Peter Catterall, Graham Farmelo, Paul Greatrix, Richard Howells and R. C. Richardson...

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

July 3, 2014

Peter Catterall, reader in history, University of Westminster, is reading Frederic Raphael’s The Glittering Prizes (JR Books, 2007). “I have not previously read this book; and, amid the brutal, brilliant and brittle barbs of wit, what strikes me is a sense that, like the survivors of the Great War, Raphael is using his art to cope with a traumatic experience. Perhaps unfortunately, Cambridge three decades later did not affect me in the same way.”

Book review: Visions of Science, by James A. Secord

Graham Farmelo, by-fellow, Churchill College, Cambridge, is reading James Secord’s Visions of Science: Books and Readers at the Dawn of the Victorian Age (Oxford University Press, 2014). “The flourishing of popular science books around 1830 has long interested me, so I was delighted to see the leading scholar Jim Secord address the subject. His well-written and handsomely produced volume sheds bright light on the impact of seven books, some of which were unfamiliar to me, including Mary Somerville’s On the Connexion of the Physical Sciences. With media commentators now routinely predicting the demise of the book, this wonderful account is especially inspiring (or consoling – I can’t decide which).”

Book review: The Blunders of Our Governments, by Anthony King and Ivor Crewe

Paul Greatrix, registrar, University of Nottingham, is reading Anthony King and Ivor Crewe’s The Blunders of Our Governments (Oneworld, 2013). “Following a THE article, I finally got round to this frightening analysis of government failings down the years: the poll tax, Child Support Agency, NHS IT, the Dangerous Dogs Act. Each blunder is examined in detail and, although all are awful, there is recognition of governments’ potential to do good. Interestingly, many of the reasons for failure could apply equally in a university context.”

Book review: Socialism and the Great State, by H. G. Wells

Richard Howells, reader in culture, media and creative industries, King’s College London, is reading H. G. Wells’ Socialism and the Great State (Harper, 1912). “Part of the joy of reading my first edition of Wells’ edited volume is having to cut some of the pages, showing that after 100 years I am the first person ever to have read this particular volume. I hope I will not be the last: many of these ideas remain intellectually relevant even though so many of our students today assume that ‘socialism’ has to be a dirty word.”

Book review: Cromwell's Legacy, edited by Jane Mills

R. C. Richardson, emeritus professor of history, University of Winchester, is reading Cromwell’s Legacy (Manchester University Press, 2012), edited by Jane A. Mills. “A distinctive, insightful and informative collection of new essays, part historical/part historiographical, which explore resonances of the Lord Protector’s reputation and its different chronologies in England, Scotland, Ireland, mainland Europe, New England and Spanish America, in the short and long term. His religious, military and parliamentary legacies are scrutinised, as are the museums, landscapes, memorabilia and myths associated with him.”

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