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13 January, 2012
|1759: The Year Britain Became Master of the World|
If not for the events of 1759, the entire history of the world would have been different. Called the "Year of Victories," 1759 was the fourth year of the Seven Years, or the French-and-Indian War and defeat of the French not only paved the way for the global hegemony of the English language but also made the emergence of the United States possible. Guiding us through England's conquests (and often extremely narrow victories) in India, North America, and the Caribbean, Frank McLynn (Wagons West) controversially suggests that the birth of the great British Empire was more a result of luck than of rigorous planning. Along with stirring depictions of the two greatest battles of 1759, Quebec and Quiberon, McLynn includes anecdotes of the intellectual and cultural leaders of the day-Swedenborg, Hume, Voltaire-and interweaves primary sources, ranging from material in the Vatican archives to oral histories of Native Americans, in a brilliant chronicle of a pivotal year in world history.
|First Four Georges|
(J H Plumb)
Fluent, lucid and written with Plumb's characteristic brevity, this is among the best introductions you will find to the high politics of the Hanoverian period. Sir John Plumb (d.2001) was one of the finest historical writers ever published in English. He is in the tradition of Macaulay and Trevelyan. His prose is polished and perfectly cadenced, and his light style masks a profound analytical grasp of the political forces that shaped this century of Whig ascendancy. Some may accuse him of adhering to the 'Great Men' school of history. If so, he highlights all their vices as well as their virtues.
Plumb was criticised for more often making the grand sweep of historical analysis as opposed to dredging through the minutiae of historical documentation. This analysis, I believe, is flawed and inimical to the notion that for history to be worthy of the name it should be readable for a wider audience, not solely confined to the institutions where it is nurtured.
Plumb's scholarship has inspired generations of laymen; his intellectual generosity and didactic rigour has also reaped its rewards within historical departments on both sides of the Atlantic. Those inspired by the Plumb school of history, who mastered their craft under his watchful eye at Christ's College, Cambridge, include such well known names as Simon Schama, David Cannadine, Niall Ferguson and Neil Mc Kendrick.
|King George II and Queen Caroline|
(John Van Der Kiste)
|The Hanoverians: The History of a Dynasty|
In The Hanoverians, one of Britain's most widely read historians, Jeremy Black, presents a detailed look at the long reign of this family's scandal-plagued reigning dynasty from the eighteenth to the early nineteenth century, including four King Georges and William IV. From the controversial King George I, who spoke only French and German, to George III's humiliating loss of the American colonies and bouts of insanity, to the disliked George IV's scandalous marriage and attempted divorce, the reign of the Hanoverians was filled with interesting stories and extraordinary characters.