Biography has always been as something of the black sheep of historical writing; we cannot do without it, yet it always looked down upon, particularly by those in the profession that are committed to more high-flown subjects and methods of analysis. Yet there can be no doubt that John Campbell has made a serious contribution to British political history through his biographical studies.
In one of Disraeli’s novels, we are told to ‘read no history, nothing but biography, for that is life without theory’. It is a maxim that political historians, in particular, have taken enthusiastically to heart, though they may find the current generation a less attractive prospect. Of our current party leaders, few have led especially captivating lives.
Amanda E. Herbert’s fresh and important study of women’s alliances in early modern Britain opens with a quotation from Mary Evelyn listing the duties of elite women in the late 17th century. Reading as follows: ‘the care of children’s education, observing a husband’s commands, assisting the sick, relieving the poor, and being serviceable to our friends’ (p. 1).
In Mediatrix Julie Crawford seeks to expand our understanding of women’s contributions to early modern literary and political culture. Crawford seeks to look beyond the concept of the woman writer to instead focus on the ‘startling range of women’s literary practices’ and the ‘collaborative nature of literary production’ in pre-modern England (p. 3, p. 4).
History has demonstrated assimilation under colonial occupation to be a near impossible result to attain due primarily to its basic premise: the colonizers’ belief in their superiority over the colonized. Furthermore, the colonizers’ ambition to replace the colonized people’s ‘inferior’ culture with their ‘superior’ culture further complicated this process.
A People’s History of the French Revolution is David Fernbach’s translation of Eric Hazan’s 2012 book Une histoire de la Révolution française. The change of title hints at what indeed is Hazan’s original stance in his account of this historical event, an event that up to now has never ceased to fascinate writers and intellectuals.
As it recedes in historical memory, American anti-communism becomes more interesting as a historical phenomenon. Try explaining a slogan like ‘Better dead than red’ to a roomful of undergraduates born long after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In retrospect, American anti-communism stands out for its coherence, vehemence, and endurance.
Lynn Hunt’s new book, Writing History in the Global Era, places an important question on the table: ‘Is globalization the new theory that will reinvigorate history? Or will it choke off all other possible contenders, leaving in place only the inevitability of modernization of the world on the Western model?’ (p.
A smile seems the most natural of emotional expressions. We smile easily and often unthinkingly; babies smile; it is, as Colin Jones notes in his introduction to this book, ‘the most banal and unremarkable of social gestures’. Or is it?
Barry Doyle’s new study addresses a subject area that has lately attracted much interest from social, political and medical historians. The reasons why Britain’s inter-war health services have become such a hot topic are not hard to discern.