If quincentenaries are anything to go by, then 1492 is now commemorated principally for Christopher Columbus’s transatlantic voyage of exploration rather than either the conclusion of Ferdinand’s and Isabella’s eleven year conquest of Islamic Granada – which completed the Reconquista – or the expulsion of Jews from Castile and Aragon.
In the introduction to her long-awaited and extremely interesting study of the popular literature of Victorian interior decoration, Judith Neiswander prepares her readers – and perhaps to a certain extent herself – for their predicted negative reactions to the décor of the late 19th-century middle class home.
The line of modern British Prime Ministers is remarkable for the numerous authors included in its number. Lord Grey wrote a volume on the causes of the French Revolution. Disraeli produced a shelf of novels. Balfour contributed volumes of philosophy. Churchill put his indelible mark on the writing of 20th-century international and British history.
Maxwell-Stuart's The Chemical Choir is a potentially useful book about the history of alchemy from its roots in ancient China and Egypt in the 4th century AD until the 20th century. It has several merits. Firstly, it breaks down a complex subject – the study of nature through experiments with chemicals – into ten easy-to-read chapters.
It has begun to seem clear that the modern British Empire was driven by a remarkable amount of uncertainty. Far from the shameless and confident enterprise some once imagined, the value and proper shape of overseas expansion was – from Hakluyt to Hobson – a matter of constant and consistent debate.
This is an ambitious and weighty study of prisons, prison labour and penology from the early Republican period through the Depression years which McLennan argues has been characterised by ‘a long continuum of episodic instability, conflict, and political crisis’ (p. 2).
At the turn of the 20th century the tourism industry in the Swiss Alps was an invaluable element in the national economy.
On 4 December 1655, following the arrival in London of Rabbi Menasseh ben Israel from Amsterdam and his petition to the Council of State on behalf of the ‘Hebrew Nation’, a conference was begun at Whitehall to discuss the readmission of Jews to England after a supposed absence of 365 years.
Notwithstanding the outpouring of heavyweight publications that attended the 2005 Trafalgar bicentenary, popular perceptions of life in Nelson’s navy still revolve around the brutal, filthy, drink-sodden hellhole presented in recent television adaptations of Hornblower and William Golding’s To the Ends of the Earth trilogy.
Reading the introduction to this book one may be forgiven for thinking that the title is somewhat misleading for a volume given to the examination of ‘the processes of the making and breaking of peace treaties and truces’, rather than to war (p. 1).