A concise history of the Caribbean’s long and fascinating history, from pre-contact civilisations to the present day
This is a concise history, intended for travellers, but of inestimable value to anyone looking for an overview of the Caribbean and its mainland coastal states, with a focus on the past few centuries.
The history of the Caribbean does not make much sense without factoring in the cities – Pensacola, New Orleans, Galveston – and the ambitions of the states on its continental shores, notably the United States.
This account is grounded in a look at the currents and channels of the sea, and its constraints, such as the Mosquito Coast, followed by the history of ‘pre-contact’ civilisations, focusing on the Maya and the Toltec Empire.
With the arrival of the Europeans, from the late fifteenth century to the early years of the seventeenth century, the story becomes one of exploration, conquest and settlement. Black charts the rise of slave economies and the Caribbean’s place in the Atlantic world, also the arrival of the English – Hawkins and Drake – to challenge the Spanish.
He examines the sugar and coffee slave economies of the English, French, Spanish and Dutch, also the successful rebellion in Haiti in the eighteenth century, and how the West Indies were further transformed by the Louisiana Purchase, the American conquest of Florida and the incorporation of Texas.
He discusses the impact of Bolivar’s rebellion in Spanish America, the end of slavery in the British Caribbean, and war between Mexico and America; also the defeat of the South by the Union, the American takeover of the Panama Canal project from France, and the Spanish-American War.
The first half of the twentieth century focuses on growing US power: intervention in Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Haiti and the Dominican Republic; Cuba as an American protectorate, and civil wars in Mexico.
The Cold War brought new tensions and conflict to the region, but the same period also saw the rise of the leisure industry. The last part of the book looks at the Caribbean today – political instability in Venezuela and Colombia, crime in Mexico, post-Castro Cuba – and the region’s future prospects.
The Cold War was an undeclared war, fought silently and carefully between ideological opponents armed with the most fearsome weapons mankind has ever seen.
Hughes-Wilson takes a cool look at this war, from the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 to the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the dissolution of the USSR thereafter. He examines the suspicion and paranoia — on both sides — of the greatest stand-off in history. Written by one of Britain’s leading, popular, military historians, this book makes accessible for the first time one of the key periods to shape our world.
When we think of France, we tend think of fine food and wine, the elegant boulevards of Paris or the chic beaches of St Tropez. Yet, as the largest country in Europe, France is home to extraordinary diversity.
The idea of ‘Frenchness’ emerged through 2,000 years of history and it is this riveting story, from the Roman conquest of Gaul to the present day, that Cecil Jenkins tells: of the forging of this great nation through its significant people and events and and its fascinating culture.
As he unfolds this narrative, Jenkins shows why the French began to see themselves as so different from the rest of Europe, but also why, today, the French face the same problems with regard to identity as so many other European nations.
Praise for Small’s earlier work on Nightingale: ‘Hugh Small, in a masterly piece of historical detective work, convincingly demonstrates what all previous historians and biographers have missed . . . This is a compelling psychological portrait of a very eminent (and complex) Victorian.’
James Le Fanu, Daily Telegraph
Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) is best known as a reformer of hospital nursing during and after the Crimean War, but many feel that her nursing reputation has been overstated.
A Brief History of Florence Nightingale tells the story of the sanitary disaster in her wartime hospital and why the government covered it up against her wishes. After the war she worked to put the lessons of the tragedy to good use to reduce the very high mortality from epidemic disease in the civilian population at home. She did this by persuading Parliament in 1872 to pass laws which required landlords to improve sanitation in working-class homes, and to give local authorities rather than central government the power to enforce the laws. Life expectancy increased dramatically as a result, and it was this peacetime civilian public health reform rather than her wartime hospital nursing record that established Nightingale’s reputation in her lifetime.
After her death the wartime image became popular again as a means of recruiting hospital nurses and her other achievements were almost forgotten. Today, with nursing’s new emphasis on ‘primary’ care and prevention outside hospitals, Nightingale’s focus on public health achievements makes her an increasingly relevant figure.
The Atlantis story remains one of the most haunting and enigmatic tales from antiquity, and one that still resonates very deeply with the modern imagination. But where did Atlantis come from, what was it like, and where did it go to?
Atlantis was first introduced by the Greek philosopher Plato in two dialogues the Timaios and Kritias, written in the fourth century BC. As he philosophises about the origins of life, the Universe and humanity, the great thinker puts forward a stunning description of Atlantis, an island paradise with an ideal society. But the Atlanteans degenerate and become imperialist aggressors: they fight against antediluvian Athens, which heroically repels their mighty forces, before a cataclysmic natural disaster destroys the warring states.
His tale of a great empire that sank beneath the waves has sparked thousands of years of debate over whether Atlantis really existed. But did Plato mean his tale as history, or just as a parable to help illustrate his philosophy?
The book is broken down into two main sections plus a coda – firstly the translations/commentaries which will have the discussions of the specifics of the actual texts; secondly a look at the reception of the myth from then to now; thirdly a brief round-off bringing it all together.
This very readable brief guide examines a wide range of spiritual writing that can be read for enjoyment or inspiration, including some books that come from beyond any religious tradition.
While written from within the Christian tradition, and offering introductions to the writings of medieval mystics, Quakers and modern evangelists, both Protestant and Catholic, it also looks at classics of secular spirituality and writings from different religious traditions.
Each book is explained to convey a brief idea of what each one has to offer the interested reader, while a ‘Speed Read’ for each book delivers a quick sense of what each writer is like to read and a highly compressed summary of the main points of the book in question.
This is an excellent reference to dip into, but within sections such as Early Christian Classics, Secular Texts, Lives of Inspiration and Alternative Approaches, the books are arranged chronologically, revealing some interesting juxtapositions and connections between them.
‘Golden-shielded, silver-sworded, man-loving, male-child slaughtering Amazons,’ is how the fifth-century Greek historian Hellanicus described the Amazons, and they have fascinated humanity ever since. Did they really exist? For centuries, scholars consigned them to the world of myth, but Lyn Webster Wilde journeyed into the homeland of the Amazons and uncovered astonishing evidence of their historic reality.
North of the Black Sea she found archaeological excavations of graves of Iron Age women buried with arrows, swords and armour. In the hidden world of the Hittites, near the Amazons’ ancient capital of Thermiscyra in Anatolia, she unearthed traces of powerful priestesses, women-only religious cults, and an armed, bisexual goddess – all possible sources for the ferocious women.
Combining scholarly penetration with a sense of adventure, Webster Wilde has produced a coherent and absorbing book that challenges preconceived notions, still disturbingly widespread, of what men and women can do.
His grandfather was the bloodthirsty Mongol leader Genghis Khan, his mother a Christian princess. Groomed from childhood for a position of authority, Khubilai snatched the position of Great Khan, becoming the overlord of a Mongol federation that stretched from the Balkans to the Korean coast. His armies conquered the Asian kingdom of Dali and brought down the last defenders of imperial China.
Khubilai Khan presided over a glorious Asian renaissance, attracting emissaries from all across the continent, and opening his civil service to ‘men with coloured eyes’ – administrators from the far west. His reign began the glorious Yuan dynasty that ruled over China for only ninety years, but had a profound impact on Asian history, from international trade to cultural revolution.
Jonathan Clements’s insightful biography into the life and times of one of China’s greatest leaders is a fascinating introduction to an important era, uncovering the man behind Marco Polo’s mythic portrait.
‘If I had to pick a single general martial arts history book in English, I would recommend A Brief History of the Martial Arts by Dr Jonathan Clements’
RICHARD BEITLICH, Martial History Team blog
From Shaolin warrior monks to the movies of Bruce Lee, a new history of the evolution of East Asian styles of unarmed combat, from Kung Fu to Ninjutsu
Folk tales of the Shaolin Temple depict warrior monks with superhuman abilities. Today, dozens of East Asian fighting styles trace their roots back to the Buddhist brawlers of Shaolin, although any quest for the true story soon wanders into a labyrinth of forgeries, secret texts and modern retellings.
This new study approaches the martial arts from their origins in military exercises and callisthenics. It examines a rich folklore from old wuxia tales of crime-fighting heroes to modern kung fu movies. Centre stage is given to the stories that martial artists tell themselves about themselves, with accounts (both factual and fictional) of famous practitioners including China’s Yim Wing-chun, Wong Fei-hong, and Ip Man, as well as Japanese counterparts such as Kano Jigoro, Itosu Anko and So Doshin.
The history of martial arts encompasses secret societies and religious rebels, with intimate glimpses of the histories of China, Korea and Japan, their conflicts and transformations. The book also charts the migration of martial arts to the United States and beyond. Special attention is paid to the turmoil of the twentieth century, the cross-cultural influence of Japanese colonies in Asia, and the post-war rise of martial arts in sport and entertainment – including the legacy of Bruce Lee, the dilemma of the ninja and the global audience for martial arts in fiction.
There can be few military victories so complete, or achieved against such heavy odds, as that won by Henry V on 25 October 1415 against Charles VI’s army at Agincourt. In the words of one contemporary French chronicler, it was the ‘most disgraceful event that had ever happened to the Kingdom of France’.
Christopher Hibbert’s wonderfully concise account draws on the unusual number of contemporary sources available to historians to describe in lucid detail not only what happened, but how it happened. His classic account of the crushing defeat of the French at Agincourt combines historical rigour with a vigorous and very readable narrative style.
The story of the British Army has many sides to it, being a tale of heroic successes and tragic failures, of dogged determination and drunken disorder. It involves many of the most vital preoccupations in the history of the island – the struggle against Continental domination by a single power, the battle for Empire – and a cast pf remarkable characters – Marlborough, Wellington and Montgomery among them.
Yet the British, relying on their navy, have always neglected their army; from the time of Alfred the Great to the reign of Charles II wars were fought with hired forces disbanded as soon as conflict ended. Even after the stuggles with Louis XIV impelled the formation of a reulgar army, impecunious governments neglected the armed forces except in times of national emergency.
In this wide-ranging account, Major Haswell sketches the medieval background before concentrating on the three hundred years of the regular army, leading up to its role in our own time. He presents an informed and probing picture of the organization of the army, the development of weaponry and strategy – and the everyday life of the British soldier through the centuries.
John Lewis-Stempel has brought Major Haswell’s classic work right up to date by expanding the section on the dissolution of empire to include a full account of Northern Ireland and the Falklands War. He has added a new chapter to cover the Gulf War, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq; also the increasing role of special forces and the amalgamation of regiments.
‘Stanton writes with terrific verve and precision . . . his understanding of the seductive pleasures of gaming takes us right to its heart.’
Maria Bustillos, Times Literary Supplement
‘The best overview book of the industry that I’ve read.’
Andrew Liptak, io9
From the first wood-panelled Pong machines in California to the masterpieces of engineering that now sit in countless homes all over the world, A Brief History of Video Games reveals the vibrant history and culture of interactive entertainment.
Above all, this is a book about the games – how the experience of playing has developed from simple, repetitive beginnings into a cornucopia of genres and styles, at once utterly immersive and socially engaging. With full-colour illustrations throughout, it shows how technological advances have transformed the first dots and dashes of bored engineers into sophisticated, responsive worlds that are endlessly captivating.
As thrilling and surprising as the games it describes, this is an indispensable read for anyone serious about the business of having fun.