Back working from home this week, as the elongated summer occupation of my flat by relatives and their children has been temporarily lifted. There’s nothing like the prospect of returning to a house full of sugar-fuelled nine-year olds to make the IHR suddenly seem more attractive. Sadly the respite is brief, even now my phone buzzes with news of this afternoon’s arrivals. Perhaps moving to the seaside may have been an error…
Right, enough moaning about people being nice enough to visit, and on with this week’s offerings. We start with Steven Jones’ The Emergence of the Digital Humanities – James Baker and the author discuss a volume which has plenty to offer every historian (no. 1634, with response here).
Next up is Women in Eighteenth-Century Scotland: Intimate Intellectual and Public Lives, edited by Katie Barclay and Deborah Simonton. Catriona Macleod reckons this to be a rich and engaging work with some excellent contributions that will reward all with an interest in gender history in Scotland and beyond (no. 1633).
Then we turn to John Appleby’s Women and English Piracy, 1540-1720: Partners and Victims of Crime, which Daniel Lange judges to be a well written, insightful, and long-overdue study of the various roles women played as supporters and accessories of pirates (no. 1632).
Finally we have The Favor of Friends: Intercession and Aristocratic Politics in Carolingian and Ottonian Europe by Sean Gilsdorf. Levi Roach finds this to be an example of charter scholarship at its finest, combining diplomatic precision and rigour with a strong sense of the broader socio-political significance of the practices examined (no. 1631).
Summer has arrived with a vengeance at the IHR this week, and as ever in England the rarity of hot weather leads us to be unsure of how to handle it properly. For instance, some considerable time elapsed before we realised that what we thought was an air-conditioner was actually blowing out hot air….
Somehow, despite the conditions, we’ve still managed to produce this week’s helping of reviews, and we begin with a great interview between our own Jordan Landes and Amanda Herbert, author of Female Alliances: Gender, Identity, and Friendship in Early Modern Britain (no. 1630).
Then we have three more First World War reviews, beginning with Ross Davies’ review article on art from the First World War, in which he deals with a plethora of different books on the subject (no. 1629).
Next up is The Long Shadow: The Great War and the Twentieth Century by David Reynolds. Jay Winter praises a masterly history, written by one of our finest historians (no. 1628).
Finally there is Ryan Floyd’s Abandoning American Neutrality: Woodrow Wilson and the Beginning of the Great War, August 1914-December 1915. Moritz Pöllath advises historians and interested readers alike to read this book, an insightful study on America’s entry into the First World War (no. 1627).
Apologies for the slightly tardy reviews today – I’ve had a busy week watching my flat fall apart around me, with the gushing out of the roof now being replaced by an ominous hole, and an equally ominous silence from those ostensibly responsible for fixing it. Perfect time for a long weekend visit from your deputy editor’s father – he may find his plumbing skills being tested to their limits….
Anyway, we continue with our WW1 special, and begin with a great introduction from Chris Phillips to the proliferation of digital resources stimulated by this year’s centenary (no. 1626).
Next up is The Children’s War: Britain, 1914-1918 by Rosie Kennedy. Rebecca Gill reviews the first full-length study of ‘the experience of children and the ways in which they responded to their mobilisation for war’ (no. 1625).
Then we turn to Gerhard Schneider’s In eiserner Zeit: Kriegswahrzeichen im Ersten Weltkrieg, which Stefan Goebel finds to be to be a landmark of historical research (no. 1624).
Finally we turn to Organized Patriotism and the Crucible of War: Popular Imperialism in Britain, 1914-1932 by Matthew Hendley, which reviewer David Monger believes to be a valuable book, providing considerable detailed discussion of three ‘patriotic and imperialist’ organizations (no. 1623).
A sad and momentous day at the IHR, as we bid farewell to one of our longest-standing colleagues, James ‘He’ll never leave’ Lees, who , after years of dogged and loyal service, was finally unable to resist the promise of untold riches and the lure of the bright lights, and is moving to Swindon…
Anyway, life must go on – and following the IHR’s successful conference last week, we’re continuing with our special issue of Great War at Home reviews. First up is Disturbing Practices: History, Sexuality and Women’s Experience of Modern War, 1914-18 by Laura Doan. Kevin Guyan and Laura Doan discuss the latter’s book, which offers a clear and confident direction for how histories of sexuality could develop (no. 1622, with response here).
Next we turn to Robert Tombs and Emile Chabal’s Britain and France in Two World Wars: Truth, Myth and Memory, with Vincent Trott reviewing a broad and ambitious collection (no. 1621).
Then we have Civvies: Middle-class men on the English Home Front, 1914–18 by Laura Ugolini. Jessica Meyer believes the author has done a service to historians of gender of this period in providing a thoughtful introduction to a collection of important voices (no. 1620).
Finally, there is Beth Linker’s War’s Waste: Rehabilitation in World War I America. Jessica Adler thinks that this deeply researched, beautifully written, and tightly argued book should be required reading (no. 1619).
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).