Archives and Archaeology, History Picks March

This month’s history ‘picks’ get stuck in and dig up Britain, with Mike Pitts’s book examining ten of the most recent exciting discoveries in British archaeology over the past decade. Turning from the ground to the stars, SpaceX mission manager Andrew Rader’s Beyond the Stars covers a history of exploration on Earth so far and looks at the future of the field as it expands into space. Finally, we have Kathy Lee Peiss’s Information Hunters, detailing the exploits of a group of (dashing, good looking, heroic) librarians and archivists who traveled from America to Europe during World War 2 in order to save and preserve records, books and valuable intelligence from the ravages of war.

Digging up Britain : ten discoveries, a million years of history / Pitts, Michael W
Digging Up Britain traces the history of Britain through key discoveries and excavations. This book covers the most exciting excavations of the past ten years, gathers firsthand stories from the people who dug up the remains, and follows the latest revelations as one twist leads to another. These discoveries illuminate Britain’s ever-shifting history that we now know includes an increasingly diverse array of cultures and customs.” (adapted from Catalogue)

Rifleman / Gregg, Victor
“Born in 1919, Victor Gregg enlisted in the Rifle Brigade aged just eighteen and began a life of adventure. Taken into captivity at the Battle of Arnhem in 1944, he was sentenced to death for sabotaging a Dresden factory. Revised and expanded with exclusive new material in time for Gregg’s 100th birthday, Rifleman is the extraordinary story of an independent-minded and quick-witted survivor.” (adapted from Catalogue)

The Seine : the river that made Paris / Sciolino, Elaine
“In the spring of 1978, as a young journalist in Paris, was seduced by a river. In The Seine, Elaine tells the story of that river through its rich history and lively characters. She patrols with river police, rows with a restorer of antique boats, discovers a champagne vineyard, and even dares to swim in the Seine. Sciolino’s keen eye and vivid prose bring the river to life as she discovers its origins on a remote plateau in Burgundy, where a pagan goddess healed pilgrims at an ancient temple.” (adapted from Catalogue)

Beyond the known : how exploration created the modern world and will take us to the stars / Rader, Andrew
“For the first time in history, the human species has the technology to destroy itself. But having developed that power, humans are also able to leave Earth and voyage into the vastness of space. After millions of years of evolution, we’ve arrived at the point where we can settle other worlds and begin the process of becoming multi-planetary. How did we get here? What does the future hold for us? Told with an infectious zeal for traveling beyond the known, Beyond the Known illuminates how very human it is to emerge from the cave and walk toward an infinitely expanding horizon.” (adapted from Catalogue)

The hermit king : the dangerous game of Kim Jong Un / Lee, Chung Min
“In The Hermit King, Asian geopolitical expert Chung Min Lee tells the story of the rise of the Kim Dynasty and its atrocities, motivations, and diplomatic goals. He also discusses the possible outcomes of its aggressive standoff with the world superpowers. Kim Jong Un is not a crazed “Rocket Man” or a bumbling despot; he has been groomed since birth to take control of his country and stay in power at all costs.” (Catalogue)

History of Britain & Ireland : the definitive visual guide.
“Combining over 700 photographs, maps, and artworks with accessible text, the History of Britain and Ireland is an invaluable resource for families, students, and anyone seeking to learn more about the fascinating story of the England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Spanning six distinct periods of British and Irish history, this book is the best way to find out how Britain transformed with the Norman rule, fought two world wars in the 20th century, and finally came to terms with a new status in a fast-changing economy” (adapted from Catalogue)

Information hunters : when librarians, soldiers, and spies banded together in World War II Europe / Peiss, Kathy Lee
“During and immediately after World War II, an unlikely band of civilians were dispatched to Europe to collect books and documents, to acquire and preserve the written word as well as provide critical information for intelligence purposes. While armies have seized enemy records and rare texts as booty throughout history, it was only during World War II that librarians, archivists, and scholars traveled abroad to collect books and documents to aid the military cause. Galvanized by the events of war into acquiring and preserving the written word, as well as providing critical information for intelligence purposes, these American civilians set off on missions to gather foreign publications and information across Europe.” (adapted from Catalogue)

A small door set in concrete : one woman’s story of challenging borders in Israel/Palestine / Hammerman, Ilana
A Small Door Set in Concrete is a moving picture of lives filled with destruction and frustration but also infusions of joy. Whether joining Palestinian laborers lining up behind checkpoints hours before the crack of dawn in the hope of crossing into Israel for a day’s work, accompanying a family to military court for their loved one’s hearing, or smuggling Palestinian children across borders for a day at the beach, Hammerman fearlessly ventures into territories where few Israelis dare set foot and challenges her readers not to avert their eyes in the face of injustice.” (adapted from Catalogue)

Escapes and Empires – History Recent Picks

This month’s picks feature Nazis in just under half of the selections, which seems slightly out of proportion but you know what you’re getting with this column by now. Wealthy heiress Gertrude Legendre escapes from them in A Guest of the Reich, following in the footsteps of Françoise Frenkel who did the same thing a few years earlier in A Bookshop in Berlin. Against this backdrop, Rafael Medoff looks into the policies of the United States regarding refugees during this time in The Jews Should Keep Quiet and the impact that had on the situation in Europe. Elsewhere, Robert W. Harms’s Land of Tears looks at the end of the 19th century in Africa as foreign powers and traders descended on the region.

All the president’s women : Donald Trump and the making of a predator / Levine, Barry
“Based on groundbreaking original reporting, an extensive new look at Donald Trump’s relationships with women, revealing new accusations of sexual misconduct, exploring the roots of his alleged predatory behaviour, and illustrating how Trump’s presidency has helped catalyse the #MeToo movement and revitalise women’s activism.” (adapted from Catalogue)

Land of tears : the exploration and exploitation of equatorial Africa / Harms, Robert W.
“In just three decades at the end of the nineteenth century, the heart of Africa was utterly transformed. Virtually closed to outsiders for centuries, by the early 1900s the rainforest of the Congo River basin was one of the most brutally exploited places on earth. In Land of Tears, historian Robert Harms reconstructs the chaotic process by which this happened.” (adapted from Catalogue)

A guest of the Reich : the story of American heiress Gertrude Legendre’s dramatic captivity and escape from Nazi Germany / Finn, Peter
“Gertrude ‘Gertie’ Legendre was a big-game hunter from a wealthy industrial family who lived a charmed life in Jazz Age America. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, she joined the OSS, the wartime spy organization that preceded the CIA. First in Washington and then in London, some of the most closely-held United States government secrets passed through her hands. In A Guest of the Reich, Peter Finn tells the gripping story of how in 1944, while on leave in liberated Paris, Legendre was captured by the Germans after accidentally crossing the front lines. Subjected to repeated interrogations, including by the Gestapo, Legendre entered a daring game of lies with her captors. The Nazis treated her as a “special prisoner” of the SS and moved her from city to city throughout Germany, where she witnessed the collapse of Hitler’s Reich as no other American did. After six months in captivity, Legendre escaped into Switzerland.” (adapted from Catalogue)

The Jews should keep quiet : Franklin D. Roosevelt, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, and the Holocaust / Medoff, Rafael
“Based on recently discovered documents, The Jews Should Keep Quiet reassesses the hows and whys behind the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration’s fateful policies during the Holocaust. Rafael Medoff delves into difficult truths: With FDR’s consent, the administration deliberately suppressed European immigration far below the limits set by U.S. law. His administration also refused to admit Jewish refugees to the U.S. Virgin Islands, dismissed proposals to use empty Liberty ships returning from Europe to carry refugees, and rejected pleas to drop bombs on the railways leading to Auschwitz, even while American planes were bombing targets only a few miles away–actions that would not have conflicted with the larger goal of winning the war.” (adapted from Catalogue)

A bookshop in Berlin : the rediscovered memoir of one woman’s harrowing escape from the Nazis / Frenkel, Françoise
“In 1921, Françoise Frenkel–a Jewish woman from Poland–fulfills a dream. She opens La Maison du Livre, Berlin’s first French bookshop, attracting artists and diplomats, celebrities and poets. The shop becomes a haven for intellectual exchange as Nazi ideology begins to poison the culturally rich city. Françoise’s dream finally shatters on Kristallnacht in November 1938, as hundreds of Jewish shops and businesses are destroyed. La Maison du Livre is miraculously spared, but fear of persecution eventually forces Françoise on a desperate, lonely flight to Paris. When the city is bombed, she seeks refuge across southern France, witnessing countless horrors: children torn from their parents, mothers throwing themselves under buses. Secreted away from one safe house to the next, Françoise survives at the heroic hands of strangers risking their lives to protect her.” (adapted from Catalogue)

Pacific : an ocean of wonders / Hatfield, Philip J.
“The immense stretch of the Pacific Ocean is inhabited by a diverse array of peoples and cultures bound by a common thread: their relationship with the sea. In this volume, the rich history of the Pacific is explored through specific objects, each one beautifully illustrated, from the earliest human engagement with the Pacific through to the modern day. Entries cover mapping, trade, whaling, flora and fauna, and the myriad vessels used to traverse the ocean. A new look at this fascinating ocean, considering the diversity of culture beyond the familiar viewpoint of colonial history.” (adapted from Catalogue)

For the record / Cameron, David
“The referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union in 2016 has been one of the most controversial political events of modern times. For the first time, the man who called that vote talks about the decision and its origins, as well as giving a candid account of his time at the top of British politics. David Cameron was Conservative Party leader during the largest financial crash in living memory. The Arab Spring and the Eurozone crisis both started during his first year as prime minister. The backdrop to his time in office included the advent of ISIS, surging migration and a rapidly changing EU.” (adapted from Catalogue)

Broken Codes and Lost Youth – History Picks November

This month’s history picks feature way over our usual quota for World War material, with Paul Byrnes’s The Lost Boys, DJ Taylor’s Lost Girls and Ronald Rosbottom’s Sudden Courage looking through various lenses at the youth of the era and how they were impacted by the wars – going overseas from New Zealand to fight, losing their friends and family in England and how society changed along the way, or when the war showed up on their doorstep in occupied France.

Elsewhere, we’ve got Bletchley Park and D-Day looking at the famous codebreakers and their influence as an intelligence agency. It’s not just the good guys who were hard at work cracking ciphers – Christian Jennings’s The Third Reich is Listening covers German efforts in the field during World War II. To ensure this post isn’t just about that particular era of history, we’ve also got Marilyn Garson’s experiences in Gaza in 2014 and Marie Arana’s wider history of Latin America.

Still lives : a memoir of Gaza / Garson, Marilyn
“Marilyn Garson was an experienced aid professional who created jobs at the edge of war. In 2011, she was invited to move to the Gaza Strip. Marilyn became the Economic Director of a large NGO programme, leading an ambitious young Palestinian team. In 2014, Marilyn witnessed first-hand the impact of Israel’s urban assault and massive civilian displacement. The UN was prepared to shelter 35,000 displaced Gazans, but 293,000 arrived. Locked in beneath the bombs, they had nowhere safer to go, and nothing but the United Nations flag and international law to protect them.” (Catalogue)

Silver, sword and stone / Arana, Marie
Silver, Sword and Stone is a vibrant, sweeping history of Latin America, told through three compelling lenses. The first, precious metal, of which silver is an enormous part, is an obsession that burned brightly in pre-Columbian times, consumed Spain in its relentless conquest of America, drove a system of exploitation, and has morphed into Latin America’s hope for the future. The second, the ‘sword’, is the culture of violence: from the Aztec and Inca empires through the bloody nineteenth-century wars of independence to state terrorism, the Shining Path, and today’s drug wars. The third, embodied in temples, elaborate cathedrals, or simple piles of rock, is the region’s fervent adherence to religious institutions, built in stone. Vivid and impeccably researched, Silver, Sword and Stone is the definitive narrative history of a region with a tumultuous but little-understood present as well as past.” (Catalogue)

Sudden courage : youth in France confront the Germans, 1940-1945 / Rosbottom, Ronald C.
“On June 14, 1940, German tanks rolled into Paris. Eight days later, France accepted a humiliating defeat and foreign occupation. Most citizens adapted and many even allied themselves with the new fascist leadership. Yet others refused to capitulate; in answer to the ruthless violence, shortages, and curfews imposed by the Nazis, a resistance arose. Among this shadow army were Jews, immigrants, communists, workers, writers, police officers, shop owners, including many young people in their teens and twenties. Ronald Rosbottom tells the riveting story of how those brave and untested youth went from learning about literature to learning the art of sabotage, from figuring out how to solve an equation to how to stealthily avoid patrols, from passing notes to stealing secrets – and even learning how to kill. ” (Catalogue)

The cult of Trump / Hassan, Steven
“In The Cult of Trump, mind-control and licensed mental health expert Steven Hassan draws parallels between our current president and people like Jim Jones, David Koresh, Ron Hubbard and Sun Myung Moon, arguing that this presidency is in many ways like a destructive cult. He specifically details the ways in which people are influenced through an array of social psychology methods and how they become fiercely loyal and obedient. Hassan was a former “Moonie” himself, and he draws on his forty years of personal and professional experience studying hypnosis and destructive cults, working as a deprogrammer, and a strategic communications interventionist. He emphasizes why it’s crucial that we recognize ways to identify and protect ourselves and our loved ones.” (Catalogue)

Bletchley Park and D-Day : the untold story of how the battle for Normandy was won / Kenyon, David
“Since the secret of Bletchley Park was revealed in the 1970s, the work of its codebreakers has become one of the most famous stories of the Second World War. But cracking the Nazis’ codes was only the start of the process. Thousands of secret intelligence workers were then involved in making crucial information available to the Allied leaders and commanders who desperately needed it. Using previously classified documents, David Kenyon casts the work of Bletchley Park in a new light, as not just a codebreaking establishment, but as a fully developed intelligence agency. This account reveals the true character of Bletchley’s vital contribution to success in Normandy, and ultimately, Allied victory.” (Catalogue)

The Third Reich is listening : inside German codebreaking 1939-45 / Jennings, Christian
“The success of the Allied codebreakers at Bletchley Park was one of the iconic intelligence achievements of World War II, immortalised in films such as The Imitation Game and Enigma. But cracking Enigma was only half of the story. Across the Channel, German intelligence agencies were hard at work breaking British and Allied codes. The Third Reich is Listening is a gripping blend of modern history and science, and describes the successes and failures of Germany’s codebreaking and signals intelligence operations from 1935 to 1945. The first mainstream book that takes an in-depth look at German cryptanalysis in the Second World War, it tells how the Third Reich broke the ciphers of Allied and neutral countries, including Great Britain, France, Russia and Switzerland.” (Catalogue)

Operation Swallow : American soldiers’ remarkable escape from Berga Concentration Camp / Felton, Mark
“In this little-known story from World War II, a group of American POW camp leaders risk everything to save hundreds of fellow servicemen from a diabolical Nazi concentration camp. Their story begins in the dark forests of the Ardennes during Christmas 1944 and ends at the Buchenwald Concentration Camp in the spring of 1945. Operation Swallow provides a historical, first person perspective of how American GIs stood up against their evil SS captors who were forcing them to work as slave laborers. Written from personal testimonies and official documents, Operation Swallow is a tale replete with high adventure, compelling characters, human drama, tragedy, and eventual salvation.” (Catalogue)

The lost boys : the untold stories of the under-age soldiers who fought in the First World War / Byrnes, Paul
“In the First World War of 1914-1918, thousands of boys across Australia and New Zealand lied about their age, forged a parent’s signature and left to fight on the other side of the world. Though some were as young as thirteen, they soon found they could die as well as any man. This extraordinary book captures the incredible and previously untold stories of forty Anzac boys who fought in the First World War, from Gallipoli to the Armistice. Featuring haunting images of the boys taken at training camps and behind the lines, these tales are both heartbreaking and rousing, full of daring, ingenuity, recklessness, random horror and capricious luck. A unique perspective on the First World War, The Lost Boys is military history made deeply personal, a powerful homage to youthful bravery and a poignant reminder of the sacrifice of war.” (Catalogue)

Lost girls : love, war and literature, 1939-51 / Taylor, D. J.
“Who were the Lost Girls? At least a dozen or so young women at large in Blitz-era London have a claim to this title. But Lost Girls concentrates on just four: Lys Lubbock, Sonia Brownell, Barbara Skelton and Janetta Parlade. Chic, glamorous and bohemian, as likely to be found living in a rat-haunted maisonette as dining at the Ritz, they cut a swathe through English literary and artistic life in the 1940s. They all had very different – and sometimes explosive personalities – but taken together they form a distinctive part of the war-time demographic: bright, beautiful, independent-minded women with tough upbringings behind them determined to make the most of their lives in a highly uncertain environment. However tiny their number, they are a genuine missing link between the first wave of newly-liberated young women of the post-Great War era and the Dionysiac free-for-all of the 1960s. Hectic, passionate and at times unexpectedly poignant, this is their story.” (Catalogue)

New Zealand at War, home and abroad – History Picks for July

This month’s history picks reach the regular quota of World War Two content, with Smoky the Brave also scoring highly on the animals-with-jobs meter and Ake ake kia kaha e! : Forever Brave! looking at the iwi who contributed to the Maori Battalion, both abroad and at home. Elsewhere we go back in Aotearoa’s history with Vincent O’Malley’s The New Zealand Wars providing a detailed look at an oft-neglected topic in our past.

The promise : love and loss in modern China / Xinran
“Xinran begins with the magic and tragedy of one young couples wedding night in 1950, and goes on to tell personal experiences of loss, grief and hardship through China’s extraordinary century. In doing so she tells a bigger story – how traditional Chinese values have been slowly eroded by the tide of modernity and how their outlooks on love, and the choices they’ve made in life, have been all been affected by the great upheavals of Chinese history. A spell-binding and magical narrative, this is the story of modern China through the people who lived through it, and the story of their love and loss.” (Catalogue)

Smoky the brave / Lewis, Damien
“In February 1944, as Japanese advances threatened to engulf Australasia, a four-pound Yorkshire terrier was discovered hiding in a Japanese shell scrape amidst the thick jungles of Papua New Guinea. A mystery, she was adopted by Corporal William ‘Bill’ Wynne. Living in his tent, sleeping on felt salvaged from a card table, and sharing his rations, Smoky became the de facto mascot of the regiment. She went on to fly numerous missions, cocooned in a pack hanging next to the machine-guns used to repel marauding Japanese fighters.” (Catalogue)

North Korea in 100 facts / Monti, Ruth Ann
“Ruth Ann Monti teases out the truth about North Korea to provide an illuminating insight into a society that might just as well be in outer space for most in the West. Did you know, for instance, that high school students are required to complete an 81-hour course on current leader Kim Jong-un? Or that everyone must wear a Kim badge at all times? How about the fact that Kim Jong-il, kidnapped two of South Korea’s film industry giants and made seven films with them – including a Socialist version of Godzilla?” (Catalogue)

The New Zealand Wars = Ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa / O’Malley, Vincent
“The New Zealand Wars were a series of conflicts that profoundly shaped the course and direction of our nations history. The wars are an integral part of the New Zealand story but we have not always cared to remember or acknowledge them. Today, however, interest in the wars is resurgent. Public figures are calling for the wars to be taught in all schools and a national day of commemoration was recently established.” (Catalogue)

The Plimmer legacy : a family story from early Wellington to modern farming in the Rangītikei / Dawson, Bee
“From Wellington’s Plimmer Steps to the green hills of Motukawa. This is the story of a family – several generations of influential people – starting with ‘the father of Wellington’, John Plimmer, whose statue stands at the bottom of Plimmer Steps on Lambton Quay. Stories of Victorian and Edwardian life in the capital city lead on to the diverging paths of later generations, with an ongoing involvement in commerce, politics and farming.” (Catalogue)

Armageddon and paranoia : the nuclear confrontation / Braithwaite, Rodric
“In 1945, the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and warfare was never the same again. There are few villains in this story: on both sides of the Iron Curtain, dedicated scientists cracked the secrets of nature, dutiful military men planned out possible manoeuvres and politicians wrestled with potentially intolerable decisions. None of them wanted to start a nuclear war, but all of them were paranoid about what the other side might do.” (Catalogue)

American cipher : Bowe Bergdahl and the U.S. tragedy in Afghanistan / Farwell, Matt
“Private First Class Bowe Bergdahl left his platoon’s base in eastern Afghanistan in the early hours of June 30, 2009. Since that day, easy answers to the many questions surrounding his case–why did he leave his post? What kinds of efforts were made to recover him from the Taliban? And why, facing a court martial, did he plead guilty to the serious charges against him?–have proved elusive.” (Catalogue)

Ake ake kia kaha e! : forever brave! : B Company 28 (Maori) Battalion, 1939-1945 / Gardiner, Wira
“A truly unique insight into the impact the Second World War had on the iwi of the central North Island and Bay of Plenty districts (including Te Arawa, Ngati Tuwharetoa, Tuhoe, Whanau-a-Apanui, Ngati Maru and Ngati Paoa) focusing on the region’s war effort not only overseas, but also at home and in government. Through personal recollections, eyewitness accounts, numerous anecdotes and highly illustrated throughout, the book tells the fascinating story of the B Company’s war, capturing the special `spirit’ of the Maori Battalion.” (Catalogue)

China and Caesar – History New Books

This history picks can be found out in the wild at our branch libraries! Read up on Rome and Ten Caesars, King Arthur, people smugglers avoiding ISIS, and modern China from two perspectives.

Madame Fourcade’s secret war : the daring young woman who led France’s largest spy network against Hitler / Olson, Lynne
“In 1941, a thirty-one-year-old Frenchwoman, a young mother born to privilege and known for her beauty and glamour, became the leader of a vast Resistance organization – the only woman to hold such a role. Brave, independent, and a lifelong rebel against her country’s conservative, patriarchal society, Marie-Madeleine Fourcade was temperamentally made for the job. Now, in a dramatic account of the war that split France in two and forced its people to live side by side with their hated German occupiers, Lynne Olson tells the fascinating story of a woman who stood up for her nation, her fellow citizens, and herself.” (adapted from Catalogue)

Ten Caesars : Roman Emperors from Augustus to Constantine / Strauss, Barry S
“Rome’s legacy remains today in so many ways, from language, law, and architecture to the seat of the Roman Catholic Church. Barry Strauss examines this enduring heritage through the lives of the men who shaped it: Augustus, Tiberius, Nero, Vespasian, Trajan, Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius, Septimius Severus, Diocletian and Constantine. Over the ages, they learned to maintain the family business – the government of an empire – by adapting when necessary and always persevering no matter the cost.” (adapted from Catalogue)

The beekeeper of Sinjar / Mīkhāʼīl, Dunyā
“In the midst of ISIS’s reign of terror and hatred, an unlikely hero has emerged: the Beekeeper. Once a trader selling his mountain honey across the region, when ISIS came to Sinjar he turned his knowledge of the local terrain to another, more dangerous use. Along with a secret network of transporters, helpers, and former bootleggers, Abdullah Shrem smuggles brutalised Yazidi women to safety through the war-torn landscapes of Iraq, Syria, and Eastern Turkey.” (Catalogue)

King Arthur : the making of the legend / Higham, N. J
“According to legend, King Arthur saved Britain from the Saxons and reigned over it gloriously sometime around A.D. 500. Whether or not there was a “real” King Arthur has all too often been neglected by scholars; most period specialists today declare themselves agnostic on this important matter. In this erudite volume, Nick Higham sets out to solve the puzzle, drawing on his original research and expertise to determine precisely when, and why, the legend began.” (Catalogue)

The Penguin history of modern China : the fall and rise of a great power, 1850 to the present / Fenby, Jonathan
“In 1850, China was the ‘sick man of Asia’. Now it is set to become the most powerful nation on earth. The Penguin History of Modern China shows how turbulent that journey has been. For 150 years China has endured as victim of oppression, war and famine. This makes its current position as arguably the most important global superpower all the more extraordinary. Jonathan Fenby’s comprehensive account is the definitive guide to this remarkable transformation.” (Catalogue)

Under red skies : three generations of life, loss, and hope in China / Kan, Karoline
“Through the stories of three generations of women in her family, Karoline Kan, a former New York Times reporter based in Beijing, reveals how they navigated their way in a country beset by poverty and often-violent political unrest. As the Kans move from quiet villages to crowded towns and through the urban streets of Beijing in search of a better way of life, they are forced to confront the past and break the chains of tradition, especially those forced on women.” (Catalogue)

Little known stories and vast societal histories

This month’s history picks span many eras and countries — China in the ’30s and ’40s, the French Resistance in World War II, the Scottish clearances and those dispossessed, the story of how factories have changed our society from the Industrial Revolution to the present day, and the history of the United States “outside the United States”. It’s a tapestry of times, places and people — stories on both a grand and a smaller scale. Have a browse and enjoy!

You do not travel in China at the full moon : Agnes Moncrieff’s letters from China, 1930-1945 / Moncrieff, Agnes M.
“In April 1938 Agnes Moncrieff, in her role as the YWCA of New Zealand’s foreign secretary to the YWCA of China, wrote to her mother ‘You do not travel in China at the full moon if you can help. There are always air raids.’ These fascinating excerpts drawn from hundreds of her typed and handwritten letters tell of a remarkable woman, her experiences living and working in China, her observations of Chinese and Japanese military strategies, and her horror at what was taking place around her.” (Catalogue)

How to hide an empire : a history of the greater United States / Immerwahr, Daniel
“We are familiar with maps that outline all fifty states. And we are also familiar with the idea that the United States is an “empire,” exercising power around the world. But what about the actual territories–the islands, atolls, and archipelagos–this country has governed and inhabited? In How to Hide an Empire, Daniel Immerwahr tells the fascinating story of the United States outside the United States. In crackling, fast-paced prose, he reveals forgotten episodes that cast American history in a new light.” (Catalogue)

The Scottish clearances : a history of the dispossessed, 1600-1900 / Devine, T. M.
“Eighteenth-century Scotland is famed for generating many of the enlightened ideas which helped to shape the modern world. But there was in the same period another side to the history of the nation. Many of Scotland’s people were subjected to coercive and sometimes violent change, as traditional ways of life were overturned by the ‘rational’ exploitation of land use. The Scottish Clearances is a superb and highly original account of this sometimes terrible process, which changed the Lowland countryside forever, as it also did, more infamously, the old society of the Highlands. ” (Catalogue)

Overdrive cover Madame Fourcade’s Secret War, Lynne Olson (Audiobook)
“The little-known true story of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, the woman who headed the largest spy network in occupied France during World War II, from the bestselling author of Citizens of London and Last Hope Island. In 1941 a thirty-one-year-old Frenchwoman, a young mother born to privilege and known for her beauty and glamour, became the leader of a vast intelligence organization — the only woman to serve as a chef de résistance during the war. Strong-willed, independent, and a lifelong rebel against her country’s conservative, patriarchal society, Marie-Madeleine Fourcade was temperamentally made for the job. […] No other French spy network lasted as long or supplied as much crucial intelligence — including providing American and British military commanders with a 55-foot-long map of the beaches and roads on which the Allies would land on D-Day–as Alliance.” (Catalogue)

Overdrive cover Behemoth, Joshua B. Freeman (ebook)
“In an accessible and timely work of scholarship, celebrated historian Joshua B. Freeman tells the story of the factory and examines how it has reflected both our dreams and our nightmares of industrialization and social change. He whisks readers from the early textile mills that powered the Industrial Revolution to the factory towns of New England to today’s behemoths making sneakers, toys, and cellphones in China and Vietnam. Behemoth offers a piercing perspective on how factories have shaped our societies and the challenges we face now.” (Overdrive description)

Raids and Revolutions – History Picks for February

A Rope in the Sky book cover

This month’s history picks feature only ONE book about the United States, to make up for last month. We’re going everywhere else, to Chinese and Cuban revolutions in Making China Modern and Cuba Libre!, Viking-era England in Dragon Lords: The History and Legends of Viking England, South Sudan in A Rope From The Sky, and finally we have Afghanistan: A History from 1260 to the Present.

Syndetics book coverChicago : From Vision to Metropolis
“Chicago has been called the “most American of cities” and the “great American city.” Not the biggest or the most powerful, nor the richest, prettiest, or best, but the most American. How did it become that? And what does it even mean? At its heart, Chicago is America’s great hub. Chicago magazine editor Whet Moser draws on Chicago’s social, urban, cultural, and often scandalous history to reveal how the city of stinky onions grew into the great American metropolis it is today. An affectionate, beautifully illustrated urban portrait, his book takes us from the very beginnings of Chicago as an idea to the global city it has become.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMaking China modern : from the Great Qing to Xi Jinping / Klaus Muhlhahn.
“A panoramic survey of China’s rise and resilience through war and rebellion, disease and famine, that rewrites China’s history for a new generation. It is tempting to attribute China’s recent ascendance to changes in political leadership and economic policy. Making China Modern teaches otherwise. Moving beyond the standard framework of Cold War competition and national resurgence, Klaus Mühlhahn situates twenty-first-century China in the nation’s long history of creative adaptation.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCuba libre! : Che, Fidel, and the improbable revolution that changed world history / Tony Perrottet.
“In this wildly entertaining and meticulously researched account, Tony Perrottet unravels the human drama behind history’s most improbable revolution: a scruffy handful of self-taught revolutionaries – many of them kids just out of college, literature majors, art students and young lawyers, and including a number of women – defeated 40,000 professional soldiers to overthrow the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. Cuba Libre is an entertaining look back at a liberation movement that captured the imagination of the world with its spectacular drama – and that set the stage for a build-up of Cold War tension that became a pivotal moment in history.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDragon Lords : The History and Legends of Viking England
“Why did the Vikings sail to England? Were they indiscriminate raiders, motivated solely by bloodlust and plunder? One narrative, the stereotypical one, might have it so. But locked away in the buried history of the British Isles are other, far richer and more nuanced, stories; and these hidden tales paint a picture very different from the ferocious pillagers of popular repute. Eleanor Parker here unlocks secrets that point to more complex motivations within the marauding army that in the late ninth century voyaged to the shores of eastern England in its sleek, dragon-prowed longships.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAfghanistan : A History from 1260 to the Present
“Located at the intersection of Asia and the Middle East, Afghanistan has been strategically important for thousands of years. Its ancient routes and strategic position between India, Inner Asia, China, Persia, and beyond has meant the region has been subject to frequent invasions, both peaceful and military. In this magisterial illustrated history, Jonathan L. Lee tells the story of how a small tribal confederacy in a politically and culturally significant but volatile region became a modern nation state.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCode Name: Lise : the true story of World War II’s most highly decorated woman / Larry Loftis.
“The year is 1942, and World War II is in full swing. Odette Sansom decides to follow in her war hero father’s footsteps by becoming an SOE agent to aid Britain and her beloved homeland, France. Five failed attempts and one plane crash later, she finally lands in occupied France to begin her mission. It is here that she meets her commanding officer Captain Peter Churchill. In Code Name: Lise, Larry Loftis paints a portrait of true courage, patriotism, and love – of two incredibly heroic people who endured unimaginable horrors and degradations. ” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA Rope from the Sky : The Making and Unmaking of the World’s Newest State
“South Sudan’s historic independence was celebrated around the world–a triumph for global justice and an end to one of the world’s most devastating wars. But the party would not last long; South Sudan’s freedom fighters soon plunged their new nation into chaos, shattering the promise of liberation and exposing the hubris of their foreign backers. Chronicling extraordinary stories of hope, identity, and survival, A Rope from the Sky journeys inside an epic tale of paradise won and then lost.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSpitfire: Pilots’ Stories
“The Spitfire was perhaps the most successful fighter design of all time. It remained at the forefront of its genre from the biplane era until well into the jet age, a period including the Second World War, which saw a faster rate of technological advance than in any comparable period in history. Yet the Spitfire was more than just a superb flying machine. During the war it carved a unique place in the psyche of the British people, and many believe it played a major part in saving the nation from defeat during the grim days of 1940.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

The United States of History Picks for January 2019

The Great War book cover

American cultural hegemony kicks off the New Year with books about everyone’s favourite superpower. Americans in World War 1 (twice!), World War 2, Reagan, the American Revolution, it’s all here. Fortunately we have some Kiwi content to balance it out with a collection of poetry and images about Te Waikoropupū Springs, and a collection of historical perspectives suitably titled New Zealand and the Sea.

Syndetics book coverThe Great War in America : World War I and its aftermath / Garrett Peck.
“The Great War is often overlooked, especially compared to World War II, which is considered the “last good war.” The United States was disillusioned with what it achieved in the earlier war and withdrew into itself. Americans have tried to forget about it ever since. The Great War in America presents an opportunity to reexamine the country’s role on the global stage and the tremendous political and social changes that overtook the nation because of the war.” (Abridged Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverRonald Reagan : an intellectual biography / David T. Byrne.
“Byrne’s account of the fortieth president augments previous work on Reagan with a new model for understanding him. Byrne shows how Reagan took conservatism and the Republican Party in a new direction, departing from the traditional conservatism of Edmund Burke and Russell Kirk. His desire to spread a “Kingdom of Freedom” both at home and abroad changed America’s political landscape forever and inspired a new conservatism that persists to this day.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book cover1918: The Final Year of the Great War to Armistice: The Final Year of the Great War to Armistice
“Revisiting the winning formula of diaries and memoirs, and above all original photographs taken on illegally-held cameras by the soldiers themselves, Richard van Emden tells the story of 1918, of both the ferocious spring offensive that so nearly brought victory for the Germans in the West, and the tenacious British rearguard fight that thwarted them. The book also tells the vivid story of the Allied breakthrough and the return to open warfare that was to bring victory in November 1918.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAirborne in 1943 : the daring Allied air campaign over the North Sea / Kevin Wilson.
“The year 1943 saw the beginning of an unprecedented bombing campaign against Germany. Over the next twelve months, tens of thousands of aircrews flew across the North Sea to drop bombs on German cities. They were opposed not only by the full force of the Luftwaffe, but by a nightmare of flak, treacherously icy conditions, and constant mechanical malfunction. Most of these crews were either shot down and killed or taken prisoner by an increasingly hostile enemy. This is the story of the everyday heroism of these crews in the days when it was widely believed that the Allies could win the Second World War by air alone. ” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWater protectors : the story of the campaign to save Te Waikoropupū Springs in poetry and images / Kevin Moran.
“Te Waikoropupū Springs in Golden Bay New Zealand is a national treasure, where crystal clear waters surge to the surface to form a bubbling fount. Over 90,000 people flock to visit each year, yet Te Waikoropupū is under deadly threat. Nitrate leaching from intensive dairy farms is the culprit – it threatens the ecosystem of tiny creatures that clean the waters of the Arthur Marble Aquifer which feeds the Springs. An environmental battle has broken out between those who want to protect Te Waikoropupū and the Tasman District Council who wants to allocate more water to intensive dairy farmers.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNew Zealand and the sea : historical perspectives / edited by Frances Steel.
“As a group of islands in the far south-west Pacific Ocean, New Zealand’s history is steeped in the sea. Its people have encountered the sea in many different ways: along the coast, in port, on ships, beneath the waves, behind a camera, and in the realm of the imagination. A multi-disciplinary work encompassing history, marine science, archaeology and visual culture, New Zealand and the Sea explores New Zealand’s varied relationship with the sea, challenging the conventional view that history unfolds on land.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe American Revolution : a world war / edited by David K. Allison & Larrie D. Ferreiro ; essays by José María Blanco Núñez [and fifteen others].
“The American Revolutionary War stands as a monument to freedom and democracy the world over. The American Revolution: A World War provides a fuller story of a war that involved international interest and conflict. From acts of resistance like the Boston Tea Party to the “shot heard ’round the world,” the struggle for liberty and independence still resonates; this book offers new insight into the involvement of other nations and the colonists’ desire for a country that symbolized their values and the pursuit of the American way of life.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverRussia without Putin : money, power and the myths of the new Cold War / Tony Wood.
“In this timely and provocative analysis, Tony Wood looks beyond Putin to explore the profound changes Russia has undergone since 1991. In the process, he challenges many of the common assumptions made about contemporary Russia. Though commonly viewed as an ominous return to Soviet authoritarianism, Putin’s rule should instead be seen as a direct continuation of Yeltsin’s in the 1990s. And though many of Russia’s problems today are blamed on legacies of the Soviet past, Wood argues that the core features of Putinism are integral to the system set in place after the fall of Communism..” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Presidents Past and Present: History Picks for December

How To Behave Badly in Elizabethan England book cover

This month’s history picks have a healthy collection of U.S Presidents, starting early with Joseph Ellis’s American Dialogue: The Founders and Us taking a look at the founding fathers of the country. Skipping ahead to the present day, we’ve got the last two Commanders in Chief with Jeanne Marie Laskas’s To Obama, and Greg Miller’s The Apprentice. If you need something a little more lowbrow than the high office of President, maybe try Ruth Goodman’s How to Behave Badly in Elizabethan England, or take a left turn into a different kind of society and have a look at Our Woman in Havana by Sarah Rainsford, covering life in modern Cuba.

Syndetics book coverAmerican dialogue : the founders and us / Joseph J. Ellis.
“What would the founders think? We live in a divided America that is currently incapable of sustained argument and is feeling unsure of its destiny. Joseph J. Ellis explores anew four of our most prominent founders, in each instance searching for patterns and principles that bring the lamp of experience to our contemporary dilemmas. Ellis reminds us that the founders’ greatest legacy lies not in providing political answers but in helping us find a better way to frame the question.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTo Obama : with love, joy, anger, and hope / Jeanne Marie Laskas.
“Every evening for eight years, at his request, President Obama was given ten handpicked letters written by ordinary American citizens from his Office of Presidential Correspondence. He was the first president to interact daily with constituent mail and to archive it in its entirety. In To Obama, Jeanne Marie Laskas interviews Obama, the letter writers themselves, and the White House staff who sifted through the powerful, moving, and incredibly intimate narrative of America during the Obama years.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe origins of the Anglo-Saxons : decoding the ancestry of the English / Jean Manco.
“What do we really know of English ancestry? Combining results from cutting-edge DNA technology with new research from archaeology and linguistics, The Origins of the Anglo-Saxons reveals the adventurous journey undertaken by some of our ancestors long before a word of English was spoken. Starting with the deeper origins of the Germani and how they fit into the greater family of Indo-European speakers and ending with the language of Shakespeare, taken to the first British colony in America, this chronicle takes a wider scope than previous histories.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHow to behave badly in Elizabethan England : a guide for knaves, fools, harlots, cuckolds, drunkards, liars, thieves, and braggarts / Ruth Goodman.
“Every age and social strata has its bad eggs, rule-breakers, and nose-thumbers. As acclaimed popular historian Ruth Goodman shows in her madcap chronicle, Elizabethan England was particularly rank with troublemakers, from snooty needlers who took aim with a cutting “thee,” to lowbrow drunkards with revolting table manners. Goodman draws on advice manuals, court cases, and sermons to offer this colorfully crude portrait of offenses most foul.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe allies : Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin, and the unlikely alliance that won World War II / Winston Groom.
“By the end of World War II, 59 nations were arrayed against the axis powers, but three great Allied leaders–Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin–had emerged to control the war in Europe and the Pacific. Vastly different in upbringing and political beliefs, they were not always in agreement or on good terms. But in the end, these three men presided over a new world order. Best-selling historian Winston Groom returns to tell one of the biggest stories of the 20th century.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Oxford Illustrated history of the Holy Land / edited by Robert G. Hoyland, H.G.M. Williamson.
The Oxford Illustrated History of the Holy Land covers the 3,000 years which saw the rise of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and relates the familiar stories of the sacred texts with the fruits of modern scholarship. Beginning with the origins of the people who became the Israel of the Bible, it follows the course of the ensuing millennia down to the time when the Ottoman Empire succumbed to British and French rule at the end of the First World War.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverOur woman in Havana : reporting Castro’s Cuba / Sarah Rainsford.
“From inside this tightly controlled one-party state, Sarah Rainsford, the BBC’s ‘woman in Havana’ for three years, reports on lives shaped by Fidel Castro’s giant social experiment and how the nation feels as the six-decade rule of the Castros comes to an end. Seeking a window into pre-revolutionary Cuba, she searches for the ghosts of Graham Greene’s Havana and the paths walked by other visiting writers (chiefly Ruby Hart Phillips, who covered Cuba from 1937-1961 for the New York Times).” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCarrington : an honourable man / Christopher Lee.
“Lord Carrington was Margaret Thatcher’s Foreign Secretary when the Argentinians invaded the Falklands in 1982. Absent in Israel on the eve of the invasion, he promptly resigned since it was, he said, a point of honour. The descendant of a famous banking family, Carrington served as a minister in every Conservative government from Churchill to Thatcher. In this full biography, authorised but not read by the subject, author of This Sceptred Isle Christopher Lee offers a fascinating portrait of a Tory icon whose career is a window into post-war British politics and life as a politician and diplomat.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe apprentice : Trump, Russia and the subversion of American democracy / Greg Miller.
“From two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post national security reporter Greg Miller, the truth about Vladimir Putin’s covert attempt to destroy Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump win the presidency, its possible connections to the Trump campaign, Robert Mueller’s ensuing investigation of the president and those close to him, and the mystery of Trump’s steadfast allegiance to Putin.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Tweet-worthy Tomes – History Picks for November

This month’s history picks contain one book that made some serious headlines earlier this year upon release. If you want to see what all the fuss is about, jump on the reserve queue for Bob Woodward’s Fear: Trump in the White House. Further down the chain of command, we’ve also got The Shadow President about Vice President Mike Pence and his political background. In an effort to make this section a bit less modern-US-focused, we’ve also got some (less tweeted about) books covering Paris, the Zulu nation, Ancient Greece, and British/Indian relations.

Syndetics book coverVietnam : An Epic Tragedy, 1945-1975
“Vietnam became the Western world’s most divisive modern conflict, precipitating a battlefield humiliation for France in 1954, then a vastly greater one for the United States in 1975. Max Hastings has spent the past three years interviewing scores of participants on both sides, as well as researching a multitude of American and Vietnamese documents and memoirs, to create an epic narrative of an epic struggle. Here are the vivid realities of strife amid jungle and paddies that killed two million people.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCity of light : the reinvention of Paris / Rupert Christiansen.
“In 1853 the French emperor Louis Napoleon inaugurated a vast and ambitious programme of public works, directed by Georges-Eugène Haussmann, the prefect of the Seine. Haussmann’s renovation of Paris would transform the old medieval city of squalid slums and disease-ridden alleyways. City of Light charts a fifteen-year project of urban renewal which – despite the interruptions of war, revolution, corruption and bankruptcy – would set a template for nineteenth and early twentieth-century urban planning and create the enduring and globally familiar layout of modern Paris.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverRoad to disaster : a new history of America’s descent into Vietnam / Brian VanDemark.
Road to Disaster is the first history of the Vietnam War to look at the cataclysmic decisions of those in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations through the prism of recent research in cognitive science, psychology, and organizational theory to explain why the “Best and the Brightest” became trapped in situations that suffocated creative thinking and willingness to dissent, why they found change so hard, and why they were so blind to their own errors.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFear : Trump in the White House / Bob Woodward.
“With authoritative reporting honed through eight presidencies from Nixon to Obama, author Bob Woodward reveals in unprecedented detail the harrowing life inside President Donald Trump’s White House and precisely how he makes decisions on major foreign and domestic policies. Woodward draws from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand sources, meeting notes, personal diaries, files and documents. The focus is on the explosive debates and the decision-making in the Oval Office, the Situation Room, Air Force One and the White House residence. Fear is the most intimate portrait of a sitting president ever published during the president’s first years in office.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPrimary sources for ancient history / by Gary Forsythe.
Primary Sources for Ancient History, Volume I: The Ancient Near East and Greece is a comprehensive selection of ancient writings to supplement a narrative history. Beginning with the Old Babylonian Kingdom of nearly four millennia ago and moving chronologically and geographically to the Egyptian Pharaohs, the dispossessed Jewish nations, the fractured city-kingdoms of Ancient Greece, to end with Alexander’s domination of the known world, this book is comprehensive in scope. Every major period and people has at least one reading.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Washing of the Spears : A History of the Rise of the Zulu Nation Under Shaka and Its Fall in the Zulu War of 1879
“Filled with colorful characters, dramatic battles like Isandhlwana and Rorke’s Drift, and an inexorable narrative momentum, this unsurpassed history details the sixty-year existence of the world’s mightiest African empire–from its brutal formation and zenith under the military genius Shaka (1787-1828), through its inevitable collision with white expansionism, to its dissolution under Cetshwayo in the Zulu War of 1879.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe British in India: The Lives and Experiences
“David Gilmour has spent decades researching in archives, studying the papers of many people who have never been written about before, to create a magnificent tapestry of British life in India. It is exceptional work of scholarly recovery portrays individuals with understanding and humour, and makes an original and engaging contribution to a long and important period of British and Indian history.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe shadow president : the truth about Mike Pence / Michael D’Antonio and Peter Eisner.
“In this landmark biography, Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael D’Antonio and Emmy-nominated journalist Peter Eisner follow the path Pence followed from Catholic Democrat to conservative evangelical Republican. They reveal how he used his time as rightwing radio star to build connections with powerful donors; how he was a lackluster lawmaker in Congress but a prodigious fundraiser from the GOP’s billionaire benefactors; and how, once he locked in his views on the issues–anti-gay, pro-gun, anti-abortion, pro big-business–he became laser-focused on his own pursuit of power.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Great escapes and pop culture politics: History picks for October

The Escape Artists book cover

This month’s history picks contain a variety of subterfuges, rescues and escapes throughout the last century, covering both World Wars with The Escape Artists and Deposition, and the present day in Sinjar. Elsewhere Peter Biskind looks at how pop culture has influenced our political climate in The Sky is Falling, and Kate Thompson looks at the role of women in London’s East End during the World Wars in The Stepney Doorstep Society.

Syndetics book coverThe sky is falling : how vampires, zombies, androids, and superheroes made America great for extremism / Peter Biskind.
“Almost everything has been invoked to account for Trump’s victory and the rise of the alt-right, from job loss to racism to demography–everything, that is, except popular culture. In The Sky Is Falling bestselling cultural journalist Peter Biskind dives headlong into two decades of popular culture–from superhero franchises such as the Dark Knight, X-Men, and the Avengers and series like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones to thrillers like Homeland and 24–and emerges to argue that these shows are saturated with the values that are currently animating our extreme politics.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSinjar : 14 days that saved the Yazidis from Islamic State / Susan Shand.
“In Sinjar, author Susan Shand relates the tragic events of August 2014 that compelled United States President Barack Obama to redeploy the US military to Iraq. Confronted with the potential collapse of the country as well as the unfolding genocide of the Yazidi people, the United States military undertook operations to rout the Islamic State. Simultaneously, it commenced a humanitarian operation – US Army helicopters flew daily aid missions, dropping pallets of water and dehydrated food for the Yazidis who were dying in the devastating heat.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Stepney Doorstep Society / Kate Thompson.
“The unsung and remarkable stories of the women who held London’s East End together during not one, but two world wars. While the men were away at war it was strong women like Joan, Marie, Babs, Beattie and Minksy who ruled the streets of the East End. Kate Thompson tells the real stories of the war experienced by these matriarchs, a tribe of working-class women in the stinking streets, teeming tenements and sweatshops of East London. Forget church halls and jam making, these powerfully authentic stories will have you questioning what you thought you knew about wartime women.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDeposition, 1940-1944 : a secret diary of life in Vichy France / Léon Werth ; edited and translated by David Ball.
“Historians agree: the diary of Léon Werth is one of the most precious–and readable–pieces of testimony ever written about life in Nazi-occupied France. Werth was a free-spirited, unclassifiable writer, the author of eleven novels, art and dance criticism, acerbic political reporting, and memorable personal essays. He was Jewish, and left Paris in June 1940 to hide out in his wife’s country house in Saint-Amour, a small village in the Jura Mountains. Deposition tells of daily life in the village, on nearby farms and towns, and finally back in Paris, where he draws the portrait of a Resistance network in his apartment and writes an eyewitness report of the insurrection that freed the city in August, 1944.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAwatere : portrait of a Marlborough valley / Harry Broad ; photography by Jim Tannock, Rob Suisted, Dave Hansford.
“The Awatere is the Marlborough river and valley south of Blenheim. It runs from Molesworth Station in the high country all the way to the sea below the township of Seddon, overlooked by Mt Tapuae-o-Uenuku, the highest peak in the Inland Kaikoura Range. This is a fascinating and extensive collection of stories that document the multi-facetted, changing face of rural New Zealand, and which explores both the people and the landscape of this area.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe shoemaker and his daughter : one ordinary family’s remarkable journey from Stalin’s Soviet Union to Putin’s Russia / Conor O’Clery.
The Shoemaker and His Daughter takes in more than eighty years of Soviet and Russian history through the prism of one family. It paints a vivid picture of a complex part of the world at a seismic moment in its history: of erratic war and uneasy peace; of blind power and its frequent abuse; of misguided ideologies and stifling bureaucracy; of the slow demise of Communism and the chaotic embrace of capitalism. Both intimate and sweeping in scale, this is a story of ordinary lives battered and shaped by extraordinary times.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAfter the conquest. The divided realm, 1066-1135 / Teresa Cole.
“On his deathbed William the Conqueror divided his property between his three sons, Robert, William and Henry. One of them got England, one got Normandy and one £5,000 of silver. None of them was satisfied with what he received. It took much violence, treachery, sudden death and twenty years before one of them reigned supreme over all the Conqueror’s lands. Geoffrey of Monmouth, in his ‘Prophecies of Merlin’, depicted them as two dragons and a lion with a mighty roar, but which would end up the winner, and what was the fate of the losers? After the Conquest tells the story of the turbulent lives of the sons of the Conqueror.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe escape artists : a band of daredevil pilots and the greatest escape of the Great War / Neal Bascomb.
“When captured Royal Flying Corps pilots Captain David Gray, Captain Caspar Kennard and 2nd Lieutenant Cecil Blain had arrived at Holzminden – or ‘Hellminden’ as its occupants called it – the Germans’ highest-security prison complex had seemed impregnable. With an improvised oxygen piping system, stolen disguises and astonishing courage, this handful of the Kaiser’s 2.3 million prisoners would succeed in making their way to neutral Holland and eventually back to Britain – for a private audience at Windsor Palace. The most unlikely escape of the Great War, their derring-do became military legend and the inspiration for the subsequent great escapes of the Second World War.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Sunken Ships and Unbuilt Walls – History Picks for September

This month’s picks take a close look at Britain with the two histories by Simon Jenkins and David Edgerton, covering the entire timeline of England in the former and closely examining the 20th century of the wider British project in the latter. Elsewhere the recent non-coup in Zimbabwe is covered in Panashe Chigumadzi’s These Bones Will Rise Again and post-Soviet Russia society is looked at in The Future Is History by Masha Gessen. Finally, inspired by the American campaign promise, still unbuilt and overshadowed by looming midterms and a special counsel, David Frye gives us the history of Walls.

Syndetics book coverA Short History of England: The Complete Story of Our Nation in a Single Volume
“From the invaders of the dark ages to the aftermath of the coalition, one of Britain’s most respected journalists, Simon Jenkins, weaves together a strong narrative with all the most important and interesting dates in a book that characteristically is as stylish as it is authoritative. A Short History of England sheds light on all the key individuals and events, bringing them together in an enlightening and engaging account of the country’s birth, rise to global prominence and then partial eclipse. Now updated to take in the rapid progress of recent events and beautifully illustrated, this magisterial history will be the standard work for years to come.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe future is history : how totalitarianism reclaimed Russia / Masha Gessen.
“Gessen, the esteemed Russian-American journalist, takes an intimate look at Russia in the post-Soviet period, when the public’s hopes for democracy devolved within a restricted society characterized by “a constant state of low-level dread.” Throughout, Gessen expounds on Russia’s development into a “mafia state” with elements of totalitarianism – a state fueled by a revanchist nationalism wherein each member of society must become “an enforcer of the existing order.” She presents the somber peculiarities of modern Russia in a well-crafted, inventive narrative.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWalls : a history of civilization in blood and brick / David Frye.
“In Walls historian David Frye tells the epic story of history’s greatest manmade barriers, from ancient times to the present. It is a haunting and frequently eye-opening saga–one that reveals a startling link between what we build and how we live. With Frye as our raconteur-guide, we journey back to a time before barriers of brick and stone even existed–to an era in which nomadic tribes vied for scarce resources, and each man was bred to a life of struggle. Ultimately, those same men would create edifices of mud, brick, and stone, and with them effectively divide humanity: on one side were those the walls protected; on the other, those the walls kept out.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThese bones will rise again / Panashe Chigumadzi.
“In November 2017 the people of Zimbabwe took to the streets in an unprecedented alliance with the military. Their goal, to restore the legacy of Chimurenga, the liberation struggle, and wrest their country back from over thirty years of Robert Mugabe’s rule. In an essay that combines bold reportage, memoir and critical analysis, Zimbabwean-born novelist and journalist Panashe Chigumadzi reflects on the ‘coup that was not a coup’, the telling of history and manipulation of time, and the ancestral spirits of two women – her own grandmother and Mbuya Nehanda, the grandmother of the nation.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTrading in war : London’s maritime world in the age of Cook and Nelson / Margarette Lincoln.
“In the half-century before the Battle of Trafalgar the port of London became the commercial nexus of a global empire and launch pad of Britain’s military campaigns in North America and Napoleonic Europe. The unruly riverside parishes east of the Tower seethed with life, a crowded, cosmopolitan, and incendiary mix of sailors, soldiers, traders, and the network of ordinary citizens that served them. Lincoln’s gripping narrative highlights the pervasive impact of war, which brought violence, smuggling, pilfering from ships on the river, and a susceptibility to subversive political ideas.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverIndianapolis : the true story of the worst sea disaster in US naval history and the fifty-year fight to exonerate an innocent man / Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic.
“For 70 years, the story of the USS Indianapolis has been told as a sinking story, or a shark story, or a story of military justice gone awry. The Indianapolis was sunk by a Japanese submarine, with nearly 900 men lost. The captain, Charles B. McVay III, was wrongly court-martialled for negligence over the sinking. Decades after these events, the survivors of the Indianapolis, as well as the Japanese submarine commander who sank it, joined together to finally exonerate McVay.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNorthland : a 4,000-mile journey along America’s forgotten border / Porter Fox.
“America’s northern border is the world’s longest international boundary, yet it remains obscure even to Americans. The northern border was America’s primary border for centuries, and to the tens of millions who live and work near the line, the region even has its own name: the northland. Travel writer Porter Fox spent three years exploring 4,000 miles of the border between Maine and Washington, traveling by canoe, freighter, car, and foot. In Northland, he blends a deeply reported and beautifully written story of the region’s history with a riveting account of his travels.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe rise and fall of the British nation : a twentieth-century history / David Edgerton.
“David Edgerton’s major new history breaks out of the confines of traditional British national history to redefine what it was to British, and to reveal an unfamiliar place, subject to huge disruptions. Until the 1940s the United Kingdom was, Edgerton argues, an exceptional place: liberal, capitalist and anti-nationalist, at the heart of a European and global web of trade and influence. Then, as its global position collapsed, it became, for the first time and only briefly, a real, successful nation, with shared goals, horizons and industry, before reinventing itself again in the 1970s as part of the European Union and as the host for international capital, no longer capable of being a nation. (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSecret nation : the hidden Armenians of Turkey / Avedis Hadjian.
“Avedis Hadjian has travelled to the towns and villages once densely populated by Armenians, recording stories of survival and discovery from those who remain in a region that is deemed unsafe for the people who once lived there. This book takes the reader to the heart of these hidden communities for the first time, unearthing their unique heritage and identity. Revealing the lives of a peoples that have been trapped in a history of denial for more than a century, Secret Nation is essential reading for anyone with an interest in the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide in the very places where the events occurred.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

The Waikato, War, and the Winter Queen: Recent History picks

This month’s history picks see a strong North Island focus with Scott Hamilton’s Ghost South Road and Paul Moon’s The Waikato exploring both the geological and social history of the upper North Island. Heading to the other side of the world, we cover European anti-Semitism with Rebecca Erbelding’s Rescue Board and Steven Zipperstein’s Pogrom.

Syndetics book coverOrigin story : a big history of everything / David Christian.
“How did we get from the Big Bang to today’s staggering complexity, in which seven billion humans are connected into networks powerful enough to transform the planet? And why, in comparison, are our closest primate relatives reduced to near-extinction? Big History creator David Christian gives the answers in a mind-expanding cosmological detective story told on the grandest possible scale. Origin Story reveals what we learn about human existence when we consider it from a universal scale.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverGhost South Road / Scott Hamilton ; photographs by Ian Powell and Paul Janman.
“The Great South Road was built in 1862 to carry a British army into the Waikato Kingdom. When the British invaded the Waikato in 1863, soldiers shared the road with Maori refugees from Auckland. On their journeys up and down the Great South Road, Hamilton, Janman, and Powell have learned how the route’s tragic past affects its present, and discovered the ways in which the road connects as well as divides the communities that live alongside it.”
(Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Waikato : a history of New Zealand’s greatest river / Paul Moon.
“Starting from a desolate, icy volcanic plateau, historian Paul Moon traces the Waikato’s path through dense native forest, undulating pastureland, dams, several towns, a city, and a swampy delta, until it exits into the Tasman Sea at Port Waikato. Along the way he uncovers settlements that have disappeared, sites scarred by wars, some of the world’s most convulsive geological events, great tragedies, and the remarkable stories that have taken place along the river.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDaughters of the Winter Queen : four remarkable sisters, the crown of Bohemia, and the enduring legacy of Mary, Queen of Scots / Nancy Goldstone.
“The captivating story of four unforgettable sisters and their glamorous mother, Elizabeth Stuart, granddaughter of Mary, Queen of Scots. Brilliantly researched and captivatingly written, Nancy Goldstone shows how these spirited, passionate women faced danger, tragic loss, and betrayal, and by refusing to surrender to adversity, changed the course of history.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverRescue board : the untold story of America’s efforts to save the Jews of Europe / Rebecca Erbelding.
“America has long been criticized for refusing to give harbor to the Jews of Europe as Hitler and the Nazis closed in. Now a lauded Holocaust historian tells the extraordinary story of the War Refugee Board, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s little-known effort late in the war to save the Jews who remained. For Rescue Board, Rebecca Erbelding undertook a decade of research and uncovered new archival materials to tell the dramatic unknown story of America’s last-ditch effort to save the Jews of Europe.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPogrom : Kishinev and the tilt of history / Steven J. Zipperstein.
“So shattering were the aftereffects of Kishinev, the rampage that broke out in late-Tsarist Russia in April 1903, that one historian remarked that it was ‘nothing less than a prototype for the Holocaust itself.’ In three days of violence, 49 Jews were killed and 600 raped or wounded, while more than 1,000 Jewish-owned houses and stores were ransacked and destroyed. Using new evidence culled from Russia, Israel, and Europe, distinguished historian Steven J. Zipperstein’s wide-ranging book brings historical insight and clarity to a much-misunderstood event that would do so much to transform twentieth-century Jewish life and beyond.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverKnow Thyself : Western identity from classical Greece to the Renaissance / by Ingrid Rossellini
“In this book the independent scholar Ingrid Rossellini surveys the major ideas that, from Greek and Roman antiquity through the Christian medieval era up to the dawn of modernity in the Renaissance, have guided the Western project of self-knowledge. Addressing the curious lay reader with an interdisciplinary approach that includes numerous references to the visual arts, Know Thyself will reintroduce readers to the most profound and enduring ways our civilization has framed the issues of self and society.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverInside Iran : the real history and politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran / Medea Benjamin.
“U.S. relations with Iran have been fraught for decades, but under the Trump Administration tensions are rising to startling levels. Medea Benjamin, one of the best-known 21st century activists, offers the incredible history of how a probable alliance became a bitter antagonism in this accessible and fascinating story. Tackling common misconceptions about Iran’s system of government, its religiosity, and its citizens’ way of life, Benjamin makes short work of the inflammatory rhetoric surrounding U.S.-Iranian relations, and presents a realistic and hopeful case for the two nations’ future.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Secret histories: New History books

France book cover

This month’s picks have a focus on World War II. In Never Remember, Masha Gessen and Misha Friedman travel across Russia to investigate both the physical history and memory of Stalin’s gulags. Fast-forwarding a few years, Gregg Carlstrom examines the internal political conflicts of modern Israeli society in How Long Will Israel Survive.

Syndetics book coverThe Last Battle: Endgame on the Western Front, 1918 [hardback]
“By August 1918, the outcome of the Great War was not in doubt: the Allies would win. But what was unclear was how this defeat would play out – would the Germans hold on, prolonging the fighting deep into 1919, with the loss of hundreds of thousands more young lives, or could the war be won in 1918? Drawing on the experience of both generals and ordinary soldiers, and dwelling with equal weight on strategy, tactics and individual experience, this is a powerful and detailed account of history’s greatest endgame.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe London cage : the secret history of Britain’s World War II interrogation centre / Helen Fry.
“Behind the locked doors of three mansions in London’s exclusive Kensington Palace Gardens neighborhood, the British Secret Service established a highly secret prison in 1940: the London Cage. Here recalcitrant German prisoners of war were subjected to ‘special intelligence treatment.’ Bringing dark secrets to light, this groundbreaking book at last provides an objective and complete history of the London Cage.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHow long will Israel survive? : the threat from within / Gregg Carlstrom.
“There was once a national consensus in Israeli society: despite a left-right political split, its people were broadly secular and liberal. Over the past decade, the country has fractured into tribes with little shared understanding of what it means to be a Zionist–let alone an Israeli–and contesting the very notion of a ‘Jewish and democratic’ state. Gregg Carlstrom maps this conflict, from cosmopolitan Tel Aviv to the hilltops of the West Bank, and asks a pressing question: will the Middle East’s strongest power survive its own internal contradictions?” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFrance : a history : from Gaul to de Gaulle / John Julius Norwich.
“John Julius Norwich (at 88) has finally written the book he always wanted to write, the extremely colourful story of the country he loves best. From frowning Roman generals and belligerent Gallic chieftains, to Charlemagne (hated by generations of French children taught that he invented schools) through Marie Antoinette and the storming of the Bastille to Vichy, the Resistance and beyond, France is packed with heroes and villains, adventures and battles, romance and revolution. Full of memorable stories and racy anecdotes, this is the perfect introduction to the country that has inspired the rest of the world to live, dress, eat — and love better.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe last fighting Tommy : the life of Harry Patch, last veteran of the trenches, 1898-2009 / Harry Patch with Richard van Emden.
“Harry Patch, the last British soldier alive to have fought in the trenches of the First World War, is now 108 years old and one of very few people who can directly recall the horror of that conflict. Harry vividly remembers his childhood in the Somerset countryside of Edwardian England. He left school in 1913 to become an apprentice plumber but three years later was conscripted, serving as a machine gunner in the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry. The Last Fighting Tommy is the story of an ordinary man’s extraordinary life.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe work I did : a memoir of the secretary to Goebbels / Brunhilde Pomsel, Thore D. Hansen ; translated by Shaun Whiteside.
“Brunhilde Pomsel described herself as an ‘apolitical girl’ and a ‘figure on the margins’. How are we to reconcile this description with her chosen profession? Employed as a typist during the Second World War, she worked closely with one of the worst criminals in world history: Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels. She was one of the oldest surviving eyewitnesses to the internal workings of the Nazi power apparatus until her death in 2017. Compelling and unnerving, The Work I Did gives us intimate insight into political complexity at society’s highest levels – at one of history’s darkest moments.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNever remember : searching for Stalin’s Gulags in Putin’s Russia / by Masha Gessen and Misha Friedman ; essay by Masha Gessen ; photographs by Misha Friedman.
“Writer Masha Gessen and photographer Misha Friedman set out across Russia in search of the memory of the Gulag. They journey from Moscow to Sandarmokh, a forested site of mass executions during Stalin’s Great Terror; to the only Gulag camp turned into a museum; and to Kolyma, where prisoners worked in deadly mines in the remote reaches of the Far East. They find that in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, where Stalin is remembered as a great leader, Soviet terror has not been forgotten: it was never remembered in the first place.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Merchant of Syria : A History of Survival
“Barely literate, and supporting his mother and sisters from the age of ten, Abu Chaker built up a business empire. Diana Darke follows his tumultuous journey, from instability in Syria and civil war in Lebanon, to his arrival in England in the 1970s, where he rescued a failing Yorkshire textile mill, Hield Bros, and transformed it into a global brand. The Merchant of Syria tells two parallel stories: the life of a cloth merchant and his resilience, and the rich history of a nation built on trade. Over millennia Syria has seen great conflict and turmoil, but like the remarkable story of Abu Chaker, it continues to survive.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Kiwi letters and policy: History picks

This month’s picks see a decent amount of Kiwi content, with Peter Wells’s Dear Oliver looking at the Pākehā past with a collection of family letters, and a collection of academics assembled to discuss our government’s approach to welfare with Social Investment: A New Zealand Policy Experiment. On the topic of World War II we have tomes regarding the defense of Britain against invasion and the man regarded as responsible for it (and his subsequent legacy issues). We also look to recent Middle Eastern conflicts with a book on the international geopolitical influence on the Syrian conflict and a more personal story of two sisters who traveled to the Islamic State as jihadists.

Syndetics book coverPaths to the past : encounters with Britain’s hidden landscapes / Francis Pryor.
“Landscapes reflect and shape our behaviour. They make us who we are and bear witness to the shifting patterns of human life over generations. Formed by a series of natural and human processes, they rarely yield their secrets readily. Bringing to bear a lifetime’s digging, Francis Pryor delves into England’s hidden urban and rural landscapes.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDefending island Britain in the Second World War : documentary sources / David Rogers.
“Britain’s close proximity to Europe – and the unfolding scale of conflict – also brought challenges of their own (especially following the fall of France and Norway). Airfields once in Allied hands were quickly manned with Axis aircraft and personnel – making it possible for them to attack a far greater area of the United Kingdom’s countryside and towns. In amongst these challenges, the civilian and armed forces determined a path forward (some of the plans for which have never been documented). The following just scratches the surface of the ingenuity and bravery of many people and children.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTwo sisters : a father, his daughters, and their journey into the Syrian jihad / Åsne Seierstad ; translated from the Norwegian by Seán Kinsella.
“The riveting story of two sisters’ journey to the Islamic State and the father who tries to bring them home. Asne Seierstad puts the problem of radicalization into painfully human terms, using instant messages and other primary sources to reconstruct a family’s crisis from the inside. Eventually, she takes us into the hellscape of the Syrian civil war, as Sadiq risks his life in pursuit of his daughters, refusing to let them disappear into the maelstrom.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDear Oliver : uncovering a Pākehā history / Peter Wells.
“When writer and historian Peter Wells found a cache of family letters amongst his elderly mother’s effects, he realised that he had the means of retracing the history of a not-untypical family swept out to New Zealand during the great nineteenth-century human diaspora from Britain. His family experienced the war against Te Kooti, the Boer War, the Napier earthquake of 1931 and the Depression. In digging deep into their stories, examining letters from the past and writing a letter to the future, Peter Wells constructs a novel and striking way to view the history of Pākehā New Zealanders.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWinston Churchill, myth and reality : what he actually did and said / Richard M. Langworth.
“Winston Churchill, indispensable when liberty was in peril, died in 1965. Yet he is still accused of numerous sins, from alcoholism and racism to misogyny and warmongering. On the Internet, he simmers in a stew of imagined misdeeds–using poison gas, firebombing Dresden, causing the Bengal famine, and so on. Drawing on the author’s fifty years of research and writing on Churchill, this book uncovers scores of myths surrounding him–the popular and the obscure–to reveal what he really said and did about many issues.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe history of Havana / Dick Cluster and Rafael Hernández.
“From its colonial roots to its communist revolution, authors Dick Cluster and Rafael Hernández examine not only the ruptures in Havana’s life, but its continuities as well. The traditions that make the city unique, like its idiosyncratic combination of territorialism and hospitality or its proclivity for protest, are as much a drive for change as an integral element of its character. Drawing on oral histories and cultural artifacts alike, this history acknowledges the rich and artfully selected stories of the citizens, from their fascinating exploits to their grand successes, making it a superbly well-rounded account of the most alluring city in the Caribbean.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMiracle at Midway / Gordon W. Prange with Donald M. Goldstein and Katherine V. Dillon.
“Six months after Pearl Harbor, the seemingly invincible Imperial Japanese Navy prepared a decisive blow against the United States. After sweeping through Asia and the South Pacific, Japan’s military targeted the tiny atoll of Midway, an ideal launching pad for the invasion of Hawaii and beyond. The United States Navy would be waiting for them. Thanks to cutting-edge code-breaking technology, tactical daring, and a huge stroke of luck, the Americans under Admiral Chester W. Nimitz dealt the Japanese navy its first major defeat of the war. Three years of hard fighting remained, but it was at Midway that the tide turned.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSocial investment : a New Zealand policy experiment / edited by Jonathan Boston and Derek Gill.
“As ideas about social investment evolve, this book brings together leading academics, commentators and policy analysts from the public and private sectors to answer three big questions: How should social investment be defined and conceptualized? How should it be put into practice? In what policy domains can it be most productively applied? As governments in New Zealand and abroad continue to explore how best to tackle major social problems, this book is essential for people seeking to understand social policy in the twenty-first century.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe battle for Syria : international rivalry in the new Middle East / Christopher Phillips.
“Most accounts of Syria’s brutal, long-lasting civil war focus on a domestic contest that began in 2011 and only later drew foreign nations into the escalating violence. Christopher Phillips argues instead that Syria’s war was, from the very start, profoundly influenced by regional factors. Without absolving the brutal Bashar al-Assad regime, the author untangles the key external factors which explain the acceleration and endurance of the conflict, including the West’s strategy against ISIS.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Leaving it in the past: Recent History picks

Image from Syndetics

This month’s new history books include the children of high-ranking Nazis coming to terms with the legacies of their fathers, the history of conflict between Christian and Muslim societies, and Colombian mafia murders. Slightly less violent reading can be found in Being Together in Place, which examines the co-existence of native and non-native peoples in the modern world around contested sites and differing interests.

Syndetics book coverBeing together in place : indigenous coexistence in a more than human world / Soren C. Larsen and Jay T. Johnson ; foreword by Daniel R. Wildcat.
Being Together in Place explores the landscapes that convene Native and non-Native people into sustained and difficult negotiations over their radically different interests and concerns. Grounded in three sites – the Cheslatta-Carrier traditional territory in British Columbia; the Wakarusa Wetlands in northeastern Kansas; and the Waitangi Treaty Grounds in Aotearoa/New Zealand – this book highlights the challenging, tentative, and provisional work of coexistence around such contested spaces as wetlands, treaty grounds, fishing spots, recreation areas, cemeteries, heritage trails, and traditional village sites.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverEngland in the age of chivalry… and awful diseases : the Hundred Years War and Black Death / Ed West.
“Covering the violent and disease-ridden period between 1272 to 1399, England in the Age of Chivalry. . . And Awful Diseases covers the events, personages and ideas most commonly known as “medieval”. This includes Geoffrey Chaucer, the Peasants revolt, the Scottish wars of independence, the Great Famine of 1315, the Black Death and the 100 Years War. Central to this time is King Edward III, who started the 100 Years War and defined the concept of chivalry, including England’s order of the garter. His legacy continues to shape our view of England’s history and is crucial in understanding the development of Europe.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDunkirk / by A.D. Divine D.S.M.
“This is the story of Dunkirk and of the men who planned it (insofar as it was planned) and of the men who carried it out, and of their ships. Mr Divine, who was himself with the small boats, writes with the authority of direct knowledge. He had the assistance of the men who were intimately concerned with planning and organising the operation.
This is the true story of Dunkirk from its almost nebulous beginnings to the astonishing triumph of its end.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThere are no dead here : a story of murder and denial in Colombia / Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno.
There Are No Dead Here is the harrowing story of three ordinary Colombians who risked everything to reveal the collusion between the new mafia and much of the country’s military and political establishment: Jesús María Valle, a human rights activist who was murdered for exposing a dark secret; Iván Velásquez, a quiet prosecutor who took up Valle’s cause and became an unlikely hero; and Ricardo Calderón, a dogged journalist who is still being targeted for his revelations. Their groundbreaking investigations landed a third of the country’s Congress in prison and fed new demands for justice and peace that Colombia’s leaders could not ignore.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverUkraine over the edge : Russia, the West and the “new Cold War” / Gordon M. Hahn.
“The Ukrainian crisis that dominated headlines in fall 2013 was decades in the making. This study focuses on the historical background and complex causality of the crisis, from the rise of mass demonstrations on Kiev’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) to the making of the post-revolt regime. In the context of a “new cold war,” the author sheds light on the role of radical Ukrainian nationalists and neofascists in the February 2014 snipers’ massacre, the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych, and Russia’s seizure of Crimea and involvement in the civil war in the eastern region of Donbass.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe children of Nazis : the sons and daughter of Himmler, Gö̈ring, Höss, Mengele, and others — living with a father’s monstrous legacy / Tania Crasnianski ; translated by Molly Grogan.
“In 1940, the German sons and daughters of great Nazi dignitaries were children of privilege at four, five, or ten years old, surrounded by affectionate, all-powerful parents. Although innocent and unaware of what was happening at the time, they eventually discovered the extent of their father’s occupations. In this enlightening book, Tania Crasnianski examines the responsibility of eight descendants of Nazi notables, caught somewhere between stigmatization, worship, and amnesia.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCrusade and Jihad : The thousand-year war between the Muslim world and the global north / William R. Polk.
Crusade and Jihad is the first book to encompass, in one volume, the entire history of the catastrophic encounter between the Global North–China, Russia, Europe, Britain, and America–and Muslim societies from Central Asia to West Africa. A sobering, scrupulous, and frank account of imperialism, colonialism, insurgency, and terrorism, Crusade and Jihad is history for anyone who wishes to understand the civilizational conflicts of today’s world.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverIn broad daylight : the secret procedures behind the Holocaust by bullets / Father Patrick Desbois ; with an historical introduction by Andrej Umansky ; translated from the French by Hilary Reyl and Calvert Barksdale.
In Broad Daylight documents mass killings in seven countries formerly part of the Soviet Union that were invaded by Nazi Germany. Narrating in lucid, powerful prose that has the immediacy of a crime report, Father Desbois assembles a chilling account of how, concretely, these events took place in village after village, from the selection of the date to the twenty-four-hour period in which the mass murders unfolded.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWhen Montezuma met Cortés : the true story of the meeting that changed history / Matthew Restall.
“Drawing on rare primary sources and overlooked accounts by conquistadors and Aztecs alike, Restall explores Cortés’s and Montezuma’s posthumous reputations, their achievements and failures, and the worlds in which they lived–leading, step by step, to a dramatic inversion of the old story. As Restall takes us through this sweeping, revisionist account of a pivotal moment in modern civilization, he calls into question our view of the history of the Americas, and, indeed, of history itself.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Written by the winners: Recent history picks

This month’s picks deal with more than a few losses. Whether it’s the ruins of Aude de Tocqueville’s Atlas of Lost Cities, the Italian army brought to heel by an Ethiopian army to slow European colonialism in The Battle of Adwa, or the collapse of France in World War 2 in Case Red, you’re sure to find someone or something not coming out on top.

Syndetics book coverThe Balfour declaration : empire, the mandate and resistance in Palestine / Bernard Regan.
“On November 2, 1917, the British government, represented by Foreign Minister Arthur Balfour, declared that they were in favor of “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” A hundred years after its signing, Bernard Regan recasts the history of the Balfour Declaration as one of the major events in the story of the Middle East. Offering new insights into the imperial rivalries between Britain, Germany and the Ottomans, Regan exposes British policy in the region as part of a larger geopolitical game.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDirectorate S : the C.I.A. and America’s secret wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan / Steve Coll.
“Resuming the narrative of his Pulitzer Prize-winning Ghost Wars, bestselling author Steve Coll tells for the first time the epic and enthralling story of America’s intelligence, military, and diplomatic efforts to defeat Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan since 9/11. This is the definitive explanation of how America came to be so badly ensnared in an elaborate, factional, and seemingly interminable conflict in South Asia.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCase red : the collapse of France, 1940 / Robert Forczyk.
“The drama of the final three weeks of military operations in France in June 1940 has never effectively been captured on paper, but this is a story that needs to be told since it had great impact on the course of World War II and inter-Allied relations. This book will also address the initial German exploitation of France and how the windfall of captured military equipment, fuel and industrial resources enhanced the Third Reich’s ability to attack its next foe–the Soviet Union.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book cover1947 : where now begins / Elisabeth Åsbrink ; translated from the Swedish by Fiona Graham.
“The year 1947 marks a turning point in the twentieth century. Peace with Germany becomes a tool to fortify the West against the threats of the Cold War. The CIA is created, Israel is about to be born, Simone de Beauvoir experiences the love of her life, an ill George Orwell is writing his last book, and Christian Dior creates the hyper-feminine New Look as women are forced out of jobs and back into the home. In the midst of it all, a ten-year-old Hungarian-Jewish boy resides in a refugee camp for children of parents murdered by the Nazis. This year he has to make the decision of a lifetime, one that will determine his own fate and that of his daughter yet to be born, Elisabeth.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA dictionary of family history : the genealogists’ ABC / Jonathan Scott.
“Part encyclopedia, part dictionary, part almanac – Jonathan Scott’s Dictionary of Family History doesn’t claim to be exhaustive, but it is practical, easy to use, entertaining and genuinely informative. It is the kind of book you can dip into or use as a starting point for deeper study, and it is the essential companion for experienced family historians and for anyone who is approaching this fascinating subject for the first time. This concise, clear and wide-ranging compendium of helpful, sometimes surprising information is a valuable reference tool for everyone in the field.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAtlas of lost cities : a travel guide to abandoned and forsaken destinations / Aude de Tocqueville ; illustrations, Karin Doering-Froger.
“Like humans, cities are mortal. They are born, they thrive, and they eventually die. In Atlas of Lost Cities, Aude de Tocqueville tells the compelling narrative of the rise and fall of such notable places as Pompeii, Teotihuacán, and Angkor. Beautiful, original artwork shows the location of the lost cities and depicts how they looked when they thrived.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Battle of Adwa : African Victory in the Age of Empire
“In 1896, a well-disciplined and massive Ethiopian army did the unthinkable-it routed an invading Italian force and brought Italy’s war of conquest in Africa to an end. In an age of relentless European expansion, Ethiopia had successfully defended its independence and cast doubt on the assumption that all Africans would fall under the rule of Europeans.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA river in darkness : one man’s escape from North Korea / Masaji Ishikawa ; translated by Risa Kobayashi and Martin Brown.
“Half-Korean, half-Japanese, Masaji Ishikawa has spent his whole life feeling like a man without a country. This feeling only deepened when his family moved from Japan to North Korea when Ishikawa was just thirteen years old, and unwittingly became members of the lowest social caste. In this memoir translated from the original Japanese, Ishikawa candidly recounts his tumultuous upbringing and the brutal thirty-six years he spent living under a crushing totalitarian regime, as well as the challenges he faced repatriating to Japan after barely escaping North Korea with his life.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSS-Major Horst Kopkow : from the Gestapo to British intelligence / Stephen Tyas.
“On 27 May 1942, SS General Reinhard Heydrich was assassinated by British-trained Czech agents who had parachuted into Czechoslovakia. He died of his wounds on 4 June 1942. Two days later, Gestapo Captain Horst Kopkow’s department was given fresh directions. From 6 June 1942 until the end of the war, Kopkow was responsible for the fight against Soviet and British parachute agents dropped anywhere in German territories. By 1944 almost 150 British agents had been caught, deported, and almost all had been murdered without trial by December. Kopkow was directly involved in these murders. Arrested by British forces after the war, Kopkow was extensively interrogated, but for the next 20 years, Kopkow was a consultant for Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

New year, old history: New history books

Image from Syndetics

Another year done and dusted, ready to have more history books written about it and featured in this series eventually! To start the year off, we’ve got modern China, the Goths, Hitler, the USSR, and last but not least, a re-examination of everyone’s favourite king, Richard III.

Syndetics book coverChasing the Chinese dream : stories from modern China / Nick Holdstock.
“China is undergoing the biggest and fastest societal and economic change in human history. Driving this dizzying transformation is the idea of the “Chinese Dream,” the promise that in the new China, anyone can make it. Chasing the Chinese Dream follows a cast of extraordinary characters: the people getting rich; running factories and buying luxury cars and Louis Vuitton bags. But it also provides insight into those left behind, trapped by a system defined by long hours and no prospects.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverParadise in chains: the Bounty Mutiny and the founding of Australia / Diana Preston.
“The story of the mutiny of the Bounty and William Bligh and his men’s survival on the open ocean has become the stuff of legend. But few realize that Bligh’s escape was not the only open-boat journey in that era. Indeed, 9 convicts from the Australian penal colony, led by Mary Bryant, also traveled to the same port Bligh had reached only months before. Acclaimed historian Diana Preston provides the background and context to explain the thrilling open-boat voyages each party survived on their journey to safety.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Third Reich in 100 objects : a material history of Nazi Germany / Roger Moorhouse ; foreword by Richard Overy.
“This is a compelling, frequently shocking and revelatory guide to the Third Reich that has been collated and presented by two of the world’s leading World War II historians.The photographs gathered include Pervitin, Hitler’s Mercedes, Wehrmach toilet paper, Hitler’s grooming kit, the Nuremberg courtroom, the Tiger Tank, fragments of flak, the Iron Cross and, of course, the Swastika and Mein Kampf.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverJack’s journey : a soldier’s experience of the First World War / Jack Pryce ; edited by Trish McCormack and Andrew Gibson.
“When Jack Pryce sailed to war in 1915 with the Otago Infantry Battalion he was restless, wanting to “make good” of his life. Experiencing the carnage of Gallipoli and Passchendaele and other epic battles on the Western Front, he rose through the ranks to gain his commission.” (Syndetics summary)

 

Syndetics book coverThe Goths / David M. Gwynn.
“In this engaging history, David M. Gwynn brings together the interwoven stories of the original Goths and the diverse Gothic heritage, a heritage that continues to shape our modern world. From the ancient migrations to contemporary Goth culture, through debates over democratic freedom and European nationalism, and drawing on writers from Shakespeare to Bram Stoker, Gwynn explores the ever-widening gulf between the Goths of history and the popular imagination.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverRed flag unfurled : history, historians, and the Russian Revolution / Ronald Grigor Suny.
“Reflecting on the fate of the Russian Revolution one hundred years after October, Ronald Grigor Suny explores the historiographical controversies over 1917, Stalinism, and the end of “Communism” and provides an assessment of the achievements, costs, losses and legacies of the choices made by Soviet leaders. Suny reevaluates the promises, missed opportunities, achievements, and colossal costs of trying to build a kind of “socialism” in the inhospitable environment of peasant Russia.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book cover Escaping Hitler : stories of courage and endurance on the freedom trails / Monty Halls.
“Some of the great untold stories of the Second World War concern the freedom trails, the highly dangerous escape routes out of Nazi Occupied Europe. Over 5,000 British, Commonwealth and American servicemen made the journey over the Pyrenees, the Slovenian mountains and the Italian alps. Mixing in depth research, interviews with survivors and his own experience of walking the trails, broadcaster and former Royal Marine Monty Halls brings the past to life in this dramatic and gripping slice of military history.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverRichard III : brother, protector, king / Chris Skidmore.
“The last Plantagenet king remains one of England’s most famous and controversial monarchs. There are few parallels in English history that can match the drama of Richard III’s reign, witnessed in its full bloody intensity. By stripping back the legends that surround Richard’s life and reign, and returning to original manuscript evidence, Chris Skidmore rediscovers the man as contemporaries saw him. His compelling study presents every facet of Richard’s personality as it deserves to be seen: as one of the most significant figures in medieval history.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

History for the holidays: New books

This month’s history picks are largely about the negative and grim, just in time for the holiday season. Pleasant subjects like the Ukrainian famine, mistreated POWs in Britain during World War 2, and failures of military in the Middle East during the post-9/11 operations are all visited. Fortunately we have something a bit more positive to bring the mood back up with an examination of how Chaucer’s works reflected fourteenth century society, and closer to home we have a history of the Hawke’s Bay area.

Syndetics book coverRed famine : Stalin’s war on Ukraine / Anne Applebaum.
“From the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Gulag and the National Book Award finalist Iron Curtain , a revelatory history of one of Stalin’s greatest crimes–the consequences of which still resonate today. In 1929 Stalin launched his policy of agricultural collectivization–in effect a second Russian revolution–which forced millions of peasants off their land and onto collective farms. The result was a catastrophic famine, the most lethal in European history. Applebaum’s compulsively readable narrative recalls one of the worst crimes of the twentieth century, and shows how it may foreshadow a new threat to the political order in the twenty-first.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverRichard Nixon : the life / John A. Farrell.
“At the end of WWII, navy lieutenant “Nick” Nixon returned from the Pacific and set his cap at Congress, an idealistic dreamer seeking to build a better world. Yet amid the turns of that now-legendary 1946 campaign, Nixon’s finer attributes gave way to unapologetic ruthlessness. The story of that transformation is the stunning overture to John A. Farrell’s magisterial biography of the president who came to embody postwar American resentment and division. Richard Nixon is a gripping and unsparing portrayal of our darkest president. Meticulously researched, brilliantly crafted, and offering fresh revelations, it will be hailed as a master work.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDestructive creation : American business and the winning of World War II / Mark R. Wilson.
“During World War II, the United States helped vanquish the Axis powers by converting its enormous economic capacities into military might. Crucial in this effort were business leaders. Some of these captains of industry went to Washington to coordinate the mobilization, while others led their companies to churn out weapons. Offering a groundbreaking account of the inner workings of the “arsenal of democracy,” Destructive Creation also suggests how the struggle to define its heroes and villains has continued to shape economic and political development to the present day.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe London cage : the secret history of Britain’s World War II interrogation centre / Helen Fry.
“Behind the locked doors of three mansions in London’s exclusive Kensington Palace Gardens neighborhood, the British Secret Service established a highly secret prison in 1940: the London Cage. This riveting book reveals the full details of operations at the London Cage and subsequent efforts to hide them. Helen Fry’s extraordinary original research uncovers the grim picture of prisoners’ daily lives and of systemic Soviet-style mistreatment.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLosing small wars : British military failure in the 9/11 wars / Frank Ledwidge.
“This new edition of Frank Ledwidge’s eye-opening analysis of British involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan unpicks the causes and enormous costs of military failure. Updated throughout, and with fresh chapters assessing and enumerating the overall military performance since 2011–including Libya, ISIS, and the Chilcot findings–Ledwidge shows how lessons continue to go unlearned.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe fall : the evidence for a golden age, 6,000 years of insanity, and the dawning of a new era / Steve Taylor.
“It is not “natural” for human beings to kill each other, for men to oppress women, for individuals to accumulate massive wealth and power, or to abuse nature. The roots of our current malaise lie in an “ego explosion” which occurred several thousand years ago. “Primitive,” pre-civilization men and women were largely free of our social ills and had a more unified and harmonious state of being than us. This intensively-researched, highly praised book explains the origins of our problems and suggests what we can do to return to a state of harmony.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe history of Hawke’s Bay / Matthew Wright.
“Hawke’s Bay has a remarkable history, brief by world standards, yet filled with colour, pace and life. This illustrated history covers the broadest sweep of Hawke’s Bay’s past, telling the wider tale of people and their ideals. It extends from the Maori history of the district to Hawke’s Bay’s rumbustious settler era, the highs and lows of the twentieth century with its wars, depressions and booms; and the remarkable social transformations of the early twenty-first.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe expanding blaze : how the American Revolution ignited the world, 1775-1848 / Jonathan Israel.
The Expanding Blaze is a sweeping history of how the American Revolution inspired revolutions throughout Europe and the Atlantic world in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Jonathan Israel, one of the world’s leading historians of the Enlightenment, shows how the radical ideas of American founders such as Paine, Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, and Monroe set the pattern for democratic revolutions, movements, and constitutions in France, Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Greece, Canada, Haiti, Brazil, and Spanish America.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverChaucer’s people : everyday lives in medieval England / Liza Picard.
“The Middle Ages were turbulent times. In the fourteenth century alone, England was ravaged by war, plague, revolt and the overthrow of a king. Among the surviving records, the poetry of Geoffrey Chaucer is the most vivid. But what does it tell us about the everyday lives of medieval men and women? What did people eat, wear, read and think? Drawing on contemporary experiences of a vast range of subjects including trade, religion, toe-curling remedies and hair-raising recipes, Chaucer’s People recreates the medieval world in all its glorious detail.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Heists, commandos and interrogations feature in our new History picks

This month’s history picks see plenty of visits to the mid-20th Century, with Cold War heists, Italian WWII commandos, and post-war leaders rebuilding in the United Kingdom. Elsewhere, we go to the slightly more recent capture and subsequent interrogation of Saddam Hussein, and a controversial book from an Indian doctor regarding the influence of Britain in the creation of the systems that make up modern India.

Syndetics book coverThe taking of K-129 : how the CIA used Howard Hughes to steal a Russian sub in the most daring covert operation in history / Josh Dean.
“An incredible true tale of espionage and engineering set at the height of the Cold War–a mix between The Hunt for Red October and Argo– about how the CIA, the U.S. Navy, and America’s most eccentric mogul spent six years and nearly a billion dollars to steal the nuclear-armed Soviet submarine K-129 after it had sunk to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean; all while the Russians were watching.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe cold war : a world history / Odd Arne Westad.
“We tend to think of the Cold War as a bounded conflict: a clash of two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, born out of the ashes of World War II and coming to a dramatic end with the collapse of the Soviet Union. But in this major new work, Bancroft Prize-winning scholar Odd Arne Westad argues that the Cold War must be understood as a global ideological confrontation, with early roots in the Industrial Revolution and ongoing repercussions around the world.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDebriefing the president : the interrogation of Saddam Hussein / John Nixon.
Debriefing the President presents an astounding, candid portrait of one of our era’s most notorious strongmen. Nixon, the first man to conduct a prolonged interrogation of Hussein after his capture, offers expert insight into the history and mind of America’s most enigmatic enemy. Unflinching and unprecedented, Debriefing the President exposes a fundamental misreading of one of the modern world’s most central figures and presents a new narrative that boldly counters the received account.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDecima Flottiglia MAS : the best commandos of the Second World War / Walter S. Zapotoczny Jr.
“A group of determined young human torpedoes and assault swimmers fought bravely for Italy in the Second World War, inspiring fear and respect from the British Navy. The actions of these few men severely reduced British naval power in the Mediterranean. Italy’s Decima Flottiglia MAS pre-dates both the U.S. Navy Underwater Demolition Teams, formed in 1943 and forerunners of the better-known U.S. Navy SEALs; and the British Royal Marines Special Boat Service.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe shortest history of Germany / James Hawes.
“Read in an afternoon. Remember for a lifetime. The West is in full retreat. Populists all over Europe cry out that immigration and globalisation are the work of a nefarious System, run by unseen masters with no national loyalties. From the Kremlin, Tsar Vladimir watches his Great Game line up, while the Baltic and Vizegrad states shiver — and everyone looks to Berlin. But are the Germans really us, or them? This question has haunted Europe ever since Julius Caesar invented the Germani in 58 BC. This fresh, illuminating and concise new history, with more than 100 maps and images, makes sense of Europe’s most admired and feared country.” (Abridged from Amazon.co.uk)

Syndetics book coverArchaeology of the Solomon Islands / Richard Walter & Peter Sheppard.
Archaeology of the Solomon Islands presents the outcome of 20 years research in the Solomon Islands undertaken jointly by Richard Walter and Peter Sheppard, both leaders in the eld of Pacific archaeology. This fascinating and very readable book is written for an archaeological audience but is also designed to be accessible to all readers interested in Pacific archaeology, anthropology and history. Featuring more than a hundred maps and figures, Archaeology of the Solomon Islands represents a ground-breaking contribution to Pacific archaeology.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCitizen Clem : a biography of Attlee / John Bew.
“Bew’s thorough and keen examination of Attlee, the former leader of the Labour Party, illuminates how his progressive beliefs shaped his influential domestic and international policy. The Man Who Made Modern Britain explores his tenure in the years after the war, as he presided over a radical new government in an age of austerity and imperial decline. Attentive to both the man and the political landscape, this comprehensive biography provides new insight into the soul of a leader who transformed his country and by extension the vast empire over which it once ruled.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAs it was : growing up in Grey Lynn and Ponsonby between the wars / Russell Stone.
“A fascinating look at two of Auckland¿s most popular suburbs as they were in the 1920s and 1930s. When Russell Stone was born in 1923 life was simpler and relatively uncomplicated. But it was also harsher, with much hard physical labour for men and women alike. The memory of the Great War was still raw. And although the attitudes and practices of our colonial past were still to be seen on every hand, Auckland, just like New Zealand as a whole, was already passing over the threshold towards something quite different.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe making of India : the untold story of British enterprise / Kartar Lalvani.
“Dr. Kartar Lalvani controversially argues that Britain made a crucial contribution in providing India with its lasting physical and institutional infrastructure which continues to underpin the world’s largest democracy. The indisputable fact is that India as a nation, as it stands today, was originally put together and created by a small distant island nation. That India has endured as a democracy and a unified nation is thanks to the all important and fully functional infrastructure of an independent civil service and judiciary, a disciplined and apolitical army and a well drilled and efficient police force–all developed by an imperial power.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)