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This is a literary study of the servant problem, a problem that endlessly bothered employers and moralists, and has recently emerged in a rather different sense to worry scholars too. Virginia Woolf observed that we would understand great lives far better if we remembered domestic struggles, the scrubbing, carrying and labours of one maid to hold back cold and dirt.
A Man and an Institution is in reality three books combined into one. It is, first, a contribution to a biography of Sir Maurice Hankey, the first Cabinet Secretary; second, a history of the origins of the Cabinet Office and its development until Hankey’s retirement in 1938; and third, an account of how the Cabinet Office came to be the guardian of official secrecy.
A History of Nigeria is an impressive book, the more so because its ambitions initially appear straightforward. Toyin Falola and Matthew Heaton describe their project as ‘a general background survey of the broad themes of Nigeria’s history from the beginnings of human habitation … to the early twenty-first century’ (p.
The struggle to understand the meaning of the American Civil War continues, and doubtless it will become more contentious as its 150th anniversary approaches. The triumphal, celebratory and exclusively white centenary ceremonies of 1961 and beyond have been replaced by a much more sombre, mournful, if not mawkish tone.
Peter Yearwood has carried out impressively extensive research to produce this account of how British foreign policy was closely linked to the formation and operation of the League of Nations in its early years.
When reviewing books one’s expectations can be raised by the title. In the case of The End is Nigh one could be forgiven for assuming that it must relate to the End of Time and the various ways in which the world might end – cosmic impact; neighbouring supernova; nuclear apocalypse; unstoppable virus; runaway global warming, i.e. large scale global catastrophes.
In early 1840, the New York lawyer and diarist George Templeton Strong noted that the newspapers were obsessed with commentary and speculation about the upcoming wedding of Queen Victoria. All this was ‘doubtless very interesting and important to her Majesty’s loyal subjects’, wrote Strong huffily, but ‘to us republicans is, or ought to be, rather dull and profitless’ (p. 50).
This volume, dedicated to the historian Lawrence W. Levine, was, in the words of its authors, ‘born of our belief that the time is ripe for a broad assessment of U.S. cultural history’.
Jenny Keating’s A Child for Keeps, based on her excellent doctoral study of the subject (1), is a welcome addition to the social history of 20th-century Britain.
Although this book is not very long (109 pages, not counting appendices and index), it might be characterized in multiple ways. First, it is important, making a valuable addition to the literature on medieval prisons. Interestingly, medieval prisons have not attracted a great deal of scholarly attention.