After a period in which much historical attention has been directed to the rise of the early modern state, it now seems to be becoming fashionable to take the state out of the centre of the picture again.
Whatever the medievalists might say when they think you’re not listening, 20th-century European history is hard, and post-1945 history can be the trickiest bit. The decades after 1945 are much less precisely understood, in historical terms, than the decades before. They are more subject to unchallenged platitudes and uninformed controversy: they are surrounded by white noise.
The title of this book, Antarctica: a Biography, might cause some initial confusion but this is rectified by the publisher’s puff on the front inside flap of the dust jacket where it is described as ‘the first major international history of this forbidding continent’.
This is an updated version (December 2014) of a piece originally published in 2013, which extends the coverage of the review to include some more recent works on 1812.
Peter Garretson’s biography of Warqenah Eshete – Ethiopian statesman, diplomat and occasional businessman – is nothing if not meticulous: drawing extensively on Warqenah’s own autobiography and diary, Garretson succeeds in gathering an enormous amount of detail on the myriad stages of the man’s life and doings, personal and professional.
The historical literature on Afghanistan and the various armed conflicts fought on its soil has greatly increased in recent years, due to the tragic events following the American-led invasion of the country in October 2001.
‘No one knows what George Kennan really meant [to say]!’ So did the late McGeorge Bundy, my then professor, initiate me and a half a dozen other graduate students into mystery of George Frost Kennan. I say ‘mystery’ deliberately, as both at the time and later, there was indeed something distinctly odd about two aspects of the life and career of the one-time scholar-diplomat.
Controversies over nuclear issues are no strangers to New Zealand. To some this is a surprise. Often regarded in the northern hemisphere as a country both remote and insular (one of ‘eternal Sundays’ as playwright Alan Bennett has written), it is a locality that at times jolts with a seismic unpredictability.
Rayne Allinson’s new book, A Monarchy in Letters: Royal Correspondence and English Diplomacy in the Reign of Elizabeth I, highlights some of the gaps missing in the historiography of the queen’s own involvement in foreign affairs. The author acknowledges that there is a curious void here; what about the queen’s own words?
In comparison with the many recently published one-volume histories of the crusade movement, Malcolm Barber has undertaken a relatively modest task: a history of the crusader states from the time of the First Crusade (1096–1109) to the end of the Third (1187–92).