Professor Spence is described on the dust-cover of this book as 'perhaps now the leading historian of China in the English-speaking world'. Without doubt he is the most imaginative and the most versatile scholar working in that field. The Gate of Heavenly Peace, first published in 1981, was a history of modern China as seen through the lives of Chinese writers and intellectuals.
The appearance of a paperback version of an important book first published in 1995 is most welcome as it will make it more readily available. Equally, it is not easy to review such a work. The scholarly reviews that appeared noting its contents do not require emendation, because the book has not been rewritten.
First published in 1961, Holt's Modern History of the Sudan deservedly established itself as the standard introduction to the subject. Holt revised the work in 1963; since 1979 he has collaborated with Martin Daly on further - slightly retitled - editions, of which this is the most recent.
Many writers attribute Ireland's problems to colonialism. Most, however, make only limited reference to literature on colonialism elsewhere, and debate is hampered by the intimacy of the Irish academic and intellectual scene, which means criticism is muffled by tact or excessively personalised.
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.
On 25 July 2001 Phoolan Devi was shot dead outside her home. Best known in the west through Shekhar Kapur's 1994 film Bandit Queen, Phoolan Devi's life had been remarkable. Born of low-caste, at the age of 11 she had been exchanged in marriage for a cow. Following beatings by her much older husband, she made her way home, but was regarded as a disgrace by her family.
The cover is a view from Stirling Castle: in the foreground a carved lion rampant, in the background the Wallace Tower, the Scottish national monument, raised by public subscription in 1859; in the valley below, Stirling Bridge somewhere near the site of William Wallace's victory over the forces of Edward I in 1297; just out of the picture, the field of Bannockburn.
Gender in History is a timely publication. The field of gender history is reaching maturity in two senses. Firstly, numerous studies have been published about the impact of gender at various times and places. Professor Merry Wiesner-Hanks draws on this wealth of scholarship and her own research to provide a welcome overview of gender in global history from prehistory to date.
One of the most difficult, and under-rated, jobs undertaken by the historian is that of the synthesis. Text books covering long periods of historical time demand the exclusion of vast quantities of material.
In the bicentenary year of Trafalgar it is appropriate to remember that the history of Britain, its current situation and future prospects reflect an overwhelming geographical fact. Britain is a collection of islands at once alongside, but not attached to the European Continent.