Jeremy Black, Avril Goodwin, Stephen Halliday, A. W. Purdue and June Purvis...

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

November 7, 2013

Jeremy Black, established chair in history, University of Exeter, is reading Lawrence Freedman’s Strategy: A History (Oxford University Press, 2013). “Adopting a wide-ranging definition of strategy, Freedman provides a discursive account with many interesting passages, notably on recent developments involving the US, but the focus largely on Western thinking is misguided, and there is a serious failure to engage with strategic culture, China other than Mao Zedong, India and, indeed, history prior to 1800. The subject still requires a historical analysis.”

Considering Doris Day, by Tom Santopietro

Avril Goodwin, campus librarian at Dumfries, University of the West of Scotland, is reading Tom Santopietro’s Considering Doris Day (St Martin’s Griffin, 2008). “I’ve always had a lot of time for Doris Day, particularly for her role in the musical Calamity Jane and for the comedies she made with Rock Hudson. Santopietro is a shrewd and witty observer of Day’s career, offering a serious, thorough and admiring study of her work, film by film, and recording by recording. One to dip in and out of, rather than read straight through.”

The Diary of a Nobody, by George and Weedon Grosssmith

Stephen Halliday, panel tutor in history, Institute of Continuing Education, University of Cambridge, is reading The Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith (Wordsworth Editions, 1994). “First published in book form in 1892, this comic novel records the uneventful life of Charles Pooter, City clerk, whose disappointed hopes and minor humiliations at the hands of friends and family – especially his deplorable son Lupin – end with a minor triumph. I must have read it 10 times, and it still makes me laugh out loud.”

Storming the Eagle's Nest, by Jim Ring

A. W. Purdue, visiting professor in history at Northumbria University, is reading Jim Ring’s Storming the Eagle’s Nest: Hitler’s War in the Alps (Faber, 2013). “It’s hard to find a new perspective on the Second World War, but Ring has found one as, eagle-eyed, he views the high ground of the war along Europe’s backbone. His study covers Vichy France, Mussolini’s Italy, Yugoslavia, Austria’s Alps, upon which Hitler gazed from Berchtesgaden, and Switzerland. The chapters on Switzerland are perhaps the most valuable, for neutral states are usually neglected by historians of the war. Why Germany did not invade Switzerland and put the remaining piece into the jigsaw of the map of Axis dominance of the Alps has puzzled many writers, and Ring offers a convincing answer.”

Turning the Tide, by Angela V. John

June Purvis, professor of women’s and gender history, University of Portsmouth, is reading Angela V. John’s Turning the Tide: The Life of Lady Rhondda (Parthian, 2013). “Most people associate Margaret Rhondda (1883-1958) with Time and Tide, a weekly paper on women’s rights that she founded in 1920. But this rich biography reveals many other details about the private and public life of this Welsh one-time suffragette. A book to savour and enjoy, whether reading about close friendships with women or the campaign for women’s admission to the House of Lords.”

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