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The Best Books of 2020: History

Posted on 2nd December 2020 by Mark Skinner

If learning about the past is how we avoid making mistakes in the future then 2020's crop of history books are of enormous import and value. Patrick Vernon and Angelina Osborne's groundbreaking survey of Black British pioneers rescued hitherto neglected figures from the margins of history, whilst Margaret MacMillan's study of war asked probing questions about humanity's drive to conflict and Chris Bryant's gripping account of anti-appeasement queer MPs highlighted the importance of standing up to despots and dictators. Elsewhere, we were treated to entertaining takes on English history and Greek myth and gripping true stories of epsionage and fighter aircraft in the Second World War.  


 

British History

£20.00 £17.99
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A pivotal investigation into the role Black Britons have played in the island’s history over the past thousand years, that brings many unjustly neglected figures vividly to life.
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£12.99 £6.49
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From the author of the bestselling The Shortest History of Germany comes a bracing trot through the story of England that makes a complex history wonderfully accessible and throws up many connections and revelations hitherto unexplored.
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£20.00 £10.00
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From Winston Churchill to Dusty Springfield, the always engaging Andrew Marr explores the figures who have shaped and shaken Britain since the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
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£25.00 £22.99
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The first part of a major new two-volume history, Britain at Bay is a provocative, revisionist panorama of the gruelling first half of the Second World War and Britain's place in its mythos.
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Endell Street tells the inspiring story of two pioneering suffragette doctors, who transformed a derelict old London workhouse into a state-of-the-art military hospital with all-female staff during the First World War.
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£25.00 £12.50
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With echoes of a real-life Game of Thrones, Spencer’s account of the sinking of the White Ship and the loss of Henry I’s heir opens into a riveting saga of civil war, regal plotting and familial betrayal.
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£25.00 £12.50
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The master of swashbuckling medieval history lights up the year 1215, when King John put his signature to Magna Carta, the French invaded England and an angry mob stormed London.
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£25.00 £19.99
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Authoritative and absorbing, The Glamour Boys sheds light on a group of young gay MPs who spoke out against Nazism in the era of Appeasement and whose bravery played a crucial role in facing down Hitler.
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£18.99 £16.99
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Charting a nostalgic path through those idyllic weeks between June and September, British Summer Time Begins is an elegiac exploration of the mid-century summer holidays in the UK.
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Mapping the entwining paths of comestibles, culture and class, Vogler’s deliciously entertaining social history of food in Britain reveals how what we eat brings us together and sets us apart.
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European History

£20.00 £10.00
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Documenting the shadowy activities of an SS Brigadesfuhrer in the years leading up to his mysterious demise, the award-winning author of East West Street paints a complex picture of insidious evil and encroaching desperation.
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The women of Greek myth revisited and reassessed with wit and integrity by the acclaimed classicist, comedian and author of A Thousand Ships.
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Packed with plotting, side-switching and last-ditch escapes, the enthralling story of Cassius Parmensis, the final killer of Julius Caesar to be executed, reads like the most fanciful historical thriller.
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£20.00 £10.00
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Award-winning historian Catrine Clay tells the gripping stories of six ordinary Germans who witnessed the rise of Nazism in Germany from within, and dared to resist it.
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From Egyptian soldiers in the Roman army to modern-day migrants, Otele tells the intertwining story of Africans and Europeans through the centuries in lucid, engaging prose.
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In this captivating account of the volunteers who fought fascism in the Spanish Civil War, Tremlett sheds light on the extraordinary project of idealism and resistance.
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Marshalling all of Preston’s vast knowledge of his subject, the doyen of Spanish history delivers a magisterial account of the making of modern Spain and how its people have been repeatedly oppressed by institutions supposed to protect them.
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World History

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Brought to life by Amaral’s captivating colourisation of historical photographs and Jones’s insightful commentary, The World Aflame is a heart-breaking visual rendition of the war-torn decades that defined the 20th century.
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£24.95 £21.95
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Two dozen historians tackle the revolutions pivotal to their country of origin in this astonishingly wide-ranging and personal history of uprising and rebellion.
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A truly eye-opening volume, Waves Across the South charts world history from the perspective of communities that have long been sidelined in the Eurocentric and colonial narratives of the past.
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£25.00 £22.99
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The definitive account of the golden age of Egyptology from one of Britain’s leading experts in the field, A World Beneath the Sands explores the era when the obsession with ancient Egypt spread like wildfire, leading to both great discoveries and great injustice.
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£30.00 £26.99
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Drawing from court cases, correspondence and archeological findings, Wood brings to life the rich and dramatic narrative of the world’s oldest enduring civilisation.
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£20.00 £10.00
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From the destruction of the Great Library of Alexandria to the Windrush papers, Burning the Books charts the extraordinary history of hostility towards knowledge, and of those who have fought to preserve it.
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Featuring an eclectic cast of famous characters and a consistently jaw-dropping narrative, this rollicking global history of freemasonry is every bit as intriguing, mysterious and bizarre as you could hope for.
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£18.99 £16.99
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From the author of the acclaimed Nothing to Envy, Eat the Buddha is an intimate account of the people of a Tibetan town, from Mao’s Cultural Revolution to the present day.
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Military History

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From the bestselling author of The Spy and the Traitor comes the gripping true story of the most remarkable female spy in history – a dedicated communist who lived under the cover of a respectable Oxfordshire housewife.
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In this first-ever authorised history of the ultra-secret Government Communications Headquarters, Professor John Ferris digs deep into the past of Britain's biggest cyber-intelligence agency.
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£20.00 £10.00
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Through the voices of the few remaining RAF veterans, the bestselling author of Spitfire charts the story of one of the most famous aircraft of the Second World War – the iconic Lancaster bomber – and the men who flew them.
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War
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The acclaimed author of Peacemakers and The War That Ended Peace examines the historical, cultural and ideological baggage of military conflict, asking probing questions about how integral war is to the human condition.
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Guy de la Bedoyere's gripping narrative history gives a sense of what it was like to be a soldier in the army that brought the Romans their empire
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