A bit random this. Mostly London, mostly non-fiction, mostly by our talented Members, mostly 2013 (there’s some late 2012 stuff). But all History. And if it helps you to make informed choices on the Christmas pressie front, my work is done.
First, breaking news: Lucy Inglis’s excellent Georgian London, Into the Streets, published in September, has made it on the shortlist for the Longman History Today book of the year. Lucy has many friends here at London Historians, and we’re all dead thrilled for her. The winner will be announced next month. Our review is here.
Fiction by LH Members.
London Historians has numerous talented history novelists among its Members who had books out this year. In fact, Essie Fox’s latest – The Goddess and the Thief – was published only last week. Wendy Wallace’s second novel, The Sacred River, came out in August. More murder and mayhem from Lloyd Shepherd in The Poisoned Island, which hit the bookshops last February. His Last Mistress: The Duke of Monmouth and Lady Henrietta Wentworth by Andrea Zuvich concerns the man behind the hare-brained attempt to topple his uncle, James II. And just out in Kindle, attracting nice reviews: The Marrow Scoop and Other Ghost Stories by Suzie Grogan.
Non-fiction History by LH Members.
London’s Industrial Heritage by Geoff Marshall. A much-needed treatment of a neglected topic, excellent. Our review. Buy direct using the link, or LH Members can obtain a signed copy directly from Geoff for just £12 including shipping, see August Members’ newsletter or email me for details.
The Rainborowes by Adrian Tinniswood. Two generations of a puritan merchant family from Wapping and their adventures against Barbary pirates, their endeavours in early colonial New England, and – grippingly – their exploits in the Parliamentary interest in the English Civil War. Our Review.
Along similar lines to the wonderful Sugar Girls last year, Duncan Barrett and Nuala Calvi have brought out GI Brides, featuring the real life stories of English girls from the war years and what became of them. Our review.
Defying Providence. Art Boylston tells the story of immunisation before Jenner, starting with the wonderful Lady Mary Montagu, and tracing developments on both sides of the Atlantic by physicians doing pioneering variolisation work often in the face of fierce opposition from the established orthodoxy. Our review.
Georgian London by Lucy Inglis, as mentioned above.
Some very recent releases which we haven’t had time to review yet, but have dipped into and found all to be engaging and delightful.
Bizarre London by prolific David Long. Londonist review here. He also wrote London’s Big Day, a book of previously unpublished colour photos of the Queen’s coronation in 1953.
The Quack Doctor by Caroline Rance. Hilarious “medical” advertising and cures in the Victorian era.
Tracing Your Ancestors Using the Census by Emma Jolly.
Move Along Please by Mark Mason. Not a history book as such, though plenty of history snippets. The author’s voyage from Land’s End to John O’Groats by local bus.
Historic Streets and Squares by Melanie Backe-Hansen has been pulling very good reviews.
A 2012 book really, but the superb The Day Parliament Burned Down by Caroline Shenton has just been published in paperback so that counts. Plus it won the Political Book of the Year award 2013, oh yes. But get the hardback edition, hey. Our review.
Non-fiction History by non-LH Members (yet!).
Inspector Minahan Makes a Stand by Bridget O’Donnell. Back end of 2012, this one. No matter. The true story of one policeman’s crusade against sex trafficking of teenaged girls in the 1880s. Tragic, sad, shocking. I regret that circumstances worked against my getting a review done of this outstanding book.
Banker, Traitor, Scapegoat, Spy?: The Troublesome Case of Sir Edgar Speyer by Antony Lentin. The financier and philanthropist who was hounded out of Britain for being German-born and Jewish. Our review.
The Profligate Son, by Nicola Phillips. Jaw-dropping account of the misadventures of an absolute wastrel at the turn of the 19C. Hugely enjoyable, and a valuable social history of fun, fashion and the striving (or not) middle classes in late Georgian London. Our Review.
The Beau Monde: Fashionable Society in Georgian London By Hannah Greig Scholarly, thoughtful and in many ways revisionist examination of the wafer thin upper crust of Georgian society. Time conspired against my writing a review.
Beastly London: A History of Animals in the City by Hannah Velten. From fleas to elephants, this book has it covered. An academic, entertaining and deeply absorbing examination of the life of animals in our city. Farms, zoos, pets, circuses, fighting, gambling, slaughterhouses, agents, beasts of burden. No review yet, I still have a chapter or two to go. This is simply an outstanding book. At time of writing, Amazon showing “out of stock” and I’m not surprised. Buy it in a shop.
Perilous Question: The Drama of the Great Reform Bill 1832 by Antonia Fraser. Here’s one of those topics – along with the Corn Laws – that is potentially so dull during school history lessons, that it loses potential historians for life. So full marks to Lady Antonia for stepping up, laying out the issues and telling this very important story with, well, drama. Racy, pacy with excellent pen-portraits of the leading players, importantly drawing Earl Grey out of the shadows.
As the 150th anniversary year of the London Underground draws to a close, I’ll mention some titles. One of the best, overall, dip-in, dip-out treatments of the history of the Tube is Underground to Everywhere by Stephen Halliday (LH Member). Originally published in 2001, it’s been updated and re-issued for the anniversary. The official book of the anniversary is Underground: How the Tube Shaped London by David Bownes, Oliver Green, Sam Mullins, three big beasts past and present from the London Transport Museum. Oliver Green also wrote Frank Pick’s London: Art, Design and the Modern City, a much-needed and deserved treatment of the great and visionary rail administrator. Finally, and related, I really enjoyed A Logo for London, by David Lawrence – all about the unified corporate identity of London’s transport system from its earliest days and through the 20th Century. Beautifully illustrated.
My shortlist of History books for 2013 are London’s Industrial Heritage by Geoff Marshall, The Rainborowes by Adrian Tinniswood, Georgian London by Lucy Inglis and Beastly London by Hannah Velten. If you can imagine a swanky black tie dinner populated by drunk historians, please picture me ripping open a gold envelope to announce Hannah Velten’s effort for the London Historians Book of the Year 2013.