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

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.

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

The Last Embassy

★★★★☆ (2021)
“The Dutch present ships have arrived at the Tiger’s Mouth, like tall inns on the oyster-shell mirror of the water, a joyful noise ringing out.
They’re filled with precious offerings, but first they must transmit their official document, wrapped in gold.
荷兰贡舶虎门收,蠔镜声嚣水上楼。
琛献先传金叶表,翎开还整翠云裘。”
Wang Wengao 王文诰

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2. Late Modern 2021 3. Early Modern 4. Middle Ages Asia ★★☆☆☆ Reviews

Empire of Silver

★★☆☆☆ (2021)
Silver mining is not an easy job – when you dig the raw ore out of the ground it typically contains less than 0.1% silver – 1 part in a thousand. You then have to go through a laborious process of discarding the the 0.99% that you don’t want and turning that precious 0.1% into something shiny, attractive and valuable. Reading the financial history book “Empire of Silver: a new monetary history of China” by Jin Xu can feel a bit like mining silver. The valuable nuggets of insight can feel very laborious to extract. After you have finished you will have a little pile of intellectual treasures but many readers may feel that the payoff was not worth the effort.