History Picks for December

Our new history books this month have something to interest everyone: Norse exporers, lady spies, retro Sydney, what it was to live when Shakespeare was about, and more. Happy reading!

Syndetics book coverVikings / Neil Oliver.
“The Vikings famously took no prisoners, relished cruel retribution, and prided themselves on their bloody-thirsty skills as warriors. But their prowess in battle is only a small part of their story, which stretches from their Scandinavian origins to America in the west and as far as Baghdad in the east. As the Vikings did not write their history, we have to discover it for ourselves, and that discovery, as Neil Oliver reveals, tells an extraordinary story of a people who, from the brink of destruction, reached a quarter of the way around the globe and built an empire that lasted nearly two hundred years. Drawing on the latest discoveries that have only recently come to light, Neil Oliver goes on the trail of the real Vikings. Where did they emerge from? How did they really live? And just what drove them to embark on such extraordinary voyages of discovery over 1000 years ago? VIKINGS will explore many of these questions for the first time in an epic story of one of the world’s great empires of conquest.” (Fishpond)

Syndetics book coverChurchill’s angels : how Britain’s women secret agents changed the course of the Second World War / Bernard O’Connor.
“Over 70 female agents were sent out by Britain’s Special Operations Executive (SOE) during the Second World War. These women – as well as others from clandestine Allied organisations – were flown out and parachuted or landed into occupied Europe on vital and highly dangerous missions: their job was to work with resistance movements both before and after D-Day. Bernard O’Connor relates the experiences of these agents of by drawing on a range of sources, including many of the women’s accounts of their wartime service. There are stories of rigorous training, thrilling undercover operations evading capture by the Gestapo in Nazi-occupied France, tragic betrayals and extraordinary courage.” (Global Books In Print)

Syndetics book coverRetro Sydney / Ian Collis.
“Sydney in the 1950s and 1960s…This unique collection of vintage shots from amateur family photographers includes rare and never-before-seen material. It features timeless photographs of the stunning harbour and the creation of the Opera House, classic Royal Easter Show shots, the Queen’s visits and the pastimes the city loves – sport, recreation and fashion”–Back cover.

Syndetics book coverShakespeare’s restless world / Neil MacGregor.
“From Neil MacGregor, the acclaimed creator of A History of the World in 100 Objects and the Director of the British Museum, comes a unique, enthralling exploration of the age of William Shakespeare to accompany a new BBC Radio 4 series.Shakespeare lived through a pivotal period in human history. With the discovery of the New World, the horizons of Old Europe were expanding dramatically – and long-cherished certainties were crumbling. Life was exhilaratingly uncertain. What were Londoners thinking when they went to see Shakespeare’s plays? What was it like living in their world? Here Neil MacGregor looks at twenty objects from Shakespeare’s life and times, and uncovers the fascinating stories behind them. The objects themselves range from the grand (such as the hoard of gold coins that make up the Salcombe treasure) to the very humble, like the battered trunk and worn garments of an unknown pedlar. But in each case, they allow MacGregor to explore issues as diverse as piracy and Islam, Catholicism and disguise. MacGregor weaves the histories of objects into the words of Shakespeare’s plays themselves to suggest to us where his ideas about religion, national identity, the history of England and the world, human nature itself, may have come from. The result is a fresh and thrilling evocation of Shakespeare’s world.” (Global Books In Print)

Syndetics book coverThe revenge of history : the battle for the twenty-first century / Seumas Milne.
“From the outset, Seumas Milne’s Guardian essays on the West’s war on terror provoked angry denunciations on both sides of the Atlantic. A decade on, the advocates of violent capitalism have been silenced. From class to religion, Blair to Obama, Palestine to Pakistan, bank bailouts to the Arab uprisings, the rise of China to the wave of change in Latin America, Milne exposes the breakdown of the new world order – and draws out the prospects for the emerging politics of the future. In a media culture dominated by eager apologists, Milne has consistently written against the grain. This book offers a compelling perspective on the convulsions that have brought us to today’s crisis – and a powerful indictment of a global and corporate empire in decline.” (Fishpond)

Syndetics book coverA free man / Aman Sethi.
“Like Dave Eggers’s Zeitoun and Alexander Masters’s Stuart, this is a tour de force of narrative reportage. Mohammed Ashraf studied biology, became a butcher, a tailor, and an electrician’s apprentice; now he is a homeless day laborer in the heart of old Delhi. How did he end up this way? In an astonishing debut, Aman Sethi brings him and his indelible group of friends to life through their adventures and misfortunes in the Old Delhi Railway Station, the harrowing wards of a tuberculosis hospital, an illegal bar made of cardboard and plywood, and into Beggars Court and back onto the streets. In a time of global economic strain, this is an unforgettable evocation of persistence in the face of poverty in one of the world’s largest cities. Sethi recounts Ashraf’s surprising life story with wit, candor, and verve, and A Free Man becomes a moving story of the many ways a man can be free.” (Global Books In Print)