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On 15 October 1838, the body of a thirty-six-year-old woman was found in Cape Coast Castle, West Africa, a bottle of Prussic acid in her hand. She was one of the most famous English poets of her day: Letitia Elizabeth Landon, known by her initials ‘L.E.L.’
What was she doing in Africa? Was her death an accident, as the inquest claimed? Or had she committed suicide, or even been murdered?
To her contemporaries, she was an icon, hailed as the ‘female Byron’, admired by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Heinrich Heine, the young Brontë sisters and Edgar Allan Poe. However, she was also a woman with secrets, the mother of three illegitimate children whose existence was subsequently wiped from the record. After her death, she became the subject of a cover-up which is only now unravelling.
Too scandalous for her reputation to survive, Letitia Landon was a brilliant woman who made a Faustian pact in a ruthless world. She embodied the post-Byronic era, the ‘strange pause’ between the Romantics and the Victorians. This new investigation into the mystery of her life, work and death excavates a whole lost literary culture, in which the legacy of Keats and Shelley turned toxic.
Published: 1 Jan 2098
The British Isles, this archipelago of islands off the north-west coast of Europe is, to Neil Oliver, the best place in the world. From north to south, east to west it cradles astonishing beauty. The human story here is a million years old, and counting. The tolerant, easy-going peace we enjoy here has been hard won. We have made and known the best and worst of times. We have been hero and villain and all else in between, and we have learned some lessons. Warts and all, the British Isles is the finest, clearest expression of civilisation the world has seen so far, and almost everyone knows it.
Neil Oliver here tells many stories of Britain. Romans and Druids, Boudicca in the south and Calgacus in the north, the last of the free; The Venerable Bede and his Anglo Saxons; Lindisfarne and the Vikings; 1066 and the Norman Conquest; Tudors and Reformation; Civil War and the killing of the king, the Restoration; Enlightenment; World Wars, broken-hearted with loss after the first, Dulce Et Decorum Est; Spitfires, the Blitz, Churchill and the Dunkirk Spirit, 'We’ll Meet Again', white cliffs and bluebirds after the second.
This is Neil Oliver's very personal guided tour of the British and Irish historical sites behind these stories, and which make these isles so very special.
In early 1461, a seventeen-year-old boy won a battle on a freezing morning in the Welsh marches, and claimed the crown of England as Edward IV, first king of the usurping house of York. It was a time when old certainties had been shredded: by popular insurgency, economic crisis, feuding and a corrupt, bankrupt government presided over by the imbecilic, Lancastrian King Henry VI. The country was in need of a new hero. Magnetic, narcissistic, Edward found himself on the throne, and alongside him his two younger brothers: the unstable, petulant George, Duke of Clarence, and the boy who would emerge from his shadow, Richard, Duke of Gloucester.
Charismatic, able and ambitious, the brothers would become the figureheads of a spectacular ruling dynasty, one that laid the foundations for a renewal of English royal power. Yet a web of grudges and resentments grew between them, generating a destructive sequence of conspiracy, rebellion, deposition, fratricide, usurpation and regicide. The house of York's brutal end came on 22August 1485 at Bosworth Field, with the death of the youngest brother, now Richard III, at the hands of a new usurper, Henry Tudor.
Brothers York is the story of three remarkable brothers, two of whom were crowned kings of England and the other an heir presumptive, whose antagonism was fuelled by the mistrust and vendettas of the age that brought their family to power. The house of York should have been the dynasty that the Tudors became. Its tragedy was that it devoured itself.
Published: 27 Sep 2018
The enthralling story of a man's search for the astonishing truth about his family's past
The last time Lien saw her parents was in The Hague when she was collected at the door by a stranger and taken to a city far away to be hidden from the Nazis. She was raised by her foster family as one of their own, but a falling out well after the war meant they were no longer in touch. What was her side of the story, Bart van Es - a grandson of the couple who looked after Lien - wondered? What really happened during the war, and after?
So began an investigation that would consume and transform both Bart van Es's life and Lien's. Lien was now in her 80s and living in Amsterdam. Reluctantly, she agreed to meet him, and eventually they struck up a remarkable friendship. The Cut Out Girl braids together a powerful recreation of Lien's intensely harrowing childhood story with the present-day account of Bart's efforts to piece that story together. And it embraces the wider picture, too, for Holland was more cooperative in rounding up its Jews for the Nazis than any other Western European country; that is part of Lien's story too.
This is an astonishing, moving reckoning with a young girl's struggle for survival during war. It is a story about the powerful love and challenges of foster families, and about the ways our most painful experiences - so crucial in defining us - can also be redefined.
From the acclaimed author of Britain's War Machine and The Shock of the Old, a bold reassessment of Britain's twentieth century.
It is usual to see the United Kingdom as an island of continuity in an otherwise convulsed and unstable Europe; its political history a smooth sequence of administrations, from building a welfare state to coping with decline. Nobody would dream of writing the history of Germany, say, or the Soviet Union in this way.
David Edgerton's major new history breaks out of the confines of traditional British national history to redefine what it was to British, and to reveal an unfamiliar place, subject to huge disruptions. This was not simply because of the world wars and global economic transformations, but in its very nature. Until the 1940s the United Kingdom was, Edgerton argues, an exceptional place: liberal, capitalist and anti-nationalist, at the heart of a European and global web of trade and influence. Then, as its global position collapsed, it became, for the first time and only briefly, a real, successful nation, with shared goals, horizons and industry, before reinventing itself again in the 1970s as part of the European Union and as the host for international capital, no longer capable of being a nation.
Packed with surprising examples and arguments, The Rise and Fall of the British Nation gives us a grown-up, unsentimental history which takes business and warfare seriously, and which is crucial at a moment of serious reconsideration for the country and its future.
Part of the new Ladybird Expert series, The Spanish Armada is an accessible and authoritative introduction to one of the most famous and important naval battles in history, in which Elizabeth I cemented her reputation.
Written by award-winning British historian, archaeologist, and broadcaster Sam Willis, The Spanish Armada explores the battle that erupted up the English Channel when a Spanish fleet of 130 ships attempted to invade England.
You'll learn how religious tensions between two powerful monarchs came to a head, the innovative tactical planning of British defences, and the humanitarian disaster the conflict wrought.
Written by the leading lights and most outstanding communicators in their fields, the Ladybird Expert books provide clear, accessible and authoritative introductions to subjects drawn from science, history and culture.
For an adult readership, the Ladybird Expert series is produced in the same iconic small hardback format pioneered by the original Ladybirds. Each beautifully illustrated book features the first new illustrations produced in the original Ladybird style for nearly forty years.
The definitive biography of the greatest French statesman of modern times
In six weeks in the early summer of 1940, France was over-run by German troops and quickly surrendered. The French government of Marshal Pétain sued for peace and signed an armistice. One little-known junior French general, refusing to accept defeat, made his way to England. On 18 June he spoke to his compatriots over the BBC, urging them to rally to him in London. 'Whatever happens, the flame of French resistance must not be extinguished and will not be extinguished.' At that moment, Charles de Gaulle entered into history.
For the rest of the war, de Gaulle frequently bit the hand that fed him. He insisted on being treated as the true embodiment of France, and quarrelled violently with Churchill and Roosevelt. He was prickly, stubborn, aloof and self-contained. But through sheer force of personality and bloody-mindedness he managed to have France recognised as one of the victorious Allies, occupying its own zone in defeated Germany. For ten years after 1958 he was President of France's Fifth Republic, which he created and which endures to this day. His pursuit of 'a certain idea of France' challenged American hegemony, took France out of NATO and twice vetoed British entry into the European Community. His controversial decolonization of Algeria brought France to the brink of civil war and provoked several assassination attempts.
Julian Jackson's magnificent biography reveals this the life of this titanic figure as never before. It draws on a vast range of published and unpublished memoirs and documents - including the recently opened de Gaulle archives - to show how de Gaulle achieved so much during the War when his resources were so astonishingly few, and how, as President, he put a medium-rank power at the centre of world affairs. No previous biography has depicted his paradoxes so vividly. Much of French politics since his death has been about his legacy, and he remains by far the greatest French leader since Napoleon.
Published: 7 Jun 2018
The great airborne battle for the bridges in 1944 by Britain's Number One bestselling historian
On 17 September 1944, General Kurt Student, the founder of Nazi Germany's parachute forces, heard the growing roar of aeroplane engines. He went out on to his balcony above the flat landscape of southern Holland to watch the air armada of Dakotas and gliders carrying the British 1st Airborne and the American 101st and 82nd Airborne divisions. He gazed up in envy at this massive demonstration of paratroop power.
Operation Market Garden, the plan to end the war by capturing the bridges leading to the Lower Rhine and beyond, was a bold concept: the Americans thought it unusually bold for Field Marshal Montgomery. But could it ever have worked? The cost of failure was horrendous, above all for the Dutch, who risked everything to help. German reprisals were pitiless and cruel, and lasted until the end of the war.
The British fascination with heroic failure has clouded the story of Arnhem in myths. Antony Beevor, using often overlooked sources from Dutch, British, American, Polish and German archives, has reconstructed the terrible reality of the fighting, which General Student himself called 'The Last German Victory'. Yet this book, written in Beevor's inimitable and gripping narrative style, is about much more than a single, dramatic battle.
It looks into the very heart of war.
On 26 April 1986 at 1.23am a reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Soviet Ukraine exploded. While the authorities scrambled to understand what was occurring, workers, engineers, firefighters and those living in the area were abandoned to their fate. The blast put the world on the brink of nuclear annihilation, contaminating over half of Europe with radioactive fallout.
In Chernobyl, award-winning historian Serhii Plokhy draws on recently opened archives to recreate these events in all their drama, telling the stories of the scientists, workers, soldiers, and policemen who found themselves caught in a nuclear nightmare. While the immediate cause of the accident was a turbine test gone wrong, he shows how its deeper roots lay in the nature of the Soviet political system and the ingrained flaws of its nuclear industry. A little more than five years later, the Soviet Union would fall apart, destroyed from within by its unsustainable ideology and the dysfunctional systems laid bare in the wake of the disaster.
A moment by moment account of the heroes, perpetrators and victims of a tragedy, Chernobyl is the first full account of a gripping, unforgettable Cold War story.
Legend has it that, in a few busy weeks in July 1789, a despotic king, his freeloading wife, and a horde of over-privileged aristocrats, were displaced and then humanely dispatched.
In the ensuing years, we are told, France was heroically transformed into an idyll of Liberté, Egalité and Fraternité.
In fact, as Stephen Clarke argues in his informative and eye-opening account of the French Revolution, almost all of this is completely untrue.
In 1789 almost no one wanted to oust King Louis XVI, let alone guillotine him.
While the Bastille was being stormed by out-of-control Parisians, the true democrats were at work in Versailles creating a British-style constitutional monarchy.
The founding of the Republic in 1792 unleashed a reign of terror that caused about 300,000 violent deaths.
And people hailed today as revolutionary heroes were dangerous opportunists, whose espousal of Liberté, Egalité and Fraternité did not stop them massacring political opponents and guillotining women for demanding equal rights.
Going back to original French sources, Stephen Clarke has uncovered the little-known and rarely told story of what was really happening in revolutionary France, as well as what went so tragically and bloodily wrong.
‘Brilliant. A timely reminder of the fragility of democracy and the dangers of extreme nationalism.’ Nikolaus Wachsmann, author of KL: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps
'In this post-truth, alternative-facts American moment, The Death of Democracy is essential reading.’ Kurt Andersen, author of Fantasyland
‘An outstanding accomplishment.’ Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland
A revelatory account of the fall of the Weimar Republic and the rise of Hitler, based on new and award-winning research, and recently discovered archival material.
Drawing on individual stories to illustrate its broader arguments, The Death of Democracy examines the reasons for the fall of one of the most progressive governments in twentieth-century Europe, and the rise of the most terrifying. It focuses on the global dimension of the Nazi phenomenon, as a part of a widespread reaction against a world order of triumphant, cosmopolitan liberal democracy and capitalism after the First World War. This world situation pushed its opponents to embrace authoritarianism, nationalism and economic self-sufficiency, kick starting a revolution reliant upon the innovative exploitation of new media technologies, and the formidable political and self-promotional skills of its leader.
The Death of Democracy is an authoritative and panoramic new survey of one of the most pivotal periods in modern history, and a book with a clear and important message for the world today.
An expert new voice presents an overarching account of the biggest questions of our time - all in one accessible book
Since the days of Adam Smith, economists have grappled with a series of familiar problems - but often their ideas are hard to digest, even before we try to apply them to today's issues. Linda Yueh is renowned for her combination of erudition, as an accomplished economist herself, and accessibility, as a leading writer and broadcaster in this field. In The Great Economists she explains the key thoughts of history's greatest economists, how our lives have been influenced by their ideas and how they could help us with the policy challenges that we face today.
In the light of current economic problems, and in particular economic growth, Yueh explores the thoughts of economists from Adam Smith and David Ricardo to contemporary academics Douglass North and Robert Solow. Along the way, she asks, for example, what do the ideas of Karl Marx tell us about the likely future for the Chinese economy? How do the ideas of John Maynard Keynes, who argued for government spending to create full employment, help us think about state intervention in boosting investment and productivity? And with globalisation in trouble, what can we learn about handling Brexit and Trumpism?
The Great Economists includes:
John Maynard Keynes
A concise, sharp-witted and illuminating account of the lives of Britain’s prime ministers from Walpole to May, illustrated by Martin Rowson.
For the reader who has heard of such giants as Gladstone and Disraeli, and has drunk in a pub called the Palmerston, but has only the haziest idea of who these people were, Gimson’s Prime Ministers offers a short account of them all which can be read for pleasure, and not just for edification. With Gimson’s wonderful prose once again complemented by Martin Rowson’s inimitable illustrations, this lively and entertaining aide-memoire and work of satirical genius brings our parliamentary history to life as never before.
Discover the hidden corners and forgotten crevices of Britain's landscapes, from lost rural treasures to unseen urban gems.
Landscapes reflect and shape our behaviour. They make us who we are and bear witness to the shifting patterns of human life over the generations.
Bringing to bear a lifetime's digging, archaeologist Francis Pryor delves into Britain's hidden urban and rural landscapes, from Whitby Abbey to the navvy camp at Risehill in Cumbria, from Tintagel to Tottenham's Broadwater Farm. Through fields, woods, moors, roads, tracks and towns, he reveals the stories of our physical surroundings and what they meant to the people who formed them, used them and lived in them. These landscapes, he stresses, are our common physical inheritance. If we can understand how to make them yield up their secrets, it will help us, their guardians, to maintain and shape them for future generations.
Part of the Penguin Monarchs series: short, fresh, expert accounts of England's rulers in a collectible format
Henry VII was one of England's unlikeliest monarchs. An exile and outsider with barely a claim to the throne, his victory over Richard III at Bosworth Field seemed to many in 1485 like only the latest in the sequence of violent convulsions among England's nobility that would come to be known as the wars of the roses - with little to suggest that the obscure Henry would last any longer than his predecessor. To break that cycle of division, usurpation, deposition and murder, he had both to maintain a grip on power and to convince England that his rule was both rightful and effective. Here, Sean Cunningham explores how, in his ruthless, controlling and personal kingship, Henry VII did so; in the process founding the Tudor dynasty and, arguably, helping to lay the foundations for modern government.
Sean Cunningham is a Principal Records Specialist at The National Archives. A Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, he has published widely on late medieval and early Tudor England. His books include, most recently, a historical biography of Henry VII.
Part of the Penguin Monarchs series: short, fresh, expert accounts of England's rulers in a collectible format
In the popular imagination, as in her portraits, Elizabeth I is the image of monarchical power. The Virgin Queen ruled over a Golden Age: the Spanish Armada was defeated; English explorers reached the ends of the earth; a new Church of England rose from the ashes of past conflict; the English Renaissance bloomed in the genius of Shakespeare, Spenser and Sidney. But the image is also armour.
In this illuminating new account of Elizabeth's reign, Helen Castor shows how England's iconic queen was shaped by profound and enduring insecurity-an insecurity which was both a matter of practical political reality and personal psychology. From her precarious upbringing at the whim of a brutal, capricious father and her perilous accession after his death, to the religious division that marred her state and the failure to marry that threatened her line, Elizabeth lived under constant threat. But, facing down her enemies with a compellingly inscrutable public persona, the last and greatest of the Tudor monarchs would become a timeless, fearless queen.
A short, brilliant account of the birth of the RAF for the centenary of its founding
The dizzying pace of technological change in the early 20th century meant that it took only a little over ten years from the first flight by the Wright Brothers to the clash of fighter planes in the Great War. A period of terrible, rapid experiment followed to gain a brief technological edge. By the end of the war the British had lost an extraordinary 36,000 aircraft and 16,600 airmen.
The RAF was created in 1918 as a revolutionary response to this new form of warfare - a highly contentious decision (resisted fiercely by both the army and navy, who had until then controlled all aircraft) but one which had the most profound impact, for good and ill, on the future of warfare.
Richard Overy's superb new book shows how this happened, against the backdrop of the first bombing raids against London and the constant emergency of the Western Front. The RAF's origins were as much political as military and throughout the 1920s still provoked bitter criticism.
Published to mark the centenary of its founding this is an invaluable book, filled with new and surprising material on this unique organization.
A captivating account of the Nazi Olympics – told through the voices and stories of those who were there.
For sixteen days in the summer of 1936, the world’s attention turned to the German capital as it hosted the Olympic Games. Seen through the eyes of a cast of characters – Nazi leaders and foreign diplomats, athletes and journalists, nightclub owners and jazz musicians – Berlin 1936 plunges us into the high tension of this unfolding scene.
Alongside the drama in the Olympic Stadium – from the triumph of Jesse Owens to the scandal when an American tourist breaks through the security and manages to kiss Hitler – Oliver Hilmes takes us behind the scenes and into the lives of ordinary Berliners: the woman with a dark secret who steps in front of a train, the transsexual waiting for the Gestapo’s knock on the door, and the Jewish boy hoping that Germany may lose in the sporting arena.
During the sporting events the dictatorship was partially put on hold; here then, is a last glimpse of the vibrant and diverse life in Berlin in the 1920s and 30s that the Nazis aimed to destroy.
Richard I's reign is both controversial and seemingly contradictory. One of England's most famous medieval monarchs and a potent symbol of national identity, he barely spent six months on English soil during a ten-year reign and spoke French as his first language. Contemporaries dubbed him the 'Lionheart', reflecting a carefully cultivated reputation for bravery, prowess and knightly virtue, but this supposed paragon of chivalry butchered close to 3,000 prisoners in cold blood on a single day. And, though revered as Christian Europe's greatest crusader, his grand campaign to the Holy Land failed to recover the city of Jerusalem from Islam.
Seeking to reconcile this conflicting evidence, Thomas Asbridge's incisive reappraisal of Richard I's career questions whether the Lionheart really did neglect his kingdom, considers why he devoted himself to the cause of holy war and asks how the memory of his life came to be interwoven with myth. Richard emerges as a formidable warrior-king, possessed of martial genius and a cultured intellect, yet burdened by the legacy of his dysfunctional dynasty and obsessed with the pursuit of honour and renown.
Deep in a wood in the Marches of Wales, in an ancient school bus there lives an old man called Bob Rowberry.
A Hero for High Times is the story of how he ended up in this broken-down bus. It's also the story of his times, and the ideas that shaped him. It's a story of why you know your birth sign, why you have friends called Willow, why sex and drugs and rock’n’roll once mattered more than money, why dance music stopped the New-Age Travellers from travelling, and why you need to think twice before taking the brown acid.
It's the story of the hippies for those who weren't there – for Younger Readers who've never heard of the Aldermaston marches, Oz, the Angry Brigade, the Divine Light Mission, Sniffin' Glue, Operation Julie, John Seymour, John Michell, Greenham Common, the Battle of the Beanfield, but who want to understand their grandparents’ stories of turning on, tuning in and not quite dropping out before they are gone for ever. It's for Younger Readers who want to know how to build a bender, make poppy tea, and throw the I-Ching.
And it's a story of friendship between two men, one who did things, and one who thought about things, between theory and practice, between a hippie and a punk, between two gentlemen, no longer in the first flush of youth, who still believe in love.
Published: 15 Feb 2018