What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

November 10, 2011

John R. Grodzinski, assistant professor of history at the Royal Military College of Canada, is reading Brian Arthur's How Britain Won the War of 1812: The Royal Navy's Blockades of the United States, 1812-1815 (Boydell Press, 2011). "This significant (and wonderfully titled) work highlights the subtler aspects of an economic strategy that allowed Britain to achieve its long-term maritime needs. Expect more works on the War of 1812 as its bicentenary draws near."

Stephen Halliday, lecturer at the Institute of Continuing Education, University of Cambridge, is reading Paul Oppenheimer's Machiavelli: A Life beyond Ideology (Continuum, 2011). "This new study of the much-maligned Florentine diplomat reminds us that his work was not only condemned by the Inquisition (surely a good sign) but also by Protestants who blamed him for the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre of 1572, almost half a century after his death. Oppenheimer also offers an intriguing insight into the rivalry between Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, which came as a surprise to this reader."

A. W. Purdue, visiting professor in history, Northumbria University, is reading Max Hastings' All Hell Let Loose: The World at War 1939-1945 (Harper Press, 2011). "Hastings' masterful account makes it clear that the theatre of the war that proved decisive was the Eastern Front in Europe, where two great tyrannies confronted each other; but the close cooperation between Germany and the Soviet Union between 1939 and June 1941 and the nature of the Soviet regime qualified Allied claims to moral supremacy. However, his conclusion that Allied victory 'saved the world from a much worse fate than would have followed the triumph of Germany and Japan', is well founded."

John Shand, associate lecturer in philosophy at The Open University, is reading Anton Chekhov's Ward Number Six and Other Stories (Oxford University Press, 1988). "I'll mention the stories The Butterfly and Ariadne in particular. Chekhov's stories are astonishingly timeless, as they shed light on the human condition. His understanding of human psychology, his exposure of pretension and dishonesty, and his warmth of heart shine out from these wonderfully crafted gems. They linger in the mind long after one has finished reading them."

Hester Vaizey, a research associate at Clare College, Cambridge, is reading Heike B. Görtemaker's Eva Braun: Life with Hitler (Penguin, 2011). "In the well-furrowed field of the Nazi past, it is surprising that so little attention has been paid to Hitler's girlfriend of 14 years, Eva Braun. Can it really be the case that Hitler kept his public and private life so separate that Braun exerted little or no influence over Hitler's outlook and policies? Görtemaker's book explores the relationship from their first encounter to their hasty marriage, conducted 40 hours before they died."

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