Until the early 1990s - the insistent writings of John Terraine notwithstanding - the campaign in Palestine in 1917 and 1918 was, more often than not, portrayed by historians and military commentators as perhaps the most attractive, significant and viable alternative to the carnage of the Western Front.
Few areas of historical enquiry resonate with such contemporary relevance as the Arab-Israeli conflict, and any scholar attempting a book on the subject is walking into a politically charged minefield. Historians enquiring after the 'truth' are accused of partisan bias: after all, they must either be supporters of Zionism or the Arab cause.
How should we read the Crusades? The question begs a host of others, not least how do we read them, in the light of how we have read them in the past. Beginning as a historian of how the Crusades were regarded in their own high mediaeval time, Elizabeth Siberry has more recently constituted herself the historian of how they have since been regarded in our own.
If one saw a wrong being committed in public, should one intervene? This basic moral question is at the heart of a significant body of Muslim scholarship, and forms the topic of Michael Cook's eminently learned and comprehensive study.
The flight of Jews out of Nazi Germany has been the subject of much attention. Virtually every country that witnessed the entry of Jews in the 1930s has had its experiences discussed in at least one book.(1) Britain is no exception.
On 13 April 1204 the western or Latin armies participating in the Fourth Crusade conquered Constantinople, the capital of Byzantium. The approaching 800th anniversary of that event has generated renewed interest in the background, context and impact of that crusade, expressed in several new studies and in conferences.
In a memorandum for the Committee of Imperial Defence dated 10 July 1920 Harold Nicolson, whose family connection with these matters dated back to the time when his father Lord Carnock entered the Foreign Office, namely 1870, wrote:
On the cover of Gerald MacLean’s engaging new study, The Rise of Oriental Travel: English Visitors to the Ottoman Empire, 1580-1720 is a ‘Portrait of a European Man’ by the Ottoman Artist Abdelcelil Celebi, known as Levni, and painted c.1720. MacLean does not discuss this portrait, but its selection as a cover image is calculated and significant.
It is curious that it should have taken imperial proconsul Lord Cromer (1841–1917, Evelyn Baring until 1892) nearly a century to find a scholarly biographer worthy of his centrality to British, imperial and Egyptian history in the Victorian-Edwardian age.