The Audacious Crimes of Colonel Blood
By Robert Hutchinson
One morning in May 1671, Colonel Thomas Blood daringly attempted to seize the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London. Astonishingly, he managed to escape with St Edward's Crown and the Coronation Regalia before being apprehended. Fervently and religiously nonconformist, Blood had been involved in many plots to assassinate King Charles II and overthrow the Stuart government. He had also participated in an attempted coup d'état in Ireland and was publicly labelled the 'Father of all Treasons'. And yet he was not instantly executed for treason. Instead, the king granted him a generous income from lands in Ireland and he became a familiar strutting figure in the glittering state apartments of the royal court.Bestselling historian Robert Hutchinson tells the gripping tale of one of the most enigmatic and alluring figures in the history of Britain. Blood was a hunted man across the kingdom, and Hutchinson explores the dangerous life of a double agent during the Restoration. While serving as the king's personal spy, Blood was supporting those who conspired to murder him. In an age when gossip and intrigue ruled the coffee houses, he also hired himself out as a freelance agent for those wishing to further their ambitions in the cockpit of late seventeenth-century politics.The Audacious Crimes of Colonel Blood is the compelling story of a man bent on ambiguous political and personal motivation, as well as an extraordinary account of the court of Charles II and the perils and conspiracies that constantly surrounded the 'Merry Monarch'.
The Spanish Armada
By Robert Hutchinson
A dramatic blow-by-blow account of the defeat of the Spanish Armada by the English fleet - a tale of derring-do and disaster on the high seas by one of our best narrative historians.After the accession of Elizabeth I in 1558, Protestant England was beset by the hostile Catholic powers of Europe - not least Spain. In October 1585 King Philip II of Spain declared his intention to destroy Protestant England and began preparing invasion plans, leading to an intense intelligence war between the two countries, culminating in the dramatic sea battles of 1588.Robert Hutchinson's tautly written book is the first to examine this battle for intelligence, and uses everything from contemporary eye-witness accounts to papers held by the national archives in Spain and the UK to recount the dramatic battle that raged up the English Channel. Contrary to popular theory, the Armada was not defeated by superior English forces - in fact, Elizabeth I's parsimony meant that her ships had no munitions left by the time the Armada had fought its way up to the south coast of England. In reality it was a combination of inclement weather and bad luck that landed the killer blow on the Spanish forces, and of the 125 Spanish ships that set sail against England, only 60 limped home - the rest sunk or wrecked with barely a shot fired.
How to Create the Perfect Wife
By Wendy Moore
From the No.1 bestselling author of WEDLOCK. The Georgian scandal of one gentleman, two orphans and an experiment to create the ideal wife.This is the story of how Thomas Day, a young man of means, decided he could never marry a woman with brains, spirit or fortune. Instead, he adopted two orphan girls from a Foundling Hospital, and set about educating them to become the meek, docile women he considered marriage material. Unsurprisingly, Day's marriage plans did not run smoothly. Having returned one orphan early on, his girl of choice, Sabrina Sidney, would also fall foul of the experiment. From then on, she led a difficult life, inhabiting a curious half-world - an ex-orphan, and not quite a ward; a governess, and not quite a fiancée. But Sabrina also ended up figuring in the life of scientists and luminaries as disparate as Erasmus Darwin and Joseph Priestley, as well as that pioneering generation of women writers who included Fanny Burney, Maria Edgeworth and Anna Seward. In HOW TO CREATE THE PERFECT WIFE, Wendy Moore has found a story that echoes her concerns about women's historic powerlessness, and captures a moment when ideas of human development and childraising underwent radical change.
The Offshore Islanders
By Paul Johnson
A history of the English people.In this much-acclaimed book, Paul Johnson looks back on two thousand years of English history and provides a radical interpretation of a remarkable people.Provocative and incisive, Johnson applies his journalistic skills to a shrewd analysis of the evolution of the English nation, charting the growth of the small but newly independent state, enveloped in the myths of the Dark Ages, into its modern-day status as a prominent player upon the world stage.
The Fishing Fleet
By Anne de Courcy
The adventurous young women who sailed to India during the Raj in search of husbands.From the late 19th century, when the Raj was at its height, many of Britain's best and brightest young men went out to India to work as administrators, soldiers and businessmen. With the advent of steam travel and the opening of the Suez Canal, countless young women, suffering at the lack of eligible men in Britain, followed in their wake. This amorphous band was composed of daughters returning after their English education, girls invited to stay with married sisters or friends, and yet others whose declared or undeclared goal was simply to find a husband. They were known as the Fishing Fleet, and this book is their story, hitherto untold.For these young women, often away from home for the first time, one thing they could be sure of was a rollicking good time. By the early 20th century, a hectic social scene was in place, with dances, parties, amateur theatricals, picnics, tennis tournaments, cinemas and gymkhanas, with perhaps a tiger shoot and a glittering dinner at a raja's palace thrown in. And, with men outnumbering women by roughly four to one, romances were conducted at alarming speed and marriages were frequent. But after the honeymoon, life often changed dramatically: whisked off to a remote outpost with few other Europeans for company, and where constant vigilance was required to guard against disease, they found it a far cry from the social whirlwind of their first arrival.Anne de Courcy's sparkling narrative is enriched by a wealth of first-hand sources - unpublished memoirs, letters and diaries rescued from attics - which bring this forgotten era vividly to life.
By Neil Oliver
The Vikings famously took no prisoners, relished cruel retribution, and prided themselves on their blood-thirsty skills as warriors. But their prowess in battle is only a small part of their story, which stretches from their Scandinavian origins to America in the west and as far as Baghdad in the east. As the Vikings did not write their history, we have to discover it for ourselves, and that discovery, as Neil Oliver reveals, tells an extraordinary story of a people who, from the brink of destruction, reached a quarter of the way around the globe and built an empire that lasted nearly 200 years.Drawing on the latest discoveries that have only recently come to light, Neil Oliver goes on the trail of the real Vikings. Where did they emerge from? How did they really live? And just what drove them to embark on such extraordinary voyages of discovery over 1000 years ago? VIKINGS will explore many of these questions for the first time in an epic story of one of the world's great empires of conquest.
The Great Train Robbery
By Nick Russell-Pavier, Stewart Richards
Definitive account of the famous 1963 Great Train Robbery - and its aftermath. In the early hours of Thursday 8th August 1963 at rural Cheddington in Buckinghamshire, £2.6 million (£50 million today) in unmarked £5, £1 and 10-shilling notes was stolen from the Glasgow to London nightmail train in a daring and brilliantly executed operation lasting just 46 minutes. Quickly dubbed the crime of the century, it has captured the imagination of the public and the world's media for 50 years, taking its place in British folklore and giving birth to the myths of The Great Train Robbery. Ronnie Biggs, Buster Edwards and Bruce Reynolds became household names.But what really happened? This is the story of four talented villains who took the criminal world by storm, of the 'perfect crime'. It is also the story of ruthless policemen, determined to hunt the robbers down and to make sure nobody slipped through the net, not even the innocent. It is the story of an Establishment under siege, and of one mistake which cost the robbers 307 years in prison.Fifty years later, here is the story set out in full for the first time, a true-life crime thriller, and also a vivid slice of British social history.
By Antonia Fraser
Internationally bestselling historian Antonia Fraser's new book brilliantly evokes a key period of pre-Victorian political and social history - the passing of the Great Reform Bill of 1832.For our inconclusive times, there is an attractive resonance with 1832, with its 'rotten boroughs' of Old Sarum and the disappearing village of Dunwich, and its lines of most resistance to reform. This book is character-driven - on the one hand, the reforming heroes are the Whig aristocrats Lord Grey, Lord Althorp and Lord John Russell, and the Irish orator Daniel O'Connell. They included members of the richest and most landed Cabinet in history, yet they were determined to bring liberty, which whittled away their own power, to the country. The all-too-conservative opposition comprised Lord Londonderry, the Duke of Wellington, the intransigent Duchess of Kent and the consort of the Tory King William IV, Queen Adelaide.Finally, there were 'revolutionaries' and reformers, like William Cobbett, the author of RURAL RIDES.This is a book that features one eventful year, much of it violent. There were riots in Bristol, Manchester and Nottingham, and wider themes of Irish and 'negro emancipation' underscore the narrative. The time-span of the book is from Wellington's intractable declaration in November 1830 that 'The beginning of reform is the beginning of revolution', to 7th June 1832, the date of the extremely reluctant royal assent by William IV to the Great Reform Bill, under the double threat of the creation of 60 new peers in the House of Lords and the threat of revolution throughout the country. These events led to a total change in the way Britain was governed, a two-year revolution that Antonia Fraser brings to vivid dramatic life.
Gentlemen & Players
By Charles Williams
Amateurs versus professionals - a social history and memoir of English cricket from 1953 to 1963.The inaugural Gentlemen v. Players first-class cricket match was played in 1806, subsequently becoming an annual fixture at Lord's between teams consisting of amateurs (the Gentlemen) and professionals (the Players). The key difference between the amateur and the professional, however, was much more than the obvious one of remuneration. The division was shaped by English class structure, the amateur, who received expenses, being perceived as occupying a higher station in life than the wage-earning professional. The great Yorkshire player Len Hutton, for example, was told he would have to go amateur if he wanted to captain England.GENTLEMEN & PLAYERS focuses on the final ten years of amateurism and the Gentlemen v. Players fixture, starting with Charles Williams' own presence in the (amateur) Oxbridge teams that included future England captains such as Peter May, Colin Cowdrey and M.J.K. Smith, and concluding with the abolition of amateurism in 1962 when all first-class players became professional. The amateur innings was duly declared closed.Charles Williams, the author of a richly acclaimed biography of Donald Bradman, has penned a vivid social-history-cum-memoir that reveals an attempt to recreate a Golden Age in post-war Britain, one whose expiry exactly coincided with the beginnings of top-class one-day cricket and a cricket revolution.
A History of Ancient Britain
By Neil Oliver
Continues Neil's landmark exploration of how our land and its people came to be, which began with the acclaimed A HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.Who were the first Britons, and what sort of world did they occupy? In A HISTORY OF ANCIENT BRITAIN Neil Oliver turns a spotlight on the very beginnings of the story of Britain; on the first people to occupy these islands and their battle for survival. There has been human habitation in Britain, regularly interrupted by Ice Ages, for the best part of a million years. The last retreat of the glaciers 12,000 years ago brought a new and warmer age and with it, one of the greatest tsunamis recorded on Earth which struck the north-east of Britain, devastating the population and flooding the low-lying plains of what is now the North Sea. The resulting island became, in time, home to a diverse range of cultures and peoples who have left behind them some of the most extraordinary and enigmatic monuments in the world.Through what is revealed by the artefacts of the past, Neil Oliver weaves the epic story - half a million years of human history up to the departure of the Roman Empire in the Fifth Century AD. It was a period which accounts for more than ninety-nine per cent of humankind's presence on these islands.It is the real story of Britain and of her people.
The Stones of London
By Leo Hollis
The story of London, told through twelve of its most seminal buildings.In a sweeping narrative, from its mythic origins to the glittering towers of the contemporary financial capital, THE STONES OF LONDON tells the story of twelve London buildings in a kaleidoscopic and unexpected history of one of the world's most enigmatic cities.From the Roman forum to the Gherkin, Regent Street to the East End, the Houses of Parliament to Greenwich Palace, London's buildings are testament to the richness of its past. Behind the facades of these buildings lie the stories of the people, ideas and events that took place within them and that caused their creation. They all have very human stories, of the men and women who dreamed and lived their lives in London, leaving their imprint upon the fabric of the capital.
By George Goodwin
A gripping account of the Wars of the Roses battle of Towton - the most brutal day in English history.'Vivid, humane and superbly researched' David Starkey'The story has never been told so well or so excitingly' Desmond SewardThe Battle of Towton in 1461 was unique in its ferocity and brutality, as the armies of two kings of England engaged with murderous weaponry and in appalling conditions to conclude the first War of the Roses. Variously described as the largest, longest and bloodiest battle on English soil, Towton was fought with little chance of escape and none of surrender. Fatal Colours includes a cast of strong and compelling characters: a warrior queen, a ruthless king-making earl, even a papal legate who excommunicates an entire army.Combining medieval sources and modern scholarship, George Goodwin colourfully recreates the atmosphere of 15th century England and chronicles the vicious in-fighting as the increasingly embittered royal factions struggle for supremacy.
The Last Office
By Geoffrey Moorhouse
Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries, through the never-before-told story of how one priory was saved and become Durham's mighty cathedralWhat happened to the monks, their orders and the communities they served after Henry VIII's break with Rome in 1536? In THE LAST OFFICE Geoffrey Moorhouse reveals how the Dissolution of the Monasteries affected the great Benedictine priory at Durham, drawing for his sources on material that has lain forgotten in the recesses of one of our great cathedrals. The quarrel between Henry VIII and the papacy not only gave birth to the Church of England but heralded the destruction of the 650 or so religious houses that played a central role in the spiritual and economic life of the nation. Durham proved to be the exception. On New Year's Eve 1539, the monks sang the last compline. Next morning the priory and its community were surrendered into the hands of the King's commissioners. But then nothing happened. An interregnum lasted 16 months before the priory was reborn as the new cathedral church of Christ and the Blessed Virgin, part of the new Church of England. The Prior became the Dean and 12 monks were retained as prebendaries. In Geoffrey Moorhouse's original and absorbing study, one of the great catalytic events of our past comes alive through the personalities and events at one key monastery.