May 2017, issue no. 391

Colin Nettelbeck reviews 'Les Parisiennes: How the women of Paris lived, loved, and died in the 1940s' by Anne Sebba

Colin Nettelbeck

The eminent French historian Annette Wieviorka, in The Era of the Witness (1998, English version in 2006), analyses the difficulties arising, in writing historical narratives about recent times, from the exponential growth in the number of people wanting their stories to be heard. Wieviorka, whose field of specialisation is the Shoah, traces the trend of wh ... More

Christopher Allen reviews 'Imperial Triumph: The Roman world from Hadrian to Constantine' by Michael Kulikowski

Christopher Allen

Mary Beard’s new history of Rome, reviewed here in March 2016, ended at the point where Edward Gibbon began his great Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, in what he called the happy age of the Antonines. That is also where Michael Kulikowski takes up the story in this book, the first of two intended volumes, although, as he admits, he will not follow Gi ... More

Mark Edele reviews 'Stalin and the Scientists: A History of triumph and tragedy 1905–1953' by Simon Ings

Mark Edele

The relationship between science and power is central to many struggles of the present. Politics impinges on science when funding is allocated to ‘applied’ or ‘fundamental’ research, when decisions are reached about what should be taught in schools, when governments determine if people can be forced to vaccinate their children, what kinds of interventions in ... More

Alan Atkinson reviews 'Scurvy: The disease of discovery' by Jonathan Lamb

Alan Atkinson

I have been dazzled and baffled by this book. The variety of learning, showing itself especially in a range of beautiful and apposite quotations, is wonderful. The depiction of scurvy as subjective experience is brilliant and deeply sympathetic. However, parts of the historical argument are very hard to follow, and altogether they suggest that the imagination at pla ... More

Kristian Camilleri reviews 'The Age of Genius: The seventeenth century and the birth of the modern mind' by A.C. Grayling

Kristian Camilleri

The seventeenth century was unquestionably one of the most tumultuous and transformative periods of European history. It was a century that saw Europe ravaged by war ...

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Benjamin Madden reviews 'Empire of Things: How we became a world of consumers, from the fifteenth century to the twenty-first' by Frank Trentmann

Benjamin Madden

If there is a single event that marks the maturity of a new field of study, it may well be the appearance of a sprawling monograph from a trade publisher ...

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Rachel Robertson reviews 'A Tear in the Soul' by Amanda Webster

Rachel Robertson

A Tear in the Soul is a fine example of creative non-fiction that unfolds a personal story but also advances our knowledge of Australian society, past and present. It is a nuanced contribution to the growing body of literature in which contemporary non-Indigenous Australians attempt to make sense of the history of white settlement and take responsibility fo ... More

Danielle Clode reviews 'Crusoe’s Island: A rich and curious history of pirates, castaways and madness' by Andrew Lambert

Danielle Clode

The story of Robinson Crusoe, penned by Daniel Defoe in 1719, is one those remarkable books that created a new genre. The ‘Robinsonade’ or castaway story became one of the most popular forms of adventure novel, inspiring a host of famous ‘imitators’: Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Ebb-Tide (1894), R.M. Ballantyne’s The Coral Island (1858) ... More

Christopher Allen reviews 'The Holy Roman Empire: A thousand years of Europe’s history' by Peter H. Wilson

Christopher Allen

Empires of a thousand years’ duration are not common in the history of the world. Adolf Hitler’s dream of a thousand-year Reich evaporated after little more than a decade, and Napoleon’s conquests were not much more lasting. Even the Roman Empire, depending on the dates we set for its beginning and ending, succumbed to internal decline and barbarian invasion a ... More

Colin Wight reviews 'ISIS: A history' by Fawaz A. Gerges

Colin Wight

After the prolonged débâcle following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, events in the Middle East in late 2010 and early 2011 seemed to be taking a turn for the better. The ‘Arab street’ had found its voice and democracy, we were led to believe, was on the march. Despite the setbacks that followed 9/11, perhaps Francis Fukuyama’s optimistic liberal triumphalism con ... More

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