In From World War to Cold War: Churchill, Roosevelt, and the International History of the 1940s, David Reynolds seeks to bring a sense of contingency to existing considerations of the 1940s, ‘the most dramatic and decisive decade of the twentieth century’ (p. 1). As Reynolds reminds us, neither World War II nor the Cold War was inevitable.
On 18 September 1938, British policymakers, shocked by Hitler’s evident readiness to go to war over the Sudetenland, the German-speaking fringe of territory around the western half of Czechoslovakia, offered to guarantee what remained of Czechoslovakia once it renounced its alliances with France and the Soviet Union and agreed to transfer the territory in question to Germany.
In a seminal article on Portuguese merchants published 35 years ago (1), David Grant Smith suggested (on p. 247) that emigrants from Madeira ‘constituted a sort of gentile Diaspora’, highlighting how family ties and friendships originating on this small Portuguese Atlantic island ‘endured and formed the basis for a network of commercial relationships’.
Portuguese Colonial Cities in the Early Modern World provides a nuanced investigation into cities with varying degrees of connection to the Portuguese empire during the 16th through the 18th centuries.
Maxwell-Stuart's The Chemical Choir is a potentially useful book about the history of alchemy from its roots in ancient China and Egypt in the 4th century AD until the 20th century. It has several merits. Firstly, it breaks down a complex subject – the study of nature through experiments with chemicals – into ten easy-to-read chapters.
Peter Yearwood has carried out impressively extensive research to produce this account of how British foreign policy was closely linked to the formation and operation of the League of Nations in its early years.
I must admit that, at the outset, the prospect of reviewing yet another book on the history of spices was not particularly alluring. In recent years there have been several such accounts, part of a succession it seems – or currently, an avalanche – of ‘food history’ books.
As the title of the book suggests, Geographies of Empire covers the period roughly from the beginning of the ‘scramble for Africa’ – following the British invasion of Egypt in 1882 – to the year by which many of the territories formerly acquired by European colonial powers had been lost or given up.
In this book, Tonio Andrade tells the story of a wild and uncultivated island originally inhabited by aboriginal hunters and traders.
Professor Sir John Elliott is surely the most distinguished Anglophone historian of early modern Spain and its empire; and his mastery of that topic has enabled him to make an equally distinguished contribution to our understanding of Europe as a whole between the 15th and 18th centuries.