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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  • James of St George and the Castles of the Welsh Wars

    Article

    James of St George and the Castles of the Welsh Wars, Malcolm Hislop, Pen and Sword, 2020, 302p, £25-00. ISBN 9781526741301 The title of Malcom Hislop’s book tends to understate the extent of what he manages to embrace in this important volume. The role of James of St George in...

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  • Haldane: The Forgotten Statesman who Shaped Modern Britain

    Article

    Haldane: The Forgotten Statesman who Shaped Modern Britain, John Campbell; Hurst and Company, 2020, 482p, £30-00. ISBN 9781787383111 From my years in the sixth form through being a student and teacher, I have referred to what is now a very battered copy of Alan Palmer’s Penguin Dictionary of Modern History. The...

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  • The Man Who Was Saturday: The Extraordinary Life of Airey Neave

    Article

    The Man Who Was Saturday: The Extraordinary Life of Airey NeavePatrick Bishop; William Collins, 2019, 291 pp, £20.00ISBN 978-0-00-830904-6  Patrick Bishop has written a well-researched, judiciously fair and readable account of a man who combined wartime heroism with a political career which transformed itself from mediocrity to significance late in life.  War...

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  • England’s Saintly Landscape

    Article

    England’s Saintly Landscape, Trevor James, Lichfield Press, 2020, 95 pp, £10-00. ISBN 978-0-905985-94-7 The author is quick to credit W G Hoskins and Eilert Ekwall and their influence is readily apparent in the enthusiasm that permeates this study. Trevor James’ contention is that church dedications, place names, pilgrimage routes, local industries, fairs and...

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  • The Devil’s Bridge: The German Victory at Arnhem, 1944

    Article

    The Devil’s Bridge: The German Victory at Arnhem, 1944, Anthony Tucker-Jones, Osprey Publishing, 2020, 304p, £20-00. ISBN 978-1-4728-3986-2 The British view the events surrounding the bridge across the River Rhine at Arnhem in 1944 as an heroic attempt to accelerate the defeat of Nazi Germany, a view exaggerated in popular...

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  • The Mother of the Brontës: When Maria met Patrick

    Article

    The Mother of the Brontës, Sharon Wright, Pen and Sword, 2019, 182p, £19-99. ISBN 978-1-52673-848-6 With the three Brontë sisters having an international reputation for their creativity and with the parsonage at Haworth having become a literary shrine to their success, the question arises as to what were the ingredients...

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  • Poland and the Second World War 1938-48

    Article

    Poland and the Second World War 1938-48, Evan McGilvray, Pen and Sword, 2019, 344p, £25-00. ISBN 9781473834101. For those of us who understood that the Polish Partitions of the 18th Century had removed the reality of a Polish state from the map of Europe and that at the end of the...

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  • The Ever Open Door: 150 years of the Together Trust

    Article

    The Ever Open Door: 150 years of the Together Trust, Andrew Simpson, The Together Trust, 2020, 140p, £14-99. ISBN 978-1-5272-5671-2  From its earliest beginnings in Manchester 1870 as a ‘Night Refuge for Homeless Boys’, through being transformed into the ‘Manchester and Salford Boys and Girls Refuges and Homes’ and then...

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  • Lawrence of Arabia on War: The Campaign in the Desert 1916-18

    Article

    Lawrence of Arabia on War: The Campaign in the Desert 1916-18, Rob Johnson, Osprey Publishing, 2020, 368p, £25-00. ISBN 978-1-4728-3491-1 For those of us whose detailed knowledge of Lawrence of Arabia may have been drawn from Robert Graves’ classic Lawrence and the Arabs (1927), amplified by occasional textbook references, this really...

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  • Churchyards

    Article

    Churchyards (Britain's Heritage series), Roger Bowdler, Amberley Publishing, 2019, 64p, £8-99. ISBN 9781445691114 This book is dedicated to the memory of Frederick Burgess, the author of English Churchyard Memorials (1963), from whom many of us learned to study and understand what we find in churchyards. This carefully developed study by...

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  • Fair Seed-Time: Robert Evans, Francis Newdigate and the Making of George Eliot

    Article

    Fair Seed-Time: Robert Evans, Francis Newdigate and the Making of George Eliot, David Paterson, Troubadour, 2019, 306p, £12-00. ISBN 978-1-83859-146-5 ‘Fair seed-time’ is a phrase used by William Wordsworth and echoed in a comment by George Eliot when she wrote ‘these hours were seed to all my after good’. Co-incidental...

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  • Tracing Your Ancestors in Lunatic Asylums: a Guide for Family Historians

    Article

    Tracing Your Ancestors in Lunatic Asylums: a Guide for Family Historians, Michelle Higgs, Pen and Sword, 2019,  196p, £14-99. ISBN 978 1 52674 485 2 My great-great-grandmother Emma Wood’s brother, Theophilus Wood, died in the Warwickshire Lunatic Asylum in 1871. It was his extraordinary fore-name that initially attracted my attention...

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  • Gone with the Wind: a great book?

    Article

    HA President Tony Badger examines the historical context which shapes our understanding of Margaret Mitchell’s enduring novel. I had been a historian of the American South for 50 years and like Ringbaum, I had a secret. I had never read Gone with the Wind. As I came up to retirement...

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  • The Common Story: A history of Tooting Common

    Article

    The Common Story: A history of Tooting Common, [ed] Katy Layton-Jones, Wandsworth Council’s Tooting Common Heritage Project, 2019, 132p, £10-00 from the Tooting History Group [or downloadable free via link on the Tooting History Group page]. A few miles from the Historical Association office, a substantial and easily accessible open...

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  • Willington and the Mowbrays: After the Peasants' Revolt

    Article

    Willington and the Mowbrays: After the Peasants' Revolt, Dorothy Jamieson, Bedford Historical Record Society Vol 95, Boydell Press, 2019, 241p, £25-00, ISSN 0067-4826. At one level this scholarly and meticulous study introduces us to the Willington neighbourhood in Bedfordshire. Based on Dorothy Jamieson’s careful transcription of its manorial court rolls,...

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  • ‘You are Legend’: The Welsh Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War

    Article

    ‘You are Legend’: The Welsh Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War, Graham Davies, Welsh Academic Press, 2018, 224p, £19-99. ISBN 978-1-86057-1305 ‘You are legend’ is a phrase from the farewell speech by La Pasionaria in 1938 when the International Brigade withdrew from the Spanish Civil War. Amongst the British contingent...

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  • War Bows

    Article

    War Bows, Mike Loades, Osprey Publishing, 2019, 312p, £30-00. ISBN 978-1-4728-2553-7. This is a highly technical book. Mike Loades examines in exceptional detail four types of ‘war bow’ – the longbow, the crossbow, the composite bow and the Japanese ‘yumi’, used by the samurai. This is an extraordinarily well-illustrated scholarly...

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  • The Financial Affairs of David Lloyd George

    Article

    The Financial Affairs of David Lloyd George, Ian Ivatt, Welsh Academic Press, 2019, 160p, £19-99. ISBN 978-1-86057-1251. After 50 years of awareness of politically unsympathetic commentators making insinuations regarding David Lloyd George’s financial dealings, with particular reference to the ‘Lloyd George Political Fund’, Ian Ivatt has done a valuable service in...

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  • Literary Trails: Haworth and the Brontës

    Article

    Literary Trails: Haworth and the Brontës, Catherine Rayner and David Walford, Pen and sword History, 2018, 276p, £14-99. ISBN 9781526720856 Crossing the moors in West Yorkshire, even in mid-summer, there is a sense of being remote in what clearly at times is a challenging and bleak landscape. It is in...

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  • 24 Hours at Balaclava: 25 October 1854

    Article

    24 Hours at Balaclava: 25 October 1854, Robert Kershaw, The History Press, 2019, 286p, £20-00. ISBN 9780750988889. Robert Kershaw’s review of what happened at Balaclava in October 1854 is part of an emerging genre of research. He has examined vast quantities of written sources which together give a strong sense...

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