By Anne Sebba
What 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.
By Simon Sebag Montefiore
The Romanovs were the most successful dynasty of modern times, ruling a sixth of the world's surface. How did one family turn a war-ruined principality into the world's greatest empire? And how did they lose it all?This is the intimate story of twenty tsars and tsarinas, some touched by genius, some by madness, but all inspired by holy autocracy and imperial ambition. Montefiore's gripping chronicle reveals their secret world of unlimited power and ruthless empire-building, overshadowed by palace conspiracy, family rivalries, sexual decadence and wild extravagance, and peopled by a cast of adventurers, courtesans, revolutionaries and poets, from Ivan the Terrible to Tolstoy, from Queen Victoria to Lenin.To rule Russia was both imperial-sacred mission and poisoned chalice: six tsars were murdered and all the Romanovs lived under constant threat to their lives. Peter the Great tortured his own son to death while making Russia an empire, and dominated his court with a dining club notable for compulsory drunkenness, naked dwarfs and fancy dress. Catherine the Great overthrew her own husband - who was murdered soon afterwards - loved her young male favourites, conquered Ukraine and fascinated Europe. Paul was strangled by courtiers backed by his own son, Alexander I, who faced Napoleon's invasion and the burning of Moscow, then went on to take Paris. Alexander II liberated the serfs, survived five assassination attempts, and wrote perhaps the most explicit love letters ever written by a ruler. THE ROMANOVS climaxes with a fresh, unforgettable portrayal of Nicholas and Alexandra, the rise and murder of Rasputin, war and revolution - and the harrowing massacre of the entire family.Written with dazzling literary flair, drawing on new archival research, THE ROMANOVS is at once an enthralling story of triumph and tragedy, love and death, a universal study of power, and an essential portrait of the empire that still defines Russia today.
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 Eric Hobsbawm
The topics covered in this book can be divided into four broad groups: studies of labour conditions up to the middle of the nineteenth century; studies in the 'new trade unionism' of 1889 to 1914; studies in the late nineteenth-century revival of Socialism in Britain; and more general topics covering a wider chronological span. The common factor in this wide-ranging work is that, unlike much other work of labour history, it concentrates on the working classes as such, and on the economic and technical conditions which allowed labour movements to be effective or which prevented their effectiveness.This work is notable not only for its clarity and incisiveness, but also for the richness and variety of the material, which ranges from Marx to Methodism and from labour traditions to the machine breakers.
By Anna Reid
A classic and vivid history of Ukraine, fully updated to cover the Euromaidan Revolution in 2014 and ongoing crisis in the Donbass.Centre of the first great Slav civilisation in the tenth century, then divided between warring neighbours for a millennium, Ukraine finally won independence with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Tiring of their own corrupt governments, Ukrainians have since mounted two popular revolutions, taking to the streets to demand fair elections and closer ties to Europe. In the spring of 2014, Russia responded by invading Crimea and sponsoring a civil war in the Russian-speaking Donbass. Threatened by Moscow, misunderstood in the West, Ukraine hangs once more in the balance. Speaking to pro-democracy activists and pro-Russia militiamen, peasants and miners, survivors of Hitler's Holocaust and Stalin's famine, Anna Reid combines history and travel-writing to unpick the past and present of this bloody and complex borderland.
By Rory MacLean
The first single-volume biography of Berlin, one of the world's great cities - told via twenty-one portraits, from medieval times to the twenty-first century.A city devastated by Allied bombs, divided by a Wall, then reunited and reborn, Berlin today resonates with the echo of lives lived, dreams realised and evils executed. No other city has repeatedly been so powerful and fallen so low. And few other cities have been so shaped and defined by individual imaginations.Through vivid portraits spanning five centuries, Rory MacLean reveals the varied and rich history of Berlin, from its brightest to its darkest moments. We encounter an ambitious prostitute refashioning herself as a princess, a Scottish mercenary fighting for the Prussian Army, Marlene Dietrich flaunting her sexuality and Hitler fantasising about the mega-city Germania. The result is a uniquely imaginative biography of one of the world's most volatile yet creative cities.
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.
The Deadly Sisterhood
By Leonie Frieda
The women who wielded the real power behind the throne in Renaissance Italy, from a bestselling historian.This book is one of drama on a grand scale, a Renaissance epic, as Christendom emerged from the shadows of the calamitous 14th century. The sweeping tale involves inspired and corrupt monarchs, the finest thinkers, the most brilliant artists and the greatest beauties in Christendom. Here are the stories of its most remarkable women, who are all joined by birth, marriage and friendship and who ruled for a time in place of their men-folk: Lucrezia Turnabuoni (Queen Mother of Florence, the power behind the Medici throne), Clarice Orsini (Roman princess, feudal wife), Beatrice d'Este (Golden Girl of the Renaissance), Caterina Sforza (Lioness of the Romagna), Isabella d'Este (the Acquisitive Marchesa), Giulia Farnese ('la bella', the family asset), Isabella d'Aragona (the Weeping Duchess) and Lucrezia Borgia (the Virtuous Fury). The men play a secondary role in this grand saga; whenever possible the action is seen through the eyes of our heroines.These eight women experienced great riches, power and the warm smile of fortune, but they also knew banishment, poverty, the death of a husband or the loss of one or more of their children. As each of the chosen heroines comes to the fore in her turn, she is handed the baton by her 'sister', and Leonie Frieda recounts the role each woman played in the hundred-year drama that is THE DEADLY SISTERHOOD.
The Antonia Fraser Collection
By Antonia Fraser
Nine ebooks from the bestselling historian Antonia Fraser, shedding light on some of the most fascinating and controversial people and events of European history.MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTSMary, Queen of Scots passed her childhood in France and married the dauphin to become queen of France at the age of sixteen. Widowed less than two years later, she returned to Scotland as queen after an absence of thirteen years.CROMWELLNo Englishman has made more impact on the history of his nation than Oliver Cromwell; few have been so persistently maligned in the folklore of history. The central purpose of Antonia Fraser's book is the recreation of his life and character, freed from the distortions of myth and Royalist propaganda.KING CHARLES IISpanning his life both before and after the Restoration, Antonia Fraser's lively and fascinating biography captures all the vitality of the man and the expansiveness of the age.THE WEAKER VESSELAn expert on the period, Antonia Fraser brings to life the many and various women she has encountered in her considerable research: governesses, milkmaids, fishwives, nuns, defenders of castles, courtesans, countesses, witches and widows.THE WARRIOR QUEENSWarrior Queens are those women who have both ruled and led in war. It examines how Antonia Fraser's heroines have held and wrestled the reins of power from their (consistently male) adversaries.THE SIX WIVES OF HENRY VIIIThe six wives of Henry VIII: Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anna of Cleves, Katherine Howard and Catherine Parr. They may have been victims of Henry's obsession with a male heir, but they were not willing victims. THE GUNPOWDER PLOTDramatically recreating the conditions and motives that surrounded the fateful night of 5 November 1605, she unravels the tangled web of religion and politics that spawned the plot.MARIE ANTOINETTEAntonia Fraser examines her influence over the king, Louis XVI, the accusations and sexual slurs made against her, her patronage of the arts which enhanced French cultural life, her imprisonment, the death threats made against her, her trial and her eventual execution by guillotine in 1793.LOVE AND LOUIS XIVAntonia Fraser brilliantly explores the relationships which existed between the Sun King and the women in his life.
THE GERMAN EMPIRE
By Michael Stuermer
A vivid, concise account of the German Empire, from its proclamation at Versailles in 1871 to its final dissolution, also at Versailles, in 1919.The period of almost half a century from 1871 to 1919 was one of huge upheaval, restlessness and change in Germany. Situated at the crossroads of history and geography, the country under Bismarck was struggling to preserve the predominance of Prussia and its traditional ruling elites, whilst also recognising the importance of modernisation. By the turn of the century Germany had overtaken Britain as the workshop of the world in industry, science, ideas and the arts, with enormous investments being made in these areas. Many people lost or swapped their traditional livelihoods, moved from the countryside to the cities, and embarked on a road to a prosperity unparalleled in Europe. Then in 1914 came the outbreak of the First World War, unleashing one of the greatest catastrophes of the twentieth century.
The Maid and the Queen
By Nancy Goldstone
An exceptionally dramatic life of Joan of Arc and her previously unchronicled mentor, Yolande of Aragon.How did an illiterate seventeen-year-old peasant girl manage to become one of histories most salient females? It is almost 600 years since Joan of Arc heard the voices of angels that would change her life for ever: in a breathtaking story her quest saved France from English domination and restored France's hereditary monarchy.Just thirteen when her life was turned upside down, Joan's holy guidance led her on an arduous eleven-day journey into the unknown, restoring the Dauphin back to his original birthright in an official coronation, allowing him to resume his rule as France's legitimate king. Joan summoned and led an impressive army of French loyalists against the English; the siege at Orleans was an exhilarating English defeat that liberated the city. The following year witnessed Joan's capture by the enemy. After a series of heroic endeavours to escape cruel adversaries, she was subjected to trial by inquisition and then in Rouen, the heart of France, Joan's courageous journey came to a heartbreaking conclusion. This is the story at the core of centuries of myth-making.But what if we no longer accept this tale? What if we question whether the Heavens and their angels were truly Joan's only source of strength and power? What if we demand a different narrative? This revisionist biography unearths the secular and verifiable basis for Joan's heroic exploits: Yolande of Aragon, a forgotten mentor. This is a story of not one life, but two; two lives that together were intertwined in the restoration of France's greatness.
Friend or Foe
By Alistair Horne
Britain's premier historian on France from Caesar to Mitterrand - to coincide with the centenary of the Entente CordialeA century after the Entente Cordiale ended centuries of war and enmity between France and Britain, and two hundred years after the coronation of Britain's deadly enemy, Napoleon Bonaparte, as Emperor, Alistair Horne contemplates two thousand years of France.The Entente Cordiale meant different things to the signatories. For France it meant, quite simply, the certainty at last of an ally who would counter-balance the dread power of Kaiser Wilhelm II's vast and menacing Reich on her doorstep. For Britain the Entente signified an end to centuries of conflict with France, but it also meant inevitable involvement in a major European war. The modern rift over the Iraq war has emphasized once again that a slim channel of water may be all that separates the countries physically, but in temperament, in attitudes, in life generally -- and, particularly, in history itself -- the differences remain fundamental, and intense.
Age Of Empire: 1875-1914
By Eric Hobsbawm
THE AGE OF EMPIRE is a book about the strange death of the nineteenth century, the world made by and for liberal middle classes in the name of universal progress and civilisation. It is about hopes realised which turned into fears: an era of unparalleled peace engendering an era of unparalleled war; revolt and revolution emerging on the outskirts of society; a time of profound identity crisis for bourgeois classes, among new and sudden mass labour movements which rejected capitalism and new middle classes which rejected liberalism. It is about world empires built and held with almost contemptuous ease by small bodies of Europeans which were to last barely a human lifetime, and a European domination of world history, which was never more confident than at the moment it was about to disappear for ever. It is about Queen Victoria, Madame Curie and the Kodak Girl, and the novel social world of cloth caps, golf clubs and brassieres, about Nietzsche, Carnegie, William Morris and Dreyfus, about politically ineffective terrorists, one of whom, to his and everyone's surprise, started a world war.With the AGE OF EMPIRE, Eric Hobsbawm, Britain's leading historian of the left, brings to a dazzling climax his brilliant interpretative history of 'the long nineteenth century'.