Apologies for the delay in the weekly Reviews in History post – our Anglo-American Conference of Historians on ‘The Great War at Home’ started yesterday (check out the programme at http://anglo-american.history.ac.uk/files/2013/03/Anglo-American-conference-programme.pdf, or follow developments at #aach2014), and I was out all afternoon chairing a packed session on conscientious objectors and war resisters. Or ‘cranks’, if you’re Jeremy Paxman.
Anyway, to coincide with the conference, we’ll be publishing a series of reviews on related books, and our first batch are up today.
We begin with the Cambridge History of the First World War, edited by Jay Winter. Richard Grayson and the editor discuss a comprehensive, insightful and challenging collection, which can be considered an astonishing achievement (no. 1618, with response here)
Next up is Ross Davies’ ‘A Student in Arms’: Donald Hankey and Edwardian Society at War. Stuart Bell and the author discuss a new book on one of the most enigmatic personalities to feature in the narrative of the Great War (no. 1617, with response here).
Then we turn to The Soldiers’ Press: Trench Journals in the First World War by Graham Seal, which Adrian Bingham believes provides the most comprehensive and detailed overview thus far of a fascinating genre (no. 1616).
Finally we have The Aesthetics of Loss: German Women’s Art during the First World War by Claudia Siebrecht. Ann Murray finds this book identifies and underscores the vital importance of women’s art to our greater understanding of the First World War (no. 1615).
I was all set to try and tie things in with the World Cup this week, but what with England already having disembarked at Luton there really doesn’t seem much point. Oh, and none of the books are football-related in any way…
So away from the ignominies of our sub-standard national team, and let us turn for reassurance instead to high-standard historical scholarship, beginning with Print and Public Politics in the English Revolution by Jason Peacey. David Magliocco and the author discuss an outstanding work combining archival mastery, theoretical sophistication, methodological innovation and lucid exposition (no. 1614, with response here).
Then we have Peter Watson’s The Age of Nothing: How We Have Sought to Live Since The Death of God. Beverley Southgate praises an extraordinarily successful wide-angled personal snapshot of the story of our efforts to live without God (no. 1613).
Next up is Canada and the End of the Imperial Dream by Neville Thompson, and Simon Potter believes this book offers a lively and readable illustration of how the British world perspective can enrich both British and Canadian histories (no. 1612).
Finally there is The Great Game, 1856-1907: Russo-British Relations in Central and East Asia by Evgeny Sergeev, which R. Charles Weller uses as the starting point for a lengthy review of Great Game historiography (no. 1611).
Mrs Thatcher and the Queen pretending to get on at the 1979 Commonwealth Heads of Government summit.
Welcome back to Reviews in History, your weekly digest of reviews of books and digital resources from across the subject.
Thanks for all your birthday present suggestions last week! As many of you pointed out, there are few tight domestic situations that high-quality chocolates can’t improve, and any potential crisis was averted. I also learnt a new acronym via a Twitter response – TMI … so I’ll get straight on with the reviews…
We begin with Philip Murphy’s Monarchy and the End of Empire: The House of Windsor, the British Government, and the Postwar Commonwealth. Ruth Craggs and the author discuss a carefully researched and beautifully presented book that chronicles the relationship between the monarchy, the UK government, and the decolonisation of the British Empire (no. 1610, with response here).
Then we turn to Elizabeth’s Bedfellows: An Intimate History of Elizabeth’s Court by Anna Whitelock. Nadia van Pelt believes this captivating book will appeal to a wide range of readers, from specialist academics, to a non-specialist public interested in Tudor history (no. 1609).
Next up is Steven M. Schroeder’s To Forget It All and Begin Anew: Reconciliation in Occupied Germany, 1944-1954. Camilo Erlichman thinks this book successfully introduces into the historiography the work of a number of hitherto neglected post-war institutions (no. 1608).
Finally, we have Gender, Nation and Conquest in the High Middle Ages: Nest of Deheubarth by Susan M. Johns, which Hanna Kilpi finds to be a useful addition to the scholarship, with its strengths outweighing its weaknesses (no. 1607).
Apologies for the absence of reviews last week – I was back up north on business (he said mysteriously) – and for the late arrival of this email today, for which my excuse is my sudden recollection that tomorrow is your deputy editor’s partner’s birthday, for which I am woefully unprepared. Given that her mum usually turns up with presents clearly bought from the 24-hour garage (mars bars, milk, petrol…) the bar is set mercifully low. And I’m confident that she’s not a subscriber to Reviews in History either…
To which we say – more fool her! She’s missing out this week on another great interview, as Anthony McFarlane talks to Felipe Fernandez-Armesto about his new book, Our America: A Hispanic History of the United States (no. 1606).
Then we turn to The Cooke Sisters: Education, Piety and Politics in Early Modern England by Gemma Allen, as Nicola Clark reviews a book which not only adds to our knowledge of early modern women’s experience, but brings together the adjacent historiographies of female education, piety, and political roles (no. 1605).
Next up is Camilo José Vergara’s Harlem: the Unmaking of a Ghetto. Daniel Matlin and photographer discuss a monumental, invaluable achievement, the product of an intensely felt and passionately described relationship with a neighbourhood and its people (no. 1604, with response here).
Finally, we have a review article by Nick Hubble encompassing James Hinton’s The Mass Observers: A History, 1937-1949 as well as Mass Observation III, the resource produced by Adam Matthew Digital (no. 1603, with authors’ responses here).
Last year British History Online published the complete series of the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, England. To introduce these volumes for readers who may not be familiar with the RCHME, we asked a number of experts to write introductions to particular counties. Here Charles O’Brien, one of the general editors of the revised Pevsner series from Yale University Press introduces the Huntingdonshire volume. Charles revised the volume Bedfordshire, Huntingdonshire and Peterborough (forthcoming), so is the ideal person to put RCHME, Hunts in context. Charles writes:
Huntingdonshire was one of the smallest counties of England. In 1965 it was merged with the Soke of Peterborough as a new county but both were abolished in 1974 and absorbed into the newly reconstituted county of Cambridgeshire. Huntingdonshire’s identity is preserved as a district within Cambridgeshire but appreciation of local architectural identity is easily lost and so historians should still value the coverage given to it in one of the earliest RCHME inventories, published in 1926.
Nikolaus Pevsner, in his survey of Huntingdonshire for the Buildings of England series (1st ed. 1968) relied heavily on the Commission’s inventory while admitting ‘I am only too well aware of the inadequacies of my gazetteer. Anyone who studies the volume [of the RCHM] can see for himself how many timber-framed houses, how many staircases, how many domestic fitments are left, and guess from that how much more is missing for the C18 which the Royal Commission at the time …did not include’. Pevsner’s copy of the volume remains in the Pevsner Architectural Guides office at Yale University Press, and throughout the volume are his minute annotations and strikings out, indicating that the RCHME volume was in his hands as he carried out his visits during the spring of 1967.
Staircase at Stibbington Hall, 1625
A notable contribution to the Hutingdonshire volume was provided by Sidney Inskip Ladds (1867-1950), architect and local historian who became one of the authors for the three volumes of the Victoria History of the Counties of England (1926-1936). Ladds came from a local family, his grandfather was rector of Ellington, one of the many stone churches with a tall Perp spire for which Huntingdonshire is, or should be, well-known, and his father John Ladds was also an architect, with a modest living from church restorations in the later years of his life, an area of practise which would dominate Sidney’s working life. Partly as a consequence of his church work Ladds accumulated a very considerable body of knowledge of Huntingdonshire’s buildings and his voluminous files of scraps of paper recording his observations, names of architects, genealogy, recollections of incumbents and others are lodged at the Norris Museum, St Ives. Much of his close interest in buildings of every period is reflected in the coverage of the VCH volumes and clearly expressed in the RCHME inventory.
At least part of the pleasure to be taken from the RCHME volumes of the earlier period is in making comparisons between the photographs with the present day, especially the village scenes with their car-less and thus immensely spacious streets but also in the general character of the vernacular buildings of the locality many of which have been significantly altered since the early C20, if not demolished. Others are pleasantly unchanged (the interior of the Lion Hotel, Buckden of c.1500 is an example) and for churches and major houses there is little to record in the way of loss. Only a small proportion of the county’s buildings recorded by photos in the volume have disappeared, notably Conington Castle, but among the timber-framed buildings there had even by the 1960s been a higher rate of attrition and one will search in vain for some of the houses recorded in the plates section of the volume or at least deplore the often insensitive restoration to which they were later subjected, e.g. a seventeenth-century house at Offord Cluny (plate 102) which is now hardly recognisable.
I’ve just finished reading, and would heartily recommend, Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life by Nina Stibbe – which features various characters from the 1980s London literary scene, including by chance none other than this week’s Reviews interviewee, Claire Tomalin. She comes across well in the book, and well in Daniel Snowman’s interview – please do have a listen, and do let us know what you think (no. 1602).
Back to our conventional reviews, and first up is Memory and Commemoration in Medieval Culture, edited by Elma Brenner, Meredith Cohen and Mary Franklin-Brown. Emily Guerry and the editors discuss a multi-disciplinary volume greatly enhances our comprehension of medieval cultural history in France (no. 1601, with response here).
Then we turn to Michal Shapira’s The War Inside: Psychoanalysis, Total War and the Making of the Democratic Self in Post-War Britain. Helen McCarthy finds that this absorbing book is a valuable contribution to the literature (no. 1600).
Finally, there is Attending to Early Modern Women: Conflict and Concord, edited by Karen Nelson, which Dustin Neighbours believes is a valuable collection to read and own as well as employ in future studies of the lives of early modern women (no. 1599).
One of the main aims of the Big UK Domain Data for the Arts and Humanities project is to involve arts and humanities researchers in the development of tools for analysing web archives, thereby ensuring that those tools meet real rather than perceived researcher needs. We recently ran an open competition inviting researchers to submit proposals across a range of disciplines which focus on the archived web, and have selected 11 from a tremendously strong and varied set of applications. The topics that will be studied over the next eight months are:
Rowan Aust – Tracing notions of heritage
Rona Cran – Beat literature in the contemporary imagination
Richard Deswarte – Revealing British Eurosceptism in the UK web domain and archive
Chris Fryer – The UK Parliament Web Archive
Saskia Huc-Hepher – An ethnosemiotic study of London French habitus as displayed in blogs
Alison Kay – Capture, commemoration and the citizen-historian: Digital Shoebox archives relating to P.O.W.s in the Second World War
Gareth Millward – Digital barriers and the accessible web: disabled people, information and the internet
Marta Musso – A history of the online presence of UK companies
Harry Raffal – The MOD’s online development and strategy for recruitment between 1996 and 2013
Lorna Richardson – Public archaeology: a digital perspective
Helen Taylor – Do online networks exist for the poetry community?
We very much look forward to working with our bursary holders over the coming months, and will be showcasing some of their research findings on the project blog.
Many apologies for bragging about having overcome our technical problems, then not being able to send the email, then sending two emails…as Julian Cope used to say halfway through some shambolic concert: ‘My inner soundtrack is telling me – be more professional!’
So, without further ado, and with an air of calm competency – here are the reviews.
We begin with Elena Woodacre’s The Queens Regnant of Navarre: Succession, Politics and Partnership 1274-1512. Michelle Armstrong-Partida and the author discuss a survey of five queens and their strategies for ruling which offers much to the study of queenship (no. 1598, with response here).
Then we turn to Empire, Migration and Identity in the British World, edited by Kent Fedorowich and Andrew S. Thompson. Esme Cleall finds plenty of rich and exciting material in a collection which is a useful addition to the existing scholarship (no. 1597).
Next up is James Thompson’s British Political Culture and the Idea of ‘Public Opinion’, 1867-1914, and Ben Weinstein believes that although some might be put off by the absence of a uniform, linear narrative, this book’s complexity is a source of great strength (no. 1596).
Finally Jonathan Waterlow reviews Moscow 1937 by Karl Schlögel, a book which skips like a stone across the water: we rarely go beneath the surface level, but the trajectory of travel is undeniably compelling (no. 1595).
To those of you who have experienced any difficulties this week accessing Reviews, many apologies – the whole of the University was affected by a network outage caused by a software bug. As you can tell, I haven’t a clue what was going on, but it certainly demonstrated how little can be done in these days in the absence of the internet. People we hadn’t seen in the flesh for years gathered pensively in our office, sipping tea and attempting to answer trivia questions without the benefit of Google…
Anyway, thank the masters of the web, we are back in action in time for our reviews, which this week start with The Aftermath of Suffrage: Women, Gender, and Politics in Britain, 1918-1945, edited by Julie Gottlieb and Richard Toye. Tehmina Goskar and the editors discuss a painstaking work which the reviewer believes shows the need to return to women’s rather than gender history (no. 1594, with response here).
Next up is Rasid Khalidi’s Brokers of Deceit: How the US has undermined peace in the Middle East, which Daniel Strieff finds a cogently argued, timely and highly readable book (no. 1593).
Then we turn to English Catholics and the Supernatural, 1553-1829 by Francis Young. Emilie Murphy recommends this book to anyone interested in the history of Catholicism, the intellectual and religious history of post-Reformation England, and early modern engagement with the supernatural (no. 1592).
Finally we have Eyal Poleg’s Approaching the Bible in Medieval England, whichRichard Marsden praises as an ambitious book which tackles a massive range of material with great assurance (no. 1591).
Just occasionally the monastic silence that prevails in the IHR Digital office is broken by the gentle chiming of hushed conversation (work-related of course). In one such interlude this morning I mentioned today’s reviews, and expressed my concern that perhaps a history of guano might be a bit specialist. Not a bit of it! My colleagues were gushing in their excitement and interest, and could ‘barely wait’ for this afternoon’s email to come out. You think you know people…
Anyway, first of all this week we have Beth Tompkins Bates’ The Making of Black Detroit in the Age of Henry. Oliver Ayers and the author discuss a deeply thought-provoking book that covers a topic of clear importance to the story of black civil rights and 20th-century American history more broadly (no. 1590, with response here).
Next up is the aforementioned Guano and the Opening of the Pacific World: A Global Ecological History by Gregory T. Cushman. Jim Clifford has been talking about this book and recommending it to others since he started reading it, and believes it to be a model for future research in global environmental history (no. 1589).
Then we turn to Leif Dixon’s Practical Predestinarians in England, c. 1590–1640. James Mawdesley thinks the author has produced a book of worth, and has clearly spent much time thinking about printed works which (to be blunt) are sometimes not the easiest for the modern mind to comprehend (no. 1588).
Finally, Practicing Stalinism: Bolsheviks, Boyars, and the Persistence of Tradition by J. Arch Getty, which Andy Willimott believes offers a fascinating and highly readable account that will challenge scholars to complicate their understanding of the Russian and Soviet political world (no. 1587).
Oh, and as an extra treat we have also received a response form the author to our recent review of Ignacio de Loyola by Enrique García Hernán, which you can find here.