The title of A History of Borno, Trans-Saharan African Empire to Failing Nigerian State has two ambiguities. Situated in the Sahel, Borno did not span the Sahara. It was Trans-Saharan by being linked culturally and economically to the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, rather than to the Atlantic. Whether the failing state is Nigeria or Borno is also unclear.
Today it seems almost customary to apologise for writing another book on the events between 1941 and 1945 that came to be known as the Holocaust, Shoah, or the Genocide of the Jews.(1) The explosion of scholarship since the late 1980s has filled entire libraries with information on the Holocaust and established a basic chronology.
For generations, American historians fought bitterly over the meaning and legacy of abolitionism. Some have derided the abolitionists as nefarious ‘ultraists’ radicalising the country and bringing about the Civil War, the bloodiest war in American history.
‘The speed king of Asia’ (p. 472) is not an honorific normally associated with the subject of this new biography by Ramachandra Guha, the Indian historian, cricket writer, and journalist. It was found in a letter from a British Quaker admirer of Gandhi who had accompanied the 64-year-old on his vigorous campaigning tour through southern India in support of rights for Harijans
Historically, wars have always witnessed reports of ghostly sightings and visions. However, the First World War is of particular interest as such phenomena occurred in a more modern, secular environment, at a time when science and secularisation had emerged as predominant ways of thinking about the world. In addition, the number of lives being lost due to conflict was unprecedented.
The history of religious toleration during the early modern period has been revitalised over the past decade. Scholars such as Alexandra Walsham and Benjamin Kaplan have shown that early modern society did not view toleration as the social virtue that was later espoused by enlightenment thinkers.
Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury (1120–70) is one of the iconic figures in British history – a man who most people have not only heard of, but also have an opinion on. Yet, despite the brutality of his murder, such opinions are not always positive. In fact, this medieval archbishop is an unusually divisive figure, and always has been.
Pauline Gregg’s Freeborn John was previously the most recent full biographical work on John Lilburne. Published in 1961, Gregg’s work was extremely close to H. N. Brailsford’s seminal The Levellers and the English Revolution; the two works standing for decades as the cornerstones to Leveller historiography.
The renewed focus of many historians on post-Reformation English Catholicism in the last few decades has meant that the expatriate English Catholic community in Continental Europe, which produced and preserved many of the records of the English Catholic community, is often a main source of evidence.
In theory, ‘ecclesiastical history’ is just a polysyllabic synonym for ‘church history’. In practice, however, it connotes something more precise: the history of the church institutional. Like other forms of institutional history, it has become something of a historiographical backwater – very respectable and much loved backwater, I hasten to note – in the last generation or so.