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.
The Fishing Fleet
By Anne de Courcy
The untold stories of the young women who went out 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 twentieth century, a hectic social scene was in place, with dances, parties, amateur theatricals, picnics, tennis tournaments, cinemas, 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, diaries and photographs - which bring this forgotten era vividly to life.
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.
Death and the Virgin
By Chris Skidmore
The dramatic story of Elizabeth's first ten years on the throne and the unexplained death that scandalised her court.Elizabeth came to the throne in 1558 a 25-year-old virgin - the most prized catch in Christendom. For the first ten years of her reign, one matter dominated above all others: the question of who the queen was to marry and when she would produce an heir.Elizabeth's life as England's Virgin Queen is one of the most celebrated in history. Christopher Skidmore takes a fresh look at the familiar story of a queen with the stomach of a man, steadfastly refusing to marry for the sake of her realm, and reveals a very different picture: of a vulnerable young woman, in love with her suitor, Robert Dudley. Had it not been for the mysterious and untimely death of his wife, Amy Robsart, Elizabeth might have one day been able to marry Dudley, since Amy was believed to be dying of breast cancer. Instead, the suspicious circumstances surrounding Amy Robsart's death would cast a long shadow over Elizabeth's life, preventing any hope of a union with Dudley and ultimately shaping the course of Tudor history. Using newly discovered evidence from the archives, Christopher Skidmore is able to put an end to centuries of speculation as to the true causes of her death.
The English Civil Wars
By Blair Worden
A brilliant appraisal of the Civil War and its long-term consequences, by an acclaimed historian.The political upheaval of the mid-seventeenth century has no parallel in English history. Other events have changed the occupancy and the powers of the throne, but the conflict of 1640-60 was more dramatic: the monarchy and the House of Lords were abolished, to be replaced by a republic and military rule.In this wonderfully readable account, Blair Worden explores the events of this period and their origins - the war between King and Parliament, the execution of Charles I, Cromwell's rule and the Restoration - while aiming to reveal something more elusive: the motivations of contemporaries on both sides and the concerns of later generations.
Britain Since 1918
By David Marquand
A new political history of modern Britain - entertaining, instructive and thought-provoking.The history of democratic politics in Britain since the coming of universal male suffrage in 1918 is a dramatic one, crowded with events and colourful figures. As well as the great events of war and economic crises, and the quieter drama of constitutional change, this era has been studded with democratic protests of every sort.The story opens more than 350 years ago. The Levellers of the 17th century, 18th-century radicals, the Chartists and the Reform Acts are all part of the unsteady and fiercely contested progress towards a democratic constitution. Dreams, visions and ideals are important too - of George Orwell, and Enoch Powell, Milton, Thomas Paine and Edmund Burke, Churchill and Lord Salisbury, Aneurin Bevan and Tony Benn - for they have also shaped our outlook.
The Buccaneers of the Caribbean
By Jon Latimer
The True Story of Piracy on the Spanish Main.This is the incredible true story of piracy in the Caribbean, proof positive that fact is stranger than fiction. From the moment the English established their first tiny colonies in the New World, semi-legal pirates took on the might of the Spanish Empire. The lure of Spanish gold was so strong that French and Dutch privateers soon joined them. Sometimes licensed by governments, but often not, desperate gangs of cut-throats dominated the Caribbean throughout the seventeenth century. Led by ruthless captains, they wrested many of the key islands from Spanish control, then fought each other for the region's strategic bases. Most notoriously, the 'brethren of the coast' established the pirate port of Tortuga, the infamous city of crime. From Piet Heyn's capture of the entire Spanish treasure fleet in 1628, to Henry Morgan's sack of Panama, this was the Age of the Bucaneers. This epic story continued up to the destruction of the pirates' lair of Port Royal by an earthquake in 1692 -- recognised at the time as the judgement of God. . .International treaties at the end of the century brought this dramatic era to a close, by which time the division of the Caribbean among European powers was complete. And a legend had been born.
By Leo Hollis
*Perfect for fans of ITV's epic drama series, THE GREAT FIRE*Opening in the 1640s, as the city was gripped in tumult leading up to the English Civil War, THE PHOENIX charts the lives and works of five extraordinary men, who would grow up in the chaos of a world turned upside down: the architect, Sir Christopher Wren; gardener and virtuosi, John Evelyn; the scientist, Robert Hooke; the radical philosopher, John Locke and the builder, Nicholas Barbon.At the heart of the story is the rebuilding of London's iconic cathedral, St Paul's. Interweaving science, architecture, history and philosophy, THE PHOENIX tells the story of the formation of the first modern city.
By Robert Hutchinson
The rise and fall of Henry's notorious minister - the most corrupt Chancellor in English historyThe son of a brewer, Cromwell rose from obscurity to become Earl of Essex, Vice-Regent and High Chamberlain of England, Keep of the Privy Seal and Chancellor of the Exchequer. He maneuvered his way to the top by intrigue, bribery and sheer force of personality in a court dominated by the malevolent King Henry.Cromwell pursued the interests of the king with single-minded energy and little subtlety. Tasked with engineering the judicial murder of Anne Boleyn when she had worn out her welcome in the royal chamber, he tortured her servants and relations, then organised a 'show trial' of Stalinist efficiency. He orchestrated the 'greatest act of privatisation in English history': the seizure of the monasteries. Their enormous wealth was used to cement the loyalty of the English nobility, and to enrich the crown. Cromwell made himself a fortune too, soliciting colossal bribes and binding the noble families to him with easy loans. He came home from court literally weighed down with gold.
The Last Days of Henry VIII
By Robert Hutchinson
After 35 years in power, Henry VIII was a bloated, hideously obese, black-humoured old man, rarely seen in public. He had striven all his life to ensure the survival of his dynasty by siring legitimate sons, yet his only male heir was eight-year-old Prince Edward. It was increasingly obvious that when Henry died, real power in England would be exercised by a regent. The prospect of that prize spurred the rival court factions into deadly conflict.Robert Hutchinson spent several years in original archival research. He advances a genuinely new theory of Henry's medical history and the cause of his death; he has unearthed some fabulous eyewitness material and papers from death warrants, confessions and even love letters between Katherine Parr and the Lord High Admiral.
By Charles Spencer
King Charles's Pirate PrinceTo his fellow Royalists, fighting for King Charles I, Prince Rupert of the Rhine was the archetypal 'cavalier'. Young, handsome, expert horseman, crack pistol shot, his swaggering style irritated the stuffier of the king's courtiers almost as much as the 'Roundheads' they were fighting. To the parliamentarians, above all Oliver Cromwell, he was the ultimate 'malignant', one of those Royalists who fought on even after Charles was executed in 1649. Rupert commanded the Royalist forces in exile, at one point reduced to little more than pirates before the triumphant restoration of the monarchy in 1660. In Charles Spencer's thoroughly researched account, Prince Rupert is revealed as more than just a great general and dashing cavalier. He was a scientist and classical scholar too: a true renaissance prince. From his dramatic childhood escape through the snows of Bohemia to respected older statesman, this is the first comprehensive biography of the greatest cavalier of them all.