The State of Academic History: Readers Respond

Our June issue carries an article by Ian Mortimer, entitled Whose History is This?, in which the author considers the state of academic history in light of the recent History After Hobsbawm conference, and in particular questions why so many academics tend to ignore the wider world inhabited by historians of many different stripes.

Dean Nicholas is the digital manager at History Today and a former editor at Londonist.

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Strategy: A History

Adopting a wide-ranging definition of strategy, Lawrence Freedman, Professor of War Studies at King’s College London, provides a discursive account with many interesting passages, notably, but not only, on recent developments involving the US. However the focus that he adopts, largely on western thinking, is seriously misguided in any work that purports to be a history of strategy or that seeks to explain the strategic cultures encountered by western powers as they expanded.Read more »
More articles by Jeremy Black

Sex and the American GI in World War II

This fascinating book tells a lurid, in many ways atrocious story with verve and lucidity. Using the Pentagon’s own archives, as well as a wide selection of local ones, Roberts paints a fresco of sexual voraciousness in GI uniform, ravaging – often literally – a mass of bewildered and uprooted women across post D-Day Normandy. Prostitution was epidemic, as were the consequent diseases, and all was condoned, even consciously organised by high command, with only one rule: don’t let the folks back home know.Read more »
More articles by David Ellwood

The Last King in India

After the eclipse of Mughal power in the early 18th century, the repository of Mughal culture moved from Delhi to Lucknow, capital of the rich north Indian state of Avadh (then known as Oude or Oudh). The East India Company’s greedy military annexation of Oudh in early 1856 – officially prompted by the misrule of its king – was a key factor in starting the Mutiny/Uprising of 1857 and so is extensively studied by historians.Read more »
More articles by Andrew Robinson

The Women Who Spied for Britain

Female spies are back. Possibly they never left – hard to know – but they are now certainly very visible. Over the last couple of years we have had new biographies of Violette Szabo, Pearl Witherington, Christine Granville and the sisters Eileen and Jacqueline Nearne, various anthologies and new memorials to Granville, Noor Inayat Khan and, collectively, the women of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) at RAF Tempsford.Read more »
More articles by Clare Mulley

John Biffen: Semi-Detached

As a backbench Tory MP John Biffen was one of the very few disciples of Enoch Powell. On immigration, free market economics and Europe he followed his mentor’s lead and rebelled against the policies of the Heath government. When Heath fell, however, he rejoiced in the leadership of Margaret Thatcher and once prime minister she returned the compliment by appointing him to three Cabinet posts in succession. From 1979 to 1987, when she gave him the sack, Biffen was a pillar of the Thatcher regime – or so it appeared.Read more »
More articles by Paul Addison

Dublin Burning

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.Read more »
More articles by Maria Luddy

Four Emperors and an Architect

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.Read more »
More articles by Desmond Seward