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The Best Popular History Books of 2021

What were the best popular history books published in hardback in 2021 in the UK?

These are the best popular history books that we have read and reviewed on this site.

A Curious History of Sex

★★★★☆ (2020)
Sex, as we all know, has been around for about two billion years or so. But we humans continue to struggle with what sex is supposed to be all about. As Kate Lister notes in the introduction to “A Curious History of Sex”: “Humans are the only creatures that stigmatise, punish and create shame around their sexual desires…

History books published in November 2021

There are fewer new history books released in November – no doubt it is considered a bit late for the Christmas market.

The quality still looks high though…

What’s the benefit of reading history books?

As members of the human race, we all start out like Jason Bourne in the Robert Ludlum series of thrillers – all we have is a name. The past before we were born is blank and unknown. Gradually we piece together what the dickens happened and how on earth we got to this point.

Jason Bourne did it by running around Europe with a gun and a ridiculous array of special abilities.

We do it by reading history books.

Scenes from Prehistoric Life

★★★☆☆ (2021)
4070 years ago on the east coast of Britain a small community of about 200 people built a circular wooden palisade about 7 metres across. Right in the centre of this circle of upright timbers was an oak tree…

The Enlightenment

★★★★★ (2020)
The author, Ritchie Robertson, is a professor of German language and literature at the University of Oxford. His treatment of the Enlightenment is broad, both in terms of subject matter and geographic scope…

History books published in October 2021

We are spoiled for choice this month, from the irreverent (“Ask A Historian”) to the serious (all the others!)

A few I am keeping an eye on are…

The Fall of Robespierre

★★★★★ (2021)
“GREAT CONSPIRACY. Today would have been one of the greatest events that France has ever known if conspiracy had had its way.”

What had so shocked Parisian diarist Celestin Guittard de Floriban were the earth-shaking events of 27 July 1794 that culminated in the execution by guillotine of Maximillian Robespierre, who only 24 hours before had been at the height of power in Revolutionary France…

From Rebel to Ruler

★★★☆☆ (2021)
My in-laws like to tell a story about when the communists came to town. Their home was in a small village just outside the county town, about 5 hours west of Beijing. In the 1930s and 1940s the town was overrun by the Japanese…

Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister

★★★☆☆ (2019)
This is a book about the three most famous sisters in Chinese history: the Soong sisters. They were international celebrities: highly educated, politically pivotal and ridiculously rich. They embodied the changes and tensions of early twentieth century China as the country set its political engine-room to warp speed 9…


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