At the start of this century, Britons were polled about which century was the worst century of the last millennium. They alighted on the 14th century as the century when the four horsemen of the apocalypse rode most freely. The 14th century was the worst because the bubonic plague devastated the population of Eurasia.
The 20th century saw the birth of the professional disciplines of urban and regional planning, and the associated construction of myriad New Towns. Often, the construction of these new urban centres was central to the expression, in urban form, of wider ideological and socio-political movements.
Richard Dennis’ engaging book is about building bridges, both literal and metaphorical. It begins with a study of the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York, Tower Bridge in London and the Bloor Street Viaduct in Toronto, using them as a means of highlighting the eclectic methodologies and theoretical approaches to be applied throughout the work.
Portuguese Colonial Cities in the Early Modern World provides a nuanced investigation into cities with varying degrees of connection to the Portuguese empire during the 16th through the 18th centuries.
Reading the introduction to this book one may be forgiven for thinking that the title is somewhat misleading for a volume given to the examination of ‘the processes of the making and breaking of peace treaties and truces’, rather than to war (p. 1).
Goldberg’s book is a publishing phenomena not only featuring at the top of the New York Times bestseller lists as a hardback but also, as Goldberg himself has noted in the blog he runs about the book, going into a third printing in the UK. That is enough to make many historians, used to important articles and books receiving scant if any attention from a wider public, rather envious.
Maxwell-Stuart's The Chemical Choir is a potentially useful book about the history of alchemy from its roots in ancient China and Egypt in the 4th century AD until the 20th century. It has several merits. Firstly, it breaks down a complex subject – the study of nature through experiments with chemicals – into ten easy-to-read chapters.
When reviewing books one’s expectations can be raised by the title. In the case of The End is Nigh one could be forgiven for assuming that it must relate to the End of Time and the various ways in which the world might end – cosmic impact; neighbouring supernova; nuclear apocalypse; unstoppable virus; runaway global warming, i.e. large scale global catastrophes.
Peter Yearwood has carried out impressively extensive research to produce this account of how British foreign policy was closely linked to the formation and operation of the League of Nations in its early years.
The first principle of understanding history, I was taught, is to sympathize with the historical actors, to immerse oneself in their context and perspective.(1) Otherwise, history becomes a fabricated reconstruction – more about the writer's ideology than the events of the past.