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A Brief History of the Boxer Rebellion

A Brief History of the Boxer Rebellion

Fuelled by hatred of foreigners and all they stood for, the ferocious uprising of Chinese peasants and ensuing siege of Peking in the summer of 1900 sent shockwaves around the world. Diana Preston brings thundering to life this 55-day conflict between the ‘Boxers’, so-called for their martial-arts skills, and the Westerners – such as the young Herbert Hoover – they terrorized.
A Brief History of the Birth of the Nazis

A Brief History of the Birth of the Nazis

The birth pangs of Nazism grew out of the death agony of the Kaiser’s Germany. Defeat in World War I and a narrow escape from Communist revolution brought not peace but five chaotic years (1918-1923) of civil war, assassination, plots, putsches and murderous mayhem to Germany. The savage world of the trenches came home with the men who refused to admit defeat and ‘who could not get the war out of their system’. It was an atmosphere in which civilised values withered, and violent extremism flourished.

In this chronicle of the paramilitary Freikorps – the freebooting armies that crushed the Red revolution, then themselves attempted to take over by armed force – historian and biographer Nigel Jones draws on little-known archives in Germany and Britain to paint a portrait of a state torn between revolution and counter revolution. Astonishingly, this is the first in-depth study of the Freikorps to appear in English for 50 years. Yet the figures who flit through its shadowy world – men like Röhm, Goering and Hitler himself – were to become frighteningly familiar just ten years after the turmoil that gave Nazism its fatal chance.
A Brief History of the Battle of Agincourt

A Brief History of the Battle of Agincourt

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.
A Brief History of the Anglo-Saxons

A Brief History of the Anglo-Saxons

Starting AD 400 (around the time of their invasion of England) and running through to the 1100s (the ‘Aftermath’), historian Geoffrey Hindley shows the Anglo-Saxons as formative in the history not only of England but also of Europe.


The society inspired by the warrior world of the Old English poem Beowulf saw England become the world’s first nation state and Europe’s first country to conduct affairs in its own language, and Bede and Boniface of Wessex establish the dating convention we still use today. Including all the latest research, this is a fascinating assessment of a vital historical period.

A Brief History of the Amazons

A Brief History of the Amazons

‘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.
A Brief History of the Age of Steam

A Brief History of the Age of Steam

In 1710 an obscure Devon ironmonger Thomas Newcomen invented a machine with a pump driven by coal, used to extract water from mines. Over the next two hundred years the steam engine would be at the heart of the industrial revolution that changed the fortunes of nations.

Passionately written and insightful, A Brief History of the Age of Steam reveals not just the lives of the great
inventors such as Watts, Stephenson and Brunel, but also tells a narrative that reaches from the US to the expansion of China, India and South America. Crump shows how the steam engine changed the world.
A Brief History of Walt Disney

A Brief History of Walt Disney

Both a fascinating account of Walt Disney’s own significant artistic creations, from the iconic Mickey Mouse to the groundbreaking Snow White in 1937, and an insightful history of the hugely successful entertainment behemoth he created, from Dumbo to Pixar’s Toy Story, as well as the hugely popular theme parks. But Disney’s dark side is also explored: his disputed parentage; industrial disputes; his work for the FBI; and his anti-Communist and allegedly racist and antisemitic views.

The company Disney built is today stronger than ever, encompassing not only the ongoing legacy of Disney animation, but also acting as the guardian of other well-loved creative endeavours, such as Pixar, The Muppets, Marvel Comics and now Star Wars.

Sections include ‘Before Mickey: The Road to the Mouse House’, covering from 1901 to 1945 – the creation of Mickey Mouse, the creation of the world’s first full-length animated feature film, the Golden Age of animation and Disney’s help for the American war effort, despite labour disputes; ‘Disney Studios: The Disney Genius’ – difficult times, theme parks and television, live-action movies, including Mary Poppins; ‘Animation’s Second Coming’, from the Lady and the Tramp to The Sword in the Stone, and Walt Disney’s death; ‘After Walt: The Disney Legacy’ – family attempts to keep the studio afloat, decline and the loss of lustre in the 1970s and 1980s; ‘Disney Resurgent’ – a triumphant rebirth under new management with Who Framed Roger Rabbit? The Lion King and other blockbuster hits; ‘From Eisner to Iger’ – the corporate battle for the soul of Disney; ‘Disney Goes Digital’ – from Pixar to Star Wars, via Marvel Comics and The Muppets, Disney buyy up other studios, themselves often enough inspired by the original.
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 Third Reich

A Brief History of The Third Reich

The abuse of power, genocide, the destruction of total war, unimaginable cruelty and the suffering of millions were all central features of Hitler’s Nazi regime. Yet the Nazis were also highly successful in manipulating images and information: they mobilized and engaged vast numbers of people, caught the imagination of the young and appeared remarkably modern to many contemporary observers.

Was the Third Reich a throwback to a mythical past or a brutally modern and technologically advanced state? Was Hitler a strong dictator who achieved his clear goals, or was his chaotic style of government symptomatic of a weak dictator, unable to control the complex and contradictory forces that he had unleashed? Was the Third Reich ruled by terror, or largely supported by a compliant German population? Was the genocide against the Jews a peculiarly German phenomenon, or a uniquely German expression of a terrible wider trend?

Whittock explores these and other key questions, interrogating the views of different historians and drawing on a wealth of primary sources – from state-sponsored art to diaries, letters and memoirs of both perpetrators and victims – to provide an overview of the complex evidence. History should aim to put us firmly in touch with the lives of people living in the past and the issues they faced. Whittock never loses sight of the individuals whose lives were caught up in these extraordinary events, while also giving a lucid overview of the bigger picture.
A Brief History of Tea

A Brief History of Tea

‘Absorbing and sometimes shocking’ – Literary Review
‘A masterful historical study’ – The Good Book Guide

Behind the wholesome image of the world’s most popular drink lies a strangely murky and often violent past. From its first discovery to the present day, this is an extraordinary story of a great world obsession.

When tea began to be imported into the West from China in the seventeenth century, its high price and heavy taxes made it an immediate target for smuggling and dispute at every level, culminating in international incidents like the notorious Boston Tea Party.

In China itself the British financed their tea dealings by the ruthless imposition of the opium trade. Intrepid British tea planters soon began flocking to India, Ceylon and Africa, setting up huge plantations; often workers were bought and sold like slaves.

Roy Moxham’s account of this extraordinary history begins with his own sojourn in Africa, managing 500 acres of tea and a thousand-strong workforce. His experiences inform the book and led him to investigate the early history of tea – and the results of his researches reflect little credit on the British Empire, while often revealing a fascinating world story.
A Brief History of Superheroes

A Brief History of Superheroes

A fascinating written exploration of the superhero phenomenon, from its beginnings in the depths of Great Depression to the blockbuster movies of today.

For over 90 years, superheroes have been interrogated, deconstructed, and reinvented. In this wide-ranging study, Robb looks at the diverse characters, their creators, and the ways in which their creations have been reinvented for successive generations. Inevitably, the focus is on the United States, but the context is international, including an examination of characters developed in India and Japan in reaction to the traditional American hero.

Sections examine: the birth of the superhero, including Superman, in 1938; the DC family (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and The Justice Society/League of America), from the 1940s to the 1960s; the superheroes enlistment in the war effort in the 1940s and 50s; their neutering by the Comics Code; the challenge to DC from the Marvel family (The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and The X-Men), from the 1960s to the 1980s; the superhero as complex anti-hero; superheroes deconstructed in the 1980s (The Watchmen and Frank Miller’s Batman), and their politicization; independent comic book creators and new publishers in the 1980s and 90s; superheroes in retreat, and their rebirth at the movies in blockbusters from Batman to Spider-Man and The Avengers.
A Brief History of Stonehenge

A Brief History of Stonehenge

A concise history of the world’s greatest stone circle, Stonehenge, by Britain’s leading expert.

Every aspect of Stonehenge is re-considered in Aubrey Burl’s new analysis. He explains for the first time how the outlying Heel Stone long predates Stonehenge itself, serving as a trackway marker in the prehistoric Harroway. He uncovers new evidence that the Welsh bluestones were brought to Stonehenge by glaciation rather than by man. And he reveals just how far the design of Stonehenge was influenced by Breton styles and by Breton cults of the dead.


Meticulously research sets the record straight on the matter of Stonehenge’s astronomical alignments. Although the existence of a sightline to the midsummer sunrise is well known, the alignment and the viewing-position are different from popular belief. And the existence of an earlier alignment to the moon and a later one to the midwinter sunset has been largely unrealised.


One puzzle remains. The site of Stonehenge lies at the heart of a vast six-mile wide graveyard, but before it was built there appears to have been a mysterious gap two miles across on that site. Burl argues that earlier totem-pole style constructions served a ceremonial purpose for the living — to celebrate success in the hunt.
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