The week in books

July 10, 2008

A Floating Commonwealth. By Christopher Harvie, professor of British studies at Tubingen University. Oxford University Press, £55.00, ISBN 97801982830

"(Harvie) argues that there was once a 'West Britain', a coastal littoral from Glasgow and Carlisle, via Belfast, Dublin and Liverpool, to Holyhead, Swansea and Cardiff, whose autonomy - both geographic and civilisational - is insufficiently recognised ... Harvie has provided a new mental and historical map for these islands, which could have more than scholarly consequences."

Pat Kane, The Independent

We Danced all Night: A Social History of Britain between the Wars. By Martin Pugh, follow of the Royal Historical Society. Bodley Head, £20.00, ISBN 9780224076982

"Where We Danced all Night succeeds is in bringing out both the strangeness and the familiarity of this odd period of history (1918-1939) ... Pugh allows us to see a version of ourselves in the culture of the Twenties and Thirties in a way we simply cannot when we look at the elusive Edwardians ... ".

Frances Wilson, The Daily Telegraph

The Sixties Unplugged: A Kaleidoscopic History of a Disorderly Decade. By Gerard DeGroot, professor in the department of modern history at the University of St Andrews. Macmillan, £20.00, ISBN 9781405055215

"As we approach the 50th anniversary ... (of the 60s generation), several writers will be planning the big fat book which will finally replace Levin's 1970 tour de force Run It Down the Flagpole. Gerard DeGroot's The Sixties Unplugged does not do it, despite an engaging style and some fascinating insights ... There are many good things in this book ... (b)ut they are nuggets buried deep in 500 pages of random essays ... ".

Francis Beckett, The Guardian

Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America, 1492-1830. By J.H. Elliot, professor in the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. Yale University Press, £14.99, ISBN 9780300123999

"The book's 12 chapters ... are each organised around themes that bring out similarities and divergences of the two empires ... (Yet) it is impossible for a single volume ... to do justice to all the disparate forces, geographies and protagonists that were involved in the (partial) ending of these two empires."

Linda Colley, The New York Review of Books

Judaism Musical and Unmusical. By Michael P. Steinberg, professor of history and professor of music, Brown University. University of Chicago Press, £.00, ISBN 9780226771946

"At once theoretically sophisticated and richly imaginative, Steinberg's 'constellating' of Jewishness and music could well have a substantial impact on discussions of Central European Jewish culture, where, as he emphasises, there is a pressing need for new conceptual life."

Paul Reitter, The Times Literary Supplement.

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