November History Recent Picks

Check out some of our new history books, including with a behind the scenes look at some of Te Papa’s historical treasures, all things 1920s, the Golden Age of Baghdad, Antarctica, and more!

Syndetics book cover100 amazing tales from Aotearoa / [Museum of New Zealand Te Papa].
“Te Papa stores more than 2 million pieces in trust for the nation. New Zealand through 100 Objects takes readers on a tour behind the scenes of the museum to discover more about 100 of these treasured items. Readers will learn the secrets of the first dinosaur fossil ever discovered, see new and unique spider species, be inspired by famous paintings and quirky jewellery, encounter fearsome weapons and armour from the Pacific and uncover the deep and personal stories of Maori taonga. Based on ‘Tales from Te Papa’, the fascinating series of mini documentaries from TVNZ, this book includes a DVD of the complete series, with a bonus 20 episodes.” (Global Books in Print)

Syndetics book coverBright young things : life in the roaring twenties / Alison Maloney ; bespoke illustrations by Katie May.
“For lovers of the glamour and scandal of the roaring twenties and the millions of fans eagerly anticipating the return of Downton Abbey (the third season opens in the twenties), an illustrated lifestyle guide to the fashion, the parties, the notrious personalities, and all the glittering trappings from the unforgettable era of the flapper.  Bright Young Things is a perfect guide to the roaring twenties–hot jazz and hotter all-night dance halls, high society’s scandalous exploits, fresh new fashions, Prohibition cocktails, costume parties, and of course, the notorious flapper. Decorated throughout with art deco illustrations and packaged in a beautiful foil-stamped case, this book looks stunning resting on a coffee table and makes a fabulous gift.” (Global Books in Print)

Syndetics book coverThe caliph’s splendor : Islam and the West in the golden age of Baghdad / Benson Bobrick.
“This fascinating, little-known story reveals how Islam influenced Western medicine, science, and philosophy during the “Dark Age” of the West at the time of Harun al-Rashid, the caliph in whose realm The Thousand and One Nights was set. The Caliph’s Splendor is a revealing story of the interaction among the Islamic-conquered lands from Spain to central Asia, the Frankish Kingdom (and emerging Holy Roman Empire) of Charlemagne, and the Byzantine Empire in the eighth and ninth centuries. The central figure in the book is Harun al-Rashid, the caliph of The Thousand and One Nights, whose court in Baghdad was the most splendid in the worldfar surpassing those of Charlemagne, the pope, and the emperor in Constantinople. At the same time that Christianity was preserving classical civilization, Harun’s scholars and physicians were advancing civilization in Baghdad and beyond. Under his guidance, the Arab influence spread throughout the Mediterranean. But there was also frequent warfare, especially between the caliphate and the neighboring Byzantines, as each side sought dominance at the expense of the other. Author Benson Bobrick brilliantly fills a gap in our knowledge of history, pulling back the curtain on an Islamic culture at its apex and revealing the ambitions and power of one of its most dynamic rulers. “A rich portrait of a key era” (Library Journal) and a book that “achieves a rare blend of storytelling gusto and intellectual depth” (Colin Wells, author of Sailing from Byzantium), The Caliph’s Splendor dramatically recalls this nearly forgotten period in history when Islamic civilization flourished, frequently benefitting people throughout the Mediterranean and beyond.” (Global Books in Print)

Syndetics book coverThe watchers : a secret history of the reign of Elizabeth I / Stephen Alford.
“Elizabeth I was a ruler who radiated a sense of power and purpose. Her long and successful reign was a Golden Age of wealth, confidence, creativity, Shakespeare’s plays and Walter Raleigh’s adventures: the apotheosis of the Tudor dynasty. Across much of Europe, however, Elizabeth was viewed very differently. She was ‘Jezebel’, the bastard offspring of Henry VIII’s illegal second marriage, a woman and a Protestant heretic. The pope denounced her as a heretic schismatic tyrant and the most powerful rulers of Europe conspired to destroy her, their plans most fully realized by the Spanish Armada. If Elizabeth’s reign was a golden age, then it was also a precarious one that required constant, anxious surveillance against sometimes overwhelming threats. The Watchers is a beautifully written, gripping account of the unflagging battle by spies, codebreakers, ambassadors and confidence-men to protect the queen. It was a reign that required endless watchfulness – of the coasts, of the Catholic seminaries, of Elizabeth’s own subjects. The stakes could not have been higher: priests coming secretly ashore were hunted down and executed, and assassination plots, real and imagined, sprung up everywhere. Drawing on extraordinary secret files, Stephen Alford brings to life this shadow world, where nobody could be trusted and where a single mistake could have changed England’s history drastically. This is a dark, surprising and utterly compelling account of an extraordinary reign.” (Global Books In Print)

Syndetics book cover1912 : the year the world discovered Antarctica / Chris Turney.
“The South Pole discovered trumpeted the front page of The Daily Chronicle on March 8, 1912, marking Roald Amundsens triumph over the tragic Robert Scott. Yet behind all the headlines there was a much bigger story. Antarctica was awash with expeditions. In 1912, five separate teams representing the old and new world were diligently embarking on scientific exploration beyond the edge of the known planet. Their discoveries not only enthralled the world, but changed our understanding of the planet forever. Tales of endurance, self-sacrifice, and technological innovation laid the foundations for modern scientific exploration, and inspired future generations. To celebrate the centenary of this groundbreaking work, 1912: The Year the World Discovered Antarctica revisits the exploits of these different expeditions. Looking beyond the personalities and drawing on his own polar experience, Chris Turney shows how their discoveries marked the dawn of a new age in our understanding of the natural world. He makes use of original and exclusive unpublished archival material and weaves in the latest scientific findings to show how we might reawaken the publics passion for discovery and exploration” (Global Book in Print)

Syndetics book coverThe secret history of our streets : London : a social history through the houses and streets we live in / Joesph Bullman, Neil Hegarty & Brian Hill.
“The Secret History of Our Streets explores one of the great forces shaping our lives: property. Why we live where we live, and how that choice informs the lives we lead.  In a modern version of a classic survey from the 19th century, this remarkable book tells the story of six London streets, representing the widest possible picture of the city both socially and geographically. Each has a fascinating story of its own. Together, their stories reveal the big underlying forces that have shaped Britain for the last 120 years: gentrification, migration, slum clearance, property speculation and the urban sprawl.  The six streets and larger themes they address are Deptford High Street – the mania for re-development, slum clearances; Portland Road – gentrification and ‘super-gentrification’ (the rich being pushed out by the super-rich); Reverdy Road – the white working class, the Blitz and redevelopment; Caledonian Road – ownership and landlords, the prison; Arnold Circus – public housing; Camberwell Grove – the disappearance of rural idyll, the rise of the suburbs.” (Global Books in Print)

Syndetics book coverBlood sisters : the hidden lives of the women behind the Wars of the Roses / Sarah Gristwood.
“From best-selling historian, Sarah Gristwood comes the true story behind Philippa Gregory’s recent novels – the women who gave birth to the Tudor dynasty. It is a fiery history of Queens, the perils of power and of how the Wars of the Roses were ended – not by knights in battle, but the political and dynastic skills of women. The events of the Wars of the Roses are usually described in terms of the men involved; Richard, Duke of York, Henry VI, Edward IV and Henry VII. The reality though, argues Sarah Gristwood, was quite different. These years were also packed with women’s drama and – in the tales of conflicted maternity and monstrous births – alive with female energy. In this completely original book, acclaimed author Sarah Gristwood sheds light on a neglected dimension of English history: the impact of Tudor women on the Wars of the Roses. She examines Cecily Neville, the wife of Richard Duke of York, who was deprived of being queen when her husband died at the Battle of Wakefield; Elizabeth Woodville, a widow with several children who married Edward IV in secret and was crowned queen consort; Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII, whose ambitions centred on her son and whose persuasions are likely to have lead her husband Lord Stanley, previously allied with the Yorkists, to play his part in Henry’s victory. Until now, the lives of these women have remained little known to the general public. Sarah Gristwood tells their stories in detail for the first time. Captivating and original, this is historical writing of the most important kind.” (Global Books in Print)