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2021 6. Pre-Historic ★★★☆☆ Europe Reviews

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…

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1. Contemporary 2. Late Modern 2021 Asia ★★★☆☆ Reviews

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…

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1. Contemporary 2. Late Modern 2019 Asia ★★★☆☆ Reviews

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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2. Late Modern 2021 7. Pre-Human ★★★☆☆ Europe Reviews

Making Deep History

★★★☆☆ (2021)
How do you envisage a million years? Clive Gamble in “Making Deep History: Zeal, Perseverance and the Time Revolution of 1859” tell us that Charles Darwin was advised in 1868 to try this exercise: take a strip of paper 83 feet 9 inches (25.4 metres) long and stretch it around the walls of a large room. Then draw a thick thin pencil line across the strip that is 0.1 inches (2.5 mm) wide. This pencil line represents 100 years.

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1. Contemporary 2. Late Modern 2019 ★★★☆☆ Global Reviews

How to Be a Dictator

★★★☆☆ (2019)
Frank Dikotter’s ‘Dictators: the Cult of Personality in the Twentieth Century’ is a highly readable potted history of eight twentieth century dictators, charting the rise and (more often than not) the fall of Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Kim Il-sung, Duvalier, Caucescu and Mengistu respectively, in whose dictatorships the cult of personality played a prominent part, albeit in different forms.

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2019 5. Ancient ★★★☆☆ Europe Reviews

Ten Ceasars

★★★☆☆ (2019)
A week ago I went to see a blockbuster exhibition about an accused arsonist who murdered his wife and his mum. The star of the show (running until October 2021 at the British Museum in London) is of course the Roman emperor Nero. But was he really a bad guy? Maybe he was quite nice to the people who he didn’t kill? And did he or didn’t he burn down Rome to build himself a giant palace on the ashes?

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2018 5. Ancient Asia ★★★☆☆ Europe Reviews

Soldier, Priest, and God

★★★☆☆ (2018)
Alexander the Great is one of the most famous, and studied, figures in history. What more is left to be said? According to Professor Fred Naiden, rather a lot. In his opening chapter of Soldier, Priest and God: A Life of Alexander the Great, he asserts that ‘among the hundreds of Alexander biographies, none has focused on the topic of religion’…