The Fight for Change – Recent History picks for April

Compare the slow decay of Shekhawati’s abandoned mansions, with the continuing turbulent change of the Arab Spring in Jack Shenker’s The Egyptians, or the global waves explained in 1956: The World in Revolt, The New Deal and Jurgen Kocka’s Capitalism, of which the ramifications have irreversibly altered life for us all.

Syndetics book coverThe cowshed : memories of the Chinese Cultural Revolution / Ji Xianlin ; translated from the Chinese by Chenxin Jiang.
“The Chinese Cultural Revolution began in 1966 and led to a ten-year-long reign of Maoist terror throughout China, in which millions died or were sent to labor camps in the country or subjected to other forms of extreme discipline and humiliation. Ji Xianlin was one of them. The Cowshed is Ji’s harrowing account of his imprisonment in 1968 on the campus of Peking University and his subsequent disillusionment with the cult of Mao.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe morning they came for us : dispatches from Syria / Janine di Giovanni.
“In May of 2012, Janine di Giovanni travelled to Syria, marking the beginning of a long relationship with the country, as she began reporting from both sides of the conflict, witnessing its descent into one of the most brutal, internecine conflicts in recent history. The Morning They Came for Us is an unflinching account of a nation on the brink of disintegration, charting an apocalyptic but at times tender story of life in a jihadist war – and an unforgettable testament to human resilience in the face of devastating, unimaginable horrors.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAbandoned India : the mansions of Shekhawati / photographs by Kip Scott ; foreword by Lal Singh Shekhawat.
“A rare and evocative photographic portrait of India, and specifically Shekhawati’s ‘abandoned’ mansions, and its desert towns. This exquisitely produced book features a selection of Scott’s work made throughout the region of Shekhawati in Rajasthan, India. Here we glimpse courtyards, living spaces, frescoes, vast interiors, both lovingly restored and bordering on ruin. Scott’s images capture the complex nature of change, of sublime beauty and decay, mirroring an India that will seduce the reader.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Egyptians : a radical story / Jack Shenker.
“From award-winning journalist Jack Shenker, The Egyptians is the essential book about Egypt and radical politics In early 2011, Cairo’s Tahrir Square briefly commanded the attention of the world. Half a decade later, the international media has largely moved on from Egypt’s explosive cycles of revolution and counter-revolution – but the Arab World’s most populous nation remains as volatile as ever, its turmoil intimately bound up with forms of authoritarian power and grassroots resistance that stretch right across the globe.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe London County Council bomb damage maps, 1939-1945 / Laurence Ward.
“The aerial bombardment of London during the Second World War is one of the most significant events in the city’s modern history. Between 1939 and 1945, London and its environs experienced destruction on a huge and deadly scale, with air raids and rocket attacks reducing entire buildings and streets to rubble. This landmark publication represents an invaluable graphic representation of one of the most dramatic and affecting episodes in the history of London.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Age of Genius : the seventeenth century and the birth of the modern mind / A.C. Grayling.
The Age of Genius explores the eventful intertwining of outward event and inner intellectual life to tell, in all its richness and depth, the story of the 17th century in Europe. It was a time of creativity unparalleled in history before or since, from science to the arts, from philosophy to politics. […] a fundamentally new way of perceiving the world emerged as reason rose to prominence over tradition, and the rights of the individual took center stage in philosophy and politics, a paradigmatic shift that would define Western thought for centuries to come.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCapitalism : a short history / Jürgen Kocka ; translated by Jeremiah Riemer.
“In this book, one of the world’s most renowned historians provides a concise and comprehensive history of capitalism within a global perspective from its medieval origins to the 2008 financial crisis and beyond. From early commercial capitalism in the Arab world, China, and Europe, to nineteenth- and twentieth-century industrialization, to today’s globalized financial capitalism, Jürgen Kocka offers an unmatched account of capitalism, one that weighs its great achievements against its great costs, crises, and failures.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe New Deal : a global history / Kiran Klaus Patel.
“By avoiding the distortions of American exceptionalism, Kiran Klaus Patel shows how America’s reaction to the Great Depression connected it to the wider world. Ultimately, Patel argues, the New Deal provided the institutional scaffolding for the construction of American global hegemony in the postwar era, making this history essential for understanding both the New Deal and America’s rise to global leadership.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverUntil we are free : my fight for human rights in Iran / Shirin Ebadi.
“Dr Shirin Ebadi, Iranian human rights lawyer and activist, tells of her fight for reform inside Iran, and the devastating backlash she faced after winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Having fought tirelessly for democracy, equality before the law and freedom of speech, Ebadi became a global voice of inspiration. Yet, inside her own country, her life has been plagued by surveillance, intimidation and violence. An illuminating depiction of life in Iran today as well as the account of Ebadi’s personal struggle to uphold her work and keep her family together.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book cover1956, the world in revolt / Simon Hall.
“1956 was one of the most remarkable years of the twentieth century. All across the globe, ordinary people spoke out, filled the streets and city squares, and took up arms in an attempt to win their freedom. In response to these unprecedented challenges to their authority, those in power fought back, in a desperate bid to shore up their position. It was an epic contest, and one which made 1956 – like 1789 and 1848 – a year that changed our world.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)