To 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.
We 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.
We 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).
We 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).
We 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).
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).
Then 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).
We 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).
We 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).
We start this week with Making Early Medieval Societies: Conflict and Belonging in the Latin West, 300-1200, edited by Kate Cooper and Conrad Leyser. Edward Roberts and the editors debate a lustrous collection which promises to be of immense value to specialists and students of early medieval social and cultural history (no. 1971, with response here).
Next up is Cathy McClive’s Menstruation and Procreation in Early Modern France, as Sarah Fox praises a book which offers a novel insight into the way in which gender and procreation were understood historically (no. 1970).
Then we turn to Zimbabwe’s Migrants and South Africa’s Border Farms : the Roots of Impermanence by Maxim Bolt. Richard Daglish and the author discuss a very welcome addition to the field of migrant culture and African social hierarchies (no. 1969, with response here).
Finally we have Natalie Zacek’s review of a varied collection of essays edited by Julia Brock and Daniel Vivian, Leisure, Plantations, the Making of a New South: The Sporting Plantations of the South Carolina Lowcountry (no. 1968).
Oh, and before I forget, please check out a belated but welcome response by Fred Anscombe to Alex Drace-Francis’ review of his State, Faith and Nation in Ottoman and Post-Ottoman Lands.
We start this week with London Lives: Poverty, Crime and the Making of a Modern City, 1690–1800 by Tim Hitchcock and Robert B. Shoemaker. Heather Shore and the authors discuss a book which shows us how hard life was for poor or even less well-off Londoners in the 18th century (no. 1967, with response here).
Then we turn to Wolfgang Palaver, Harriet Rudolph and Dietmar Regensburger’s edited collection The European Wars of Religion: An Interdisciplinary Reassessment of Sources, Interpretations, and Myths. Dave Papendorf thinks the editors should be praised for contributing an original volume so in touch with modern debates in early modern history (no. 1966).
Next up is Gold and Freedom: The Political Economy of Reconstruction by Nicolas Barreyre, as Charlie Thompson recommends a book which cleverly uses a growing and interesting area of historical research to richly contextualise and shed new light on the high politics of Reconstruction (no. 1965).
Finally we have Nick Toczek’s Haters, Baiters and Would-Be Dictators: Anti-Semitism and the UK Far Right. Paul Blanchard believes this book provides a useful and timely study of some overlooked elements of the British far right (no. 1964).