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Volume 64 Issue 5 May 2014

Without dexterity and imagination historians are in danger of overlooking the telling details that complete the bigger picture, argues Mathew Lyons.

Churchill and Hitler painted scenes of the Western Front while in remarkably close proximity to one another.

Nick Lloyd revisits John Terraine’s article on the decisive Allied victory at Amiens in 1918 and asks why this remarkable military achievement is not as well known as the first day of the Somme.

A selection of readers' correspondence with the editor, Paul Lay.

Andrew Higgott surveys the contested legacy of modern architecture in Britain from the first machine age to the dawn of the digital.

It was Scots who were the most vocal advocates of a vibrant, imperial, Protestant Great Britain.

While the advances in technology and manufacturing that took place in Britain during the 18th and 19th centuries have entered the mainstream of history, few know about the industrialisation carried out during the Roman occupation, says Simon Elliott.

Since two earthquakes destroyed the cathedral and much of central Christchurch in September 2010 and February 2011, the city is slowly recovering. Jenifer Roberts recalls the city’s first settlers.

As a peacetime premier Herbert Asquith was held in high regard, but the First World War undid his reputation. That is an unfair judgment, argues Roland Quinault.

A foothold in Siam offered new trading opportunities for France in the late 17th century, as well as a chance to spread the Catholic faith.

Roger Hudson describes the destruction during the Paris Commune of the memorial to Napoleon’s victory at Austerlitz in 1805.

A brilliant intelligence officer at MI5, Guy Liddell’s reputation was damaged forever by one great failure: his deception by the Cambridge spies. Ben Macintyre describes the slow dawning of treachery described in the final volume of Liddell’s remarkable diaries.

Caroline Chapman delves into a wide-ranging and prolific correspondence, spanning half of the 18th century, between the British court diplomat to Florence, Horace Mann, and the historian and patron of the arts, Horace Walpole.

The caped crusader first appeared on May 1st, 1939.

Beethoven's only opera was performed for the first time on May 23rd, 1814.

The French theologian died on May 27th, 1564.

One of the bloodiest and most decisive battles in Irish history took place a thousand years ago this month.

Since the completion of the Marxist historian’s trilogy in 1987, history has changed, but in what ways?

Gyanesh Kudaisya describes the final years of India’s founding prime minister, a period marked by major challenges at home as well as abroad in the aftermath of the 1962 war with China.  

The centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising is just around the corner and already a significant number of publications about the event have appeared. Organised by a small group of Republicans (led, among others, by Patrick Henry Pearce or Pádraig Anraí Mac Piarais), the rebels’ intention was to thwart the political settlement of Home Rule, which was to be implemented after the First World War, and through their ‘blood sacrifice’ secure Ireland’s complete independence from Britain.

Visitors to Venice sometimes notice a little porphyry statue outside San Marco – four warriors in flat-topped helmets who are embracing each other. Guide books tell them they depict the tetrarchs, the four men who jointly governed the Roman Empire in AD 300. Most people have heard of Robert Adam, the Scottish architect whose work brought about a revolution in British taste in architecture, interior design and furniture during the last quarter of the 18th century. Fewer, though, are aware of the link between the tetrarchy and Adam. This unusual book explains the connection.

David Burke, the historian who wrote the immaculately entitled The Spy Who Came in From the Co-op: Melita Norwood and the Ending of Cold War Espionage, has turned his attention to the occupants of a 1930s Bauhaus-inspired building in North London. Among the occupants of the Isokon building on Lawn Road were Arnold Deutsch, the controller of the Cambridge Five who spied for the Soviet Union, and a starry list of BBC producers, novelists and academics.

This clear-headed study of Holocaust commemoration in France and Italy provides a welcome reflection on the very categories of memory and trauma that have dominated the study of  Holocaust representation. Rebecca Clifford’s insistence on examining the ‘political, cultural and social’ motivations for particular forms of remembrance in France and Italy enables a richly layered work that interrogates the function of commemoration in national myth making.

Just before lunchtime on September 1st, 1923 the Great Kanto earthquake subjected Tokyo, Yokohama and surrounding areas to almost five minutes of shaking, with an energy release equivalent to some 400 Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs, followed by a tsunami 11 metres in height. Soon, small fires merged to form a firestorm. By the morning of September 3rd at least 140,000 people were dead – about 40,000 of them incinerated in one enclosed space – and two thirds of the capital Tokyo, four fifths of Yokohama, were ashes.

These two books, while dissimilar in most ways, are united by their interest in mass building projects that transformed the look and character of British society and have since become part of popular mythology. Peter Scott’s The Making of the Modern British Home examines the building of millions of suburban semi-detached houses in interwar Britain, while John Grindrod’s Concretopia explores the postwar reconstruction of Britain in the shape of new towns, motorways, high-rise blocks and shopping centres, using the modernist materials of concrete, glass and steel.

David Day has written a proverbial ‘door stop’ of a book, deftly mapping how and where human encounter was shaped by exploratory, commercial and scientific routes across the Southern Ocean and polar continent.

What a vital subject – pertinent; necessary; well-conceived! Yet pause, reader. What is this book? Do not let its title, or its author’s eminence as Professor of Law at NYU, or the esteem of its publisher, deceive you. Do not imagine that the cover’s portraits imply more than passing interest in Bloomsbury.