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Reviews in History


New reviews: Ireland, Soviet Union, US egalitarians and C14 magic

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kennedyWe start this week with Liam Kennedy’s Unhappy the Land: The Most Oppressed People Ever, the Irish? Penelope Corfield and the author discuss a manifesto to Irish pluralism, which should be required reading for all historians of Ireland (no. 2067, with response here).

Next up is The Struggle to Save the Soviet Economy: Mikhail Gorbachev and the Collapse of the USSR by Chris Miller. Isaac Scarborough enjoys (with caveats) a work which betters our knowledge and understanding of the politics behind the Soviet economic collapse (no. 2066).

Then we turn to Sean Wilentz’s Politicians & the Egalitarians: The Hidden History of American Politics, as Christopher Childers assesses a mixed bag of essays in an age of political fracture (no. 2065).

Finally we have Rewriting Magic: An Exegesis of the Visionary Autobiography of a Fourteenth-Century French Monk. Benedek Lang reviews an unusual book, the chronicle of an intellectual trip (no. 2064).

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New reviews: Lincoln, Enlightenment lawyers, sleep and abbots

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healeWe start this week with Lincoln and the Politics of Slavery: The Other Thirteenth Amendment and the Struggle to Save the Union by Daniel Crofts. Phillip Magness and the author discuss a book which carefully grounds Lincoln’s presidency in evidence (no. 2063, with response here).

Then we turn to Karen Baston’s Charles Areskine’s Library: Lawyers and their Books at the Dawn of the Scottish Enlightenment, as Alexander Murdoch praises a profoundly scholarly study that reflects on the impact of Enlightenment culture (no. 2062).

Next up is Sleep in Early Modern England by Sasha Handley. Olivia Weisser reviews a valuable book that shows how something as routine as sleep can open a window onto the physical, spiritual, and emotional lives of the past (no. 2061).

Finally , we have Martin Heale’s The Abbots and Priors of Late Medieval and Reformation England. Katherine Harvey admires the broad scope, deep learning, and provocative conclusions of this ambitious book (no. 2060).

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New reviews: C of E historians, East German memory, Irish biography and medieval Ravenna

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William Stubbs, English historian and Anglican bishop.

We commence this issue with a review of James Kirby’s Historians and the Church of England. Alexander Hutton and the author discuss a rewarding, diligent, and empathetic excursion into a lost world of Victorian intellectual history (no. 2059, with response here).

Next up is Amnesiopolis: Modernity, Space and Memory in East Germany by Eli Rubin, and Jörg Arnold believes Eli Rubin has written a wonderfully inspiring study which will be of great interest to social and cultural historians of the GDR (no. 2058).

Then we turn to Padraig Lenihan’s The Last Cavalier: Richard Talbot (1631-91). John Cronin belatedly reviews a book which succeeds in giving us a more rounded and nuanced understanding of its subject (no. 2057).

Finally we have Ravenna: its role in earlier medieval change and exchange, edited by Janet Nelson and Judith Herrin, which Ross Balzaretti praises as a collection that challenges the myth of Ravenna’s early medieval decline and does so in great style (no. 2056).

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New reviews: Civil War moderates, pre-industrial local history, disability and Algeria

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Edward ‘laugh a minute’ Everett

First up this week we have Apostle of Union: A Political Biography of Edward Everett by Matthew Mason. Daniel Crofts and the author discuss a timely biography depicting a persistent moderate who deplored North-South sectional polarization (no. 2055, with response here).

Then we turn to The Grass Roots of English History: Local Societies before the Industrial Revolution by David Hey, as Richard Hoyle reviews a very personal vision of what local history might be, the outcome of a lifetime’s reading, thinking, teaching and writing (no. 2054).

Next up is Jameel Hampton’s Disability and the Welfare State in Britain. Chloe Trainor praises a valuable contribution both to the historiography of the welfare state, and disabled people more generally (no. 2053).

Finally we turn to Sung-Eun Choi’s Decolonization and the French of Algeria: Bringing the Settler Colony Home. Kelsey Suggitt believes students and established scholars alike will find this a useful resource, particularly in terms of studying decolonization (no. 2052).

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New reviews: Civil War, Mass Observation, Indian railways and parliamentary papers

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lincolndouglasWe start this week with The Rivers Ran Backward: The Civil war and the Remaking of the American Middle Border by Christopher Phillips. Robert Cook and the author discuss a book which is essential reading for anyone interested in the American Civil War and its unforeseen consequences (no. 2051, with response here).

Next up is James Hinton’s Seven Lives from Mass Observation, which David Kilgannon believes will serve as an exemplary model for future historians of social history, Mass Observation and the latter half of 20th-century Britain (no. 2050).

Then we turn to Tracks of Change: Railways and Everyday Life in Colonial India by Ritika Prasad, and Aparajita Mukhopadhyay praises a book which deserves a wide audience and is a valuable addition to social historiography of Indian railways (no. 2049).

Finally, the IHR’s very own Kate Wilcox  reviews Pro-quest’s UK Parliamentary Papers: House of Commons, which she recommends as being an immensely powerful and wide-ranging tool for research (no. 2048).

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New reviews: online manuscripts, slave relations, WW1 and Mughal secretaries

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gerwarthWe start this week with a review of a digital resource from Sheffield’s Humanities Research Institute, Manuscripts Online: Written Culture 1000-1500, with Hannah Lilley and the editors debating a useful starting point for researchers of medieval textual culture (no. 2047, with response here).

Next up is Sergio A. Lussana’s My Brother Slaves: Friendship, Masculinity, and Resistance in the Antebellum South. Craig Friend and the author discuss a new book on the development of enslaved manhood and homosocial relationships (no. 2046, with response here).

Then we turn to The Vanquished: Why the First World War Failed to End, 1917-1923 by Robert Gerwarth. Alex Burkhardt enjoys an unusually engrossing history book which invites us to rethink our assumptions about the First World War (no. 2045).

Finally Samyak Ghosh praises a well-written revisionist analysis of a literary archive, as he tackles Writing Self, Writing Empire: Chandar Bhan Brahman and the Cultural World of the Indo-Persian State Secretary by Rajeev Kinra (no. 2044)

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Reviews in History – 20th Anniversary Special (part 3)

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accountingThis week sees our final batch of anniversary reviews, starting with Craig Muldrew’s seminal The Economy of Obligation: The Culture of Credit and Social Relations in Early Modern England. Jonathan Healey praises a brilliant and thought-provoking book, which should profoundly influence the way we feel about early modern England and its economy (no. 2043).

Next up is Crossing the Bay of Bengal by Sunil Amrith, as Madhumita Mazumdar explores the enduring significance of this masterful rendition of a difficult story with its messy edges and elusive trails (no. 2042).

Then we turn to Antoine Lilti’s The World of the Salons: Sociability and Worldliness in Eighteenth-Century Paris. Elena Russo and the author disagree strongly over this ambitious book, originally published in French in 2005 (no. 2041, with response here).

Finally Anjana Singh revisits a seminal book which encompasses 600 years of global history, After Tamerlane: The Global History of Empire since 1405 by John Darwin (no. 2040).

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Reviews in History – 20th anniversary special! (part 2)

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israelWe start off this week with Thomas Munck’s  The Enlightenment as Modernity: Jonathan Israel’s Interpretation Across Two Decades, as he and the author discuss 20 years of work on the Enlightenment and the origins of modern concepts of democracy, equality and freedom (no. 2039, with response here).

Next up is John Iliffe’s The African AIDS epidemic: a history. Annamarie Bindenagel Šehović returns to a book which remains a cornerstone of literature in understanding the African AIDS epidemic, providing rich contextual detail and giving voice to human experience (no. 2038).

Then we turn to Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Aftermath of World War II by John Dower. Martyn Smith revisits a richly researched, beautifully illustrated and elegantly written account of the period of the US-led occupation of Japan (no. 2037).

Finally we have Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. Tom Lawson asks if this book succeeded in its author’s aim to change our understanding of the Bloodlands (no. 2036).

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Reviews in History – 20th anniversary special! (part 1)

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balkanismWe have a treat for you today – the first part of a special issue to mark the 20th anniversary (and bear in mind that in digital resource years that makes us at least 200) of Reviews, for which we have asked our Editorial Board to recommend some of the most influential / significant history books of the last 20 years.

Some suggested themselves, some commented that the task itself was impossible (‘Ha ha sure that’s straightforward Danny, name the best history book out of what – only a million or so contenders!’), but I think we came up in the end with a good spread of books, and nice spread of approaches to revisiting a ‘classic’.

Anyway, here are the first four (I don’t know what it says that we didn’t review any of them when they first came out! I wasn’t in charge then of course…).

We start off with Imagining the Balkans by Maria Todorova, as Hannes Grandits goes back to a book which became an instant must read on its publication in 1997 (no. 2035).

Then we turn to Randall Packard’s The Making of a Tropical Disease A Short History of Malaria. Maureen Malowany looks back over a timely overview of the history of one of the most complex and ancient of all diseases (no. 2034).

Next up is Which People’s War?: National Identity and Citizenship in Wartime Britain 1939-1945 by Sonya O. Rose. Laura Beers tackles a book which, more than a decade after its publication, remains a model for students interested in contemporary cultural history (no. 2033).

Finally, we have Christopher Bayly’s Empire and Information: Intelligence Gathering and Social Communication in India, 1780-1870, and Ricardo Roque revisits a book which made him travel to places and explore ideas that he would not otherwise had considered (no. 2032).

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New reviews: unbelief, Charleston Syllabus, Wessex Danes and ancient wisdom (again)

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Martin Luther, as ever the life and soul of the party…

First up this week we have Dominic Erdozain’s The Soul of Doubt: the Religious Roots of Unbelief from Luther to Marx, as Charlotte Methuen and Dominic Erdozain discuss a fascinating study of the ways in which religious faith could open the door to doubt (no. 2031, with response here).

Then we turn to the Charleston Syllabus: Readings on Race, Racism, and Racial Violence, edited by Chad Williams, Kidada E. Williams and Keisha N. Blain. Lydia Plath praises an innovative crowdsourced response to the tragic events of Charleston (no. 2030).

Next up is Danes in Wessex : the Scandinavian impact on southern England, c.800-c.1100, edited by Ryan Lavelle and Simon Roffey. Jeremy Haslam reviews an edited collection which should provide all students of the period with material to ponder and enjoy (no. 2029).

Finally, we also have a lengthy response by Dmitri Levitin to our earlier review of Ancient Wisdom in the Age of the New Science: Histories of Philosophy in England, c1640-1700, which you can read here.

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