By Anne Sebba
WINNER OF THE FRANCO-BRITISH SOCIETY BOOK PRIZE 2016What did it feel like to be a woman living in Paris from 1939 to 1949? These were years of fear, power, aggression, courage, deprivation and secrets until - finally - renewal and retribution. Even at the darkest moments of Occupation, glamour was ever present. French women wore lipstick. Why?It was women who came face to face with the German conquerors on a daily basis - perhaps selling them their clothes or travelling alongside them on the Metro, where a German soldier had priority over seats. By looking at a wide range of individuals from collaborators to resisters, actresses and prostitutes to teachers and writers, Anne Sebba shows that women made life-and-death decisions every day, and, in an atmosphere where sex became currency, often did whatever they needed to survive. Her fascinating cast includes both native Parisian women and those living in Paris temporarily: American women and Nazi wives, spies, mothers, mistresses, and fashion and jewellery designers. Some women, like the heiress Béatrice de Camondo or novelist Irène Némirovsky, converted to Catholicism; others like lesbian racing driver Violette Morris embraced the Nazi philosophy; only a handful, like Coco Chanel, retreated to the Ritz with a German lover.In enthralling detail Sebba explores the aftershock of the Second World War and the choices demanded. How did the women who survived to see the Liberation of Paris come to terms with their actions and those of others? Although politics lies at its heart, Les Parisiennes is the first in-depth account of the everyday lives of women and young girls in this most feminine of cities.
Catherine the Great and Potemkin
By Simon Sebag Montefiore
'One of the great love stories of history, in a league with Napoleon and Josephine, and Antony and Cleopatra ... Excellent, with dazzling mastery of detail and literary flair' EconomistIt was history's most successful political partnership - as sensual and fiery as it was creative and visionary. Catherine the Great was a woman of notorious passion and imperial ambition. Prince Potemkin - wildly flamboyant and sublimely talented - was the love of her life and her co-ruler.Together they seized Ukraine and Crimea, defining the Russian empire to this day. Their affair was so tumultuous that they negotiated an arrangement to share power, leaving Potemkin free to love his beautiful nieces, and Catherine her young male favourites. But these 'twin souls' never stopped loving each other.Drawing on their intimate letters and vast research, Simon Sebag Montefiore's enthralling, widely acclaimed biography restores these imperial partners to their rightful place as titans of their age.
By Paul Johnson
A fresh and vigorous appreciation of the intellectual liberation and artistic triumphs of the Italian Renaissance.The development of the first universities from the 12th century onwards, growing wealth and patronage in certain cities, and above all the invention of printing and cheap paper, provided essential conditions for the Renaissance. And it was in literature and scholarship that it began, in the rebirth of classical culture that loosened the Church's iron grip on visual art. Paul Johnson tells the story, in turn, of Renaissance literature, sculpture, building and painting. Despite the critical importance of inventions outside Italy - printing in Germany and oil painting in Holland - he locates the Renaissance firmly in Italy and in Florence above all, between 1400 and 1560. There are memorable sketches of the key figures - the frugal and shockingly original Donatello, the awesome Michelangelo, the delicacy of Giovanni Bellini. The final part of the book charts the spread and decline of the Renaissance, as the Catholic Church repositioned itself to counter the Reformation which the Renaissance had itself helped to produce.
By Victor Sebestyen
'A compelling and illuminating account of a great drama in the history of our times which showed once again that ordinary men and women really can change the world' Jonathan Dimbleby, MAIL ON SUNDAYFor more than 40 years after the Second World War the Iron Curtain divided Europe physically, with 300 km of walls and barbed wire fences; ideologically, between communism and capitalism; psychologically, between people imprisoned under totalitarian dictatorships and their neighbours enjoying democratic freedoms; and militarily, by two mighty, distrustful power blocs, still fighting the cold war. At the start of 1989, ten European nations were still Soviet vassal states. By the end of the year, one after another, they had thrown off communism, declared national independence, and embarked on the road to democracy. One of history's most brutal empires was on its knees. Poets who had been languishing in jails became vice presidents. When the Berlin Wall fell on a chilly November night it seemed as though the open wounds of the cruel twentieth century would at last begin to heal. The Year of Revolutions appeared as a beacon of hope for oppressed people elsewhere who dared to dream that they too could free themselves. In a dizzying few months of almost entirely peaceful revolutions the people's will triumphed over tyranny. An entire way of life was swept away. Now, twenty years on, Victor Sebestyen reassesses this decisive moment in modern history.
By Mike Dash
'A fascinating exploration of human greed and self-delusion and also a tribute to our ageless search for beauty' DEBORAH MOGGACH.In 1630s' Holland thousands of people, from the wealthiest merchants to the lowest street traders, were caught up in a frenzy of buying and selling. The object of the speculation was not oil or gold, but the tulip, a delicate and exotic bloom that had just arrived from the east. Over three years, rare tulip bulbs changed hands for sums that would have bought a house in Amsterdam: a single bulb could sell for more than £300,000 at today's prices. Fortunes were made overnight, but then lost when, within a year, the market collapsed.Mike Dash recreates this bizarre episode in European history, separating myth from reality. He traces the hysterical boom and devastating bust, bringing to life a colourful cast of characters, and beautifully evoking Holland's Golden Age.
By Hugh Bicheno
The lives and loves of the great condottieriFederigo da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino, was the archetypal 'Renaissance man': a brilliant soldier, scholar and ally of the pope, he spent much of the vast wealth on commissioning artists to decorate the city.Sigismondo Malatesta, lord of the neighbouring city of Rimini, was also a brilliant soldier and generous patron of the arts. He and Federigo were locked in an epic feud which saw them fight as mercenaries for and against just about every Italian ruler of note, so long as the other was on the opposite side.Together they epitomised the spirit of the condottieri - the contract army leaders who drove the explosion of new political, commercial and artistic ideas that has since become known as the Renaissance.
By Peter Hart, Nigel Steel
A major new history of the most infamous battle of the First World War, as described by the men who fought it.On 1 July 1916, Douglas Haig's army launched the 'Big Push' that was supposed finally to bring an end to the stalemate on the Western Front. What happened next was a human catastrophe: scrambling over the top into the face of the German machine guns and artillery fire, almost 20,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers were killed that day alone, and twice as many wounded - the greatest loss in a single day ever sustained by the British Army. The battle did not stop there, however. It dragged on for another 4 months, leaving the battlefield strewn with literally hundreds of thousands of bodies. The Somme has remained a byword for the futility of war ever since. In this major new history, Peter Hart describes how the battle looked from the point of view of those who fought it. Using never-before-seen eyewitness testimonies, he shows us this epic conflict from all angles. We see what it was like to crawl across No Man's Land in the face of the German guns, what it was like for those who stayed behind in the trenches - the padres, the artillerymen, the doctors. We also see what the battle looked like from the air, as the RFC battled to keep control of the skies above the battlefield. All this is put in the context of the background to the battle, and Haig's overall strategy for the Western Front, making this the most comprehensive history of the battle since Lyn MacDonald's bestselling work over 20 years ago.
By David Wragg
The daring British air raid that inspired the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.In November 1940 Britain was isolated in its stand against Nazi Germany and its ally, Italy. The country could not afford to lose control of the Mediterranean, but the Royal Navy was already overstretched by the U-boat war and the threat of invasion. Italy's fleet of modern battleships presented a grave threat to our communications with Egypt and the Suez Canal.On the night of 11 November 1940, 42 members of the Fleet Air Arm took off in 21 obsolete 'Swordfish' biplanes, launched from HMS Illustrious. Their target: the Italian fleet anchorage at Taranto. Pressing home their attack in the face of intense anti-aircraft fire and searchlights, they torpedoed and sank three battleships. Incredibly, all but two of the biplanes survived. The Italian fleet was crippled and the world took note that Britain was far from defeated. No-one was more impressed than the Japanese, who noted how a fleet in harbour could be demolished by air attack.In this new account of the Royal Navy's most daring operation of the Second World War, David Wragg draws on British and Italian records as well as interviews with the aircrew, to tell the full story of a night that changed the course of the war.
In the Name of Rome
By Adrian Goldsworthy
The complete and definitive history of how Roman generals carved out the greatest and longest-lasting empire the world has ever seen.The Roman army was one of the most effective fighting forces in history. The legions and their commanders carved out an empire which eventually included the greater part of the known world. This was thanks largely to the generals who led the Roman army to victory after victory, and whose strategic and tactical decisions shaped the course of several centuries of warfare.This book, by the author of THE PUNIC WARS, concentrates on those Roman generals who displayed exceptional gifts of leadership and who won the greatest victories. With 26 chapters covering the entire span of the Roman Empire, it is a complete history of Roman warfare.
The War Walk
By Nigel Jones
A tourist guide, a history and a personal story of the Western Front 1914-18Nigel Jones's uncle was killed in action near Ypres in 1915, aged just eighteen, and his father served on Field Marshal Haig's staff: no wonder then, that he has always been fascinated by the First World War.THE WAR WALK describes his pilgrimage to the Western Front battlefields: it is a compelling blend of history, travel and personal anecdotes from some of the last surviving veterans of the First World War. He follows the old trench networks from the Belgian coast to the Swiss frontier, bringing each battlefield to life with vivid eyewitness testimony and investigating how the sites are preserved today for modern visitors.
By Nigel Steel, Peter Hart
Dramatic, illustrated account of the biggest naval battle of the First World War.On 31 May, 1916, the great battle fleets of Britain and Germany met off Jutland in the North Sea. It was a climactic encounter, the culmination of a fantastically expensive naval race between the two countries, and expectations on both sides were high. For the Royal Navy's Grand Fleet, there was the chance to win another Trafalgar. For the German High Seas Fleet, there was the opportunity to break the British blockade and so change the course of the war. But Jutland was a confused and controversial encounter. Tactically, it was a draw; strategically, it was a British victory.Naval historians have pored over the minutiae of Jutland ever since. Yet they have largely ignored what the battle was actually like for its thousands of participants. Full of drama and pathos, of chaos and courage, JUTLAND, 1916 describes the sea battle in the dreadnought era from the point of view of those who were there.
By Piers Paul Read
The dramatic, ultimately tragic history of the Knights Templar, the largest and most powerful military order of the Crusades.Sifting myth from history, Piers Paul Read reveals the Templars - the multinational force of warrior monks, in their white tunics with red crosses over chainmail. They were not only unique among Christian institutions but constituted the first uniformed standing army in the western world and became pioneers of international banking. Expropriated by Philip IV of France in 1307, and confessing under torture to blasphemy, heresy and sodomy, the Order was finally suppressed by Pope Clement V in 1312. In a narrative that incorporates the story of the crusades and the many colourful characters who had links with the Templars, Piers Paul Read examines the question of their guilt and identifies their relevance to our own times.
The Battle of Normandy 1944
By Robin Neillands
A fresh and incisive examination of one of the Second World War's crucial campaigns, the battle for Normandy in the months after D-Day.What happened to the Allied armies in Normandy in the months after D-Day, 1944? Why, after the initial success of the landings, did their advance stall a few miles inland from the beaches? Why did the British take so long to capture Caen? Why did the US infantry struggle so much in the bocage south of Omaha beach? Who was right about the conduct of the land campaign - Eisenhower or Montgomery? How did the Germans, deprived of air support, manage to hold off such a massive Allied force for more than two months? And if Enigma was allowing the Allies to read German battleplans, why did things go wrong as often as they did?THE BATTLE OF NORMANDY re-examines the demands and difficulties of the campaign and sheds new light on both with the aid of accounts from veterans on both sides. (Oral history forms a large part of the book.) It also analyses in detail the plans and performance of the commanders involved: Eisenhower, Bradley, Patton, Montgomery, Crerar and, of course, Rommel. Controversial and at times catastrophic, the Battle of Normandy was the last great set-piece battle in history and is long overdue for reassessment.