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Why would a hardened band of foreign jihādi warriors agree to work for a self-proclaimed leader of the Christian world – especially one militantly opposed to Islam, who kept his own Muslim citizens under close surveillance? And why would such a ruler choose to keep that particular type of professional killer in his personal employ?
There are two approaches to writing a significant history book. One is ‘going big’ and covering the broadest range of historical phenomena within a large geographical space during a wide time span. This approach makes use of vast and variegated historical bibliographies and well-selected primary sources.
In the West, it can be easy to forget just how closely China and the USSR were once bound in political imaginations. Today, the USSR is a land to which there is no return: a figment of past dreams and nightmares – whereas China is on everyone’s mind, a growing economic power that has shed its socialist past to move to the forefront of the new capitalist order.
Eli Rubin has written a wonderful book that does not just tell a fascinating story about an important but much neglected subject, but also manages to link this story to much broader historiographical, and indeed ontological, questions about the intersections between space, on one hand, and power, time and lived experience on the other.
Algeria was colonised and departmentalised by the French in the 19th century, and by 1954 around a million Algerians of European origin lived in the settler colony. Following a seven-and-a-half-year war against France, Algeria officially became independent in 1962.
One of the most memorable and unsettling works of historical fiction to appear in the last 15 years is Louis de Bernières’ Birds without Wings, which tells the stories of the inhabitants of Eskibahçe, a fictional village in the Ottoman Empire, in the years before, during and after the First World War.
Tim Snyder’s ambitious Bloodlands set out to place the murderous regimes of the Third Reich and Stalin’s Soviet Union in their overlapping European contexts.
From the moment it was first published in 1997, Maria Todorova’s Imagining the Balkans became an instant must-read, in particular but not only, for readers interested in the history of the ‘Balkans’. Concerns about the situation in Southeast Europe at the time, in the aftermath of the wars in the former Yugoslavia, guaranteed that its impact reached beyond the specialist public.
The 13 essays in this book are the outcome of a conference (with the addition of a few other papers) held at Winchester University in September 2011.
Frederick Barbarossa is arguably one of the most important German rulers of the Middle Ages, and certainly one of the best known. Still, English-speaking readers have had to wait a long time for a biography of this Holy Roman Emperor.