New and forthcoming

Optimism Over Despair

Noam Chomsky (and others)

An essential overview of the problems of our world today -- and how we should prepare for tomorrow -- from the world's leading public intellectual

We have two choices. We can be pessimistic, give up, and help ensure that the worst will happen. Or we can be optimistic, grasp the opportunities that surely exist, and maybe help make the world a better place. Not much of a choice.

From peerless political thinker Noam Chomsky comes an exploration of rising neoliberalism, the refugee crisis in Europe, the Black Lives Matter movement, the dysfunctional US electoral system, and the prospects and challenges of building a movement for radical change.

Including four up-to-the-minute interviews on the 2016 American election campaign and global resistance to Trump, this Penguin Special is a concise introduction to Chomsky's ideas and his take on the state of the world today.

Leviathan

Thomas Hobbes (and others)

This new Penguin Classics edition of one of the great masterpieces of seventeenth-century English prose is based on a thoroughly corrected text and includes a major new introduction.

Thomas Hobbes lived through the Thirty Years War and Britain's civil wars, and the trauma of these events led to his great masterpiece of political thought, Leviathan. How could humankind rescue itself from life in the natural state, which was 'poor, nasty, brutish and short'? What form of politics would provide the security that he and his contemporaries craved?

Vilified and scorned from the moment it was published, Leviathan was publicly burnt for sedition, but ever since it has exercised a unique fascination on its readers, both for its ideas and its remarkable prose. Its concepts helped to drag Europe into a new world - one in which we still live today.

The Unwomanly Face of War

Svetlana Alexievich (and others)

The long-awaited translation of the classic oral history of Soviet women's experiences in the Second World War - from the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature

"Why, having stood up for and held their own place in a once absolutely male world, have women not stood up for their history? Their words and feelings? A whole world is hidden from us. Their war remains unknown... I want to write the history of that war. A women's history."

In the late 1970s, Svetlana Alexievich set out to write her first book, The Unwomanly Face of War, when she realized that she grew up surrounded by women who had fought in the Second World War but whose stories were absent from official narratives. Travelling thousands of miles, she spent years interviewing hundreds of Soviet women - captains, tank drivers, snipers, pilots, nurses and doctors - who had experienced the war on the front lines, on the home front and in occupied territories. As it brings to light their most harrowing memories, this symphony of voices reveals a different side of war, a new range of feelings, smells and colours.

After completing the manuscript in 1983, Alexievich was not allowed to publish it because it went against the state-sanctioned history of the war. With the dawn of Perestroika, a heavily censored edition came out in 1985 and it became a huge bestseller in the Soviet Union - the first in five books that have established her as the conscience of the twentieth century.

Long Road from Jarrow

Stuart Maconie

In the autumn of 1936, some 200 men from the Tyneside town of Jarrow marched 300 miles to London in protest against the destruction of their towns and industries. Precisely 80 years on, Stuart Maconie, walks from north to south retracing the route of the emblematic Jarrow Crusade. Following history’s footsteps, Maconie is in search of what Modern Britain is really like today.

Travelling down the country’s spine, Maconie moves through a land that is, in some ways, very much the same as the England of the thirties with its political turbulence, austerity, north/south divide, food banks and of course, football mania. Yet in other ways, it is completely unrecognisable; highstreets peppered with pound shops and e-cigarette vendors, smoothie bars and Costas on every corner.

Maconie visits the great, established and yet evolving cities of Leeds, Sheffield and London, as well as the sleepy hamlets, quiet lanes and roaring motorways. He meets those with stories to tell and whose voices build a funny, complex and entertaining tale of Britain, then and now. Written in Maconie’s signature style, this is a fascinating exploration of a modern nation that, though looks and sounds strangely familiar, has been completely transformed.

Different Class

Dermot Kavanagh

In 1977, Laurie Cunningham became the first black footballer to play professionally for England and, two years later, went on to become the first Englishman to play for Real Madrid. In a time when race relations were a divisive social issue, and when racist chants and bananas would be thrown from the stands, Cunningham’s success changed the way black players were perceived and paved the way for a new generation of black footballers.

But Cunningham was more than ‘the greatest natural talent this country [had] produced since George Best’. He wanted to be different. He wanted to talk about fashion, dance and cinema, not just hang around footballers. He was a man of swagger with a love of funk music and bespoke suits.

And he was an exceptional footballer who could play like a dream.

Different Class is not your typical football biography. It tells the story of the son of Jamaican immigrants, who grew up poor in North London to become an important but unsung figure in the tapestry of late-20th-century England. He brought glamour to the game of football at a particularly dark time in its history and won over hostile crowds with his style and swagger.

This is the biography of Laurie Cunningham. Many know his name but not his story; now they will know both.

Stamped from the Beginning

Ibram Kendi

Winner of the US National Book Award for Non-Fiction -- Stamped from the Beginning is a redefining history of anti-Black racist ideas that dramatically changes our understanding of the causes and extent of racist thinking itself.

Its deeply researched and fast-moving narrative chronicles the journey of racist ideas from fifteenth-century Europe to present-day America through the lives of five major intellectuals – Puritan minister Cotton Mather, President Thomas Jefferson, fiery abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, brilliant scholar W.E.B. Du Bois, and legendary anti-prison activist Angela Davis – showing how these ideas were developed, disseminated and eventually enshrined in American society.

Contrary to popular conception, it reveals that racist ideas did not arise from ignorance or hatred. Instead, they were devised and honed by some of the most brilliant minds of each era, including anti-slavery and pro-civil rights advocates, who used their gifts and intelligence wittingly or otherwise to rationalize and justify existing racial disparities in everything from wealth to health. Seen in this piercing new light, racist ideas are shown to be the result, not the cause, of inequalities that stretch back over centuries, brought about ultimately through economic, political and cultural self-interest.

Stamped from the Beginning offers compelling new answers to some of the most troubling questions of our time. In forcing us to reconsider our most basic assumptions about racism and also about ourselves, it leads us to a true understanding on which to build a real foundation for change.

Stalin’s Meteorologist

Olivier Rolin (and others)

One fateful day in 1934, a husband arranged to meet his wife under the colonnade of the Bolshoi theatre. As she waited for him in vain, he was only a few hundred metres away, in a cell in the notorious Lubyanka prison.

Less than a year before, Alexey Wangenheim – a celebrated meteorologist – had been hailed by Stalin as a national hero. But following his sudden arrest, he was exiled to a gulag, forced to spend his remaining years on an island in the frozen north, along with thousands of other political prisoners.

By chance, Olivier Rolin discovered an album of the letters and beautiful drawings of the natural world which Alexey sent home to his wife, Varvara, and his four-year-old daughter, Eleonora. Intrigued by these images, Rolin became determined to uncover Alexey’s story and his eventual horrifying fate.

Stalin’s Meteorologist is the fascinating and deeply moving account of an innocent man and his family caught up in the brutality of Soviet paranoia, and a timely reminder of the human consequences of political extremism.

The Cold War

Bridget Kendall

The Cold War is one of the furthest-reaching and longest-lasting conflicts in modern history. It spanned the globe - from Greece to China, Hungary to Cuba - and lasted for almost half a century. It has shaped political relations to this day, drawing new physical and ideological boundaries between East and West.

In this meticulously researched account, Bridget Kendall explores the Cold War through the eyes of those who experienced it first-hand. Alongside in-depth analysis that explains the historical and political context, the book draws on exclusive interviews with individuals who lived through the conflict's key events, offering a variety of perspectives that reveal how the Cold War was experienced by ordinary people. From pilots making food drops during the Berlin Blockade and Japanese fishermen affected by H-bomb testing to families fleeing the Korean War and children whose parents were victims of McCarthy's Red Scare, The Cold War covers the full geographical and historical reach of the conflict.

Accompanying a landmark BBC Radio 4 series, The Cold War: Stories from the Big Freeze is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand how the tensions of the last century have shaped the modern world, and what it was like to live through them.

Israel is Real

Rich Cohen

There are many books about Israel, but none like this. From Rich Cohen, the author of the acclaimed Tough Jews, The Avengers, and Sweet and Low, comes a new approach to a story we thought we knew. Breaking through the heated polemics and intractable politics, Israel Is Real is a fresh voice, a tale of people and ideas, of the background of present-day Israel.

Cohen relates Israel's story as that of a place long ago destroyed and transformed into an idea . . . and which, sixty years ago, was retransformed into a place, and therefore into something that can once again be destroyed. From the medieval false prophets, to the nineteenth-century Zionists, and on to present-day figures like Ariel Sharon, Cohen tells the stories of the people obsessed with this fine line between place and idea, creation and destruction. He reclaims from obscurity a multitude of figures marginalised by history, but whose lives are key to any real understanding of Israel.

The Vanquished

Robert Gerwarth

'A breathtaking, magisterial panorama, telling the epic story of post-war anarchy, dying empires and rising nation states. It makes us rethink our understanding of Europe's twentieth century' David Motadel, The Times Literary Supplement

For the Western allies 11 November 1918 has always been a solemn date - the end of fighting which had destroyed a generation, and also a vindication of a terrible sacrifice with the total collapse of their principal enemies: the German Empire, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. But for much of the rest of Europe this was a day with no meaning, as a continuing, nightmarish series of conflicts engulfed country after country. In this highly original, gripping book Robert Gerwarth asks us to think again about the true legacy of the First World War.

'Lucid, incisive and packed with fascinating details' Financial Times, Books of the Year

'Important and timely ... obliges us to reconsider a period and a battlefront that has too often been neglected' Margaret MacMillan, The New York Times Review of Books

'This narrative of continent-wide chaos performs a valuable service by chronicling the postwar turmoil of Europe ... helps us understand why few wars reach tidy conclusions' Max Hastings, Sunday Times

'Reminds us, in vivid and often shocking detail, that only some countries saw killing end on the 11th day of the 11th month ... leaves a sense of foreboding for our own time' Robert Tombs, The Times

The Fear and the Freedom

Keith Lowe

The Second World War was one of the most catastrophic events in human history. But how did the experience and memory of bloodshed affect our relationships with each other and the world?

The new order, as it emerged after 1945, saw the end of European empires and the birth of two new superpowers, whose wrangling would lead to a new, global Cold War. Scientists delivered new technologies, architects planned buildings to rise from the rubble, politicians fantasized about overhauled societies, people changed their nationalities and dreamed of new lives.

As well as analyzing the major changes, The Fear and the Freedom uses the stores of how ordinary people coped with the post-war world and turned one of the greatest traumas in history into an opportunity for change. This is the definitive exploration of the aftermath of WWII - and the impact it still has today on our nations, cities and families.

St Petersburg

Jonathan Miles

'This extraordinary book brings to life an astonishing place. Beautiful prose renders brutality vivid' The Times - BOOK OF THE WEEK

From Peter the Great to Putin, this is the unforgettable story of St Petersburg – one of the most magical, menacing and influential cities in the world.

St Petersburg has always felt like an impossible metropolis, risen from the freezing mists and flooded marshland of the River Neva on the western edge of Russia. It was a new capital in an old country. Established in 1703 by the sheer will of its charismatic founder, the homicidal megalomaniac Peter-the-Great, its dazzling yet unhinged reputation was quickly fashioned by the sadistic dominion of its early rulers.

This city, in its successive incarnations – St Petersburg; Petrograd; Leningrad and, once again, St Petersburg – has always been a place of perpetual contradiction. It was a window on to Europe and the Enlightenment, but so much of the glory of Russia was created here: its literature, music, dance and, for a time, its political vision. It gave birth to the artistic genius of Pushkin and Dostoyevsky, Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich, Pavlova and Nureyev. Yet, for all its glittering palaces, fairytale balls and enchanting gardens, the blood of thousands has been spilt on its snow-filled streets. It has been a hotbed of war and revolution, a place of siege and starvation, and the crucible for Lenin and Stalin’s power-hungry brutality.

In St Petersburg, Jonathan Miles recreates the drama of three hundred years in this absurd and brilliant city, bringing us up to the present day, when – once more – its fate hangs in the balance. This is an epic tale of murder, massacre and madness played out against squalor and splendour. It is an unforgettable portrait of a city and its people.

Collecting the World

James Delbourgo

'Nothing so fully displays the grandeur of his mind as his immense and rare collections ... perhaps the fullest and most curious in the world', National Gazette, 1753

Hans Sloane (1660-1753) was the greatest collector of his time, and one of the greatest of all time. His name is familiar today through the London streets and squares named after him on land he once owned (Sloane Square, Hans Place), but the man himself, and his achievements, are almost forgotten.

Born in the north of Ireland, Sloane made his fortune as a physician to London's wealthiest residents and through investment in land and slavery. He became one of the eighteenth century's preeminent natural historians, ultimately succeeding his rival Isaac Newton as President of the Royal Society, and assembled an astonishing collection of specimens, artefacts and oddities - the most famous curiosity cabinet of the age.

Sloane's dream of universal knowledge, of a gathering together of every kind of thing in the world, was enabled by Britain's rise to global ascendancy. In 1687 he travelled to Jamaica, then at the heart of Britain's commercial empire, to survey its natural history, and later organised a network of correspondents who sent him curiosities from across the world. Shortly after his death, Sloane's vast collection was then acquired - as he had hoped - by the nation. It became the nucleus of the world's first national public museum, the British Museum, which opened in 1759.

This is the first biography of Sloane in over sixty years and the first based on his surviving collections. Early modern science and collecting are shown to be global endeavours intertwined with imperial enterprise and slavery but which nonetheless gave rise to one of the great public institutions of the Enlightenment, as the cabinet of curiosities gave way to the encyclopaedic museum. Collecting the World describes this pivotal moment in the emergence of modern knowledge, and brings this totemic figure back to life.

Russia: The Wild East

Martin Sixsmith (and others)

Power struggles have a constant presence in Martin Sixsmith’s story of Russia. Collected here in 50 episodes, he chronicles the Mongol hordes invading in the 13th century, through the iron autocratic fists of successive Tsars, to the fall of the Soviet Union and Russia’s re-emergence as a superpower.
Ivan the Terrible, Catherine the Great, Peter the Great – all left their mark on a nation that pursued expansion to the East, West and South. Many Tsars flirted with reform, but the gap between the rulers and the ruled widened until, in 1917, the doomed last Tsar, Nicholas II, abdicated. After the whirlwind of the revolution, the Bolsheviks struggled to consolidate their victory. To rescue the economy and save the regime, Lenin made concessions to the people. But after his death, Stalin introduced forced collectivisation and industrialisation, condemning the Soviet people to conditions worse than those experienced under the Tsars. Nikita Khrushchev reversed the worst excesses of Stalinism, and in 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev embarked on radical reforms of the communist system – unleashing unforeseen consequences that swept him from power and destroyed the USSR.
Martin Sixsmith brings his firsthand experience of reporting from Russia in the 1980s and ‘90s to his narrative, witnessing the critical moment when the Soviet Union lost its grip on power. He asks if the recurring patterns of Russian history can help us understand what has happened since 1991, when the promise of Western-style democracy aroused so many hopes for change. Eyewitness accounts, archive recordings and personal testimony enrich his narrative, as well as readings from Russian authors and historians such as Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Vasily Grossman, plus music by Stravinsky, Prokofiev and others.

Spitalfields

Dan Cruickshank

SHORTLISTED FOR THE HESSELL-TILTMAN HISTORY PRIZE 2017

AN OBSERVER BOOK OF THE YEAR 2016

Religious strife, civil conflict, waves of immigration, the rise and fall of industry, great prosperity and grinding poverty – the handful of streets that constitute modern Spitalfields have witnessed all this and much more.

In Spitalfields, one of Britain's best-loved historians tells the stories of the streets he has lived in for four decades. Starting in Roman times and continuing right up to the present day, Cruickshank explains how Spitalfields' streets evolved, what people have lived there, and what lives they have led. En route, he discovers the tales of the Huguenot weavers who made Spitalfields their own after the Great Fire of London. He recounts the experiences of the first Jewish immigrants. He evokes the slum-ridden courts and alleys of Jack the Ripper's Spitalfields. And he describes the transformation of the Spitalfields he first encountered in the 1970s from a war-damaged collection of semi-derelict houses to the vibrant community it is today.

This is a fascinating evocation of one of London's most distinctive districts. At the same time, it is a history of England in miniature.

Home and Away

Dave Roberts

Dave Roberts was, for once, almost lost for words as the news sank in. Perennial underachievers Bromley, in the vertigo-inducing fifth tier of English football? It was the greatest achievement in the club's 130-year history and, by extraordinary coincidence, Dave had decided to spend the next 12 months in the UK, after an absence of 35 years, deciding whether he and his wife Liz could live there. And what better way to explore modern day Blighty than by following a roadmap based on the fixtures in the Vanarama National League? It was like the ultimate package holiday; well, for Dave at least.

Home and Away takes Dave - and occasionally Liz too - the length and breadth of the land on a journey of discovery, with Bromley games thrown in. So from the White Cliffs of Dover and the English Riviera (Torquay) through the timeless charm of the Cotswolds (Forest Green, Cheltenham) to towns steeped in history (Lincoln, Chester), faded seaside resorts (Southport, Barrow) and fallen giants of the game (Grimsby, Wrexham, Tranmere - OK, pushing it there), the season unfolds, and the ultimate 'home or away' decision approaches.

Against the odds, the season also proves not to be full of the endless disappointments football fans are conditioned to expect. Unfancied Bromley are on a mission, they have a man called Moses up front, and the promised land of the Football League might not be beyond their capabilities...