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history booksHistory Generally

Included with each walk map is a set of background notes, much of which is the history. So for my take on London history, visit walkmaps by place name and check the notes behind the map.

History, including biography, is to me more interesting and exciting than reading a novel. Provided it is well researched and written, of course.

This page is intended to list some of those books that have given me the greatest pleasure to read.

One book leads to another. Picking up Roy Jenkins' book about Gladstone in a bookshop I realised how little I know about that period in British politics. This led on to Douglas Hurd's book on Disraeli and Richard Aldous' unkind (but probably justifiable) biography on both entitled The Lion and the Unicorn. (If you thought bad behaviour in parliament was new this will cure you). Douglas Hurd's book led me on to his book about Robert Peel, prime minister at the time they entered parliament. I'll be listing my favourites in this area soon.

Another engrossing read on another topic is William Dalrymple's Return of a King, the Battle for Afghanistan Bloomsbury Publishing 2014. Couldn't put it down!

Some great books about German History.

Iron Kingdom; The rise & downfall of Prussia 1600-1947 Preußen, in Germany)

Christopher Clark, Penguin, 2007

Unbeatable clear, balanced history which is becoming an authoritative classic; eminently readable

Dreadnought; Britain, Germany and the coming of the great war

Robert K Massie, Vintage, 2007

Not just about the arms race leading up to WW1 but much personal detail of people of influence and their activities in both Britain and Germany

The Three Emperors: Three cousins, three empires and the road to World War One

Miranda Carter, Penguin, 2010

A real hoot from start to finish; couldn't put it down

The coming of the Third Reich

Richard J Evans, Penguin, 2004

The best book I know that tracks the events in Germany leading to Hitler's rise to power in 1933

Evening in the Palace of Reason, Bach meets Frederick the Great in the age of enlightenment

James Gaines, Harper, 2005

Portraits of Bach and Frederick in great detail

Bismark, A life

Jonathan Steinberg, Oxford, 2011

A detailed study of Bismark. The depth of the detail means it isn't the easiest read but it is masterfully researched and written.

Bismarck The Man and the Statesman

AJP Taylor, Vintage, 1967

Direct and accessible this old classic requires some prior knowledge on the subject

The Sleepwalkers, how Europe went to war in 1941

Christopher Clark, Penguin, 2014

opening with the assassination of the unpopular royal family of Serbia in 1903, shows how the responsibility for 1st WW is shared among many nations, not all obvious; little detail about Germany, which is available in his other books

Englanders and Huns: The culture clash which led to the First World War

James Hawes, Simon & Schuster, 2015

Interesting to say the least. Some fascinating facts about the German navy and the effects of newspapers on public opinion

The Deluge The great war and the remaking of Global Order

Adam Tooze, Penguin History, 2015

Perhaps a book more about the United States than Germany. A mammoth book well worth the effort if you can get past the introduction

The War that Ended Peace

Margaret MacMillan, Profile Books, 2014

The Perfect Nazi

Martin Davidson, Penguin, 2010

An insight into how a man developed into a Nazi from the time of the 1st World War

Towards The Flame

Dominic Lieven, Penguin, 2015

Insights into the origins of the First World War from the Russian Perspective. The later part of the book is fascinating

The German War A nation under Arms 1939-45

Nicholas Stargardt, Vintage, 2016

Following the 2nd World War from the writings of Germans at arms and at home. What they really thought - an eye-opener

Some recent readable paperback books on British History

The King's Assassin, The fatal affair of George Villiersand James I

Benjamin Wooley, Macmillan, 2017

Detailed research, eloquently told

The White King, The tragedy of Charles I

Leander de Lisle, Vintage, 2018

Set to become the definitive work, setting the record straight

The King and the Catholics, The fight for rights 1829

Antonia Fraser, W & N, 2018

Vintage Fraser, eminently readable