Inventing the Military-industrial Complex

Hermione Giffard | Published 07 October 2014
Did physics make the torpedo possible? Barry Parker’s book, The Physics of War , primarily an explanation of the principles of physics behind how different weapons work, claims that it did. Yet Katherine Epstein’s book, Torpedo , a detailed, empirical history of the torpedo in Britain and the United States before the First World War, features no physicists. Instead, Epstein introduces the reader to an array of engineers and non-technical staff, whose decisions were much more than narrow technical judgments.Read more »
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The Cold War in South Asia

Rudra Chaudhuri | Published 06 October 2014
British academic interest in post-colonial South Asia has long lacked the rigour found in works dedicated to the region and its people prior to 1947. Essential questions around the relative influence of Britain (and later the United States) in the history and making of independent India and Pakistan remain cloudy at best. In fact, for South Asia, there is no ready comparison to the likes of John Lewis Gaddis ( The Cold War ) or David Hoffman ( The Dead Hand ). In some ways this is a curious state of affairs.Read more »
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Nixon, Kissinger and a Forgotten Genocide

Mihir Bose | Published 02 October 2014
The 1971 Bangladesh genocide is little remembered, although it was almost as bad as Rwanda. It turned the Cold War story of freedom-loving US versus the oppressive Soviet Union on its head. The land of the free was in a shameful alliance with the killers, while the evil empire was on the side of the angels.Read more »

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Mirror Year: How Old Are You Really?

An eighteenth-century clockLife is short, but not that short. To put your lifespan into historical perspective - and for an intellectual ice-bucket challenge - try this quick calculation. You may find the results startling.

Start with the year you were born, then simply subtract your age. The result is your 'mirror year'. For example, if you’ve recently turned 25 then subtract that number from the year 1989 to get a mirror year of 1964.

Why do that? Well, the calculation gives an intriguing way of looking at your life thus far. No doubt 1964 seems an unfathomably long time ago to a 25-year-old but in fact that person's date of birth is equidistant between then and now. In other words, if you're 25 then the start of your life is as close to the release of the Beatles LP A Hard Day’s Night as it is to Beyonce's latest single. And if, like so many of us, you’re the wrong side of 25, your mirror year recedes even further into the past – to a sometimes staggering degree.

Chris Lowry | Published 02 October 2014
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Tiananmen Remembered

Jennifer Altehenger | Published 01 October 2014
As the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen protests passed this year, the topic continues to be a taboo in China. Even so, former participants, eyewitnesses and others still remember what they are supposed to forget. Their memories undermine the official party line, yet they are in the minority in a country that has undergone a phenomenal economic and social transformation since the early 1990s.Read more »
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The Myth of the Strong Leader

Michael Rowe | Published 22 September 2014
Archie Brown promises an argumentative book and he does not disappoint. The case he presents is clear: so-called ‘strong leaders’ generally prove ineffective. This is because ‘strong’ typically means an inability to accept collective decision-making. However, despite historical experience, a substantial body of contemporary opinion, including of serious political commentators, persists in equating ‘strong’ leadership with effective leadership.Read more »
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Scotland's Referendum: Home Rule All Round?

William Gladstone
William Gladstone

As an historian, you can sometimes feel that history is repeating itself without it being aware of it. Watching politicians and commentators anatomise the impact of Scotland's referendum, I was struck by the realisation that we are (seemingly unknowingly) grappling with issues that were discussed long before the phrase 'West Lothian Question' was coined.

In 1886, Prime Minister William Gladstone proposed the restoration of an Irish parliament, separate from but subordinate to Westminster. His actions unleashed a debate far more acrimonious than the one we have just experienced, with one of the main bones of contention being the right of Irish MPs to sit and vote in the House of Commons. Gladstonian Home Rule came to define a political generation; will Cameron's devolution do the same?

Naomi Lloyd-Jones | Published 19 September 2014
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A History of British Prime Ministers

Roland Quinault | Published 17 September 2014
This is an omnibus edition of Leonard’s previous three books on 18th, 19th and 20th century premiers, plus new chapters on Blair, Brown and Cameron. It contains detailed chapters on all 53 prime ministers from Robert Walpole to the present. All the entries are informative, well composed and succinct. The less well-known premiers are not neglected by comparison with the leading figures. The main focus is on politics but attention is also paid to the private life and personal character of the prime ministers.Read more »
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