February History Picks

We hope you enjoy the selection of recent history books for February 2013. Countries featured are Australia, Great Britain and America. We also have the story of a man looking for his ancestors. Fascinating!

Syndetics book coverBatavia : betrayal, shipwreck, murder, sexual slavery, courage, a spine-chilling chapter in Australian history / Peter FitzSimons.
“Batavia is the greatest story in Australia’s history. The Shipwreck of the Batavia combines in just the one tale the birth of the world’s first corporation, the brutality of colonisation, the battle of good vs evil, the derring-do of sea-faring adventure, mutiny, ship-wreck, love, lust, blood-lust, petty fascist dictatorship, criminality, a reign of terror, murders most foul, sexual slavery, natural nobility, survival, retribution, rescue, first contact with native peoples and so much more. Described by author Peter FitzSimons as “a true Adults Only version of Lord of the Flies, meeting Nightmare on Elm Street,” the story is set in 1629, when the pride of the Dutch East India Company, the Batavia, is on its maiden voyage en route from Amsterdam to the Dutch East Indies, laden down with the greatest treasure to leave Holland…” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBritain’s empire : resistance, repression and revolt / Richard Gott.
“This revelatory new history punctures the still widely held belief that the British Empire was an enlightened and civilizing enterprise of great benefit to its subject peoples. Instead, Britain’s Empire reveals a history of systemic repression and almost continual violence, showing how British rule was imposed as a military operation and maintained as a military dictatorship. For colonized peoples, the experience was a horrific one-of slavery, famine, battle and extermination.
Yet, as Richard Gott illustrates, the empire’s oppressed peoples did not go gently into that good night. Wherever Britain tried to plant its flag, there was resistance. From Ireland to India, from the American colonies to Australia, Gott chronicles the backlash. He shows, too, how Britain provided a blueprint for the genocides of twentieth-century Europe, and argues that its past leaders must rank alongside the dictators of the twentieth century as the perpetrators of crimes against humanity on an infamous scale. In tracing this history of resistance, all but lost to modern memory, Richard Gott recovers these forgotten peoples and puts them where they deserve to be: at the heart of the story of Britain’s empire.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPrairie fever : British aristocrats in the American West, 1830-1890 / Peter Pagnamenta.
“From the 1830s onward, a succession of well-born Britons headed west to the great American wilderness to find adventure and fulfillment. They brought their dogs, sporting guns, valets, and all the attitudes and prejudices of their class. Prairie Fever explores why the West had such a strong romantic appeal for them at a time when their inherited wealth and passion for sport had no American equivalent.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTudor queenship : the reigns of Mary and Elizabeth / edited by Anna Whitelock and Alice Hunt.
“The essays in this volume contribute to a new understanding of the second half of the sixteenth century when England experienced the unprecedented rule of two successive queens regnant. Focusing on a diverse range of issues, from politics and personnel to ceremony and costume, and from a range of perspectives, Tudor Queenship demonstrates that thinking about both queens at the same time can be highly suggestive, and propels us to revise, develop and understand, and to contextualize, traditional interpretations. From what Elizabeth learnt from Mary, assessments of political acumen and the significance of confessional differences this is the first volume to focus on both Mary and Elizabeth, and to consider them as Renaissance monarchs a European stage.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe love-charm of bombs : restless lives in the Second World War / Lara Feigel.
“When the first bombs fell on London in August 1940, the city was transformed overnight into a strange kind of battlefield. For most Londoners, the sirens, guns, planes, and bombs brought sleepless nights, fear and loss. But for a group of writers, the war became an incomparably vivid source of inspiration, the blazing streets scenes of exhilaration in which fear could transmute into love. In this powerful chronicle of literary life under the Blitz, Lara Feigel vividly conjures the lives of five prominent writers: Elizabeth Bowen, Graham Greene, Rose Macaulay, Hilde Spiel and the novelist Henry Green. Starting with a sparklingly detailed recreation of a single night of September 1940, the narrative traces the tempestuous experiences of these five figures through five years in London and Ireland, followed by postwar Vienna and Berlin.
Volunteering to drive ambulances, patrol the streets and fight fires, the protagonists all exhibited a unified spirit of a nation under siege, but as individuals their emotions were more volatile. As the sky whistled and the ground shook, nerves were tested, loyalties examined and torrid affairs undertaken. Literary historian and journalist Feigel brilliantly and beautifully interweaves the letters, diaries, journalism and fiction of her writers with official records to chart the history of a burning world, experienced through the eyes of extraordinary individuals.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverReunion : a search for ancestors / [Ryan Littrell].
“Where do I come from? That question sets Ryan Littrell on a fascinating journey that crosses centuries. An anonymous letter reveals the first clues about his family story, and soon those clues lead to country graveyards, long-lost cousins, and a shocking DNA discovery. And as one hint follows the next, he uncovers his place in a tragic struggle–a tale of heartbreak, betrayal, and unfailing strength. A real-life account, Reunion shows how our ancestors are still a part of us, and how our story began long before we were even born”. (Syndetics summary)