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 Nicholas Best
A brilliant page-turning account of the most famous sea fight in historyBeginning with a vivid recreation of Napoleon's army assembling at Boulogne for the invasion of England, Nicholas Best tells how the French fleet joined with their Spanish allies and set out for a decisive battle with the Royal Navy. Following events through the eyes of eyewitnesses on the gun deck as well as the admiral's cabins, he takes us to the Mediterranean and the West Indies and back to the coast of Spain as the rival fleets manoeuvre for advantage. Then follows his gripping minute-by-minute account of the actual battle: a truly murderous affair as the rival fleets trade cannon shots as point blank range.
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.