Latest History Books
The British Empire’s playbook of force, a new study on Mary Seacole, and a new understanding of the Normans: a round up of recently published work.
For many, the Normans epitomise the medieval period: known today for their actions as conquerors, castle-builders, kings and warriors, our perceptions of this most prominent of medieval peoples continue to shape our understanding of European history between 900 and 1200. The Normans tries to understand medieval perceptions of group identity.
Boris Iofan wasn’t ‘Stalin’s Architect’ in the sense that Speer was Hitler’s, merely one of many designers adapting to the demands, whims and chicanery of the Stalinist state. Yet, in some ways, his story is unique. Stalin’s Architect considers the ‘court architect’, specifically favoured by the state.
Empire: Legalised Lawlessness
Legacy of Violence is the sequel to Britain’s Gulag, Caroline Elkins’ 2005 study of indefinite detention, forced resettlement and systemic torture during the Mau Mau Emergency in Kenya. Elkins’ achievement is to chronicle how makeshift responses to rebellion evolved into a chillingly standardised playbook for the use of force.
Politics: No Dinner Party
In Revolution: An Intellectual History, Enzo Traverso brings together the views of revolution’s most ardent theorists and its fiercest critics. The book is a passionate study of the upheavals that have shaped the world. Traverso interrogates revolutionary theory and the nuance between freedom and liberation.
Slavery: Scotland Too
Scotland’s involvement with transatlantic slavery has become increasingly well known in recent years, but remains something of a controversial topic. Part memoir, part academic history and part political commentary, David Alston’s Slaves and Highlanders: Silenced Histories of Scotland and the Caribbean is to be welcomed.
London’s Noisy Neighbour
A wide-ranging account of the immediate environs of St Paul’s Cathedral: chiefly, but not exclusively, its churchyard, from its Saxon foundation to the Occupy protests of 2011-12. Among the topics covered in between is the absolute centrality of the area to the London book trade across many centuries.
Biography: Mary Seacole
Helen Rappaport’s In Search of Mary Seacole is a major new study of its Jamaican-born subject. Rappaport has discovered a significant amount of new material, such as the record of Seacole’s Catholic baptism as an adult in Jamaica in 1848, plus frequent references to her in contemporary newspapers.
When the World Came to Shanghai
In the 1930s several prominent Black intellectuals visited Shanghai, bringing politics, culture and anti-colonial fervour with them.
The Black Legend of the House of Dudley
Three generations of the cursed House of Dudley stained the executioner’s block in 16th-century England. Were its members murderous villains working to overthrow the monarchy, or shrewd political agents struggling to survive?