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L.E.L: The Rise and Fall of Letitia Landon

Lucasta Miller (Author)

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.

Brothers York

Thomas Penn (Author)

The new book by the author of the bestselling Winter King

A Short History of Europe

Simon Jenkins (Author)

The first short, single-volume history of the continent, from the author of the bestselling A Short History of England

Europe is an astonishingly successful place. In this dazzling new history, bestselling author Simon Jenkins grippingly tells the story of its evolution from warring peoples to peace, wealth and freedom - a story that twists and turns from Greece and Rome, through the Dark Ages, the Reformation and the French Revolution, to the Second World War and up to the present day.

Jenkins takes in leaders from Julius Caesar and Joan of Arc, to Wellington and Angela Merkel, as well as cultural figures from Aristotle to Shakespeare and Picasso. He brings together the transformative forces and dominant eras into one chronological tale - all with his usual insight, colour and authority.

Despite the importance of Europe's politics, economy and culture, there has not been - until now - a concise book to tell this story. Covering the key events, themes and individuals, Jenkins' portrait of the continent could not be more timely - or masterful.

'Full of stand-out facts ... absolutely fascinating' - Richard Bacon, BBC Radio 2, on 'A Short History of England'

'Masterly, perhaps a masterpiece' - Independent, Books of the Year on England's Thousand Best Churches

'Jenkins is, like all good guides, more than simply informative: he can be courteous and rude, nostalgic and funny, elegant, convincing and relaxed' - Adam Nicolson on 'England's Thousand Best Houses', Evening Standard

'Full of the good judgements one might hope for from such a sensible and readable commentator, and they alone are worth perusing for pleasure and food for thought' - Michael Wood on 'A Short History of England', New Statesman

'Any passably cultured inhabitant of the British Isles should ask for, say, three or four copies of this book' - Max Hastings on 'England's Thousand Best Houses', Sunday Telegraph

Fight to the Finish

Allan Mallinson (Author)

Allan Mallinson, one of Britain's most accomplished and acclaimed military historians, was commissioned by The Times as part the newspaper's ongoing marking of the centenary of the First World War, to write a series of features chronicling the progress of the war - and Britain's war in particular - month by month.

Based on these much praised features, comprising 52 chapters in all, and published in anticipation of the centenary of the cessation of hostilities on 11 November 1918 - Fight to the Finish is a comprehensive and unique single volume history of the 'war to end all wars'.

Characterised by contemporary references and astute military comment born of the author's extensive experience as a professional soldier, this up-to-the-minute history of Britain’s war on land, at sea and in the air from 1914-18 is both accessible and, as The Times’ centenary chronicle, definitive.

Churchill

Andrew Roberts (Author)

Winston Churchill dominates our view of the history of Britain in the twentieth century - the brash, brave and ambitious young aristocrat who sought out danger in late Victorian wars, the mercurial First Lord of the Admiralty who was responsible for the Dardanelles disaster in 1915, the Home Secretary who crushed the General Strike in 1926, the Colonial Secretary who rode with T. E. Lawrence and Gertrude Bell at the Pyramids, the Chancellor who took the country back to the Gold Standard and then spent more than ten years in the political wilderness - and who, finally, was summoned to save his country in 1940. 'I felt that I was walking with destiny, and all my life had been but preparation for that hour.' Andrew Robert's titanic new biography interprets all these events, especially Churchill's leadership during the Second World War, which he sees through the prism of all Churchill's earlier life. He gives full visibility to Churchill's flaws, and brilliantly explains his genius.

Roberts has used over forty collections of papers not available to Churchill's previous biographer Roy Jenkins (2001) and he is the first Churchill biographer to be granted access by the Queen to the private diaries of King George VI. This is the Churchill biography for our times and the next generation.

Witchcraft: A Ladybird Expert Book

Suzannah Lipscomb (Author)

Part of the new Ladybird Expert series, Witchcraft is a clear, simple and entertaining introduction to the magical myths that have coloured the popular imagination for centuries.

Written by celebrated historian and broadcaster Dr Suzannah Lipscomb, Witchcraft explores the moment in history when witches were perceived to be especially dangerous: the famous witch hunts between 1450 and 1750.

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.

A Tudor Christmas

Alison Weir (Author) , Siobhan Clarke (Author)

Christmas in Tudor times was a period of feasting, revelry and merrymaking ‘to drive the cold winter away’. A carnival atmosphere presided at court, with a twelve-day-long festival of entertainments, pageants, theatre productions and ‘disguisings’, when even the king and queen dressed up in costume to fool their courtiers. Throughout the festive season, all ranks of subjects were freed for a short time from everyday cares to indulge in eating, drinking, dancing and game-playing.

We might assume that our modern Christmas owes much to the Victorians. In fact, as Alison Weir and Siobhan Clarke reveal in this fascinating book, many of our favourite Christmas traditions date back much further. Carol-singing, present-giving, mulled wine and mince pies were all just as popular in Tudor times, and even Father Christmas and roast turkey dinners have their origins in this period. The festival was so beloved by English people that Christmas traditions survived remarkably unchanged in this age of tumultuous religious upheaval.

Beautifully illustrated with original line drawings throughout, this enchanting compendium will fascinate anyone with an interest in Tudor life – and anyone who loves Christmas.

Heimat

Nora Krug (Author)

A powerful and deeply affecting graphic memoir that explores identity, guilt and the meaning of home for a postwar German

Nora Krug grew up as a second-generation German after the end of the Second World War, struggling with a profound ambivalence towards her country's recent past. Travelling as a teenager, her accent alone evoked raw emotions in the people she met, an anger she understood, and shared.

Seventeen years after leaving Germany for the US, Nora Krug decided she couldn't know who she was without confronting where she'd come from. In Heimat, she documents her journey investigating the lives of her family members under the Nazi regime, visually charting her way back to a country still tainted by war. Beautifully illustrated and lyrically told, Heimat is a powerful meditation on the search for cultural identity, and the meaning of history and home.

Behind the Throne

Adrian Tinniswood (Author)

Behind the Throne is a history of family life.

The families concerned were royal families. But they still had to get up in the morning. They ate and entertained their friends and worried about money. Henry VIII kept tripping over his dogs. George II threw his son out of the house. James I had to cut back on the drink bills.

The great difference is that royal families had more help with their lives than most. Charles I maintained a household of 2,000 people. Victoria’s medical establishment alone consisted of thirty doctors, three dentists and a chiropodist. Even in today’s more democratic climate, Elizabeth II keeps a full-time staff of 1,200. A royal household was a community, a vast machine. Everyone, from James I’s Master of the Horse down to William IV’s Assistant Table Decker, was there to smooth the sovereign’s path through life while simultaneously confirming his or her status.

Behind the Throne uncovers the reality of five centuries of life at the English court, taking the reader on a remarkable journey from one Queen Elizabeth to another and exploring life as it was lived by clerks and courtiers and clowns and crowned heads: the power struggles and petty rivalries, the tension between duty and desire; the practicalities of cooking dinner for thousands, or ensuring the king always won when he played a game of tennis.

Behind the Throne is nothing less than a domestic history of the royal household, a reconstruction of life behind the throne. Readers go on progress with Elizabeth I as she takes her court and her majesty to her subjects. They dance the conga round the state rooms of Buckingham Palace with George VI.

They find out what it was like to dine with queens, and walk with kings.

Thomas Cromwell

Diarmaid MacCulloch (Author)

Thomas Cromwell is one of the most famous - or notorious - figures in English history. Born in obscurity in Putney, he became a fixer for Cardinal Wolsey in the 1520s. After Wolsey's fall, Henry VIII promoted him to a series of ever greater offices, such that in the 1530s he was effectively running the country for the King. That decade was one of the most momentous in English history: it saw a religious break with the Pope, unprecedented use of parliament, the dissolution of all monasteries, and the coming of the Protestantism. Cromwell was central to all this, but establishing his role with precision has been notoriously difficult.

Diarmaid MacCulloch's biography is the most complete life ever written of this elusive figure, making connections not previously seen and revealing the channels through which power in early Tudor England flowed. It overturns many received interpretations, for example that Cromwell and Anne Boleyn were allies because of their common religious sympathies, showing how he in fact destroyed her. It introduces the many different personalities contributing to these foundational years, all worrying about what MacCulloch calls the 'terrifyingly unpredictable' Henry VIII, and allows readers to feel that they are immersed in all this, that it is going on around them. For a time, the self-made 'ruffian', as he described himself - ruthless, adept in the exercise of power, quietly determined in religious revolution - was master of events. MacCulloch's biography for the first time reveals his true place in the making of modern England and Ireland, for good and ill.

The Story of the British Isles in 100 Places

Neil Oliver (Author)

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.

French and Germans, Germans and French

Richard Cobb (Author)

An extraordinary history of French lives under occupation in the First and Second World Wars, this is an intimate, unforgettable meditation on the strange mixture of compromise and betrayal, collaboration and resistance that marks defeat, written by one of the greatest historians of France.

'A splendid book for comprehending human kind ... Cobb has a strong sense of how ordinary life has to go on, even through disasters, and a sensitivity for what it was like at the time, matched by a gift for the telling phrase' Economist

'Prophet of the past, Richard Cobb is a visionary' New York Review of Books

'His France - urban, northern, provincial, pedestrian, noisy, unpuritanical, festive - was in contrast to, and predicated upon, another France: bureaucratic, official, suburban, safe' Julian Barnes

The British in India

David Gilmour (Author)

The British in this book lived in India from shortly after the reign of Elizabeth I until well into the reign of Elizabeth II. They were soldiers, officials, businessmen, doctors and missionaries of both sexes, planters, engineers and many others, together with children, wives and sisters. This book describes their lives, their work and their extraordinarily varied interactions with the native populations; it also records the very diverse roles they played in the three centuries of British-Indian history. Gilmour writes of people who have never been written about before, men and women who are presented here with humanity and often with humour. The result is a magnificent tapestry of life, an exceptional work of scholarly recovery which reads like a great nineteenth-century novel. It makes a highly original and engaging contribution to a long an important period of British and Indian history.

Our Boys

Helen Parr (Author)

'This is an extraordinary book. It is partly about the Falklands War itself and the terrible things that the Paras endured, and the terrible things that some of them did, but it is also about the white working class of the 1970s and why some men born into this class ended up marching across an island that most of them had never heard of. Thoughtful and sometimes heart-breaking' Richard Vinen, author of National Service

Helen Parr was aged seven when she was woken up by her mother with the news that her uncle had been killed in the Falklands War. His fate has haunted her and his fellow paratroopers ever since. This book is based in part on her wish to understand what happened. It is the story of an individual soldier and of the Parachute Regiment, the world in which they lived and their experiences of close-quarters combat in the Falklands. It is also a history of how this short but symbolic war changed Britain's relationship with its soldiers, and our attitudes to trauma and war itself.

Our Boys is a major and original book about the Falklands War - a conflict which for those who fought it remains today as exciting, terrible and strange as it did then.

Roller-Coaster

Ian Kershaw (Author)

From one of Britain's most distinguished historians and the bestselling author of Hitler, this is the definitive history of a divided Europe, from the aftermath of the Second World War to the present.

After the overwhelming horrors of the first half of the 20th century, described by Ian Kershaw in his previous book as having gone 'to Hell and back', the years from 1950 to 2017 brought peace and relative prosperity to most of Europe. Enormous economic improvements transformed the continent. The catastrophic era of the world wars receded into an ever more distant past, though its long shadow continued to shape mentalities.

Europe was now a divided continent, living under the nuclear threat in a period intermittently fraught with anxiety. Europeans experienced a 'roller-coaster ride', both in the sense that they were flung through a series of events which threatened disaster, but also in that they were no longer in charge of their own destinies: for much of the period the USA and USSR effectively reduced Europeans to helpless figures whose fates were dictated to them by the Cold War. There were striking successes - the Soviet bloc melted away, dictatorships vanished and Germany was successfully reunited. But accelerating globalization brought new fragilities. The impact of interlocking crises after 2008 was the clearest warning to Europeans that there was no guarantee of peace and stability.

In this remarkable book, Ian Kershaw has created a grand panorama of the world we live in and where it came from. Drawing on examples from all across the continent, Roller-Coaster will make us all rethink Europe and what it means to be European.

The Stepney Doorstep Society

Kate Thompson (Author)

The unsung and remarkable stories of the women who held London's East End together during not one, but two world wars.

While the men were away at war it was strong women like Joan, Marie, Babs, Beattie and Minksy who ruled the streets of the East End. Kate Thompson tells the real stories of the war experienced by these matriarchs, a tribe of working-class women in the stinking streets, teeming tenements and sweatshops of East London.

Forget church halls and jam making, these powerfully authentic stories will have you questioning what you thought you knew about wartime women. From standing up to the Kray twins, taking over the London Underground, and crawling out of bombsites, these women fought to survive and protect their community in some of our country's darkest hours.

The Cut Out Girl

Bart van Es (Author)

'Luminous, elegant, haunting, - I read it straight through' Philippe Sands, Author of East West Street

'Remarkable, deeply moving' Penelope Lively

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.

Henry I (Penguin Monarchs)

Edmund King (Author)

The youngest of William the Conqueror's sons, Henry I (1100-35) was never meant to be king, but he was destined to become one of the greatest of all medieval monarchs, both through his own ruthlessness and intelligence and through the dynastic legacy of his daughter Matilda, who began the Plantagenet line that would rule England until 1485. A self-consciously diligent and thoughtful king, his rule was looked back on as the real post-invasion re-founding of England as a new realm, integrated into the continent, wealthy and stable.

Edmund King's wonderful portrait of Henry shows him as a strikingly charismatic and thoughtful man. His life was dogged by a single great disaster, the death of his teenage heir William in the White Ship disaster. Despite astonishing numbers of illegitimate sons, Henry was now left with only a daughter. This fact would shape the rest of the 12th century and beyond.

The Rise and Fall of the British Nation

David Edgerton (Author)

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.

A Certain Idea of France

Julian Jackson (Author)

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.

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