Books on history

Books on history


SAMUEL PEPYS PLAGUE, FIRE REVOLUTION (Thames & Hudson £29.95). Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) secretary to the Admiralty Board, MP, theatregoer and diarist, lived through an amazing era which saw Charles 1 executed, the regnum of Cromwell, the coronation of Charles II, the Great Plague, the Great Fire and the ousting of Catholic James II by William III and Mary. This beautiful book, richly illustrated, is published to coincide with a major exhibition at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, and will most certainly lead to a lot of people wanting to read or reread Pepys’ Diary.  It would be great to have this book to hand when you are reading the diary.

THE FACE OF BRITAIN The Nation Through Its Portraits by Simon Schama (Viking £30). What better way to look at the portraits by Sutherland, Gilray, Bacon, Hogarth, Reynolds, etc, etc. than to have Schama’s expert commentary on the artist and his sitters? Shama is eminently readable. The next time I go to the National Gallery I shall take the book with me. In the meantime there is plenty to enjoy whilst reading at home. I am surprised nobody has made a film about the painting of Churchill by Sutherland and the reaction of parliament, the public and Winston’s wife when it was finished

HISTORY (Dorling Kindsersley £30) is what it says it is: the definitive visual guide. If you saw Alan Bennett’s The History Boysyou won’t have forgotten his witty remark about history. This is therefore a great book for a teenager to engage in history; and indeed for all the family to dip into and refer to. Each crowded page is a mine of photographs, maps, graphics, and information. The book focuses on facts and ideas. At times it is almost too overwhelming, the illustrations and text have such a visual impact. You can take your time, however, a double page spread at a time.

THE NORTH AMERICAN INDIAN by Edward S Curtis (Taschen £12.99) is a monumental portfolio by the American photographer and is an invaluable historical record of a way of life which was already beginning to die out. The Indians are photographed with great sensitivity and dignity. It took Curtis (1868-1952) 36 years to complete his portfolio. This book is part of the excellent Taschen Bibliotheca Universalis Series, which includes Dominus 1950s, Chinese Propaganda Pictures, The Male Nude and 100 Interiors Round the World

LEE MILLER A WOMAN’S WAR (Thames & Hudson £29.95) is published to coincide with an exhibition at the Imperial War Museum in London. It is a pictorial record of the impact World War 2 had on women. Lee Miller was initially a fashion photographer and she quickly transformed and became a front-line war correspondent. It was a role she much preferred. She photographed (though forbidden to) the last five days of intense fighting by the US 83rd Division in Normandy in 1944 and she was there when Paris was liberated.

To learn more about Robert Tanitch and his reviews, click here to go to his website