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For many of us, the ongoing carnage in Syria is a self-evident humanitarian crisis. We do not need to be convinced that the children drowning at sea, the women and men, young and old, begging for entry into any country that will accept them are worthy of our help.
In the latest of our occasional Reviews in History podcast series, Jordan Landes talks to Laura Beers about her recent biography of the Labour legend.
Laura Beers is Birmingham Fellow in Modern British History at the University of Birmingham.
Jordan Landes is history subject librarian at Senate House Library, University of London.
When it comes to Scotland, English historians are often still guilty of presuming that, before the Wars of Independence at least, the government of their northerly neighbour was unsophisticated and in desperate need of the help of English institutions in becoming an effective state. This sort of speculative thought is of course one of the more myopic pillars of English exceptionalism.
Martial law does not have a good reputation. William Blackstone set the tone of modern attitudes in the 18th century. Martial law is ‘built upon no settled principles ... entirely arbitrary in its decisions ... no law, but something indulged, rather than allowed as a law’ (quoted at p. 251).
A. C. Grayling's latest book claims that the modern mind emerged from a series of events which took place, and ideas which materialised, in the 17th century. The Age of Genius argues that the forces of democracy, secularism, enlightenment and science triumphed at this time over divine-right monarchy, religious faith, ignorance and tradition.
This book focuses on the records of the Privy Wardrobe, a department of state that was responsible for supplying the king with arms and armour in the Middle Ages. The accounts of the keepers of the Privy Wardrobe survive from the 1320s to the early 15th century and contain a wealth of information about arms, armour and other items in their possession.
The age of lesbian and gay, in which those were the dominant terms for homoeroticism and other things that seemed (sometimes arbitrarily) to be related to it, appears to be over.
There has been a wave of books published on economic history and business history since 2008.
Lauren Benton and Lisa Ford’s jointly-written book is slim in size – 197 pages of text, 74 of notes – but expansive in scope and interpretative ambition. It is a dense, complex piece of history, frequently operating on several levels at once.
Every mode of writing history has its attendant dangers. The problem with so much conventional political and religious history is that it is an attempt to explain what actually happened. This seems sensible enough, of course, but it inevitably privileges the ways in which the successful historical actors valued their actions, as well as almost inevitably concentrating on an elite.