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Impartial reviewer: Woman Reading, by Lovis Corinth, 1888.

How does the reader decide if a history book is worth their time?

A child carrying a panettone in Milan, 20 December 1958.

Rich enough to appeal to lords and dukes, the success of panettone is down to its festive, egalitarian simplicity.

Brewer’s son: Thomas Cromwell, after Hans Holbein the Younger, engraving, 17th century.

A master historian’s definitive study of one of the most astonishing and influential careers in English history.

A great hardship: mother and children, London, early  20th century.

Changing views of illegitimate children raise both moral and economic issues.

Paradise, by Lucas Cranach  the Elder, 1530, now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

The fall of man and the concept of Original Sin.

‘And nightly meadow-fairies, look you sing’: illustration for Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, by Hugh Thomson, 1910.

Folklore, fairies and demonic spirits in the sceptical 17th century.

James K. Polk’s first State of the Union Address, on 2 December 1845, promoted the concept that the US should encompass all of North America.

‘Les cosaques littéraires en action’, censors remove books from the king’s library, 18th-century engraving.

From the Thirty Years War to the ancient civilisation of Iran, from Anglo-American rivalries in the desert to the persecution of indigenous peoples, historians select their favourite books of the past year.

In 1904, when tobacco farmers of Kentucky and Tennessee formed an association to unite against the American Tobacco Company, a vigilante splinter group decided to deliver its own brand of rough justice.

Change at last: engraving celebrating the emancipation of slaves, by Thomas Nast, c.1863.

As today, accusations of rape in 19th-century America inevitably, and repeatedly, met with harsh backlashes against the victims.