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Reviews in History

New reviews: nostalgia, the Young King, the Belle Epoque and the New Deal



Senate House as the Ministry of Information…

We start this week with The Ministry of Nostalgia by Owen Hatherley, as Charlotte Riley recommends a compelling exploration of one way in which the British political establishment and the British public (mis)interpret, (mis)remember, and (fail to) engage with history (no. 2008).

Next up is Matthew Strickland’s Henry the Young King 1155-1183 by Matthew Strickland. David Crouch praises a book whose study of the Young King is carried off with thoroughness and an enviable mastery of the chronicle and literary sources (no. 2007).

Then we turn to what I am sure the reviewer won’t mind me gently saying is a slightly overdue review (the sequel is already out!) – Twilight of the Belle Epoque: The Paris of Picasso, Stravinsky, Proust, Renault, Marie Curie, Gertrude Stein, and Their Friends by Mary Sperling McAuliffe. Charles Sowerwine praises a great read for professional historians and the educated lay reader alike (no. 2006).

Finally we have a review article covering The New Deal: A Global History by Kiran Klaus Patel and Great Exception: The New Deal & The Limits of American Politics by Jefferson Cowie. Gabriel Winant believes that in the distance between these two books, a range of new questions to debate for years ahead emerges (no. 2005).

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New reviews: Russian right, British nukes, John Owen and Eamon de Valera


urpWe start this week with The Radical Right in Late Imperial Russia: Dreams of a True Fatherland? by George Gilbert, as Geoffrey Hosking and the author discuss a good general guide (no. 2004, with response here).

Next we turn to Jonathan Hogg’s British Nuclear Culture: Official and Unofficial Narratives in the Long 20th Century. Richard Brown recommends the first major contribution to what promises to be a significant sub-field of British nuclear history (no. 2003).

Then we have John Owen and English Puritanism: Experiences of Defeat by Crawford Gribben, as Elliot Vernon praises a fluent biography of a difficult historical figure (no. 2002).

Finally Ronan Fanning’s Eamon de Valera: A Will to Power is reviewed by Brian Girvin, who believes this book sets the bar high for any future assessments of de Valera (no. 2001).

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Reviews in History – 2000th review out today!


somme1To mark our 2000th review we have a special Somme centenary piece, centred around a reappraisal of Martin Middlebrook’s classic The First Day on the Somme.

How is that that a Lincolnshire poultry farmer changed the course of Somme historiography with his first book? In the first of a two-part centenary article on the bibliography of the 1916 Battle of the Somme, Ross Davies shows how Martin Middlebrook ‘prised open a window’ upon a battle that for a century has haunted the British and their Commonwealth allies. Himself haunted by the close-packed Somme military cemeteries, Middlebrook turned to the survivors with the-then novel idea of interviewing them rather than relying solely upon the accounts of the politicians and the generals, and the Somme veterans depicted an ‘almost indecipherable chaos’ on the opening day of the vast British infantry assault. This review explains the significance of this book and its approach in terms of the evolving historiography of the battle, and will be followed by a detailed overview of Somme centenary publications.

Read the full review here.

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New reviews: Magic, Confederate cities, Scottish Enlightenment and Capetians


Angel_Appearing_to_Zacharias_(detail)_-_1486-90We start this week with Brian Copenhaver’s Magic in Western Culture: From Antiquity to the Enlightenment, as Francis Young hails a towering achievement in the field of intellectual history (no. 1999).

Then we turn to Confederate Cities: The Urban South During the Civil War Era, edited by Andrew Slap and Frank Towers. David Silkenat believes this book provides a balanced and diverse exploration of how the Civil War era transformed urban spaces in the American South (no. 1998, with response here).

Next up is Constructing Kingship; The Capetian Monarchs of France and the Early Crusades by James Naus. Niall Ó Súilleabháin is frustrated by an over-brief book which fails to live up to its potential (no. 1997).

Finally we have Thomas Ahnert’s The Moral Culture of the Scottish Enlightenment. Tim Stuart-Buttle tackles a work which uses the Scottish Enlightenment as a case study to understand the wider intellectual history of the eighteenth century (no. 1996).

You can also search and browse all 1999 reviews here – do please let me know if you have any problem navigating the site or finding what you’re interested in.

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New reviews: Spanish anarchists, slavery, mercantilism and urban pollution


tumblr_n6csijvp7k1tt78svo1_500We commence this week with Goals and Means: Anarchism, Syndicalism, and Internationalism in the Origins of the Federación Anarquista Ibérica by Jason Garner. Vlad Solomon and the author debate an engagingly-written account of a neglected yet important topic in the history of the Spanish labour movement (no. 1995, with response here).

Next up is Eighty-Eight Years: The Long Death of Slavery in the United States, 1777-1865 by Patrick Rael. John Craig Hammond and the author discuss a book which goes a long way to reforging the history of slavery (no. 1994, with response here).

Then we turn to Lars Magnusson’s The Political Economy of Mercantilism, and Andrew McDiarmid reviews a book which makes a valiant attempt at clarifying a widely used but problematic term (no. 1993).

Finally we have Death and Survival in Urban Britain: Disease, Pollution and Environment 1800-1950 by Bill Luckin. Jim Clifford tackles this collection from one of the most important urban environmental historians of London (no. 1992).


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New reviews: abolition, Russia and Serbia, walking and Brexit


libertyWe start this week with Manisha Sinha’s The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition. Beverly Tomek and the author discuss a book which will be a valuable go-to reference work for years to come (no. 1991, with response here).

Next, we turn to Nationalism, Myth, and the State in Russia and Serbia: Russian and East European Government Politics and Policy by Veljko Vujačić, which Jasna Dragovic-Soso praises as a book whose arguments are nuanced, compelling and well-supported throughout (no. 1990).

We also have two new podcast reviews. In the first, Jordan Landes talks to Arthur Burns and Paul Readman about their new edited collection, Walking Histories, 1800-1914 (no. 1989).

Then, in the second, we have an interview conducted just after the Brexit vote, with Daniel Snowman talking to Lord Peter Hennessy about  (very) contemporary history (no. 1988).


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New reviews: Place and protest, colonial Bengal, Yankees and religious refugees


The_Massacre_of_PeterlooWe start this week with  Katrina Navickas’s Protest and the Politics of Space and Place, 1789-1848, as Mike Sanders and the author discuss a pioneering response to the ‘spatial turn’ in History (no. 1987, with response here).

We then turn to Damn Yankees: Demonization & Defiance in the Confederate South by George C. Rable. Patrick Doyle enjoys an insightful analysis of the way Southerners reacted and related to the American Civil War (no. 1986).

Next up is Sabyasachi Bhattacharya’s The Defining Moments in Bengal: 1920–1947, and Dharitri Bhattacharjee reviews a comprehensive book on the provincial history of one of colonial India’s most significant regions (no. 1985).

Finally we turn to Religious Refugees in the Early Modern World: An Alternative History of the Reformation by Nicholas Terpstra. Jameson Tucker tackles a thought-provoking introduction to the field, raising new debates about the early modern period and our own (no. 1984).

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New reviews: Shakespeare, Irish women’s magazines, Chamberlain and empire


We start this week with Jennifer Young’s review of the almost finished Shakespeare in Ten Acts exhibition, and its associated online resource Discovering Literature: Shakespeare, discussed here with the British Library’s lead curator Zoe Wilcox (no. 1983, with response here).

shakespeares-textual-bodies-cropThen we turn to Women’s Voices in Ireland: Women’s Magazines in the 1950s and 60s by Catríona Clear. Catriona Beaumont praises a rich and detailed account of popular women’s magazines in Ireland in the 1950s and 1960s (no. 1982).

Next up is Joseph Chamberlain: International Statesman, National Leader, Local Icon, edited by Ian Cawood and Chris Upton. Iain Sharpe praises an excellent and most welcome addition to the study of Joseph Chamberlain and of British politics (no. 1981).

Finally we have Antoinette Burton’s The Trouble With Empire. Denise Gonyo believes this book opens up fascinating potential new areas for scholarship to further explore colonial subjects’ perspectives (no. 1980).

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New reviews:


24Grinspan-web-master768We start this week with The Virgin Vote: How Young Americans Made Democracy Social, Politics Personal, and Voting Popular in the Nineteenth Century by Jon Grinspan, as Mark Power Smith and the author discuss a gripping, fascinating and provocative book (no. 1979, with response here).

Then we turn to Isabella Lazzarini’s Communication and Conflict: Italian Diplomacy in the Early Renaissance, 1350-1520. Catherine Fletcher believes this book makes a substantial contribution to the lively new history of communication, archives and letters (no. 1978).

Next Stan Nadel reviews two major contributions to the historiography of Europe in the first half of the 20th century, as he takes on Ian Kershaw’s To Hell and Back: Europe, 1914-1949 and Enzo Traverso’s Fire and Blood: the European Civil War 1914-1945 (no. 1977).

Finally we have Going to the Palais: A Social and Cultural History of Dancing and Dance Halls in Britain, 1918-1960 by James Nott. Claire Langhamer enjoys a book which beautifully explains why dancing was so loved across this mid-century moment (no. 1976).

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New reviews: French Revolution, Henry II, Weimar Germany, US elections


mcphee2We start this week with Liberty or Death: The French Revolution by Peter McPhee, as Marisa Linton and the author discuss a book set to become a standard work on the subject (no. 1975, with response here).

Then we turn to Charity Urbanski’s Writing History for the King: Henry II and the Politics of Vernacular Historiography. John Gillingham remains unconvinced by a book which stays too long on narrow and well-trodden paths (no. 1974).

Next up is The German Right in the Weimar Republic by Larry Jones. Colin Storer surveys a collection that does much to enhance our understanding of the diverse nature of right-wing politics in the Weimar Republic (no. 1973).

Finally Sean Ledwith reviews Ballot Battles: The History of Disputed Elections in the United States by Edward Foley, a study of exhaustive scholarship and powerful argumentation (no. 1972).

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