The Ten Best History Books

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Necropolis: London and Its Dead

BY CATHARINE ARNOLD

* From burial mounds to charnel houses, the capital's first crematorium to East End memorials, Catharine Arnold's account of death in London is by turns fascinating, stomach-churning and poignant. She is especially good on the over-the-top Victorian funeral business.

Price: 7.99 (Pocket Books)

A People's History of the World

BY CHRIS HARMAN

* By discarding a traditional narrative that concentrates on great men and dates, Chris Harman instead offers a politically conscious counter-history of the world, sweeping across centuries and continents, charting how ordinary men and women transformed their societies through conflict and class struggle. Perfect for armchair revolutionaries.

Price: 12.99 (Verso)

The Ascent of Money: a Financial History of the World

BY NIALL FERGUSON

* The author suggests that the use of credit and debt has been "as important as any technological development". Hence our current difficulties: too little of one and too much of the other.

Price: 25 (Allen Lane)

Warsaw 1920: Lenins Failed Conquest of Europe

BY ADAM ZAMOYSKI

* This slim work tells the story of a now largely forgotten battle that nearly shattered the peace of post-Versailles Europe and almost brought Russian Bolshevism to the gates of Western Europe. No dull military history, but rather a real page-turner.

Price: 14.99 (HarperPress)

Clean: An Unsanitised History of Washing

BY KATHERINE ASHENBURG

* Who knew that keeping clean - or not, in the case the Middle Ages - could be so interesting? Or that our cult of hygiene can be traced back to America's early 20th-century advertising industry? This history of soap and water is a refreshing read.

Price: 12.99 (Profile Books)

Pompeii: the Life of a Roman Town

BY MARY BEARD

* Mary Beard uses the ancient relics buried by the volcanic ash of Mount Vesuvius to bring the existence of everyday Romans to life. …