Our seasonal round-up of the latest history titles from the publishing world catering for the general reader and specialist alike.
Starting not quite at the beginning of time, From Carnac to Callanis: The Prehistoric Stone Rows of Britain, Ireland and Brittany by Aubrey Burl (Yale, 25 [pounds]) reveals how early processional avenues to stone circles developed into multiple lines that were built systematically over many years until the tradition culminated in simple cult centres for early families; easy to put up, yet containing delicate sightlines to the sun or moon. Burl takes his lead from excavations, astronomical analyses and legends to explain this phenomena, the focus of rituals, for over two thousand years.
For a useful general reference to the Ancient World as a whole, Timelines of the Ancient World, published by Dorling Kindersley in association with The Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC (25 [pounds]) gives a panoramic overview of concurrent events across the globe, from the origins of life, up to AD 1500, showing what was happening simultaneously, region by region, across the world by way of illustrated large format timecharts. The ancient history of South-East Asia is given fresh examination in China, Korea and Japan: The Rise of Civilisation in East Asia by Gina Barnes (Thames and Hudson, 32 [pounds]). The author synthesises East Asian archaeology and early history, and charts the developments that culminated in the emergence of the region as a coherent entity, with a shared religion (Buddhism), state philosophy (Confucianism) and bureaucratic structure.
In Celtic Dawn (Constable, 14.95 [pounds]), Peter Beresford Ellis looks at the recent upsurge of interest in all aspects of Celtic life over recent decades and looks forward to what he mysteriously terms |a new dawn of "Pan Celtism"'. Further insight into the life and legacy of the Celts is provided by Simon James in Exploring the World of the Celts (Thames and Hudson, 16.95 [pounds]). The book explores all aspects of Celtic history, from farming to feasting, charting their rise and development; discussing the persistent traditions that led to the Celtic renaissance in Ireland after AD 400, and looking at how the Celts faired under Roman rule.
The Romans are given detailed treatment in The Encyclopedia of the Roman Empire by Matthew Bunson (Facts on File, 24.95 [pounds], distributed by Roundhouse Publishing), an illustrated A-Z from the reign of Julius Caesar to the fall of Romulus Augustus, the last emperor in the West, in AD 476. Averil Cameron is the author of The Mediterranean World in Late Antiquity, AD 395-600 (Routledge, 35 [pounds] hb, 10.99 [pounds] pb) which looks at existing views on the history of both halves of the empire during this crucial period and offers a direct challenge to conventional views regarding the end of the Roman Empire. The battle potential of earlier Mediterranean civilisation is evaluated in Hippeis: The Cavalry of Ancient Greece by Leslie Worley (Westview Press, 24.95 [pounds]) which provides comprehensive history of Greek cavalry and a startling reassessment of the place of mounted troops in ancient Greek warfare.
A fascinating-sounding book leading us into the medieval period is The Formation of Hell. Death and Retribution in the Ancient and Early Christian Worlds, by Alan Bernstein (UCL Press, 25 [pounds]). This is an examination of how and why a belief in hell arose. Drawing on sources from ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome and Israel, as well as early Christian writings, the author reconstructs the story of the prophets, priests, and poets who fashioned concepts of hell from an array of perspectives on death and justice.
Eight Centuries of
Innocent III (1198-1216) is considered to be one of the greatest popes of the high Middle Ages, such was his impact on canon law and his powers of intervention into political affairs in the secular world. …