Newest History Reviews

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Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

5star.jpg True Crime

Killers of the Flower Moon tells the story of the Osage tribe, forced to settle in the rocky, uninhabitable wilds of Oklahoma in what would become Osage County. In an unexpected turn of fortune, prospectors struck oil, instantly catapulting the Osage into unimaginable wealth and fortune making them some of the richest people in the world. Then members of the tribe start to die, slowly at first of apparently natural causes then in increasingly violent ways. Investigation into the matter stalls and is beset by incompetence and a general lack of interest in the fate of the Osage until the FBI becomes involved and draws together a team of battle scarred, unorthodox agents led by former Texas Ranger Tom White. As pressure on White increases, from both the FBI and the increasingly angry Osage, the race to find the truth becomes increasingly difficult, with more twists and double crosses than any murder mystery. Full review...

The Island that Disappeared by Tom Feiling

5star.jpg History

'The Island that Disappeared' tells the history of the, largely now forgotten, island of Providence in the Caribbean. It is a fascinating and compelling account of what might have been but ultimately is the story of greed, ambition and human nature. In 1630 on board the Seaflower, a sister ship to the Mayflower, a small group of English puritans sailed to the island to establish a new colony. They were convinced in their belief that the British Empire would rise in the Central America and not in New England. The hopes that they carried was soon destroyed by failing crops, quarrels and rebellions and many turned to piracy and the plundering of Spanish treasure ships. Within ten years, the Spanish retaliated and invaded the island, wiping the colony out. Providence became a footnote of history until it was resettled over a hundred years later. The book tells the island's story from its early puritan beginnings to the present and through its telling it provides a fascinating microcosm of the world we live in today. Full review...

Allotments (Britain's Heritage Series) by Twigs Way

4star.jpg Lifestyle

Allotments came about originally from the enclosure of land, primarily for sheep pasture. Fearing that the enclosures would leave peasants unable to feed themselves, Elizabeth I issued an act requiring all new cottages to have four acres of ground, something which has been honoured more by history than by Elizabeth's contemporaries. It was the first in a long line of legislation with that aim in mind - which largely failed to achieve their aims. Full review...

Harold: The King Who Fell at Hastings by Peter Rex

4.5star.jpg History

Harold is in the unenviable position for being remembered as the monarch who was defeated and killed in the Norman conquest, and almost nothing else. He does not even merit a passing mention in the renowned 1930s spoof English history, '1066 and all That', which no doubt has him in their category of 'Unmemorable Kings'. This book is thus inevitably a history rather than a biography of someone about whom undisputed facts are rather lacking. Full review...

The Loxleys and Confederation by Mark Zuehlke and Claude St Aubin

3.5star.jpg Graphic Novels

There is a huge hole in my history knowledge where North America is concerned. Slowly, from an opening of sheer ignorance, having never studied it whatsoever at school, I've got a small grip on things like the Civil War, the foundations of the USA and a few other things. But that means nothing as far as this book is concerned, for that huge hole is Canada. No, I didn't have an inkling about how it was trying to unify, just as the American Civil War was in full pelt just across the border. I didn't know what was there before Canada, if you see what I mean. The story does have some things in common with that of their southern neighbours – European occupancy being slowly turned into a list of states as we know them now, slowly spreading into the heart of the continent with the help of the railways etc; native 'Indians' being 'in the way'; past trading agreements to either maintain or try to improve on; and so on – but of course it also had the British vs French issue. But did you know how an American President getting shot at the theatre had a bearing on the story? Or the Irish? Like I said, a huge hole… Full review...

The Button Box by Lynn Knight

4star.jpg History

Buttons are the underdogs of the clothing world: dismissed as functional elements of clothing, falling into the same dustbin category with zips and shoe laces, they tend to be seen as necessary for keeping clothes on, rather than contributors to style. But Lynn Knight is set to prove that the opposite is true. We think nothing of lacing discussions about clothing and feminism with headscarves, bikinis, and underweight models – and buttons deserve a place on the pedestal of gender discussion, too. Full review...

The Prince Who Would Be King: The Life and Death of Henry Stuart by Sarah Fraser

4.5star.jpg Biography

Henry Stuart, eldest child of King James VI and I, was not the only eldest son of a monarch who did not live long enough to succeed to the throne. The list also included Arthur (son of Henry VII) and Albert Victor (Edward VII). Of the three, Henry undoubtedly showed the most promise. Full review...

Good As You: From Prejudice to Pride - 30 Years of Gay Britain by Paul Flynn

5star.jpg History

The last 30 years have seen a tidal wave of change sweep the country with regards to how gay people are perceived and accepted. In 1984, the pulsing electronic beats of Smalltown Boy became an anthem to unite Gay Men, but just a month later, a virus called HIV would be identified, spreading a climate of panic and fear across the nation, and marginalising a community who were already ostracised. 30 years later though, the long road to gay equality would reach a climax with the legalistion of gay marriage. Journalist Paul Flynn charts this remarkable journey via the cultural milestones that affected this change - with interviews with such protagonists as Kylie, Russell T Davies, Will Young, Holly Johnson and Lord Chris Smith. This is the story of Britain's brothers, sons, cousins, fathers and husbands. Of public outrage and personal loss, the (not always legal) highs and desperate lows, and the final collective victory as Gay Men were finally recognised to be as Good As You. Full review...

Arthur and the Kings of Britain: The Historical Truth Behind the Myths by Miles Russell

4.5star.jpg History

As the author of the Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain), written in 1136, Geoffrey of Monmouth is commonly recognized as one of the first British historians. His book told – or is supposed to have told - the story of the British monarchy during the Dark Ages, from the arrival of the Trojan Brutus, grandson of Aeneas, up to the seventh century AD when the Anglo-Saxons had taken control of Britain. Being virtually the only work of its kind at the time, it proved very influential, and became well-known throughout western Europe as one of the great works of medieval literature as the first retelling of the story of King Arthur, Lear and Cymbeline. Shakespeare was forever in his debt with regard to the two latter. Full review...

Blades of Grass by Mark Aylwin Thomas

4.5star.jpg Biography

Any book that has me in tears at the end has been worth my time. Any book that has me hoping it will end differently to the way I know it must is worth the reading. Any book that convinces me that maybe there is still hope in the world – that for all the mistakes made thus far, still being made right now, there is a common humanity which ultimately, eventually, must do some good – that is worth the writing and the reading and the time. Blades of Grass is one such book. It's a forgotten story, an unknown story to most people. It is one that should be told – and reflected upon. Full review...

The Murder of the Romanovs by Andrew Cook

4.5star.jpg History

The fate of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, his wife Alexandra and children, fuelled no end of rumour, misinformation and conspiracy theories for many years, even though the truth was known not long after the event. In the last few years, the advance of forensic science, DNA testing and the precise location of the bodies have allowed for confirmation of the exact truth and a dismissal of claims by a noted so-called surviving Grand Duchess. Even so, as Andrew Cook notes, straight after the deaths of the imperial family 'there would begin a ninety-year battle between science and superstition which is not over yet'. Full review...

At The Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being and Apricot Cocktails by Sarah Bakewell

4star.jpg Politics and Society

You know that old saying about judging books by their cover? Ignore it! I have found that by judging a book by its cover and getting it completely wrong is a great way to find yourself committed to reading a book that you'd never have picked in a million years and yet, somehow, being amazingly glad you did. Full review...

Pirates: Truth and Tale by Helen Hollick

4star.jpg History

The eighteenth century lived in terror of the tramps of the seas – pirates. Pirates have fascinated people ever since. It was a harsh life for those who went 'on the account', constantly overshadowed by the threat of death – through violence, illness, shipwreck, or the hangman's noose. The lure of gold, the excitement of the chase and the freedom that life aboard a pirate ship offered were judged by some to be worth the risk. Helen Hollick explores both the fiction and fact of the Golden Age of piracy, and there are some surprises in store for those who think they know their Barbary Corsair from their boucanier. Everyone has heard of Captain Morgan, but who recognises the name of the aristocratic Frenchman Daniel Montbars? He killed so many Spaniards he was known as 'The Exterminator'. The fictional world of pirates, represented in novels and movies, is different from reality. What draws readers and viewers to these notorious hyenas of the high seas? What are the facts behind the fantasy? Full review...

Kingmakers: How Power in England Was Won and Lost on the Welsh Frontier by Timothy Venning

3.5star.jpg History

Between the Norman conquest and the Tudor period, Britain often seemed to be on the verge of civil war. The Anglo-Welsh borders were a perpetual source of trouble, kept at bay only by the Marcher lords appointed by the King of England to guard the Welsh Marches. Full review...

The British Phonebox by Nigel Linge and Andy Sutton

4.5star.jpg History

The mobile phone must be one of the most used, must-have accessories of the modern age, the one device you cannot escape from in public. Some of us with (relatively) long memories must look back on the age when the bright red phonebox reigned supreme as a long time ago. Full review...

Warriors and Kings: The 1500-Year Battle for Celtic Britain by Martin Wall

4.5star.jpg History

For several centuries, much of the ancient and medieval history of Britain was one forged in war as the Celtic peoples took a stand against invasion and oppression. First it was the Romans, then the Saxons, Vikings and Normans, who threatened the unyielding and insular people. This book examines how several tenacious and heroic figures led the Britons and the Welsh against often overwhelming odds. Full review...

Joseph, 1917 by David Hewitt

3.5star.jpg History

During the autumn of 1915 Edward Stanley, the Earl of Derby and Director General of military recruitment inaugurated the Derby Scheme. Men of fighting age would be encouraged by door-to-door canvassers to 'attest' that they would sign up for military service at a recruitment office within 48 hours. They would then be categories according to marital status and be called up, with 14 days' notice, in an order in line with their household responsibilities. The idea was a sound one: married men with children only being called on if absolutely necessary. Lancastrian Joseph Blackburn chose to attest but then for him and many others, unforeseen results ensued. Full review...

A British Lion in Zululand by William Wright

5star.jpg History

During the reign of Queen Victoria, southern Africa was a land of opportunity. Fame and fortune was to be found for any brave soul willing to suffer the hardships and dangers the lands offered. For the government of Britain it was also the source of major headaches. The balance between abundant wealth and a native population that would not accept colonial rule created constant conflict. 'A British Lion in Zululand' is the story of the man, widely regarded, as the person who drew these conflicts with the Zulu tribe to a conclusion. Field Marshall Garnet Joseph Wolseley was a heroic and larger than life figure in Victorian Britain; however, even today his role in shaping the future of a continent is controversial. With the aid of extensive research from a number of new sources, William Wright has defined the man and brought fresh insight to a neglected area of British colonial history. Full review...

No Wall Too High by Xu Hongci and Erling Hoh (Translator)

4star.jpg History

It was one of the greatest prison breaks of all time, during one of the worst totalitarian tragedies of the 20th Century. Xu Hongci was an ordinary medical student when he was incarcerated under Mao's regime and forced to spend years of his youth in some of China's most brutal labour camps. Three times he tried to escape. And three times he failed. But, determined, he eventually broke free, travelling the length of China, across the Gobi desert, and into Mongolia. Full review...

The Night of The Eleventh Sun by Steven Burgauer

4.5star.jpg Historical Fiction

The word 'Neanderthal' has become equated with people deemed to have a backward attitude and outlook. But what do we know of the original Neanderthals from over 200,000 years ago? Here American author Steven Burgauer melds the knowledge of anthropologists, archaeologists and historians with the story of Strong Arms, his family and their struggle to survive in a very effective, and informative way. Full review...

Morse Code Wrens of Station X by Anne Glyn-Jones

4.5star.jpg History

Bletchley Park is probably now the least secret of all the secret ops that went on during World War II. I for one am pleased about that: technology has moved on so far that there can't be anything that happened back then on the communications front that is worth continuing to shroud in mystery. With most of the participants either departed or at least in the departure lounge, the more recollections we can still gather the better. What remained secret far longer however, is the work of the telegraphers that served Station X: those posted to the Y-stations. There are few of them left to tell their tales, so I applaud those who finally saw fit (a) to release them from their life-long bonds of secrecy and (b) encourage them to write it down, tell us what it was really like. Full review...

The Cruise of Naromis: August in the Baltic 1939 by G A Jones

4star.jpg Travel

There's brave, and there is brave. I may well have been born in a coastal county but certainly would baulk at the idea of setting out to sea with four colleagues in a 37'-long boat. Boats to me are like planes – the bigger the better, and the safer I feel as a result. But luckily for the purpose of this book, George Jones was born with a much different pair of sea-legs to mine, and took to the waters of the English Channel, the North Sea and beyond in Naromis with brio. But – and this is where the further definition of bravery comes in – he did it in August 1939, knowing full well that he would be sailing full tilt into the teeth of war. Full review...

The Private Life of Edward IV by John Ashdown-Hill

4.5star.jpg Biography

Edward IV is currently a popular subject for biographers. All credit is therefore due to Dr Ashdown-Hill, one of the foremost of current Yorkist-era historians, for looking at the King from a fresh angle – that of his romantic involvements. Full review...

The Servants' Story: Managing a Great Country House by Pamela Sambrook

4.5star.jpg History

With so many recent books on aristocratic families and their homes, one which looks at the lives of their servants is to be welcomed. Written with the help of a vast archive, this presents a vivid picture of those in service at Trentham, the Staffordshire home of the Leveson-Gower family, the Dukes of Sutherland, at one stage said to be the richest non-royal family in Britain. Its insights into the ups and downs of life below stairs, and the mini-family histories involved, make for an excellent read. Full review...

Everyday Life in Tudor London: Life in the City of Thomas Cromwell, William Shakespeare & Anne Boleyn by Stephen Porter

4.5star.jpg History

The Tudor period in England marked a transition in so many ways from the medieval period to a new era, and so it is only right that somebody should at last have examined what effect that should have had on our capital city. After the instability of the Wars of the Roses, a period of consolidation set in and London was at last established as the seat of royalty and government, as well as the centre of cultural life and commercial activity. Full review...

The Wreck of the SS London by Simon Wills

5star.jpg History

The sinking of the Titanic in 1912 was the ocean disaster against which all subsequent shipwrecks have come to be compared. Yet some forty years earlier, the people of mid-Victorian Britain and overseas were horrified by another loss at sea which at the time had a similar impact. In January 1866 SS London, a large new luxury liner en route to Australia, went down shortly after leaving England, with around 250 people dead, maybe more (the exact figure will never be known), and only three survivors. Full review...

Queen Victoria and the European Empires by John Van der Kiste

4.5star.jpg History

Queen Victoria and the European Empires is a very readable history of Queen Victoria's relationships, both personal and political with the royalty of France, Germany, Austria and Russia. Many of these associations were based on family ties, but - as in all families - not all connections brought joy in their wake. John Van der Kiste - an expert in all things Victorian - produces an elegant picture of the changing relationships between the eighteen thirties and the early nineteen hundreds in a book which is deceptively slim, but packed with fascinating information and insights. Full review...

Capital Punishment: London's Places of Execution by Robert Bard

4star.jpg History

The majority of books on true crime and murder focus first and foremost on specific incidents. This concise volume takes a different approach, in dealing with them according to where the executioner completed his task. Full review...

Operation Big: The Race to Stop Hitler's A-Bomb by Colin Brown

3.5star.jpg History

What, do you think, was more feared in 1941 and 1942 than the Nazi Party? Well, a Nazi Party with nuclear arms would be pretty high on the list. It seems the stuff of pure fantasy, but I'm not so sure. A lot of the people to be at the forefront of the nuclear physics of the age were German, and the first nuclear fission was on their soil. Two things seemed to be needed for nuclear arms – uranium, which they procured by capturing Czechoslovakia, the location of one its greatest source mines; and heavy water. That so nearly fell into Nazi hands when they invaded Norway, but what seems to have been the great majority of the world's supply had only just been smuggled out. Some fiction takes great strides to suggest in a fantasy way that if Hitler hadn't concentrated on exterminating Jews, he would have had the energy to win the war – and it must only be a short step to see his imperial expansionism as having an ulterior motive in nuclear materiel. But make no mistake, this is not fiction – these are the pure facts behind the issue. Full review...