Historians list history books

Posted by Helen Monday, December 22, 2014

The BBC History Magazine asked several historians which history books of 2014 would they rate most highly. The replies made me realize that I had better get reading those books before the 2015 ones start coming out. (As it happens I already noticed a book that will not be published till next year but is in London Library: Boris Volodarsky's Stalin's Agent, a biography of the famous and infamous Alexander Orlov.) But I digress.

Back to 2014:

Nigel Jones nominates Roger Moorhouse's The Devils' Alliance, a detailed study of the Nazi-Soviet Pact from the moment it was signed to the moment it was broken.

Helen Castor, author of the highly praised recent biography of Joan of Arc, lists three books on the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth century. In that order they are Dan Jones's The Hollow Crown: the Wars of the Roses and the Rise of the Tudors, Jessie Childs's God's Traitors: Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England and Charles Spencer's Killers of the King: The Men Who Dared to Execute Charles I. The last title is particularly fascinating to me as I have long found it fascinating to imagine the minds of people who dared to do the unthinkable: not to kill a king as a good many kings had been killed in England and other countries but to try and execute him. Surely that is the event that can be seriously called the beginning of the modern era.

Finally, Simon Sebag Montefiore picks Jessie Childs's book, as well as Serhii Plokhi's The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union and Victor Sebestyen's 1946: The Making of the Modern World. Clearly Mr Sebestyen and I (we are acquainted) would disagree on that assumption as on a number of other issues as always, I hope, in a friendly fashion.


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