History Picks for January

Another mixed bag of history picks this month: Pineaha Murray, Rasputin, JFK and more. Enjoy!

Syndetics book coverA seat at the table of my elders / Pineaha Murray.
“Pineaha Murray is an elder of Ngāti Kurī of the Far North and in this personal account he tells of his ancient forebears’ place in the northern tip of NZ – the Three Kings, Tom Bowling Bay and Parengarenga Harbour. Memories, history, myths and legends unfold and provide a rich personal story and a social history of northern communities”–Publisher information.

Syndetics book coverRasputin : the untold story / Joseph T. Fuhrmann.
“Using material from newly opened Soviet archives, particularly the correspondence of Czar Nicholas II and his wife, Alexandra, Fuhrmann, an emeritus professor of history at Murray State University in Kentucky, extends the range of his Rasputin: A Life (1990). He shows how an obscure Russian Orthodox monk became a close adviser to the czar and czarina, particularly after he predicted the recovery of their son, Alexis, from a possibly fatal illness in 1909. Alexandra turned to him for advice on Russia’s WWI military campaign, and he influenced the appointment of high officials. This outsize influence, and rumors that Rasputin was pro-German, impelled a cabal of members of the nobility to assassinate him in December 1916. Fuhrman provides graphic details of the murder and weighs the evidence that the British Secret Intelligence Service participated in the plot. Fuhrmann draws a complex portrait of a dissolute alcoholic figure who allegedly raped at least one woman, yet he was seen by his many followers as a starets (charismatic holy man). Fuhrmann does not provide a final appraisal of Rasputin’s significance in the immediate prerevolution period. Still, this vivid, briskly written biography brings to life one of the most colorful and sinister figures in modern Russian history. Illus. Agent: Andrew Lownie, Andrew Lownie Literary Agency. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved” (Publisher Weekly)

Syndetics book coverWebs of empire : locating New Zealand’s colonial past / Tony Ballantyne.
“Positions New Zealand within these ‘webs of empire’, connecting Gore and Chicago, Māori and Asia, India and newspapers, whalers and writing. His work breaks open the narrative of colonisation to offer sharp new perspectives on New Zealand history”–Back cover.

Syndetics book coverListening in : the secret White House recordings of John F. Kennedy / John F. Kennedy Library Foundation ; selected and introduced by Ted Widmer ; foreword by Caroline Kennedy.
“Everyone knows Nixon had tape recorders running in the Oval Office, but most Americans aren’t aware that FDR, Truman, and Eisenhower experimented with audio recording and that JFK installed taping systems in 1962 that he could activate to record significant meetings and phone conversations and, occasionally, his own reflections. All 265.5 hours of those tapes (with redactions, however) are now available at the Kennedy Presidential Library. This volume, accompanied by two CDs, gathers several dozen of the most interesting conversations. In addition to obvious subjects Cuba, civil rights, space, and Vietnam the collection also includes many remarks on history, politics, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and other foreign-policy developments. Because the tapes’ quality varies, some transcripts include too many skips and unclears to convey much meaning. Quite helpful, on the other hand, are the book’s illustrations, which range from photographs to contemporaneous documents and handwritten notes. Despite its limitations, Listening In lives up to Widmer’s descriptions, a portrait of a president being president, and the closest to an autobiography we will ever get.–Carroll, Mary Copyright 2010 BooklistFrom Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.” (Booklist)

Syndetics book coverFormer people : the final days of the Russian aristocracy / Douglas Smith.
“The wide discrepancy between the Russian peasant class (who made up 80 percent of Russia’s 19th-century population) and the nobility helped precipitate the Russian Revolution and the subsequent methodical elimination of the educated aristocratic class. Independent historian Smith (The Pearl: A True Tale of Forbidden Love in Catherine the Great’s Russia) has meticulously researched the revolutionary and Soviet eras, focusing on two noble families: the Sheremetevs and the Golitsyns. Using archival resources and both primary and secondary works, Smith gives us what he calls the first work to detail the nobles’ everyday lives, as well as the consequences to the country of their elimination. By focusing on these two families, Smith brings to life another aspect of Russian and Soviet history in the first half of the 20th century. The profiled families embody what many of the Russian nobles endured, and their choices attest to the resiliency of the human spirit. VERDICT This work will be enjoyed by Russophiles and historians of the tsarist era, as well as those studying this period of Soviet history. Those who enjoy studying the Romanovs will appreciate learning more about the Russian aristocracy as a whole. As such, an important addition to Russian history collections.-Maria C. Bagshaw, Elgin Comm. Coll. Lib., IL (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.” (Library Journal)

Syndetics book coverYou saved me, too : what a Holocaust survivor taught me about living, dying, fighting, loving, and swearing in Yiddish / Susan Kushner Resnick.
“In well-executed, second-person prose, Resnick speaks directly to the elderly Aron Lieb-a virtually family-less Holocaust survivor whom she befriends-as he lies on his deathbed in a nursing home. Short vignettes skip back and forth through time, covering the history of their relationship: Resnick’s struggle with Jewish identity (“I figured as long as I stayed ambivalent about being Jewish, I might not get killed by the Nazis the next time they came”) and Aron’s own history before, during, and after the war. The writing is sentimental and emotional (culminating in “Who saved whom?”) as much as it is honest and informative; in telling Aron’s story, Resnick unapologetically criticizes both the incompetence of elder-care facilities as well as the failure of Jewish communal organizations to help a person who, after a life of hardship, deserves a break. This painful memoir is not easy to read: Resnick displays her artistic skill as she attempts to make sense of Aron’s life in light of her own (“I own the book of your life, but I can’t read it”). The telling of Aron’s story, a true labor of love, is a reminder of both the individuality of each survivor and the reality that their generation is dying and must be remembered. Agent: Alice Martell, Martell Agency. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved” (Publisher Weekly)

Monday 21st January 2013 is Wellington Anniversary Day – but what exactly is this?

Monday 21st January is Wellington Anniversary Day, and there is more to it than just a day off for us Wellingtonians!

If you’re interested in reading or seeing more, come check out our Early Wellington display of books and images on the 2nd floor of the Central Library.

So, what is Wellington Anniversary Day?

Postcard: Wellington Harbour, 1905

  • An anniversary day commemorates the founding of a province or an early settlement event.
  • The first New Zealand Company immigrant ship, the Aurora, arrived 22nd January 1840.
  • The first settlement celebration was held on 22nd January 1841.
  • Wellington Anniversary Day is the Monday that falls closest to the 22nd of January.

Read about the very first Wellington Anniversary celebrations:

Names for Wellington:

Postcard: Petone Esplanade, ca. 1910

  • Te Upoko o te Ika a Māui – The head of Māui’s fish.
  • Te Whanganui a Tara – The great harbour of Tara.
  • The first European settlement, Britannia, was where Petone is now situated.
  • Popular choice for a new name was Durham. In England, Durham’s name comes from the Old English “dun”=hill and the Old Norse “holme”=island.
  • Finally in 1840 the name Wellington was chosen to honour the Duke of Wellington, who was a strong supporter of the New Zealand Company.

Wellington Heritage Trails:

(PDFs of some of these are available on the Wellington City Council website)Postcard: Worser Bay, ca. 1910

Books of interest:Postcard: Oriental Bay, ca. 1905

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!!!

Hanukkah | Festivus | Christmas | New Year

Hanukkah – Saturday 8th December – Sunday 16th December

microsoft clip artHanukkah/Chanukah/Chanukkah/Chanuka/Chanukah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day Jewish holiday.

Want to know more:

Festivus – Sunday 23rd December

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  • Festivus is a secular holiday seen on Seinfeld.
  • The name “Festivus” has now begun to be used as a general term for any type of December party not related to religious holidays. It has been referred to as “Festivus for the rest of us,” and described as “another way” to celebrate the holiday season without participating in pressure and commercialism.
  • To celebrate one puts out an unadorned aluminum “Festivus pole,” and takes part in the “Airing of Grievances” (consists of lashing out at others and the world about how one has been disappointed in the past year), “Feats of Strength” (a wrestling match and tradition states that Festivus is not over until the head of the household is pinned), and “Festivus Miracles.” (the labelling of easily explainable events as miracles).
  • For more information: festivusbook.com and festivusweb.com

Christmas – Tuesday 25th December

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  • Explore Christmas and find interesting facts, stories and recipes on Wellington City Libraries’ Kids Catalog Web.

Other useful links in our collection to help you celebrate:

New Years Eve – Monday 31st December

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For fabulous food and beverage ideas:

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)

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)

Happy Halloween

Jack O Lanterns

Have some Halloween fun, and celebrate Wednesday 31st October, with help from Wellington City Libraries!

Halloween Ideas:

Halloween Costumes:

Halloween Decorations:

Halloween Food:

Halloween Music:

DVDs for the kids:

DVDs for the big kids:

History Picks for October

We have some great new history books this month: 150-year-old letters by a young German settler give exciting look at Wellington’s past; the “sexy” lives of the Tudors; American Empire looks at the United States in the last half of the 20th century; and more. Enjoy!

Syndetics book coverAn indescribable beauty : letters home to Germany from Wellington, New Zealand, 1859 & 1862 / Friedrich August Krull.
“The translated letters of Friedrich Krull from Wellington back home to Germany in 1859, at the behest of German naturalist and historian Ernst Boll. Krull details people, landscapes and birds of early Wellington, Wairarapa, Kapiti and surrounds. Included are reports on meetings with Te Rauparaha’s son and nephew as well as other prominent Māori leaders. The book is illustrated with paintings and photographs from the time”–Publisher information.

Syndetics book coverIn bed with the Tudors : the sex lives of a dynasty from Elizabeth of York to Elizabeth I / Amy Licence.
“Illegitimate children, adulterous queens, impotent kings, and a whole dynasty resting on their shoulders. Sex and childbirth were quite literally a matter of life or death for the Tudors – Elizabeth of York died in childbirth, two of Henry VIII’s queens were beheaded for infidelity, and Elizabeth I’s elective virginity signalled the demise of a dynasty. Amy Licence guides the reader through the births of Elizabeth of York’s two sons, Arthur and Henry, Catherine of Aragon’s subsequent marriages to both of these men, Henry VIII’s other five wives and his mistresses, and the sex lives of his daughters. This book details the experiences of all these women, from fertility, conception and pregnancy through to the delivery chamber, on to maternal and infant mortality. Each woman’s story is a blend of specific personal circumstances, set against their historical moment. For some the joys were brief, for others it was a question that ultimately determined their fates”–Cover.

Syndetics book coverBombers and mash : the domestic front, 1939-45 / Raynes Minns.
Women of Britain, your country needs you! Bombers and Mash tells the story of the Second World War on the domestic front. It takes us from the kitchen to the nursery showing how women managed without almost everything from potato peelers, cosmetics and prams to food, fuel, transport – and men. These women coped with rationing, evacuation, separation from families, long hours of work in factories, hospitals and on the land. Through it all they kept the nation fed on ingeniously nutritious and economical meals – hundreds of the best, and some of the worst, are included here. In print for over thirty years, Bombers and Mash is moving, fascinating and full of posters and images from the Second World War. It is both an illustrated social history and a cookery book offering a remarkable picture of the deprivation and drama of the womens war. (Global Books In Print)

Syndetics book coverThe Queen’s agent : Francis Walsingham at the Court of Elizabeth I / John Cooper.
Elizabeth I came to the throne at a time of insecurity and unrest. Rivals threatened her reign; England was a Protestant island, isolated in a sea of Catholic countries. Spain plotted an invasion, but Elizabeth’s Secretary, Francis Walsingham, was prepared to do whatever it took to protect her. He ran a network of agents in England and Europe who provided him with information about invasions or assassination plots. He recruited likely young men and ‘turned’ others. He encouraged Elizabeth to make war against the Catholic Irish rebels, with extreme brutality and oversaw the execution of Mary Queen of Scots.The Queen’s Agent is a story of secret agents, cryptic codes and ingenious plots, set in a turbulent period of England’s history. It is also the story of a man devoted to his queen, sacrificing his every waking hour to save the threatened English state. (Global Books In Print)

Syndetics book coverThe road not taken : how Britain narrowly missed a revolution / Frank McLynn.
Britain has not been successfully invaded since 1066; nor, in nearly 1,000 years, has it known a true revolution – one that brings radical, systemic and enduring change. The contrast with her European neighbours – with France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece and Russia – is dramatic. All have been convulsed by external warfare, revolution and civil war – all have experienced fundamental change to their ruling elites or their social and economic structures. In “The Road Not Taken” Frank McLynn investigates the seven occasions when England came closest to revolution: the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, the Jack Cade rising of 1450, the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536, the English Civil War of the 1640s, the Jacobite Rising of 1745-6, the Chartist Movement of 1838-48 and the General Strike of 1926. (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAmerican empire : the rise of a global power, the democratic revolution at home, 1945-2000 / Joshua B. Freeman.
“Queens College and CUNY Graduate Center history professor Freeman examines a postwar dominant America, and it couldn’t come at a better moment, when its citizens are rethinking its global influence. Covering the glory years of 1945-2000, Freeman is at his best when he turns his critical eye on America’s turbulent internal affairs, delving into Truman’s contested Fair Deal reforms, the McCarthy communist witch-hunts, Eisenhower’s cautious civil rights record, LBJ’s ambitious Great Society programs, Nixon’s Watergate disgrace, the return of “corporate capitalism” and Reagan conservatism. Freeman deals with the Clinton administration’s economic policies, which, he says, gave many Americans a higher standard of living, and global conflicts, followed by the Republican victory in 2000. Though at its peak, America’s power exceeded that of the Roman and British empires in cultural, economic, military, and political terms, the nation’s postwar dreams were never completely fulfilled, says Freeman. “And the 21st century’s “prolonged warfare, fearfulness, and economic troubles… owe more than a little to decisions made in the earlier epoch.” Freeman’s epic survey provides a fuller understanding of America’s postwar achievements and challenges, without the bias, drama, or despair of other books on these important issues. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved” (Publisher Weekly)

History Picks for September

There’s something for everyone this September. We have a right mash-up of history picks this month: the mystery of the WWII kissing sailor, Kiwi convicts, Queen Victoria, Mexico, the Arctic, and more. Have a browse!

Syndetics book coverThe kissing sailor : the mystery behind the photo that ended World War II / Lawrence Verria & George Galdorisi ; foreword by David Hartman.
“It’s an iconic image, a sailor kissing a nurse in New York City’s Times Square. Photographed on August 14, 1945, by legendary photojournalist Alfred Eisenstaedt and published in Life, it captures a historic moment, the end of WWII. It’s a safe bet that most of the book’s potential readers have seen the photograph, but who are the people in it? That’s the mystery Verria and Galdorisi attempt to solve in this fascinating piece of detective work. Over the years, there have been numerous theories, and numerous people have come forward saying they are the sailor or the nurse. Verria and Galdorisi offer what they hope is undeniable proof of the unnamed couple’s true identities. They make a persuasive case, assessing the validity of some of the claimants’ stories, using various investigative techniques, including some very clever photographic comparisons, to zoom in on two specific persons who seem to fit the bill. Ultimately, you either accept the authors’ conclusions or you don’t, but you can’t deny that the book provides an intriguing and unique perspective on one of the twentieth century’s most memorable moments.” – (adapted from Booklist summary)

Syndetics book coverConvicts : New Zealand’s hidden criminal past / Matthew Wright.
“New Zealand’s Pakeha origin as a bolt-hole for convicts escaping Australia, a place where former convicts joined whaling and sealing gangs, and where sea captains thumbed their noses at the law, has been quietly forgotten. It has become a hidden part of our past, buried under the convenient fiction that the Treaty of Waitangi is the sole pivot of New Zealand’s colonial story. In Convicts: New Zealand’s Hidden Criminal Past, noted historian Matthew Wright challenges that notion. Our early nineteenth-century Pakeha past is, at least in part, a story of convicts who had found their way past the edge of the law, an age of heroic tales of survival, scurrilous deeds, cannibalism and piracy.Matthew Wright is one of New Zealand’s most published historians and is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society of University College, London. ‘Matthew Wright is one of our most prolific social historians, an assiduous researcher and an engaging writer.'” – (adapted from Global Books In Print summary)

Syndetics book coverShooting Victoria : madness, mayhem, and the rebirth of the British monarchy / Paul Thomas Murphy.
“Queen Victoria’s stature not only attracted throngs of admirers but also seven unstable and incompetent failed assassins, whose attempts led to the creation of England’s detective branch and engendered bursts of popularity for the queen. A Victoriana expert at the University of Colorado, Murphy recounts in a fresh, lively narrative how these deluded subjects managed to channel their mental instability or optimistic naivete into assassination attempts with barely functioning pistols or stout canes, all remaining far removed from the more sophisticated and politically motivated revolutionaries threatening other contemporary European thrones. Instead, they included a depressed hunchback and two poets suffering from head injuries who, rather than gaining notoriety, sank back into obscurity. Murphy deftly weaves their life stories in with the reactions of Victoria and Albert and other notables as the government struggled to define a policy for punishing assassins…” – (adapted from Publisher Weekly summary)

Syndetics book coverMexico : democracy interrupted / Jo Tuckman.
“In 2000, Mexico’s long invincible Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) lost the presidential election to Vicente Fox of the National Action Party (PAN). The ensuing changeoverafter 71 years of PRI dominancewas hailed as the beginning of a new era of hope for Mexico. Yet the promises of the PAN victory were not consolidated. In this vivid account of Mexico’s recent history, a journalist with extensive reporting experience investigates the nation’s young democracy, its shortcomings and achievements, and why the PRI is favored to retake the presidency in 2012. Jo Tuckman reports on the murky, terrifying world of Mexico’s drug wars, the counterproductive government strategy, and the impact of U.S. policies. She describes the reluctance and inability of politicians to seriously tackle rampant corruption, environmental degradation, pervasive poverty, and acute inequality. To make matters worse, the influence of non-elected interest groups has grown and public trust in almost all institutionsincluding the Catholic churchis fading. The pressure valve once presented by emigration is also closing. Even so, there are positive signs: the critical media cannot be easily controlled, and small but determined citizen groups notch up significant, if partial, victories for accountability. While Mexico faces complex challenges that can often seem insurmountable, Tuckman concludes, the unflagging vitality and imagination of many in Mexico inspire hope for a better future.” – (adapted from Global Books In Print summary)

Syndetics book coverThe daring dozen : 12 Special Forces legends of World War II / Gavin Mortimer.
“In this new book by journalist Gavin Mortimer, The Daring Dozen reveals the 12 legendary special forces commanders of World War II. Prior to World War II the concept of ‘special forces’ simply didn’t exist. But thanks to visionary leaders like David Stirling and Charles Hunter, our very concept of how wars can be fought and won have totally changed. But these 12 extraordinary men not only reshaped military policy, they led from the front, accompanying their troops into the heat of battle, from the sands of North Africa to jumping on D-Day and infiltrating behind enemy lines. Each embodies the true essence of courage, what Winston Churchill remarked ‘is esteemed [as] the first of human qualities.’ But Mortimer also offers a skilful analysis of their qualities as a military commander and the true impact their own personal actions, as well as those of their units, had on the eventual outcome of the war.” – (adapted from Global Books In Print summary)

Syndetics book coverA cartoon war : the cartoons of the New Zealand Freelance and New Zealand Observer as historical sources, August 1914-November 1918 / Sarah Murray.
“Cartoons were an important medium of communication in New Zealand during the first world war. In pictorial weeklies like Wellington’s New Zealand Free Lance and Auckland’s New Zealand Observer, cartoons provided commentary on the events of the war and expressed the attitudes and concerns of particular segments of society. This monograph, A Cartoon War, is about the role editorial cartoons played in New Zealand during that war. The monograph was compiled by Sarah Murray, currently curator of Canterbury social history at Canterbury Museum, and was adapted from her MA thesis. This work is the first in a series by the NZ Cartoon Archive at the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington.” – (adapted from Global Books In Print summary)

Syndetics book coverTitans of history / Simon Sebag Montefiore ; with John Bew … [et al.].
“In The Titans of History, Simon Sebag Montefiore brings together a vivid and compelling selection of the lives of the towering figures that, for better of for worse, have changed the course of history. The 14th-century Mongol warlord Tamerlane, who once ordered the building of a pyramid of 70,000 human skulls from those that his army had beheaded, rubs shoulders with Oskar Schindler, the man whose selfless heroism saved over 1,000 Jews from death at the hands of the Nazis. Inbetween these two extremes are those extraordinary figures, like Henry VIII, in whom good and evil were mixed promiscuously. Inspiring and horrifying in equal measure, in The Titans of History, Simon Sebag Montefiore has created an engaging, innovative and authoritative window into the history of the world.” – (adapted from Global Books In Print summary)

Syndetics book coverArctic voices : resistance at the tipping point / edited by Subhankar Banerjee.
“A powerful collection of voices and images from the frontlines of the war against ecological devastation in the Arctic. First-person narratives from nearly prominent activists, writers and researchers who address issues of climate change, resource war and human rights with stunning urgency and groundbreaking research. Over recent years the Arctic has been a battleground for an international war over natural resources and it still remains one of the most contested lands in the world. Arctic Voices is a window into this beautiful, endangered region.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWhere they stand : the American presidents in the eyes of voters and historians / Robert W. Merry.
“The rating of American presidents is a popular fascination for scholars and citizens alike. Merry believes that professionals’ opinions are, however, sometimes out of sync with those of the people and, specifically, the electorate that installed or repudiated a president. Therefore, he accords the vox populi weight equal to the verdicts of seven polls of historians conducted over past decades. The professors and the voters exhibit no differences over who were the best presidents Washington, Lincoln, and FDR but they diverge over nominees for the near-great category; electorates liked Jackson and Reagan, but historians have been critical. Likewise, the dons praise Wilson and Truman, whereas the people voted their parties out of power. To bridge such discrepancies, Merry combines fluid commentary on what impresses historians and application of his rule for the populace’s standard of approval, rewarding an incumbent with a second term and succession by his party’s nominee. Anything less plunges a president down the scale to average or failure, with near-great Polk as a conspicuous exception. This election-year debate-starter will enjoy shelf life beyond November.” – (adapted from Booklist summary)

History Picks for August

Dickens, Austen, Nixon. Sound like an odd mixture? Well, they’re all in our picks of the recent history books this month. Plus a couple of Kiwi themed histories and the wise words of the world’s oldest living Holocaust survivor. Have a browse!

Syndetics book coverA guide to Dickens’ London / Daniel Tyler.
“To commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens, a generously illustrated guide to the city that was perhaps the greatest of his characters. From Newgate Prison to Covent Garden and from his childhood home in Camden to his place of burial in Westminster Abbey, this guide traces the influence of the capital on the life and work of one of Britain’s best-loved and well-known authors. Featuring more than 40 sites, places of worship and of business, streets and bridges, this comprehensive companion not only locates and illustrates locations from works such as Great Expectations and Little Dorrit but demonstrates how the architecture and landscape of the city influenced Dickens’ work throughout his life. Each site is illustrated with substantial quotations from Dickens’ own writing about the city he loved.” (Global Books In Print)

Syndetics book coverA century of wisdom : lessons from the life of Alice Herz-Sommer, the world’s oldest living Holocaust survivor / Caroline Stoessinger.
“Renowned pianist, music teacher, and Holocaust survivor Herz-Sommer shares intimate memories, harrowing experiences, and valuable life lessons. Recognized as the world’s oldest Holocaust survivor at 107, her legacy and her wisdom extend far beyond the years she spent at the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Fellow musician and documentarian Stoessinger became acquainted with Herz-Sommer while working on a film about her life. From countless hours and interviews conducted over the course of several years, she has mined a treasure trove of insight and reflection. Herz-Sommer’s life is a tribute to the purity of artistic endeavor under the most devastating circumstances, and her refusal to be bitterly defined or essentially reshaped by tragedy is a testament to moral and spiritual courage. As the number of Holocaust survivors dwindles, it becomes increasingly important to capture and communicate their individual stories.” (Booklist)

Syndetics book coverAll roads lead to Austen : a yearlong journey with Jane / Amy Elizabeth Smith ; illustrations by Lucia Mancilla Prieto.
“In this humorous memoir, devoted Austen fan Smith, a writing and literature teacher, sets out to discover whether Austen’s magic translates for readers in six Latin American countries (Guatemala, Mexico, Ecuador, Chile, Paraguay, and Argentina), where she organizes book clubs to discuss Spanish translations of Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Emma. Though Smith continuously calls attention to her limited Spanish language skills, she skillfully highlights how and why certain Spanish words are apt for describing Austen’s world and characters. Austen’s work provides a touchstone for surprising discussions about class, gender, and race, as well as history and literature. Smith’s account reads like an educational travel blog, full of colorful characters, overviews of the history and the traditions of each culture, as well as reflections on her own preconceived assumptions and stereotypes. This enjoyable book should appeal to fans of literature and travel, especially those interested in Latin America.” (Publisher Weekly)

Syndetics book coverWatergate : the hidden history : Nixon, the Mafia, and the CIA / Lamar Waldron.
“One vast conspiracy begets another in this meticulous but unconvincing theory of the Watergate scandal. Historian Waldron argues that Vice President Richard Nixon was the “driving force” behind joint CIA-Mafia plots to assassinate Fidel Castro in 1959-1960. Waldrop further says that, as president, Nixon instigated the Watergate break-ins, undertaken by his “Plumbers” unit of old CIA Cuba hands, mainly to find a dossier that he feared could expose those earlier schemes. The author presents an exhaustive, lucid chronicle of Cuba and Watergate machinations and decades of Nixon sleaze: dirty campaign tricks, quid-pro-quo Mafia bribes, burglaries, and other felonies by his White House staff. But Waldron’s central claims about Nixon’s involvement in Castro-assassination plots and his Watergate motives are shaky and based largely on stray, ambiguous comments by marginal figures, “associate”-tracing through degrees of separation, and much rank speculation, all backed by confusing source notes. (Much of the book is a rehash of his similarly massive and implausible Legacy of Fear, which argued that the Mafia assassinated President Kennedy.) Readers will learn a lot from Waldron about America’s Cuba policy and Nixon’s many misdeeds, but the author’s search for a narrow logic behind Nixon’s omnidirectional paranoia and criminality distorts more than it clarifies.” (Publisher Weekly)

Syndetics book coverThe making of New Zealanders / Ron Palenski.
“The Making of New Zealanders is an account of how transplanted Britons and others turned themselves into New Zealanders, a distinct group of people with their own songs and sports, symbols and opinions, political traditions and sense of self. Looking at the arrival of steamships and the telegraph, at ‘God’s Own’ and the kiwi, rugby and votes for women, Ron Palenski identifies the nineteenth-century origins of the sense of New Zealandness. He argues that events earlier held to be breakthroughs in the development of a national identity – the federation of Australia in 1901, the Boer War of 1899-1902, the Gallipoli campaign of 1915 – were in fact outward affirmations of a New Zealand identity that had already taken shape.” (Global Books In Print)

Syndetics book coverHuia histories of Māori : ngā Tāhuhu Kōrero / edited by Danny Keenan.
“This comprehensive history of Aotearoa New Zealand written entirely from Maori viewpoints using Maori customary structures takes a fresh look at what Maori history is and how it is different from that formerly portrayed. As a postcolonial history, it provides a range of fresh views on events in the past. Written by sixteen Maori scholars, including two Knights of the Realm, all specialists in their fields, the book covers histories of descent, the land, people, and autonomy and includes writing on customary law, ancestral law, the natural world, Maori urban protest, customary language, health, politics and cultural expression. The book is richly illustrated with over 100 photographs.” (Global Books In Print)

Ramadan 19th July – 18th August 2012

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection and worship during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, in which participating Muslims refrain from eating and drinking during daylight hours. The dates of Ramadan vary, moving backwards by about eleven days each year depending on the moon.

Muslims believe Ramadan to be the month in which the first verses of the Qur’an were revealed to the Islamic prophet, Muhammad. Ramadan is thought to establish a link between themselves and God through prayer, charity, good deeds, kindness and helping others. The elderly, the chronically ill, and the mentally ill are exempt from fasting, although the first two groups must endeavor to feed the poor in place of their missed fasting.

Since it is a festival of giving and sharing, Muslims prepare special foods and buy gifts for their family and friends and for giving to the poor and needy who cannot afford it; this can involve buying new clothes, shoes and other items of need.

At the end of Ramadan, Eid-ul-Fitr celebrates the conclusion of the month of dawn-to-sunset fasting. Eid is an Arabic word meaning “festivity”, while Fiṭr means “breaking the fast”.

Want to know more? Here are some useful links and items from our collection:

Syndetics book coverRamadan / Suhaib Hamid Ghazi ; illustrated by Omar Rayyan.
“Describes the celebration of the month of Ramadan by an Islamic family and discusses the meaning and importance of this holiday in the Islamic religion.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe white nights of Ramadan / Maha Addasi ; illustrated by Ned Gannon.
“Noor lives in a country near the Arabian (Persian) Gulf. Shes looking forward to the festival known as Girgian that comes in the middle of the holy month of Ramadan. These middle days are known as the three whites, because they include the day of the full moon and day before and after. Its when children, dressed in traditional clothes, go from house to house collecting treats from their neighbors.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverId-ul-Fitr / Cath Senker ; photography by Chris Fairclough.
“This book introduces the reader to the festival of Id-ul-Fitr and explores how one child and her family celebrate it. The book includes panels to show how people around the world celebrate Id and an Id recipe for you to try yourself.” – (adapted from Global Books In Print summary)

Book CoverIslam in New Zealand : the first mosque : a short history of the New Zealand Muslim Association & the Ponsonby Mosque / by Abdullah Drury.
“Islam is without doubt one of the fastest growing religions in New Zealand and also one of the least understood by the general public. Yet Muslims have been living in this country for over a century – peacefully and conscientiously. New Zealand Muslims have proved it perfectly possible to remain devout and faithful to Islam and at the same time function effectively in a modern Anglo-Saxon Western society The New Zealand Muslim Association is the oldest Islamic institution in this country. The first mosque in New Zealand, and the definitive heart of Islam in this country, was built twenty years ago in 1979 in Ponsonby, central Auckland. It represented the culmination of thirty years hard work and effort on behalf of the immigrants and refugees who were the driving force behind its construction. The building marks the collective turning point from being a group of expatriate migrants to becoming the foundation stone of the New Zealand Muslim community, and stands as a milestone in the history of the wider Muslim community across the land.” – (adapted from Publisher’s summary)

Introduction to Islam [videorecording] / with Bilal Dannoun.
There are many myths and misconceptions portrayed about Islam and Muslims everyday in the media which causes disharmony and fear. A lot of what the media portrays Islam to be is incorrect and against its teachings, although some (who call thermselves Muslims) carry out terrible crimes against humanity. These actions are condemned by Islam. Voice of Islam presents Islam through its television programs, lecture tours, DVDs and other books and publications in a correct manner as a reminder and education for Muslims, and to show non Muslims the correct manner in which we should be acting and practising our religion” – (adapted from DVD booklet summary)

Syndetics book coverThe complete idiot’s guide to understanding Islam / by Yahiya Emerick.
“Yoursquo;re no idiot, of course. You know Islam is an ancient religion with millions of followers and has a profound impact on world affairs. But are you aware of how many facets of modern life were influenced by Islamic inventions and discoveries? Or that Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the United States? The Complete Idiotrsquo;s Guidereg; to Understanding Islam takes you back to the origins of this faith and explores its beliefs and practices through the centuries and in the present. In this Complete Idiotrsquo;s Guidereg;, you get: An overview of the major tenets of the Islamic holy book, the Qurrsquo;an, including quotes from the actual text. The life and philosophies of the Prophet Muhammad as enacted in Islamic thought. Religious ceremonies for weddings, births, and funerals, and the celebrations behind the two major holidays, Ramadan and Hajj. Islamic contributions to the arts and sciences, including algebra, chemistry, astronomy, and medicine. Muslim perspective on the Crusades.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe essential message of the Qur’an / Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri.
“The Essential Message of the Qur’an captures the spiritual significance of the sacred text of Islam and how it inspired countless millions across the ages.” – (adapted from Publiher’s summary)

Syndetics book coverBeing Muslim / Haroon Siddiqui.
“In the wake of 9/11, Islam-bashing bears all the symptoms of racism as it holds up the relatively few fanatics as representative of all 1.3 billion Muslims. That’s the argument of award-winning Canadian journalist Siddiqui, past president of PEN Canada, a writers’ group that is a leading advocate of free speech. His clear, passionate discussion confronts international issues that are in the news now, including recent controversies over cartoon representations of Prophet Muhammad, the debate surrounding the wearing of the hijab (traditional headscarf), and issues of faith and feminism, suicide bombing, and more. While clearly concerned about terrorism and other dangers, Siddiqui attacks the propaganda of collective guilt. Without preaching or political jargon and drawing on his travels and interviews in Muslim countries, he shows that the extremists are being challenged by a new generation of Muslims, and welcomes the current internal reformation. He also asks penetrating questions: for example, Why does the U.S. turn a blind eye to suffocating restrictions on women in Saudi Arabia? Including documented chapter notes and an Essential Reading list, this timely volume in the Groundwork Guide series is sure to spark debate. Like Jane Springer’s Genocide (2006), also part of the series, this is excellent for classroom discussion. –Hazel Rochman Copyright 2006 BooklistFrom Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.” – (adapted from Booklist summary)

Syndetics book coverIslamic art : architecture, painting, calligraphy, ceramics, glass, carpets / Luca Mozzati ; [translation from the Italian, D. Radzinowicz [et al.]].
“This large format volume is notable for its remarkable illustrations, all in color. Most of the photographs are large scale, and although they include many familiar monuments and the usual canon of great monuments, readers will find many surprises, e.g., the striking madrasah and minaret in Khiva, Uzbekistan, from the early 20th century. The photographs are often from unusual points of view, or offer excellent details, and cover material from Spain and Morocco to central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Although many sources are credited, by far the largest number of photographs are Mozzati’s, and they are very valuable. The subtitle of the book is accurate in that many different media are represented by the works illustrated, but the overwhelming emphasis is on architecture. All photographs are accompanied by descriptive and discursive captions, often lengthy. The book includes introductory essays on general topics that will provide a useful introduction for general readers, for whom this book is clearly intended. Specialists in and teachers of Islamic art will, however, find the photographic record very useful. Summing Up: Recommended. General readers; lower-division undergraduates through faculty/researchers. L. Nees University of DelawareCopyright American Library Association, used with permission.” – (adapted from CHOICE summary)