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Volume 64 Issue 7 July 2014

Jerome de Groot casts his eye over a selection of recent releases.

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

The struggle between certainty and doubt is at the heart of history, says Mathew Lyons. It should be relished for what it reveals about a past where facts are sometimes in short supply.

Numerous untruths have persisted about Gavrilo Princip, the man who killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand. One of them was used by Austria-Hungary as grounds for its declaration of war against Serbia in 1914.

Andrew Lycett untangles the complex story of how the West’s involvement in Middle Eastern affairs has been interpreted by historians.

Justin Marozzi admires Hugh Kennedy’s article from 2004, which offers a nuanced portrait of the great Abbasid caliph, Harun al Rashid, much-mythologised hero of The Arabian Nights

The opening naval battle of the First World War took place not in the North Sea but in Central Africa in August 1914. It would change the course of the African conflict in Britain’s favour, says Janie Hampton.

When West Germany won the competition for the first time in 1954 they were the unfancied representatives of a divided nation emerging from defeat and humiliation, says Paul Legg.

Though it all seems rather mild from the distance of half a century, the riots that took place in English seaside towns during 1964 revealed a shift in values from those of the austere war generation to the newly affluent baby boomers, argues Clive Bloom.

Africans in Georgian Britain have often been portrayed as victims of slavery, unfortunates at the bottom of the social heap. The reality was far more fluid and varied, as Onyeka shows, with many African gentlemen sharing the same cultural and social aspirations as their fellow Englishmen.

Why did the diplomatic deceits and deceptions that took place across Europe in the summer of 1914 lead to the First World War? Annika Mombauer seeks answers to one of history’s most complex and controversial questions.

The British colonial policy towards the indigenous people of Tasmania in the first part of the 19th century amounted to ethnic cleansing, a part of its history that Britain still hasn’t confronted, argues Tom Lawson.

Historians have often depicted the final years of Elizabeth I’s reign as a period of decline or crisis. Yet her government operated more successfully than is usually thought.

The former prime minister made his final appearance at Parliament on July 28th, 1964.

A milestone in transportation was reached on July 25th, 1814.

The city burned on July 18th, AD 64.

The 1914-18 conflict changed the nature of Scottish identity.

Findings at a desert site in eastern Syria shed light on pagan, Jewish and early Christian religions.

The medieval scriptorium was not necessarily the ordered hive of activity we have come to imagine

During the early afternoon of October 6th, 1973 the Egyptian army crossed the Suez Canal and overran the Israeli Bar-Lev line on the eastern bank. This assault on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, was designed to reverse Israel’s conquest of the Sinai peninsula during the 1967 Six Day War. 

Concealed within the folds of the Parnassian Mountains, Delphi is well positioned to maintain its secrets. In the ancient world, however, the location of the holy sanctuary proved vital to establishing the flow of networks through Greece’s mainland and beyond. 

Michael Scott’s excellent history of Delphi as the ‘navel’ of a society ‘constantly humming with interaction between the human and divine worlds’ clarifies what, for Anna Collar in her book on religious networks in the Roman Empire, is a ‘wireless hum’ of travelling ideas. 

The Stern Gang is perhaps best known to modern audiences for its brutal murder of UN special envoy Count Folke Bernadotte in Jerusalem in 1948. However the wider story of the group’s transition from fanatical splinter group to the status of primary martyrs in the cause of Israeli independence is a fascinating one and well told in this book. 

With the UK release of the film Twelve Years a Slave, the subject of Britain’s involvement in both slavery and abolition has once again entered mainstream public debate. It is timely then that we have two new editions to the scholarship. While Pettigrew examines the early years of British involvement in the slave trade, Carey takes on the origins of Quaker antislavery rhetoric. Despite coming from different ends of the spectrum, there are interesting links between the two texts.

The French ideal is that immigrants to the nation should embrace French culture, language and mores and so mutate into French citizens, all equal in the eyes of the Republic, all invested with the same stake in the best of all possible societies, where uniformity and consensus are celebrated. As ideals go it is doubtless noble and lofty – it is also fantastical. It doggedly pretends to ‘colour blindness’. The state refuses to acknowledge racial, religious and cultural disparities.

My heart sank a little on receiving this book for review, first because it looked initially as if it was going to be another of those ‘postcolonial’ enterprises attributing everything it covers – in this case ‘heritage’ preservation, mainly abroad – to European ‘imperialism’ (boo!); and second because it is multi-authored and, usually, multi-authored books are uneven. In the event I am glad I persevered with it.

The history of the working class used to feature a familiar cast of characters. In the vanguard of the people’s struggle were the heroic workers: flat-capped, unionised and almost exclusively white and male. The flat caps are still present in Selina Todd’s re-telling of this story, but so are new faces.

Colonialism was predicated on the negation of African history or, as one of the two editors of this volume, John Parker, wrote in his African History: A Very Short Introduction (2007): a ‘general European perception [...] that Africa, especially Sub-Saharan Africa, had no history to speak of’. The emergence of sub-Saharan African history in both western and African universities is thus squarely to be placed in the context of decolonisation and what contributor Jean Allman describes as the ‘nationalist fervour of the 1950s and 1960s’.

There aren’t enough books on Edward III. Decades of neglect have left his achievement obscured by huge clouds of pungent hot air generated by Victorian scholars, who were determined to label him a high-taxing, anti-free-trade warmonger. In my opinion he ranks among the most important leaders in the history of the western world for the impetus he personally gave to projectile warfare and the idea of nationalism. Although Barber does not directly deal with these aspects in his book, he too recognises that the achievement of the English under Edward was truly remarkable.