISBN 978-0-24128-789-7.  As MP for Stoke-on-Trent, Tristram Hunt was prominent in the 2014 fight to save the Wedgwood Museum at Barlaston and prevent its contents going to auction. As director of the Victoria...

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  • Welfare in Widecombe 1700-1900: An illustrated journey through local archives

    Article

    Welfare in Widecombe 1700-1900: An illustrated journey through local archives, Roger Claxton, Widecombe History Group, 2019, 194p, £17-00 [plus postage and packing], ISBN 978-1-9162849-0-6. More details from www.widecombe-in-the-moor.com/welfare/ Meticulous research has enabled Roger Claxton to produce his Welfare in Widecombe 1700-1900, with its longer and highly significant title of an...

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  • Frans Hals: The Male Portrait

    Article

    Frans Hals: The Male Portrait, Lelia Packer and Ashok Roy, The Wallace Collection, Philip Wilson Publishers, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2021, 130pp., £20. ISBN 978-1-78130-110-4.  The Wallace Collection, bequeathed to the nation in 1897, houses the art collection of the first four Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace, widely regarded...

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  • The Pioneering Life of Mary Wortley Montagu: Scientist and Feminist

    Article

    The Pioneering Life of Mary Wortley Montagu: Scientist and Feminist, Jo Willett, Pen and Sword, 2021, 256p, £25-00. ISBN 9781526779380 Mary Wortley Montagu was baptised on 26 May 1689 and died on 21 August 1762 in London. From a wealthy aristocratic family, she had great intellectual curiosity and the opportunities...

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  • Blood and Iron: The Rise and Fall of the German Empire 1871-1918, Katja Hoyer

    Article

    Blood and Iron: The Rise and Fall of the German Empire 1871-1918, Katja Hoyer, The History Press, 2021, 253 pp, £14.99, ISBN 978-0-7509-9622-8  This admirably concise book gives due weight to the whole of the period from 1871 to 1918 rather than glossing over the years between the Bismarck Chancellorship and the...

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  • Chinoiserie

    Article

    Chinoiserie, Richard Hayman, Shire Publications, 2021, 64p., £8.99. ISBN 978-1-78442-464-0.  Chinoiserie describes the highly imaginative decorative style inspired by a fascination for oriental culture that emerged around 1650, peaked during the Rococo exuberance of the mid-18th century, before going out of fashion in the early-19th century. Motifs including pagodas, pavilions, flowers and...

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  • Thomas Chippendale

    Article

    Thomas Chippendale, Adam Bowett and James Lomax, Shire Publications, 2021, 64p, £8-99. ISBN 978-1-78442-477-0. Thomas Chippendale has a claim to be Britain’s most famous furniture designer and manufacturer. Although we will have seen examples of his exquisite work in country houses and museums, we will not necessarily know very much...

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