Magazine article History Today

Autumn Books

Magazine article History Today

Autumn Books

Article excerpt

IN 1946 GEORGE ORWELL confessed that, since nine out of ten books are worthless, reviewers have constantly to invent feeling towards books about which they have no spontaneous feelings whatever. Obviously he was not acquainted with the huge number of books which are conveniently grouped under the heading `history', but whose diversity and quality make us realise what an incredibly diverse and intriguingly amorphous subject we are dealing with.

Ancient History

Several new books traverse the margins of the subject. The Presence of Dinosaurs by Larry Felder and John Conagrande (Time Life Books, 18.99 [pounds sterling]) draws on fossil records to cover a period of 155 million years. Douglas Palmer's Neanderthal (Channel 4 Books, 20 [pounds sterling]) traces the rise and fall of a species that survived for 200,000 years. From Wordsworth Editions, in association with the Folklore Society, come The Myths of Greece & Rome by H.A. Guerber, The Mythology of the British Islands by Charles Squire, and Old Celtic Romances by P.W. Joyce (all priced at 3.99 [pounds sterling] for paperbacks). Some of these stories were originally memorised by professional bards; many of them provide a point of reference for our literary heritage. Volume 1 of The Human Drama (`From the beginning to 500 CE') by Jean Elliott Johnson and Donald James Johnson (Markus Weiner, 29.95 [pounds sterling] hb, 14.50 [pounds sterling] pb) introduces the global development of humankind across cultures and economies.

There are several new publications relating to Egyptology. Joyce Tyldsley has written The Private Lives of the Pharaohs (Channel 4, 16.99 [pounds sterling]), summarising a vast amount of information and voicing pertinent unanswered questions. Inevitably she draws on the work of I.E.S. Edwards, who pioneered the salvage of the temples of Philae and organised the Tutankhamun exhibition at the British Museum in 1972. His memoirs are published by Oxbow Books as From the Pyramids to Tutankhamun (30 [pounds sterling]). Nicholas Reeves, Ancient Egypt: A Year-by-Year Chronicle (Thames & Hudson, 24.95 [pounds sterling]), explores the important `finds' in Egyptian archaeology from 1799 onwards.

On the Roman Empire, Lindsay Allason-Jones has written Roman Women: Everyday Life in Hadrian's Britain (Michael O'Mara, 14.99 [pounds sterling]), an examination of the life of bustling York in the time of the Emperor Hadrian, while Philip Wilkinson's What the Romans Did For Us (Boxtree, 18.99 [pounds sterling]) assesses the innovations which the Romans brought to Britannia. It accompanies a BBC2 series of the same name. G.P. Barker's Augustus: The Golden Age of Rome (Cooper Square Books, $18.95) provides full-scale coverage of Rome's first, and arguably greatest, emperor.

An Introduction to Early Judaism by James C. VanderKam (Eerdmans, 11.99 [pounds sterling] pb) draws on the latest archaeological research to provide a scholarly study of Jewish history during the Second Temple Period (516 BCE - 70 CE). Colin Pritchard blurs the boundaries between history, religion and fiction in his King David: War and (Janus) -- a narration in David's imagined words of his extraordinary experiences.

Medieval Britain

The enduring fascination of Arthurian legend has produced several new books. Christopher Snyder, Exploring the World of King Arthur (Thames & Hudson, 17.95 [pounds sterling]), presents a picture of the fifth and sixth centuries, when medieval scholars believed that Arthur reigned as king or champion of the Britons, but inevitably he is also concerned with the proliferation of myths (from the age of chivalry to today's Arthurian internet sites). Song of Arthur by Robert Leeson (Walker Books, 9.99 [pounds sterling]) uses Arthur's famous bard, Taliesin, to provide a lyrical version of the legends. An academic treatment of this period is subsumed in a new study of Britain from the Romans to the Normans. Edward James's Britain in the First Millenium (Arnold, 50 [pounds sterling] hb, 18.88 [pounds sterling] pb) is the first single-volume treatment of the `long' first millennium. Later large-scale histories include A.J. Pollard's Late Medieval England 1399-1509 (Pearson, 50 [pounds sterling] hb , 16.99 [pounds sterling] pb), which reappraises the period and stresses its social stability, economic development and cultural vigour, and Bruce Lenman, England's Colonial Wars 1550-1688 (Pearson, 55 [pounds sterling] hb, 17.99 [pounds sterling] pb), which, while exploring the birth of England's sprawling colonial empire, also sheds light on the growth of national identity. Earthly Necessities: Economic Lives in Early Modern Britain, 1500-1800 by Keith Wrightson (Yale UP, 25 [pounds sterling]) looks at economic change at all levels of society and contrasts the distinctive experiences of Scotland and Wales with those of England in order to show the gains and costs of the emerging market society.

Two biographies of dominant cultural figures provide different perspectives on the period. Richard West has written Chaucer: The Life and Times of the First English Poet (Constable, 20 [pounds sterling]), marking the 600th anniversary of his death. As well as covering the known events of his life, he examines what it must have been like to live in the 14th century. In Shakespeare the Player: a Life in the Theatre (Sutton, 20 [pounds sterling]), John Southworth tackles the shadowy life of the `man of the millennium'. Retrieving the so-called `lost years' of Shakespeare's youth, when he probably joined Worcester's men, Southworth -- an actor himself -- argues that the key to understanding him was his profession as an actor.

New monographs on the period include Blood Bed Roses, edited by Veronica Fiorato et al (Oxbow, 25 [pounds sterling]), drawing on recent forensic reports of the mass grave from the Battle of Towton (1461) to show how the soldiers were killed; Witchcraft in Early Modern Scotland by Lawrence Normand and Gareth Roberts (University of Exeter Press, 47.50 [pounds sterling] hb, 15.99 [pounds sterling] pb), which investigates the notorious case of the North Berwick Witches; and Ehud's Dagger: Class Struggle in the English Revolution by James Holstun (Verso, 25 [pounds sterling]), an examination of radical projects which demonstrate the practical contribution of working people to the 1650s.

Modern Britain

This is an area with an embarrassment of publishing riches. Among large-scale works are Roy Porter's Enlightenment: Britain and the Creation of the Modern World (Allen Lane, 25 [pounds sterling]), which argues that it was Britain, not France, which catapulted the world into the modern era, and Yesterday's Countryside (David & Charles, 25 [pounds sterling]), by Valerie Porter, a timely examination of changing country life.

The eighteenth century is the Cinderella of the modern period. Nevertheless Liza Picard draws on a large variety of sources to present Dr Johnson's London (Weidenfeld, 20 [pounds sterling]), in which she examines every aspect of life in the capital from 1740 to 1770, when the gin craze was gaining ground. (One aspect of London's more recent history is captured in Over London: A Century of Change, HarperCollins, 19.99 [pounds sterling], by Jason Jawkes, a photographic record of physical changes to the city.) William Hazlitt's life and work against the backdrop of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars is the subject of A. C. Grayling's The Quarrel of the Age (Weidenfeld, 25 [pounds sterling]). Eamonn O. Ciardha provides the first major study of Irish Jacobitism in English with his Ireland and the Jacobite Cause 1685-1766 (Four Courts Press, 35 [pounds sterling]). He gives special attention to Irish Jacobite poetry and includes the Irish diaspora as a pivotal part of the Irish political nation.

The nineteenth century sees many new additions. James Stevens Curl combines religion, architecture and urban studies in The Victorian Celebration of Death (Sutton, 20 [pounds sterling]). James A. Secord, in Victorian Sensation (University of Chicago, 22.50 [pounds sterling]), focuses on the furore that resulted from the publication, in 1844, of Vestiges of the Discovery of the Natural History of Creation, a book `damned as blasphemy vomited from the mouth of Satan'. The reception of the book is used to help create a portrait of life in the early industrial era. Victorian Babylon: People, Streets and Images in Nineteenth-Century London by Lynda Nead (Yale UP, 19.95 [pounds sterling]) is a reappraisal of the visual culture and society of the mid-Victorian period, focusing on the role of women, obscenity legislation and the connections between economic development and the production and consumption of culture. On a smaller scale, Carrie Rebora Barratt's Queen Victoria and Thomas Sully (Princeton UP, 22 [pounds sterling]) looks at the story behind the famous painting of the Queen by the young American artist, in the Wallace Collection, to present a viewpoint of the coronation year, John Pollack's Kitchener: Saviour of the Realm (Constable, 20 [pounds sterling]) is the second volume of his biography of the well-known Victorian, focusing on his role in the Great War, which he argues was far more successful than most historians have believed.

Yet it is the twentieth century which is now the focus of the greatest historical attention. Dorling Kindersley's Britain's Century (12.99 [pounds sterling]) provides photographs and newspaper-style accounts, while Cassell's British Greats: The Triumphs and Treasures of the Nation (22 [pounds sterling]) provides eighty illustrated essays on what people admire in modern British history and culture. Here is Andrew Roberts on Churchill's speeches, Len Deighton on the Battle of Britain, and many more.

Most other new books are most specialised. Women's history is well represented. Deirdre Beddoe presents Out of the Shadows: A History of Women in Twentieth-Century Wales (University of Wales Press, 10.99 [pounds sterling]), drawing on extensive archival research to reconstruct the experiences of `ordinary' women. A. Susan Williams looks at Ladies of Influence: Women of the Elite in Inter-War Britain (Allen Lane, 18.99 [pounds sterling]), considering seven figures -- including Lady Londonderry and Lucy Baldwin -- whose influence on the period has been either neglected or misunderstood. The Second World War is covered, from different angles, in Juliet Gardiner's The 1940s House (Channel 4, 20 [pounds sterling]), which utilises material from the Imperial War Museum to recreate the experiences of a single household during the war; in Malcolm Smith's Britain and 1940: History, Myth and Popular Memory (Routledge, 9.99 [pounds sterling] pb), comparing the reality of 1940 with the more potent versions which have affected national consciousness; and in Michael Fethney's The Absurd and the Brave (Book Guild, 9.99 [pounds sterling]), examining the story of CORB, the Children's Overseas Reception Board, set tip by the British government in June 1940 to evacuate British children to safer overseas territories -- a reckless undertaking. The author was himself a CORB child, evacuated to Australia with his brother. Alison Pressley adds to the growing list of cultural histories of the `Swinging Sixties' with Changing Times: Being Young in Britain in the '60s (Michael O'Mara, 9.99 [pounds sterling]), combining anecdotes, illustrations and personal reminiscences. In the political genre, Peter Hennessy has written The Prime Minister: The Office and its Holders since 1945 (Allen Lane, 25 [pounds sterling]), drawing on its author's long study of postwar Britain and on recently declassified papers.

Among works with a substantial proportion on the twentieth century are Marianne Elliott's The Catholics of Ulster (Allen Lane, 25 [pounds sterling]), which covers the period up to 1999 and attempts to cut away `the layers of myths, half-truths and lies' which have helped to make up the national identity of this group, and Animal Rights: Political and Social Change in Britain since 1800 by Hilda Kean (Reaktion Books, 9.95 [pounds sterling] pb). Callum G. Brown, in The Death of Christian Britain (Routledge, 12.99 [pounds sterling] pb), challenges the view that secularisation has been a long and gradual process: instead he considers it a short-term phenomenon starting in the 1960s.


Biographies now seem more popular than ever. Bernard Cottret's Calvin (Wm. B. Eerdmans, $28) covers new ground by concentrating on the milieu in which he worked. Jon Vanden Heuvel, in A German Life in the Age of Revolution: Joseph Gorres, 1776-1848 (Catholic University of America Press, 52.50 [pounds sterling]), tells the story of the pioneer of political journalism who founded political Catholicism in Germany, and Simon Sebag Montefiore, with Prince of Princes: the Life of Potemkin (Weidenfeld, 25 [pounds sterling]), has written the first biography for over fifty years of Potemkin, Catherine the Great's one-eyed lover and the man who helped her develop the Russian Empire. The Potemkin-Catherine `power relationship' is equated with those of Anthony and Cleopatra and Napoleon and Josephine. Alexander de Grand, The Hunchback's Tailor (Praeger, 49.50 [pounds sterling]), provides the first complete study in English of Giovanni Giolitti, the liberal reformer of pre-1914 Italy. Margaret Crosland's Madame de Pompadour: Sex, Culture and Power (Sutton, 19.99 [pounds sterling]) enters a far more crowded field (`Sex, royalty and politics -- all that any biography needs!'), as does Giles MacDonogh with a new study of The Last Kaiser: William the Impetuous (Weidenfeld, 25 [pounds sterling]). He challenges many of the charges which are customarily brought against him and which other writers have tried to substantiate.

Among recent monographs, A. Lynn Martin, in Alcohol, Sex and Gender in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe (Macmillan, 42.50 [pounds sterling]), shows how ale, beer and wine were regular items of diet and points to the connections between drinking and sexual and violent behaviour. William J. Bouwsma's The Waning of the Renaissance 1550-1640 (Yale, 20 [pounds sterling]) examines the careers of Montaigne, Galileo, Jonson and others to elucidate the growing sense of doubt and anxiety that closed the Renaissance. Natalie Zemon Davis's The Gift in Sixteenth. Century France (University of Wisconsin Press, $50 hb, $21.95 pb) explains the centrality of gift-giving (from altruism at one extreme to bribery at the other) to family and political life. The Turin Shroud: The Illustrated Evidence by Ian Wilson and Barrie Schwortz (Michael O'Mara, 16.99 [pounds sterling]) provides, as reported in History Today in September, a comprehensive overview of the history and origins of the shroud and of the theories surrounding it.

For the more modern period, Hezi Shelah, in Napoleon 1813 (Janus, 15.95 [pounds sterling] hb, 10.95 [pounds sterling] pb), sees this year not only as a turning point in European history but as the first occasion of `total war'; C. Edmund Clingan, Finance from Kaiser to Fuhrer: Budget Politics in Germany, 1912-1934 (Greenwood Press, 46.50 [pounds sterling]), explains how Germany tried to pay its way from war to peace; and Galina Mikhailovna, with Labor Camp Socialism (M.E. Sharpe, 19.95 [pounds sterling] pb), has used recently declassified archives to research the Gulag as an integral part of Soviet totalitarianism. In The Fall of France 1940 (Pearson, 50 [pounds sterling] hb, 14.99 [pounds sterling] pb) Andrew Shennan not only traces the origins of the French collapse but examines its effects over the next two decades. Norman M. Naimark covers an unfortunately all too large topic with Fires of Hatred: Ethnic Cleansing in Twentieth-Century Europe (Harvard, 16.50 [pounds sterling]).

Nazi Germany

It seems that almost as many books are now being published on this theme as on the rest of European history put together. Almost certainly the most popular new publication will be the second and concluding volume of Ian Kershaw's biography: Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis (Allen Lane, 25 [pounds sterling]). Described as the `definitive' biography (a term beloved of publishers but hated by historians), it is a scholarly and judicious book, and moreover an immensely readable one (of over 1,100 pages). Another of Hitler's biographers, Joachim Fest, focuses on one of Hitler's accomplices in Speer: The Final Verdict (Weidenfeld, 20 [pounds sterling]), interpreting Hitler's architect as a Dr Faustus, but one whose pact with the devil was made slowly though inexorably. Guido Knopp, on the other hand, considers the full range of Hitler's Henchmen (Sutton, 19.99 [pounds sterling]). Knopp, a German TV presenter and journalist, draws his evidence from a series of interviews as well as numerous archives.

Among monographs are Heisenberg's War, edited by John Radziewicz (Da Capo Press, 14.95 [pounds sterling] pb), a study which concludes that Werner Heisenberg deliberately obstructed the development of Germany's atomic bomb, and Kassarine Pass: Rommel's Bloody, Climactic Battle for Tunisia (Cooper Square Books, $19.95), in which Martin Blumenson examines the confrontation between Rommel and the Americans in North Africa, an experience that taught Eisenhower and Patton important lessons in warfare which helped shape their careers. Maynard M. Cohen's A Stand Against Tyranny (Wayne State University Press, 14.95 [pounds sterling] pb), elucidating the record of Norway's physicians during the German occupation, adds to the growing number of studies of resistance to the Nazis. The Last Nazis: SS Werewolf Guerilla Resistance in Europe 1944-1947 by Perry Biddiscombe (Tempus, 19.99 [pounds sterling]) provides an insight into what has been called `the death scream of the Nazi regime'.

In Mengele: The Complete Story (Cooper Square, $18.95) Gerald Posner tells the story of the physician who performed numerous, and terrifying, operations on concentration camp prisoners between 1943 and 1945. The story of Joe Rosenblum is less well-known. He survived three death camps, including eighteen months in uncomfortable proximity with Mengele. He tells his story in Defy the Darkness: A Tale of Courage in the Shadow of Mengele (Praeger, 22.50 [pounds sterling]). The history of another Holocaust survivor, Marianne Ellenbogen, is presented by Mark Roseman in The Past in Hiding (Allen Lane, 20 [pounds sterling]). Jack Morrison's Ravensbruck: Everyday Life in a Women's Concentration Camp (Markus Wiener, 37.50 [pounds sterling] hb, 17.50 [pounds sterling] pb) shows how women of varied nationalities and backgrounds were able to survive against the odds by `carving out their own cultural life'. In Dangerous Diplomacy by Theo Tschuy (Wm. B. Eerdmans, $25) the story is told of how the Swiss diplomat Carl Lutz was able to rescue 62,000 Jews from the concentration camps. The campaign for restitution is the theme of The Plunder of Holocaust (Macmillan, 45 [pounds sterling]), edited by Avi Beker, while Elazar Barkan's The Guilt of Nations (W.W. Norton, 21 [pounds sterling]) puts this issue into historical context and asks whether it is ever possible to make any meaningful atonement for such crimes.


The latest books on America include few general histories but a wealth of more specialised studies. There is, however, a new translation by Harvey C. Mansfield and Delba Winthrop of Alexis de Tocqueville's 19th-century classic Democracy in America (Chicago, 22.50 [pounds sterling]). Works of contemporary scholarship commence, chronologically, with Michael Pearson (ed) Those Damned Rebels: The American Revolution as Seen Through British Eyes (Da Capo Press, 11.95 [pounds sterling]), a documentary reader giving British perspectives. Volumes on the civil war include several on Lincoln's role. Abraham Lincoln and the Coming of the Civil War (Rowman & Littlefield, 26 [pounds sterling]) continues Harry V. Jaffa's examination of Lincoln's political thought, while Lincoln on God and Country by Gordon Leidner (White Mane, $19.95) uses the President's own words to demonstrate his beliefs and values. Webb Garrison's Mutiny in the Civil War (White Mane, $29.95) is an investigation of almost 200 separate incidents. David W. Blight's Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory (Harvard, 19.95 [pounds sterling]) demonstrates bow black and white memories of the civil war themselves came to be segregated.

Among volumes on later periods, Robert H. Zieger's America's Great War: World War I and the American Experience (Rowan & Littlefield, 21.95 [pounds sterling]) provides a narrative of the battles and diplomatic manoeuvring in which the United States participated, as well as a chronicle of her rise to prominence in the postwar world. Kari Frederickson's The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s (M.E. Sharpe, 46.50 [pounds sterling]) uses primary sources to find out what members thought and said, and what attraction their ideology had, during the apogee of the Klan. In George Bush: The Life of a Lone Star Yankee (Transaction, 18.95 [pounds sterling] pb), Herbert S. Parmet uses Bush's own papers, including his `private' diaries, to connect misconceptions about the former president.

The Wider World

While there are fewer publications in this category than on previous occasions, there are nevertheless several notable new works. China: The Land of the Heavenly Dragon by Edward L. Shaughnessy (Duncan Baird Publishers, 25 [pounds sterling]) is a superbly illustrated guide to Chinese history and culture from the legends of prehistory to the end of imperial power in 1912. Similar in scope is Marius B. Jensen's 900-page The Making of Modern Japan (Belknap Press, 23.50 [pounds sterling]), covering the period from 1600 to the present. Even longer, at 1,330 pages, is a revival of William Prescott's History of the Conquest of Mexico and History of the Conquest of Peru (Cooper Square Books, $27.95). On a slightly smaller scale, but still with over 550 pages, is Islanders in the Stream: A History of the Bahamian People by Michael Craton and Gail Saunders (University of Georgia Press, 22.50 [pounds sterling] pb): Volume 2 covers the period from the end of slavery until the present day.

More specialised works include Warrior Women: The Amazons of Dahomey (Westview Press, 15.50 [pounds sterling]) by Robert Edgerton, exploring the history of women soldiers; Che: Images of a Revolutionary by Fernando D. Garcia and Oscar Sola (Pluto Press, 14.99 [pounds sterling]); and Australia's Bid for the Atomic Bomb by Wayne Reynolds (University of Melbourne Press, 19.50 [pounds sterling]), a fundamental rewriting of Australian history from 1943 to 1968. Masters of All They Surveyed: Exploration, Geography and a British El Dorado (Chicago, 28.50 [pounds sterling]) is an account of the mapping of British Guyana, by Robert H. Schomburgk.


The chapter of accidents, said John Wilkes, is the longest chapter in the book. If so, it is run a close second by the chapter of warfare. The increasing popularity of this genre has produced a spate of new books. Jeremy Black provides an overview (and, like so many historians, is not concerned solely with the past) in War: Past, Present and Future (Sutton, 20 [pounds sterling]): his global perspective places war in its social and cultural context and he insists on the relevance of theory and counterfactuals. Gerald de Groot provides a new history of The First World War (Macmillan, 40 [pounds sterling] hb, 12.99 [pounds sterling]) and Brian Catchpole of The Korean War (Constable, 25 [pounds sterling]). The latter maybe supplemented by Philip Chinnery's Korean Atrocity: Forgotten War Aims 1950-1953 (Airlife Publishing, 19.95 [pounds sterling]), which reveals that 100 British servicemen and no fewer than 7,956 Americans remain unaccounted for, and by The Korean War: Volume I (Combined Academic Publishers, 19.95 [pounds sterling] pb), produced by the Korea Institute of Military History to provide a comprehensive view of the war from the South Korean perspective. Two further volumes are due to be published.

There is no new overview of the Second World War, but there are many new explorations of facets of the conflict. These include Britain at War in Colour (Carlton, 17.99 [pounds sterling]), by Stewart Binns, Lucy Carter and Adrian Wood, which presents 100 colour images and many first-hand accounts, and Stephen Walsh's Stalingrad 1942-1943: The Infernal Cauldron (Simon & Schuster, 20 [pounds sterling]), a comprehensive history of the famous battle, including many previously unseen photographs from the Russian archives.

Amongst other notable books on warfare are William Ian Miller's analysis of The Mystery of Courage (Harvard, 19.95 [pounds sterling]), which he relates to the anxiety of masculinity, Ben Shephard's A War of Nerves: Soldier and Psychiatrist 1914-1994 (Cape, 20 [pounds sterling]), a history of military psychiatry in the twentieth century, and Stay the Hand of Vengeance by Gary Jonathan Bass (Princeton, $29.95 hb, $18.95 pb), which looks at the politics of war crimes tribunals, from the Napoleonic wars to the recent conflicts in the former Yugoslavia. More traditional fare is provided by An Navy by John Winton (Salamander Books, 25 [pounds sterling]): published in association with the Royal Navy Museum, it aims to provide an authoritative history of the navy from its earliest times.


Into this convenient catch-all section may be included several new works of historiography. Crimes, Follies and Misfortunes (Weidenfeld, 20 [pounds sterling]) is the autobiography of Hugh Trevor-Roper, a powerful force in the postwar historical scene and the arch-rival of A.J.P. Taylor, the latest biography of whom has been written by Kathleen Burk as Troublemaker: The Life and History of A.J.P. Taylor (Yale, 19.95 [pounds sterling]). (Taylor's latest edition of posthumous essays is edited by Chris Wrigley: Struggles for Supremacy: Diplomatic Essays of A.J.P. Taylor, Ashgate, 39.50 [pounds sterling].) In What Happened to History? (Pluto Press, 13.99 [pounds sterling] pb/40 [pounds sterling] hb), Willie Thompson charts the changes in historical methodology in the twentieth century and explores the development of postmodernism, while Beverley Southgate -- in Why Bother With History? (Pearson, 45 [pounds sterling] hb, 14.99 [pounds sterling] pb) -- addresses the uses and abuses of history and calls for historians to adopt a clear moral standpoint. For the more specialised, Pat Hudson has written History by Numbers: an Introduction to Quantitative Approaches (Arnold, 45 hb [pounds sterling], 14.99 [pounds sterling] pb).

Among recent works of cultural history, Gary Taylor, in Castration.' An Abbreviated History of Western Manhood (Routledge, 15.99 [pounds sterling]), looks at the West's fascination with, but misunderstanding of, castrated males. (The agonised facial expression on the cover speaks volumes.) Donald McCrory provides a biography of Miguel de Cervantes in No Ordinary Man (Peter Owen, 18.99 [pounds sterling]), and John Martin and Dennis Romano have compiled an edition of essays from a wide range of disciplines in Venice Rediscovered (John Hopkins University Press, 35 [pounds sterling]), from the founding of the Republic to the Napoleonic Wars. Another volume of essays has been edited by Jane Caplan: Written on the Body: the Tattoo in European and American History (Reaktion, 17.95 [pounds sterling] pb). The tattoo's meaning, we are told, `hovers between the penal and the cosmetic'. Petrine Archer-Shaw's Negrophilia (Thames & Hudson, 14.95 [pounds sterling] pb) examines the vibrant fusion of black and white cultures that took place in Paris in the 1920s.

Among large-scale histories transcending particular continents, Alain Besancon has written The Forbidden Image: An Intellectual History of Iconoclasm (University of Chicago, 25.50 [pounds sterling]), while Craig D. Atwood contributes Always Reforming: A History of Christianity since 1300 (Mercer University Press, 29.95 [pounds sterling] pb). Finally, Peter Watson's new book, A Terrible Beauty: A History of People and Ideas that Shaped the Modern Worm (Weidenfeld, 25 [pounds sterling]) looks not at political events but at artistic movements for an understanding of the twentieth century.

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