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1. Contemporary 2. Late Modern 2020 ★★★★☆ Europe North America Reviews

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…

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2. Late Modern 2021 ★★★★★ Europe Reviews

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…

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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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1. Contemporary 2. Late Modern 2021 ★★★★☆ Europe North America Reviews

Dress Codes

★★★★☆ (2021)
Richard Thompson Ford, the author of How Fashion Made History, loves suits. Really loves them. And to some extent, he has written a book explaining how all fashion up to the present day leads to suits as the ultimate in menswear…

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1. Contemporary 1997 2. Late Modern ★★★★☆ Europe Reviews

In Defence of History

★★★★☆ (1997)
I have never knowingly met a post-modernist. Perhaps I have been going to the wrong parties – back in the days when I went to parties. I am keen to meet one. If you are one or can introduce one get in touch.

The reason that I am so interested to make this acquaintance is…

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2. Late Modern 2011 ★★★★☆ Europe Reviews

Castlereagh

★★★★☆ (2011)
This book comes highly recommended as a comprehensive and highly readable account of the life of one of Britain’s most influential Foreign Secretaries, with a particular focus on the earlier stages of Castlereagh’s life and career and the formation of his political philosophy.

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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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1961 2. Late Modern ★★★★★ Europe Reviews

What is History?

★★★★★ (1961)
There is something about the theory of history or historiography – ie how and why the study of history is conducted – that can inflame passions among professional historians. Seemingly mild mannered individuals can become enraged, and previously impersonal prose becomes peppered with personal insults.