Archive for the ‘London Historians’ Category


Very late with this, as per. Apologies.

It’s not been a classic year for London history books, I feel. This situation can’t be blamed on Covid, though, publishing schedules having been already established before the plague hit town. Having said all of that, there’s been a decent enough selection of good uns.

You can see all the books we reviewed this year here.

Our ‘long list’ comprised these four excellent works:
Cathedrals of Steam by Christian Wolmar. The story of London’s 12 great railway terminuses, all built in the Victorian age; 11 survive. More than in any other city worldwide.
Money for Nothing by Thomas Levenson. The story of greed, the South Sea Bubble and the invention of modern capitalism. It all happened here!
London Street Signs by Alistair Hall. Specifically street names and how they have been displayed over recent centuries (they are fairly modern objects).
Arts & Minds, How the Royal Society of Arts Changed a Nation
by Anton Howes. The story of an under-appreciated London institution.

With some difficulty we boiled these down further to Street Signs and Arts & Minds, two very different works.

London Street Signs is image-rich and can be read in one sitting. It is none the worse for that. A delightful, well-researched work. Heaven for lovers of ‘street furniture’ which I defy anyone not to find throroughly absorbing.

A lengthy phone conversation with our most active reviewer, Laurence Scales, resulted in our choosing as London Historians Book of the Year for 2020 Arts & Minds, How the Royal Society of Arts Changed a Nation by Anton Howes, described by Laurence as a wide-ranging story with broad appeal. The Royal Society of Arts is an organisation which I believe to be much lesser known than the Royal Society, Royal Academy or the Royal Institution. It needed and deserved a place in the spotlight, something Anton Howes has done brilliantly. Congratulations to him.

You can see the full list of our books of the year since 2011 here.

My thanks to all our members who nominated their favourites; to others who actually reviewed new books, but in particular Laurence Scales, who provided at least three. He can be difficult to please, so praise from him is praise indeed.

We look forward to a year of terrific new books in 2021.

Thanks for reading our blog. Happy New Year!

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