The week in books

May 7, 2009

Hitler's Empire: Nazi Rule in Occupied Europe by Mark Mazower, Ira D. Wallach professor of world order studies, Columbia University. Penguin, £12.99, ISBN 9780141011929

"It was always a source of puzzlement to the Nazis why the British didn't support their imperial ambitions. After all, as Mazower reveals, the British Empire was held up as a model by the Nazis. Mazower's greatest achievement is to show how the Nazi project, which ended in a programme of racial extermination, began as an expression of narrowly defined nationalist ambitions. As he puts it, how a war for Germans became a war against Jews; how the concept of a Greater Germany evolved into Hitler's policy of Lebensraum, then was hastily recast - after a run of military successes that surprised even the Nazis - as a plan for a whole New Order for Europe."

Ian Pindar, The Guardian

Mary Tudor: England's First Queen by Anna Whitelock, lecturer in early modern history, Royal Holloway, University of London. Bloomsbury, £20.00, ISBN 9780747590187

"Tudor history has long depended on blaming Mary Tudor for all the violence of the dynasty. In her short reign, Whitelock reveals, Mary did many of the same things with which Elizabeth is often credited by later historians. Like Elizabeth, she attempted religious tolerance but was forced to abandon it when her subjects became treasonous. And, like Elizabeth, she convinced Parliament to treat her with respect. Whitelock shows that Mary respected her troublesome sister even though Elizabeth's mother had been the cause of all her miseries."

Diane Purkiss, Financial Times

The Uses and Abuses of History by Margaret MacMillan, professor of history and warden of St Antony's College, Oxford. Profile Books, £11.99, ISBN 9781846682049

"The idea that drives this book is that we have all become too frivolous about our history. The turbulence of the last 20 years has sparked a return to the past to gain some perspective. But, argues MacMillan, we have become sloppy in the process. Her book offers a reminder of why we should be careful about how we engage with our past. The result is an extremely readable overview of the use and misuse of history."

Edward King, The Sunday Times

Theology in the Context of Science by John Polkinghorne, former professor of mathematical physics, University of Cambridge. Yale University Press, £9.99, ISBN 9780300149333

"Polkinghorne's book is unlikely to have much impact on those on either side of the science-religion divide who are adamant that the two topics exist in different realms and have no common language whatsoever. It is likely to appeal to theologians who need some encouragement to incorporate science into their studies, and to thoughtful people - including scientists - who are prepared to listen to some well-reasoned arguments for considering theology to answer questions that science cannot. Just as long as everyone who chooses to inform their philosophy with quantum mysteries does so with considered restraint."

Sheilla Jones, The Globe and Mail.

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