The jacket cover of Peter Hennessy’s new work describes the author as ‘the UK’s leading contemporary historian’, a reputation soundly based on a string of highly regarded books such as Cabinet, The Hidden Wiring, Whitehall and The Secret State, as well as on his high profile as a media presenter and commentator.
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.
Popular views of the US civil rights movement remain focused on the post-war South.
At first sight this looks like another of those increasingly common commodity books, some of which are intended to be global in scope, and which include studies of chocolate, sugar, cod, salt and many others (digestible or not!). As Riello points out, commodities are a good way to tell a global story since many of them have been traded throughout the world for centuries.
University library shelves on both sides of the Atlantic groan under the weight of synoptic studies of the era of FDR.
A sure sign of the ageing process is when events that are part of your own memory start appearing in works of history. And so it is now the case with the 1980s; for one’s students, ‘Thatcher’ is a person of whom they have no firsthand knowledge, just a figure whom many of their lecturers and supervisors are prone to paint as the devil incarnate.
Neil Davidson’s substantial and erudite book is a concerted defence of the concept of ‘Bourgeois revolution’.(1) It is composed on a heroic scale. Numerous theorists, both historical and contemporary, are laid-out, discussed and critiqued with unflagging intellectual energy.
With contemporary Japanese-Korean relations so inextricably entrenched within contentious politics of national identity and divergent expressions of historical consciousness, Jun Uchida’s Brokers of Empire could not be a more welcome addition to the field of modern East Asian history.
Modernity Britain marks the third part of Kynaston’s Tales of a New Jerusalem series. The first volume – Austerity Britain 1945–51 – covered the immediate post-war years of the Attlee government, while its successor, Family Britain 1951–57, took the story up to the end of the Eden administration.
What a great idea! The only wonder is why no publishing house thought of commissioning a book on the topic before. The reader’s delight starts straight from looking at the cover illustration – a ‘translation’ of Harry Beck’s celebrated London Tube Map, in which Waterloo Station becomes Gare de Napoléon.