The emergence of racial classification in conjunction with the Enlightenment Science of Man in the 18th century is a well-known chapter in the history of European ideas. Far less understood are the ways in which this scientific project carried into the 19th and 20th centuries, the investigation of which is Richard McMahon’s purpose in The Races of Europe.
Some monographs feel as if they have slotted themselves – like a puzzle-piece – snugly into the picture presented by our extant historiography. And just like single parts of a complex jig-saw, these works often add brilliantly to the overall image.
Samantha Shave’s new book assesses how policies under the old and new poor laws were conceived, implemented, and the effect that they had on poor relief. The book is an excellent addition to the historiography. It is well written and researched and contains important new findings on several key topics that have largely been ignored by historians.
In Thinking the Twentieth Century, Timothy Snyder proposes to his friend Tony Judt that the historian’s task is ‘like making paths’ through a forest by leaving signs. Judt qualifies this. ‘The first thing’, he argues, ‘is to teach people about trees. Then you teach them that lots of trees together constitute a forest.
In an excellent monograph, Robert Stein investigates the background and the unification of one of Later Medieval Europe’s greatest polities, The Burgundian Netherlands. This book, published in the Oxford Studies in Medieval European History is a revised translation of its Dutch version De hertog en zijn Staten in 2014.
The reforms to Britain’s electoral system between 1867 and 1885 significantly changed how elections were fought. By the end of the process the House of Commons was elected from constituencies of roughly equal size, with larger cities and counties subdivided.
Paying Freedom’s Price is a slim volume that joins the African American History Series, a coterie of books with the aim of being both historically informative and accessible to a popular audience. It succeeds in being a concise, readable, broad stroke overview of African American engagements and struggles prior, during, and after the Civil War.