"This is the golden age of history writing. The sheer choice of subject matter is almost bewildering. The list below contains some recent standouts from across the English-speaking world. What unites these books is their mastery, originality, and brilliant writing." —Amanda Foreman, co-founder, House of SpeakEasy
Christopher de Hamel$25.00 $22.50
The winner of The Wolfson History Prize and The Duff Cooper Prize, De Hamel’s book is an extraordinary and beautifully illustrated (‘sumptuous’, Ian Thomson said in his review for The Guardian) exploration of the medieval world through twelve manuscripts. It contains more than 200 glorious, full-color illustrations. De Hamel’s book of wonders is made up of the authors encounters with these texts, detailing each manuscript’s creation, content, and existence as a physical object through time and space.
No Man's Land: The Trailblazing Women Who Ran Britain's Most Extraordinary Military Hospital During World War I
Wendy Moore$30.00 $27.00
This is the story of doctors Flora Murray and Louisa Garrett Anderson, who in 1914 opened the Endell Street Military Hospital in France. Minus the occasional male orderly, the hospital was staffed entirely by women. “From the physician who assessed the condition of the patients to the surgeon who inspected their wounds, from the radiologist who ordered X-rays to the pathologist who took swabs, from the dentist who checked their teeth to the ophthalmologist who tested their sight, every one of the doctors was female,” Moore writes. Drawing on diaries, letters, and newspaper accounts, Moore deliveries a detailed account of great courage and great ingenuity.
This is an impeccably researched and beautifully written work about the incredible hundred-year-long story of “the vast prison without a roof” that was Russia’s Siberian penal colony. The title is taken from from the only work of Dostoevsky’s that Tolstoy is said to have revered. Dostoyevsky’s descriptions of the squalor, the violence, and the moral depravity of hundreds of thousands appear often in Beer’s Cundill History Prize-winning book. It was also shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize, the Pushkin House Russian Book Prize, and the Longman-History Today Book Prize
Julia Lovell$37.50 $33.75
Lovell was awarded the 2019 Cundill History Prize for her book Maoism: A Global History. This sweeping book covers a vast amount of ground, moving through chapters on Maoism in Peru, Indonesia, Africa, Southeast Asia, India and Nepal, before ending in China. In 2019, Lovell said, ‘The west has assumed that Maoism, like Soviet communism, has been left in the dust: no European rebels these days carry a Little Red Book. But the ideology is resurgent in China and remains hugely influential elsewhere.’ As author Jonathan Fenby says, this is a landmark work “giving a global panorama of Mao's ideology filled with historic events and enlivened by striking characters.”
Jill Lepore$19.95 $18.35
Lincoln thought of the nation as a house, and quoted Scripture: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Lepore’s book takes a classic tale of a unique country’s astonishing rise and just-as-inevitable fall. It is a one-volume history of the United States from the 16th to the 21st Century, driven by anecdotes, statistics and memoirs. “These Truths” details all the ironies and contradictions in American History. As Lepore writes, “a nation born in contradiction will fight forever over the meaning of its history.”
Patrick Radden Keefe$16.95 $15.59
According to reports, Jean McConville, angered the IRA after she offered water to a dying British soldier who had been shot outside her front door. On the night of December 7, 1972, twelve masked men and women burst into the McConville home. Jean was dragged from the bathroom, in front of her screaming children, and hauled into a waiting car. It was the last anyone saw of her. It was only in 2003 that her skeleton was accidentally unearthed by beachcombers in County Louth, Ireland. She is now buried in St Paul's Catholic Church, Belfast. Jean's name is largely forgotten. There is no statue to commemorate her courageous act of humanity – or the terrible price she paid for it. In 2010, I wrote an article for The Guardian calling her my hero. In 2019 Patrick Radden Keefe’s won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Non Fiction and the Orwell Prize for his book. It is a must read.
Hallie Rubenhold$16.99 $15.63
There are many books about Jack the Ripper, but Hallie Rubenhold’s stands alone as a landmark study that calls time on the misogyny that fed the Jack the Ripper myth. The author writes, “they died in hell, but they lived in hell, too – not least because they were female: their worth was compromised before they even tried to prove it.” The Five won the 2019 Baillie Gifford Prize. It is a devastating narrative of five lives that finally puts the women back in their own stories.
Toby Green$40.00 $36.00
Published in 2019, Toby Green won the Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Global Cultural Understanding for this book (it appeared on the shortlist for the Wolfson History Prize, Cundill History Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Pius Adesanmi Memorial Award). Covering five centuries, this meticulously researched book, based on archival research (drawing on art, praise-singers, oral history, archaeology, and letters) in nine countries, lays out a comprehensive overview of the economic history of West Africa and West-Central Africa before and after the slave trade.
Philippe Sands$19.00 $17.48
“East West Street” tells the parallel histories of Hersch Lauterpacht and Raphael Lemkin, who formulated the concept of “crimes against humanity” and “genocide”. Philippe Sands, an international human rights lawyer and law professor, begins his book in Nuremberg. The trial of Hans Frank, Hitler’s preeminent legal adviser, provides its climactic moment. There is also a third individual Sands’ weaves into his book, his grandfather Leon Buchholz. The inclusion of Buchholz makes this more than a book about intellectual evolution but an engrossing family memoir.