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Over the last two hundred years Parliament has witnessed and effected dramatic and often turbulent change. Political parties rose – and fell. The old aristocratic order passed away. The vote was won for the working classes and, eventually, for women. The world was torn apart by two extraordinarily bloody wars. And individual politicians were cheered for their altruism or their bravery and jeered for their sexual or financial misdemeanours.
This second volume of Chris Bryant’s majestic Parliament: The Biography has a cast of characters that includes some of British history’s most famous names: the Duke of Wellington, Sir Robert Peel, Gladstone, Disraeli, Lloyd George, Churchill and Thatcher. Its recurring theme is reform and innovation, but it also lays bare obsessive respect for the past and a dedication to evolution rather than revolution, which has left us with a fudged constitution still perilously dependent on custom, convention and gentlemen’s agreements.
This is riveting, flawlessly researched and accessible popular history for anyone with an interest in why modern Britain is the nation it is today.
The history of Parliament is the history of the United Kingdom itself. It has a cast of thousands. Some were ambitious, visionary and altruistic. Others were hot-headed, violent and self-serving. Few were unambiguously noble. Yet their rowdy confrontations, their campaigning zeal and their unstable alliances framed our nation.
This first of two volumes takes us on a 500-year journey from Parliament's earliest days in the thirteenth century through the turbulent years of the Wars of the Roses and the upheavals of the Civil Wars, and up to 1801, when Parliament – and the United Kingdom, embracing Scotland and Ireland – emerged in a modern form.
Chris Bryant tells this epic tale through the lives of the myriad MPs, lords and bishops who passed through Parliament. It is the vivid, colourful biography of a cast of characters whose passions and obsessions, strengths and weaknesses laid the foundations of modern democracy.
Berlin,1933. William E. Dodd, a mild-mannered academic from Chicago, has to his own and everyone else's surprise, become America's first ambassador to Hitler's Germany, in a year that proves to be a turning point in history.
Dodd and his family, notably his vivacious daughter, Martha, observe at first-hand the many changes - some subtle, some disturbing, and some horrifically violent - that signal Hitler's consolidation of power. Dodd has little choice but to associate with key figures in the Nazi party, his increasingly concerned cables make little impact on an indifferent U.S. State Department, while Martha is drawn to the Nazis and their vision of a 'New Germany' and has a succession of affairs with senior party players, including first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels.
But as the year darkens, Dodd and his daughter find their lives transformed and any last illusion they might have about Hitler are shattered by the violence of the 'Night of the Long Knives' in the summer of 1934 that established him as supreme dictator. Suffused with the tense atmosphere of the times, and with brilliant portraits of Hitler, Goebbels, Goering and Himmler amongst others, Erik Larson's new book sheds unique light on events as they unfold, resulting in an unforgettable, addictively readable work of narrative history.
Following his hugely popular account of the previous 2000 years, John O'Farrell now comes bang up to date with a hilarious modern history asking 'How the hell did we end up here?'
An Utterly Exasperated History of Modern Britain informs, elucidates and laughs at all the bizarre events, ridiculous characters and stupid decisions that have shaped Britain's story since 1945; leaving the Twenty-First Century reader feeling fantastically smug for having the benefit of hindsight.
Many of us were put off history by the dry and dreary way it was taught at school. Back then 'The Origins of the Industrial Revolution' somehow seemed less compelling than the chance to test the bold claim on Timothy Johnson's 'Shatterproof' ruler.But here at last is a chance to have a good laugh and learn all that stuff you feel you really ought to know by now...
In this 'Horrible History for Grown Ups' you can read how Anglo-Saxon liberals struggled to be positive about immigration; 'Look I think we have to try and respect the religious customs of our new Viking friends - oi, he's nicked my bloody ox!'Discover how England's peculiar class system was established by some snobby French nobles whose posh descendents still have wine cellars and second homes in the Dordogne today. And explore the complex socio-economic reasons why Britain's kings were the first in Europe to be brought to heel; (because the Stuarts were such a useless bunch of untalented, incompetent, arrogant, upper-class thickoes that Parliament didn't have much choice.)
A book about then that is also incisive and illuminating about now, '2000 Years of Upper Class Idiots in Charge', is an hilarious, informative and cantankerous journey through Britain' fascinating and bizarre history.As entertaining as a witch burning, and a lot more laughs.