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…

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…

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…

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…

Past Mistakes

★★★★☆ (2020)
Close your eyes and conjure up an image of Christopher Columbus… Did you do it? What did you see? If you are anything like me you will envisage a cheerful little fellow wearing a captains hat, pantaloons and buckled shoes…

Augustine

★★★★☆ (2015)
The tagline for this book could be ‘a biography of an autobiography’ – it conveys a sense of what Robin Lane Fox manages to achieve in his award winning book, an analysis of how one of the greatest thinkers in Christian theology thought about himself and his relationship to God.

About Time

★★★★☆ (2021)
Clocks are about more than just telling the time. At one level this is a statement of the obvious: we all know that the watch you wear is not chosen purely for its practicality as a time-keeping device…

Thebes

★★★★☆ (2020)
In 371 BCE the Thebans achieved one of the most shocking victories in the history of warfare, by trouncing the previously invincible Spartans at the battle of Luectra despite being outnumbered almost two to one.

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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