Trafalgar to Piccadilly: The Best History of 2005: Peter Furtado Reports on the Awards for 2005 Given by History Today

Article excerpt

THE HISTORY TODAY AWARDS celebrate the best of what's new in history every year: what an excellent crop it is this year! From ancient Pompeii to Elizabethan England to the battle of Trafalgar to homosexual life in early twentieth-century London, the topics covered are as diverse as history itself, while the presentation of every one of the shortlisted books is exceptionally accessible. Whereas in previous years some of our recommended titles have had a dauntingly academic quality to them, all those listed this year are truly engaging for all readers of the magazine.

BOOK OF THE YEAR

This award, worth 1,000 [pounds sterling], is given by the Longman/History Today Trust, for an author's first or second book. The judges were professors Jeremy Black, Julian Jackson and Miri Rubin.

WINNER

Matt Houlbrook Queer London: Perils and Pleasures in the Sexual Metropolis 1918-57 (University of Chicago Press).This example of modern 'queer history' is an account of how gay people lived in London, which everyone, gay or straight, can relate to. Not written (as it might have been) as a tale of suffering, it is a lucid, sane and jargon-free account of how gay people negotiated space for themselves, physically, socially and emotionally, and draws on police records, memoirs, letters and newspaper exposes, as well as the first queer guidebook ever written. It deals with issues of policing, housing, geography, identity and politics faced by gay men in this period. It is also a book that will make anyone who reads it look at London and its public spaces through new eyes. (See page 62 for review).

RUNNERS-UP

Medina Lasansky The Renaissance Perfected: Architecture, Spectacle and Tourism in Fascist Italy (Penn State University Press). A beautiful book by an American architectural historian, which will make any reader think differently about Italian history. It explores the ways in which medieval and early Renaissance Italy beloved by so many of us are, to some extent, a self-conscious creation of the Fascist era; and how Mussolini sought to adapt the nation's cultural heritage to fit his programme of national regeneration, showing how Siena's Palio horse race, for example, reached its modern form at this period. This original book throws a new light on both the age of Mussolini and our assumptions about the Renaissance. (See page 63 for review).

J.E. Lendon Soldiers and Ghosts: A History of Battle in Classical Antiquity (Yale University Press). …