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A Brief Guide To Agatha Christie

A Brief Guide To Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie’s 80 novels and short-story collections have sold over 2 billion copies in more than 45 languages, more than any other author. When Christie finally killed off her Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, the year before she herself died, that ‘detestable, bombastic, tiresome, ego-centric little creep’ in Christie’s words, received a full-page obituary in the New York Times, the only fictional character ever to have done so. From her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, a Poirot mystery, to her last, Sleeping Murder, featuring Miss Marple, Crawford explores Christie’s life and fiction.

Cawthorne examines recurring characters, such as Captain Arthur Hastings, Poirot’s Dr Watson; Chief Inspector Japp, his Lestrade, as well as other flat-footed policemen that Poirot outsmarts on his travels; his efficient secretary, Miss Felicity Lemon; another employee, George; and Ariadne Oliver, a humorous caricature of Christie herself.

He looks at the writer’s own fascinating: her work as a nurse during the First World War; her strange disappearance after her first husband asked for a divorce; and her exotic expeditions with her second husband, the archaeologist Sir Max Mallowan.

He examines the author’s working life – her inspirations, methods and oeuvre – and provides biographies of her key characters, their attire, habits and methods, including Poirot’s relationships with women, particularly Countess Vera Rossakoff and Miss Amy Carnaby. In doing so, he sheds light on the genteel world of the country house and the Grand Tour between the wars.

He takes a look at the numerous adaptations of Christie’s stories for stage and screen, especially Poirot’s new life in the eponymous long-running and very successful TV series.
A Brief History of Gangsters

A Brief History of Gangsters

The romanticised American gangster of the Prohibition era has proved an enduringly popular figure. Even today, names like Al Capone and Lucky Luciano still resonate. Robb explores the histories of key figures, from gangs in the Old West, through Prohibition and the Great Depression, to the likes of John Gotti and Frank Lucas in the 1970s and 1980s. He also looks at the gangster in popular culture, in hit TV series such as Boardwalk Empire.

Although the focus is strongly on the archetypal American gangster, Robb also examines gangsters around the world, including the infamous Kray twins in London, French crime kingpin Jacques Mesrine, the Mafia Dons of Sicily, and the rise of notorious Serbian and Albanian gangs. Infamous Australian outlaw Ned Kelly makes an appearance, as does Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, while other sections provide details of the Chinese Triads and the Yakuza in Japan.

Robb also explores the gangster in popular culture, especially in film and television. Recent hit TV series such as The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire and blockbuster movies like Public Enemies and Gangster Squad show that the gangster is here to stay.
A Brief Guide To OZ

A Brief Guide To OZ

What if Dorothy Gale wasn’t the only person who went to see the Wizard of Oz?

MGM’s landmark 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz, starring Judy Garland, did not mark the beginning of adventures in Oz. Both before and since, dozens of tales have been told of the Marvellous Land of Oz, and its inhabitants such as the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, the Cowardly Lion, the Hungry Tiger and Jack Pumpkinhead.

In this fascinating and wide-ranging book, Paul Simpson looks back at the Famous Forty – the original novels by L. Frank Baum and his successors which entranced generations of children with their wonderful world of munchkins, princesses and wicked witches. He examines the many ways in which the stories have been retold in movies – from the silent era to Disney’s recent blockbuster Oz the Great and Powerful – and on television, featuring everyone from Tom & Jerry to trades union leaders. On stage, Oz has come to life in the many revivals of The Wizard of Oz musical and the worldwide reign of Elphaba in the smash hit Wicked.
Celebrate the 75th anniversary of the world’s best-loved film and the whole magical world of Oz with its vampires, muppets, dragons, living statues and so much more.
A Brief History of Painting

A Brief History of Painting

The urge to create pictures of our world has been with us ever since early man daubed a fingerful of pigment on a rock, or used primitive colours to create exquisite images of the beasts he hunted – images so breathtakingly powerful they have never been surpassed, however sophisticated we have become. This book tells the story of what painting has meant to us, and how its role has changed over the centuries. In the crisp, unstuffy commentary on each of 150 landmark works, Christie’s art expert Roy Bolton leads us through the development of painting until our own age, where painting as a painterly craft has been overtaken by a proliferation of new forms introduced by contemporary art.


To the question, ‘Is the death of painting upon us?’ the introductory chapter by Matthew Collings, the multi-award-winning TV art presenter, art historian and cultural critic, gives an inspiring answer: ‘Painting justifies itself. Rather than pathetically struggling to keep up with the new freak-show culture of videos and installations, painting will only be worth having if it reconnects with its own inner life, where the old and the new are the same.’


Roy Bolton’s selection takes us from the Ancient World, via the Italian Renaissance, Rococo and Classicism to Impressionism, Modernism and the Contemporary World. Each painting, with its context and artist, is explained in terms designed to encourage us to judge art for ourselves. Written with authority and full of original and helpful insights, this is a history of art for our times.


‘While I find it interesting to think about all sorts of art, I prefer painting to any of it. Painting is soulful, important, serious and humane.’ Matthew Collings


‘We need to de-mystify art by stripping it down to its bare essentials, then rebuilding it ourselves, using our own minds and eyes, without all the pompous clutter.’ Roy Bolton

A Brief Guide To British Battlefields

A Brief Guide To British Battlefields

A very readable work of reference offering a survey in chronological order, from AD 84 to 1746, of the major battles which have taken place on British soil, from the Roman occupation to Culloden, the last battle fought on British soil. In this way, the book can be read as a continuous narrative, while each entry also stands alone as a self-contained guide.
The battles are grouped into relevant sections (such as the Wars of the Roses, the English Civil Wars and the Jacobite Rebellions), within broader historical periods. Each period is prefaced by a presentation of the nature of warfare and is enhanced by a feature article of specialist interest.

Every entry includes a narrative of events leading up to the battle, a vivid description of the battle itself and an assessment of the long and short-term, consequences. In addition, there is useful information for visits, including precise identification of the location, details of access to and features of each site.

The book is illustrated throughout with maps and a plate section.
A Brief History of the Tudor Age

A Brief History of the Tudor Age

From the arrival of Henry Tudor and his army, at Milford in 1485, to the death of the great Queen Elizabeth I in 1603, this was an astonishingly eventful and contradictory age. All the strands of Tudor life are gathered in a rich tapestry – London and the country, costumes, furniture and food, travel, medicine, sports and pastimes, grand tournaments and the great flowering of English drama, juxtaposed with the stultifying narrowness of peasant life, terrible roads, a vast underclass, the harsh treatment of heretics and traitors, and the misery of the Plague.
A Brief History of the Celts

A Brief History of the Celts

For centuries the Celts held sway in Europe. Even after their conquest by the Romans, their culture remained vigorous, ensuring that much of it endured to feed an endless fascination with Celtic history and myths, artwork and treasures. A foremost authority on the Celtic peoples and their culture, Peter Berresford Ellis presents an invigoration overview of their world. With his gift for making the scholarly accessible, he discusses the Celts’ mysterious origins and early history and investigates their rich and complex society. His use of recently uncovered firnds brings fascinating insights into Celtic kings and chieftains, architecture and arts, medicine and religions, myths and legends, making this esesntial reading for any search for Europe’s ancient past.
The Great Turning Points of British History

The Great Turning Points of British History

Twenty of the most crucial moments in Britain’s history.

BBC History Magazine asked a selection of leading historians to choose and describe the twenty most important turning points in British history from AD 1000 to 2000. Collected together, their choices present a new way of looking at our nation’s story.

From the Danish invasion of Britain in 1016, to the Suez crisis in 1956, the key moments include victories (or defeats) both at home and abroad, plague, reform and even revolutions that have reshaped the British way of life. Each contribution brings the past to life, offering new perspectives and food for debate: did the Battle of Agincourt change England’s role in Europe? What was the impact of American independence on Britain? Was 1916 more important than 1939? Thought-provoking and inspiring accounts.
A Brief History of the Wars of the Roses

A Brief History of the Wars of the Roses

During the fifteenth century England was split in a bloody conflict between the Houses of York and Lancaster over who should claim the crown. The civil wars consumed the whole nation in a series of battles that eventually saw the Tudor dynasty take power. In A Brief History of the Wars of the Roses, Desmond Seward tells the story of this complex and dangerous period of history through the lives of five men and women who experienced the conflict first hand. In a gripping narrative the personal trials of the principal characters interweave with the major events and personalities of one of the most significant turning points in British history.
A Brief History of the Vikings

A Brief History of the Vikings

‘From the Fury of the Northmen deliver us, O Lord.’

Between the eighth and eleventh centuries, the Vikings surged from their Scandinavian homeland to trade, raid and invade along the coasts of Europe. Their influence and expeditions extended from Newfoundland to Baghdad, their battles were as far-flung as Africa and the Arctic. But were they great seafarers or desperate outcasts, noble heathens or oafish pirates, the last pagans or the first of the modern Europeans?

This concise study puts medieval chronicles, Norse sagas and Muslim accounts alongside more recent research into ritual magic, genetic profiling and climatology. It includes biographical sketches of some of the most famous Vikings, from Erik Bloodaxe to Saint Olaf, and King Canute to Leif the Lucky. It explains why the Danish king Harald Bluetooth lent his name to a twenty-first century wireless technology; which future saint laughed as she buried foreign ambassadors alive; why so many Icelandic settlers had Irish names; and how the last Viking colony was destroyed by English raiders.

Extending beyond the traditional ‘Viking age’ of most books, A Brief History of the Vikings places sudden Scandinavian population movement in a wider historical context. It presents a balanced appraisal of these infamous sea kings, explaining both their swift expansion and its supposed halt. Supposed because, ultimately, the Vikings didn’t disappear: they turned into us.
A Brief History of Venice

A Brief History of Venice

In this colourful new history of Venice, Elizabeth Horodowich, one of the leading experts on Venice, tells the story of the place from its ancient origins, and its early days as a multicultural trading city where Christians, Jews and Muslims lived together at the crossroads between East and West. She explores the often overlooked role of Venice, alongside Florence and Rome, as one of the principal Renaissance capitals.

Now, as the resident population falls and the number of tourists grows, as brash new advertisements disfigure the ancient buildings, she looks at the threat from the rising water level and the future of one of the great wonders of the world.
A Brief History of the Samurai

A Brief History of the Samurai

‘Clements has a knack for writing suspenseful sure-footed conflict scenes: His recounting of the Korean invasion led by samurai and daimyo Toyotomi Hideyoshi reads like a thriller. If you’re looking for a samurai primer, Clements’ guide will keep you on the hook’ Japan Times, reviewed as part of an Essential Reading for Japanophiles series

From a leading expert in Japanese history, this is one of the first full histories of the art and culture of the Samurai warrior. The Samurai emerged as a warrior caste in Medieval Japan and would have a powerful influence on the history and culture of the country from the next 500 years. Clements also looks at the Samurai wars that tore Japan apart in the 17th and 18th centuries and how the caste was finally demolished in the advent of the mechanized world.
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