Special issue - Reviews Special 2016
Reviews in History celebrated our 20th anniversary in 2016, which we marked by asking our Editorial Board to recommend some of the most influential / significant history books of the last 20 years. These were then re-reviewed, and you can check out the full set of these ‘classic’ reviews in this anniversary special. Some of them were instant classics, some have proved subsequently to be extremely influential, and some have perhaps not lived up to their initial acclaim - but as a whole they are hopefully an interesting snapshot of the field over the last 20 years.
Sonya Rose’s initial interest in national identity was sparked by the patriotic fervor that burst forth following the declaration of the first Iraq War (1990–1). ‘I wondered at how easily patriotic sentiment and the sense of belonging to a nation under threat – even if that threat was so far away – could be aroused’ (p. 285).
Knowledge is power. Over the last three decades this old aphorism of political philosophy has been central to the study of colonialism in history, anthropology, and literary and cultural post-colonial studies. Revised and re-launched in social theory by Michel Foucault, the theme gained momentum after the publication of Edward Said’s highly influential book, Orientalism, in 1978.
Randall Packard’s The Making of a Tropical Disease: A Short History of Malaria, published in 2007, was a timely overview of the history of one of the most complex and ancient of all diseases. Indeed, Packard’s sub-title: ‘a short history of malaria’ is a modest one considering the depth and breadth of the range of topics relating to the history of malaria that Packard covers.
Ten years after its publication, A History remains relevant. The epidemic continues to rage. The context of its historical and relational trajectories continues to shape both its evolution and the responses to it.
Starting in around 1530, Craig Muldrew argues in this important, phenomenally good book, the English economy developed rapidly. Population growth fed commercialization; markets developed and embedded; people did not just grow and make things, they bought and sold, bargained and trucked. Yet there were few actual coins.
Tim Snyder’s ambitious Bloodlands set out to place the murderous regimes of the Third Reich and Stalin’s Soviet Union in their overlapping European contexts.
Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650–1750 (Oxford, 2001); Enlightenment Contested: Philosophy, Modernity and the Emancipation of Man 1670–1752 (Oxford, 2006); Democratic Enlightenment: Philosophy, Revolution and Human Rights 1750–1790 (Oxford, 2011); Revolutionary Ideas: an Intellectual History of the French Revolution from the Rights
Embracing Defeat is a richly researched, beautifully illustrated and elegantly written account of the period of the US-led occupation of Japan from 1945–52, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the US National Book Award, among others. Throughout the book John Dower’s writing is elegant, informative and easy to follow.
Crossing the Bay of Bengal, came out at a time when I had just begun to explore another history of the Bay through my research into the experiences of Bengali refugees who were rehabilitated in the Andaman Islands in the years between 1949 and 1971.(1) Hounded by the violence and brutality of the post -partition riots that ravaged the deltaic
How does one define empire? What are the characteristics of a successful empire? These two questions arise foremost after reading John Darwin’s monumental masterpiece After Tamerlane. In nine succinct chapters with informative titles, Darwin encompassed 600 years of global history, supported by illustrations and maps and for those interested, suggestions for further reading.
From the moment it was first published in 1997, Maria Todorova’s Imagining the Balkans became an instant must-read, in particular but not only, for readers interested in the history of the ‘Balkans’. Concerns about the situation in Southeast Europe at the time, in the aftermath of the wars in the former Yugoslavia, guaranteed that its impact reached beyond the specialist public.
The World of the Salons is an ambitious book. It shoots loads of ammunition and promises much. An abridged version of Le Monde des salons: Sociabilité et mondanité à Paris au 18e siècle (Fayard 2005), this English translation includes the substantive material of the original book, minus the suavity of the original French prose.