6 Must-Read Books About British History

By August 25, 2017Literature

As with our previous article focussed on the history of America, this list of historical non-fiction offers a no-holds-barred look at what made the UK what it is today.

Contrary to what many of us were taught in school, British history was not all glory and pride… Much of what made us ‘great’ was built upon the backs of oppressed and disenfranchised innocents. From well before the ‘Great Roman Empire’ to the ‘Great British Empire’ and beyond, British history is both fascinating and horrifying in equal measure.

Let us not forget what this country was built upon, and let us always remember why threads of racial and class prejudice still run through our societies today.

The following list would be a great start for any budding historian intent on having a honest and true account of how Great Britain became the mixing pot of cultures and communities it is today.




“British history is traditionally regarded as having started with the Roman Conquest. But this is to ignore half a million years of prehistory that still exert a profound influence. Here Francis Pryor examines the great ceremonial landscapes of Ancient Britain and Ireland – Stonehenge, Seahenge, Avebury and the Bend of the Boyne – as well as the discarded artefacts of day-to-day life, to create an astonishing portrait of our ancestors. This major re-revaluation of pre-Roman Britain, made possible in part by aerial photography and coastal erosion, reveals a much more sophisticated life in Ancient Britain and Ireland than has previously been supposed.”

“The complete set of all three paperback volumes of Simon Schama’s compelling history of Britain. ‘History clings tight but it also kicks loose’ writes Simon Schama at the outset of his epic three-volume journey into Britain’s past. Disruption as much as persistence is its proper subject. So although the great theme of British history seen from the twentieth century is endurance, it’s counterpoint seen from the twenty-first must be alteration. Change – sometimes gentle and subtle sometimes shocking and violent – is the dynamic of Schama’s unapologetically personal, grippingly written history, especially the changes that wash over custom and habit, transforming our loyalties. From early England and the Tudors through the British Wars of the 17th century to the rise and fall of the British Empire, award-winning historian Simon Schama illuminates British history through a variety of historical themes and key British characters.”

“In this first full-scale treatment of Britain’s relationship with the surrounding oceans, Glen O’Hara examines the history of British people’s maritime lives and, in turn, the formation of British cultural identities. A lens through which to view British life, Britain and the Sea spans more than 400 years, beginning in 1600 and taking us through to the present day. Tying together every aspect in the development of Great Britain, from state formation, industrialization and modernization, through to histories of transport, migration, slavery, warfare and crime, this book illustrates how the rich tapestry of Britain’s narrative was decided not among the fields of the ‘green and pleasant land’, but out at sea.”

“Drawing on new genealogical research, original records, and expert testimony, Black and British reaches back to Roman Britain, the medieval imagination, Elizabethan ‘blackamoors’ and the global slave-trading empire. It shows that the great industrial boom of the nineteenth century was built on American slavery, and that black Britons fought at Trafalgar and in the trenches of both World Wars. Black British history is woven into the cultural and economic histories of the nation. It is not a singular history, but one that belongs to us all. Unflinching, confronting taboos and revealing hitherto unknown scandals, Olusoga describes how the lives of black and white Britons have been entwined for centuries.”

“In the eighteenth century, India’s share of the world economy was as large as Europe’s. By 1947, after two centuries of British rule, it had decreased six-fold. The Empire blew rebels from cannon, massacred unarmed protesters, entrenched institutionalised racism, and caused millions to die from starvation. British imperialism justified itself as enlightened despotism for the benefit of the governed, but Shashi Tharoor takes demolishes this position, demonstrating how every supposed imperial ‘gift’ – from the railways to the rule of law – was designed in Britain’s interests alone. He goes on to show how Britain’s Industrial Revolution was founded on India’s deindustrialisation, and the destruction of its textile industry. In this bold and incisive reassessment of colonialism, Tharoor exposes to devastating effect the inglorious reality of Britain’s stained Indian legacy.”

“Pauperland is Jeremy Seabrook’s account of the mutations of poverty over time, historical attitudes to the poor, and the lives of the impoverished themselves, from early Poor Laws till today. He explains how in the medieval world, wealth was regarded as the greatest moral danger to society, yet by the industrial era, poverty was the most significant threat to social order. How did this change come about, and how did the poor, rather than the rich, find themselves blamed for much of what is wrong with Britain, including such familiar-and ancient-scourges as crime, family breakdown and addictions? How did it become the fate of the poor to be condemned to perpetual punishment and public opprobrium, the useful scapegoat of politicians and the media? Pauperland charts how such attitudes were shaped by ill-conceived and ill-executed private and state intervention, and how these are likely to frame ongoing discussions of and responses to poverty in Britain.”




The Private Lives of Authors: Franz Kafka

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Franz Kafka (1883-1924) was a German speaking Jewish novelist born in Prague to a middle class family. His childhood was lonely despite being the eldest of six children; his two brothers unfortunately died in their infancy and the remaining children were mainly raised by governesses. Both parents worked hard in the family business and were consequently absent for much of the working week, leaving the household in the care of servants.

Kafka was a shy and introverted character, and an avid reader. He considered writers such as Dostoyevsky, Flaubert, and Heinrich Von Kleist to be “true blood brothers”. Kafka’s father expected him to take over the family goods business, however, after completing a degree in Law he worked for insurance companies, and started an asbestos factory with an acquaintance. He claimed to despise working just to pay bills and would much rather have spent his time writing. Illness plagued him through his adult life, with complications arising from tuberculosis keeping him from joining the military.

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10 Literary Gifts For Him

By | Inspired by Literature, Literature | No Comments
This list is for anyone with a well-read boyfriend, literary uncle, bookish father, or cultured grandfather. If the man in your life enjoys a brilliant work of fiction, or disappearing into a favourite famous face’s biography, then this may just be the place you find the perfect gift for them!

The men in my family are notoriously difficult to buy for but thankfully they are all avid readers so taking them as inspiration we bring you- 10 Literary Gifts For Him. We hope to cover all the bases here, from the classy intellectual to the nerdy and humorous, you will find what you need.

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Christopher Tolkien Steps down as Director of the Tolkien Estate

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Christopher Tolkien, son of J.R.R. Tolkien has for many years worked as the director for the Tolkien estate, managing the literary giant that is the world of Middle-Earth. Christopher has edited and published many of his father’s unfinished works and has continued to tend to the world his father built. However, as theonering.net reports, at the age of 93, Christopher has announced that he is stepping down from his role. Read More

Amazon Reveals the Most Read Kindle Books of All Time

By | eReaders, Literature, News | No Comments
To celebrate the Kindle’s 10th birthday, Amazon has released new information from the Amazon charts which shows off which books, both fiction and non-fiction, are the top 10 best-selling Kindle books of all time. Many of the fiction entries won’t surprise you, but some of the non-fiction top sellers show Kindle readers have a wide variety of interests, from autobiographies to historic reads. Read More

100 Nasty Women of History Set to be Festive Bestseller

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When Donald Trump stood on the podium during the 2016 presidential campaign and called Hillary Clinton a ‘nasty woman’ he could never imagine that it would become not only one of his most quoted lines, but the line that women all over the world took up and wore like a crown.

Since the off hand remark was made, writers and journalists have shown that through history the women who rocked the boat were the women who got things done, and the phrase has inspired lots of positive action. Read More

Non-Fiction Books Are Setting Bookshops Alight This Christmas

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Last year’s seasonal hit was Norwegian Wood- a guide to chopping, stacking, and drying wood- and this year it looks like we are finally able to burn the stuff.

The hottest non-fiction books this Christmas are titles about bushcraft, firelighting, and wilderness survival. It seems people are looking to nature more and more, and getting ready to connect with the natural world around them.

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The Private Lives of Authors: Ayn Rand

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Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum was born in St Petersburg on February the 2nd, 1905. She was the eldest of three daughters born to a bourgeois family, the head of which was their pharmacist father. Rand reportedly found school very dull and not at all challenging, and began writing at the age of 8.

Despite being one of many ‘bourgeois’ students who were initially expelled from university, Rand graduated Petrograd State University in October, 1924. After studying at State Technicum for Screen Arts in Leningrad, Rand decided to change her name to the one she is now know best for- Ayn Rand. She took influence for her forename either from Aino, a Finnish name, or from the Hebrew word ayin, which means “eye”.

As a child of 10 years old Ayn Rand collected stamps, stopped during her adult life, and took it back up as a hobby during her late middle age. Stamp collecting is not the first thing to come to mind when discussing Rand but it did become a major passion of hers.

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