Stranger Than We Can Imagine
By John Higgs
'An illuminating work of massive insight' Alan Moore'A sensational book. Heartily recommended' Rufus HoundIt is the century about which we know too much, yet understand too little. With disorientating ideas such as relativity, cubism, the id, existentialism, chaos mathematics and postmodernism to contend with, the twentieth century, John Higgs argues, cannot fit easily into a traditional historical narrative. Time, then, for a new perspective. Higgs takes us on a refreshingly eclectic journey through the knotty history of the strangest of centuries. In the company of radical artists, scientists, geniuses and eccentrics, he shows us how the elegant, clockwork universe of the Victorians became increasingly woozy and uncertain; and how in the twentieth century we discovered that our world is not just stranger than we imagine, but 'stranger than we can imagine'.
By Chie Nakane
Why do the Japanese almost always go for holidays in groups? Do Japanese families experience our sort of 'family life'? Why do conversations with Japanese friends and acquaintances often seem to come to an abrupt halt just when they're getting interesting - that is, a little controversial? What motivates the Japanese man in the street? Professor Nakane, writing with an intimate knowledge of her own people, provides in this fascinating book the answers to these and many other perplexing questions. Using the structure of Japanese society as the basis of her analysis, rather than explaining it in cultural or historical terms, Professor Nakane begins by examining one-to-one relationships, following through to the structure of the group and finally that of the society as a whole.
By David Hall
The astonishing story of the project that launched Mass Observation In the late 1930s the Lancashire town of Bolton witnessed a ground-breaking social experiment. Over three years, a team of ninety observers recorded, in painstaking detail, the everyday lives of ordinary working people at work and play - in the pub, dance hall, factory and on holiday. Their aim was to create an 'anthropology of ourselves'. The first of its kind, it later grew into the Mass Observation movement that proved so crucial to our understanding of public opinion in future generations. The project attracted a cast of larger-than-life characters, not least its founders, the charismatic and unconventional anthropologist Tom Harrisson and the surrealist intellectuals Charles Madge and Humphrey Jennings. They were joined by a disparate band of men and women - students, artists, writers and photographers, unemployed workers and local volunteers - who worked tirelessly to turn the idle pleasure of people-watching into a science. Drawing on their vivid reports, photographs and first-hand sources, David Hall relates the extraordinary story of this eccentric, short-lived, but hugely influential project. Along the way, he creates a richly detailed, fascinating portrait of a lost chapter of British social history, and of the life of an industrial northern town before the world changed for ever.Published in partnership with the Mass Observation Archive at the University of Sussex, which holds the papers of the British social research organisation Mass Observation from 1937 to the early 1950s, as well as new material collected continuously since 1981 about everyday life in Britain.www.massobs.org.uk@MassObsArchive
A Million Years in a Day
By Greg Jenner
'A wonderful idea, gloriously put into practice. Greg Jenner as is witty as he is knowledgeable' - Tom HollandWho invented beds? When did we start cleaning our teeth? How old are wine and beer? Which came first: the toilet seat or toilet paper? What was the first clock? Every day, from the moment our alarm clock wakes us in the morning until our head hits our pillow at night, we all take part in rituals that are millennia old. Structured around one ordinary day, A MILLION YEARS IN A DAY reveals the astonishing origins and development of the daily practices we take for granted. In this gloriously entertaining romp through human history Greg Jenner explores the gradual and often unexpected evolution of our daily routines.This is not a story of politics, wars or great events, instead Greg Jenner has scoured Roman rubbish bins, Egyptian tombs and Victorian sewers to bring us the most intriguing, surprising and sometimes downright silly nuggets from our past. Drawn from across the world, spanning a million years of humanity, this book is a smorgasbord of historical delights. It is a history of all those things you always wondered - and many you have never considered. It is the story of your life, one million years in the making.
By Markman Ellis
How the simple commodity of coffee came to rewrite the experience of metropolitan lifeWhen the first coffee-house opened in London in 1652, customers were bewildered by this strange new drink from Turkey. But those who tried coffee were soon won over. More coffee-houses were opened across London and, in the following decades, in America and Europe.For a hundred years the coffee-house occupied the centre of urban life. Merchants held auctions of goods, writers and poets conducted discussions, scientists demonstrated experiments and gave lectures, philanthropists deliberated reforms. Coffee-houses thus played a key role in the explosion of political, financial, scientific and literary change in the 18th century.In the 19th century the coffee-house declined, but the 1950s witnessed a dramatic revival in the popularity of coffee with the appearance of espresso machines and the `coffee bar', and the 1990s saw the arrival of retail chains like Starbucks.
The Slave Trade
By Hugh Thomas
The rise and fall of the business of slave trading - by a bestselling historianThe Atlantic slave trade was one of the largest and most elaborate maritime and commercial ventures. Between 1492 and about 1870, ten million or more black slaves were carried from Africa to one port or another of the Americas.In this wide-ranging book, Hugh Thomas follows the development of this massive shift of human lives across the centuries until the slave trade's abolition in the late nineteenth century.
History of the Jews
By Paul Johnson
A classic study of the Jews by a best selling author.In this critically acclaimed book, Paul Johnson delves deep into the 4,000-year history of the Jews: a race of awe-inspiring endurance, steadfast homogeneity and loyalty and, above all, the belief that history has a purpose and humanity a destiny.With exacting precision and enthusiasm, Paul Johnson has mapped the lives of these people from their early ancestors in the House of David, through great periods of creativity and enterprise, alienation in the ghettos, Adolf Hitler's obsession to obliterate the race, up until the present day.This book is a powerful argument about the nature of Jewish genius, its strengths and contradictions, which brilliantly presents the entire Jewish phenomenon. It makes incisive though-provoking sense of the whole.
1939: The Last Season
By Anne de Courcy
A wonderful portrait of British upper-class life in the Season of 1939 - the last before the Second World War.The Season of 1939 brought all those 'in Society' to London. The young debutante daughters of the upper classes were presented to the King and Queen to mark their acceptance into the new adult world of their parents. They sparkled their way through a succession of balls and parties and sporting events.The Season brought together influential people not only from Society but also from Government at the various events of the social calendar. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain chaperoned his debutante niece to weekend house parties; Lord Halifax, the Foreign Secretary, lunched with the Headmaster of Eton; Cabinet Ministers encountered foreign Ambassadors at balls in the houses of the great hostesses. As the hot summer drew on, the newspapers filled with ever more ominous reports of the relentless progress towards war. There was nothing to do but wait - and dance. The last season of peace was nearly over.
The Viceroy's Daughters
By Anne de Courcy
The lives of the three daughters of Lord Curzon: glamorous, rich, independent and wilful.Irene (born 1896), Cynthia (b.1898) and Alexandria (b.1904) were the three daughters of Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India 1898-1905 and probably the grandest and most self-confident imperial servant Britain ever possessed. After the death of his fabulously rich American wife in 1906, Curzon's determination to control every aspect of his daughters' lives, including the money that was rightfully theirs, led them one by one into revolt against their father. The three sisters were at the very heart of the fast and glittering world of the Twenties and Thirties.Irene, intensely musical and a passionate foxhunter, had love affairs in the glamorous Melton Mowbray hunting set. Cynthia ('Cimmie') married Oswald Mosley, joining him first in the Labour Party, where she became a popular MP herself, before following him into fascism. Alexandra ('Baba'), the youngest and most beautiful, married the Prince of Wales's best friend Fruity Metcalfe. On Cimmie's early death in 1933 Baba flung herself into a long and passionate affair with Mosley and a liaison with Mussolini's ambassador to London, Count Dino Grandi, while enjoying the romantic devotion of the Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax. The sisters see British fascism from behind the scenes, and the arrival of Wallis Simpson and the early married life of the Windsors. The war finds them based at 'the Dorch' (the Dorchester Hotel) doing good works. At the end of their extraordinary lives, Irene and Baba have become, rather improbably, pillars of the establishment, Irene being made one of the very first Life Peers in 1958 for her work with youth clubs.