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Once upon a time, as every schoolboy knew, the history of the British Empire was the history of great men.
Sinners? Scroungers? Saints?: Unmarried Motherhood in Twentieth-Century England offers a rich and fascinating study of the National Council of the Unmarried Mother and Her Child (later the National Council for One Parent Families, then One Parent Families and now Gingerbread), a charitable organization that was established to provide support for unmarried mothers and their children.
In essence, Williams’ monograph examines the poor relief given to individuals and families during the final decades of the old poor law in one Bedfordshire parish, namely Campton.
Michel Foucault famously asserted that sexual identity was a modern invention, remarking, ‘The sodomite had been a temporary aberration; the homosexual was now a species’.(1) For Foucault, the vocabulary and specificity of modern sexual identity were largely formulated under the impetus of 19th-century sexology.
The subject of sati – more commonly known to Anglophone readers as ‘suttee’, a term which was used by 18th- and 19th-century writers to signify the self-immolation of Hindu widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands (1) – has long been of interest to historians.
The Caversham Project has been a long-running and detailed historical investigation of work and community, social structure, class and gender in the southern suburbs of Dunedin, New Zealand. With a strong, indeed rigorous, quantitative basis the project has generated an impressive list of books, essays and working papers over the last 20 years.
The SS-Helferinnenkorps, the women who volunteered to support the SS, and who formed a female Nazi elite, have to date been the subject of minimal research. Until now, very little was known about these women, where they came from, why they volunteered, how they were trained, where they worked, and what became of them after the war.
This readable and accessible book has secured an impact beyond the academic world, becoming the Guardian book of the week in March 2011 and drawing positive reviews in both the academic and non-academic press.
I was 16 or 17 when I first read Pat Barker’s Regeneration trilogy, and 26 when I completed my PhD on shell shock in First World War Britain.
Any historian analysing a historical novel is bound to appear a little pedantic, taking a spade to the proverbial soufflé, but here goes.