Tuesday, December 15, 2015

What to Give your Favorite History Geek for Christmas

A few weeks ago, Regina gave us her Literary holiday shopping list (I lurve the red dress!) Now, 2015 was quite a year for us history geeks, seeing as it did the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, and 2014-2015 saw the publication of several excellent history books on life ca. 1815. If you’re looking for the perfect gift for yourself or for the history geek in your life, have a look at a few of these:

In These Times: Living in Britain through Napoleon’s Wars, 1793-1815 by Jenny Uglow; published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015 An amazingly detailed snapshot (though at over 800 pages, that may not be the right word) of life in England over twenty plus years after the end of the Peace of Amiens. The book covers everything from politics and economics to art and literature to how ordinary people, both city and country, lived their daily lives. Extensively illustrated (especially with a lot of Gilray and Rowlandson cartoons of the time) and very readable.

Jane Austen's England: Daily Life in the Georgian and Regency Periods by Roy and Lesley Adkins; published by Penguin Books, 2014 Here on NineteenTeen we will confess to something of a bias toward writing about life in aristocratic circles, because (let’s face it) it’s just so darned much escapist fun to twitter on about ball gowns and court presentations and that sort of thing. Of course, historically speaking, the “upper ten thousand” made up a very small percentage of the population. So if you’d like a clearer view of how the middle and lower classes lived--the people, in fact, who appear in Jane Austen’s novels--then this book is for you. Again, exemplary research, with useful illustrations, maps, and timelines.

Of course, in this 200th anniversary year of the Battle of Waterloo, a definitive biography of Napoleon Bonaparte would seem to be just the thing, and Napoleon: A Life by Andrew Roberts (Penguin Books, 2014) precisely fits the bill. It’s a doorstop of a book at 800 pages, but they’re very readable pages (yes, I read them) and paint a balanced picture of one of history’s more controversial figures.

For a definitive look at Waterloo itself, popular historical novelist Bernard Cornwell has brought us his first work of non-fiction in Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies, and Three Battles (Harper, 2015), I’ve not had a chance to read it, but its reviews are outstanding and I intend to get my mitts on it as soon as possible.

And for you historical foodies out there (I'm raising my hand), Dining with the Georgians by Emma Kay; Amberley Publishing, 2014 is a delight. Covering the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, it covers an important time in gastronomic history when many of our own eating habits were being established and foods we love today were establishing themselves as part of regular diets (hello, chocolate!) There appears to be a soon-to-be-released follow-up as well, Dining with the Victorians, which I think I’ll have to go see about...

Feel free to print this entry out and leave it lying about somewhere conspicuous. ☺ Are there any history books published in the last few years that you’d recommend to NineteenTeen readers?

1 comment:

QNPoohBear said...

Jane Austen's England was pretty good. The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things is very good for the most part. I have Dining With Mr. Darcy but I haven't used it yet. It's good reading though. Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War is very good though not for the academic reader. I'm currently reading Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder. She, of course, started my obsession with the 19th century (Thanks Mom and Dad for watching the TV show in front of me). So far the memoir is very interesting but the real life Ingalls family had a much darker experience in the west than the fictional family. Marmee and Louisa: The Untold Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Mother (one of the other people responsible for my obsession with the 19th century) is very good. That reminds me that I need to bring a pencil for Abigail Alcott's grave. She was a talented writer in her own right.