An account of the events, personalities and repercussions of the Irish rebellion
The Easter Rising began at 12 noon, 24 April, 1916 and lasted for six short but bloody days, resulting in the deaths of innocent civilians, the destruction of many parts of Dublin, and the true beginning of Irish independence.
The 1916 Rising was born out of the Conservative and Unionist parties’ illegal defiance of the democratically expressed wish of the Irish electorate for Home Rule; and of confusion, mishap and disorganisation, compounded by a split within the Volunteer leadership.
Tim Pat Coogan introduces the major players, themes and outcomes of a drama that would profoundly affect twentieth-century Irish history. Not only is this the story of a turning point in Ireland’s struggle for freedom, but also a testament to the men and women of courage and conviction who were prepared to give their lives for what they believed was right.
The dramatic story of Scotland – by charismatic television historian, Neil Oliver.
Scotland is one of the oldest countries in the world with a vivid and diverse past. Yet the stories and figures that dominate Scottish history – tales of failure, submission, thwarted ambition and tragedy – often badly serve this great nation, overshadowing the rich tapestry of her intricate past.
Historian Neil Oliver presents a compelling new portrait of Scottish history, peppered with action, high drama and centuries of turbulence that have helped to shape modern Scotland. Along the way, he takes in iconic landmarks and historic architecture; debunks myths surrounding Scotland’s famous sons; recalls forgotten battles; charts the growth of patriotism; and explores recent political developments, capturing Scotland’s sense of identity and celebrating her place in the wider world.
Who were the first Britons, and what sort of world did they occupy?
In A History of Ancient Britain, much-loved historian Neil Oliver turns a spotlight on the very beginnings of the story of Britain; on the first people to occupy these islands and their battle for survival.
There has been human habitation in Britain, regularly interrupted by Ice Ages, for the best part of a million years. The last retreat of the glaciers 12,000 years ago brought a new and warmer age and with it, one of the greatest tsunamis recorded on Earth which struck the north-east of Britain, devastating the population and flooding the low-lying plains of what is now the North Sea. The resulting island became, in time, home to a diverse range of cultures and peoples who have left behind them some of the most extraordinary and enigmatic monuments in the world.
Through what is revealed by the artefacts of the past, Neil Oliver weaves the epic story – half a million years of human history up to the departure of the Roman Empire in the Fifth Century AD. It was a period which accounts for more than ninety-nine per cent of humankind’s presence on these islands.
It is the real story of Britain and of her people.
Richard III and Henry Tudor’s legendary battle: one that changed the course of English history.
On the morning of 22 August 1485, in fields several miles from Bosworth, two armies faced each other, ready for battle. The might of Richard III’s army was pitted against the inferior forces of the upstart pretender to the crown, Henry Tudor, a 28-year-old Welshman who had just arrived back on British soil after 14 years in exile. Yet this was to be a fight to the death – only one man could survive; only one could claim the throne.
It would become one of the most legendary battles in English history: the only successful invasion since Hastings, it was the last time a king died on the battlefield. But BOSWORTH is much more than the account of the dramatic events of that fateful day in August. It is a tale of brutal feuds and deadly civil wars, and the remarkable rise of the Tudor family from obscure Welsh gentry to the throne of England – a story that began 60 years earlier with Owen Tudor’s affair with Henry V’s widow, Katherine of Valois.
Drawing on eyewitness reports, newly discovered manuscripts and the latest archaeological evidence, Chris Skidmore vividly recreates this battle-scarred world in an epic saga of treachery and ruthlessness, death and deception and the birth of the Tudor dynasty.
A new political history of modern Britain – entertaining, instructive and thought-provoking.
The history of democratic politics in Britain since the coming of universal male suffrage in 1918 is a dramatic one, crowded with events and colourful figures. As well as the great events of war and economic crises, and the quieter drama of constitutional change, this era has been studded with democratic protests of every sort.
The story opens more than 350 years ago. The Levellers of the 17th century, 18th-century radicals, the Chartists and the Reform Acts are all part of the unsteady and fiercely contested progress towards a democratic constitution. Dreams, visions and ideals are important too – of George Orwell, and Enoch Powell, Milton, Thomas Paine and Edmund Burke, Churchill and Lord Salisbury, Aneurin Bevan and Tony Benn – for they have also shaped our outlook.
The dramatic story of Elizabeth’s first ten years on the throne and the unexplained death that scandalised her court.
Elizabeth came to the throne in 1558 a 25-year-old virgin – the most prized catch in Christendom. For the first ten years of her reign, one matter dominated above all others: the question of who the queen was to marry and when she would produce an heir.
Elizabeth’s life as England’s Virgin Queen is one of the most celebrated in history. Christopher Skidmore takes a fresh look at the familiar story of a queen with the stomach of a man, steadfastly refusing to marry for the sake of her realm, and reveals a very different picture: of a vulnerable young woman, in love with her suitor, Robert Dudley. Had it not been for the mysterious and untimely death of his wife, Amy Robsart, Elizabeth might have one day been able to marry Dudley, since Amy was believed to be dying of breast cancer.
Instead, the suspicious circumstances surrounding Amy Robsart’s death would cast a long shadow over Elizabeth’s life, preventing any hope of a union with Dudley and ultimately shaping the course of Tudor history. Using newly discovered evidence from the archives, Christopher Skidmore is able to put an end to centuries of speculation as to the true causes of her death.
The struggle for the soul of England after the death of Henry VIII
In the death of Henry VIII, the crown passed to his nine-year-old son, Edward. However, real power went to the Protector, Edward’s uncle, the Duke of Somerset. The court had been a hotbed of intrigue since the last days of Henry VIII. Without an adult monarch, the stakes were even higher. The first challenger was the duke’s own brother: he seduced Henry VIII’s former queen, Katherine Parr; having married her, he pursued Princess Elizabeth and later was accused of trying to kidnap the boy king at gunpoint. He was beheaded. Somerset ultimately met the same fate, after a coup d’etat organized by the Duke of Warwick. Chris Skidmore reveals how the countrywide rebellions of 1549 were orchestrated by the plotters at court and were all connected to the (literally) burning issue of religion: Henry VIII had left England in religious limbo. Court intrigue, deceit and treason very nearly plunged the country into civil war.
Edward was a precocious child, as his letters in French and Latin demonstrate. He kept a secret diary, written partly in Greek, which few of his courtiers could read. In 1551, at the age of 14, he took part in his first jousting tournament, an essential demonstration of physical prowess in a very physical age. Within a year it is his signature we find at the bottom of the Council minutes, yet in early 1553 he contracted a chest infection and later died, rumours circulating that he might have been poisoned. Mary, Edward’s eldest sister, and devoted Catholic, was proclaimed Queen.
This is more than just a story of bloodthirsty power struggles, but how the Church moved so far along Protestant lines that Mary would be unable to turn the clock back. It is also the story of a boy born to absolute power, whose own writings and letters offer a compelling picture of a life full of promise, but tragically cut short.
The incredible real life story of the world’s first super spy
Francis Walsingham was the first ‘spymaster’ in the modern sense. His methods anticipated those of MI5 and MI6 and even those of the KGB. He maintained a network of spies across Europe, including double-agents at the highest level in Rome and Spain – the sworn enemies of Queen Elizabeth and her Protestant regime. His entrapment of Mary Queen of Scots is a classic intelligence operation that resulted in her execution.
As Robert Hutchinson reveals, his cypher expert’s ability to intercept other peoples’ secret messages and his brilliant forged letters made him a fearsome champion of the young Elizabeth. Yet even this Machiavellian schemer eventually fell foul of Elizabeth as her confidence grew (and judgement faded). The rise and fall of Sir Francis Walsingham is a Tudor epic, vividly narrated by a historian with unique access to the surviving documentary evidence.
‘Marvellously engaging’ The Times
‘Brisk, informative and eye-opening’ Daily Telegraph
In the 1600s, vast numbers of people left England for the Americas. Crossing the Atlantic was a major undertaking, the voyage long and treacherous. Why did they go?
Emigrants casts vivid new light on the population shift which underpins the rise of modern America. Using contemporary sources including diaries, court hearings and letters, James Evans brings us the extraordinary personal stories of the men and women who made the journey of a lifetime.
A gripping account of the Wars of the Roses battle of Towton – the most brutal day in English history.
‘Vivid, humane and superbly researched’ David Starkey
‘The story has never been told so well or so excitingly’ Desmond Seward
The Battle of Towton in 1461 was unique in its ferocity and brutality, as the armies of two kings of England engaged with murderous weaponry and in appalling conditions to conclude the first War of the Roses. Variously described as the largest, longest and bloodiest battle on English soil, Towton was fought with little chance of escape and none of surrender.
Fatal Colours includes a cast of strong and compelling characters: a warrior queen, a ruthless king-making earl, even a papal legate who excommunicates an entire army.
Combining medieval sources and modern scholarship, George Goodwin colourfully recreates the atmosphere of 15th century England and chronicles the vicious in-fighting as the increasingly embittered royal factions struggle for supremacy.
Amateurs versus professionals – a social history and memoir of English cricket from 1953 to 1963.
The inaugural Gentlemen v. Players first-class cricket match was played in 1806, subsequently becoming an annual fixture at Lord’s between teams consisting of amateurs (the Gentlemen) and professionals (the Players). The key difference between the amateur and the professional, however, was much more than the obvious one of remuneration. The division was shaped by English class structure, the amateur, who received expenses, being perceived as occupying a higher station in life than the wage-earning professional. The great Yorkshire player Len Hutton, for example, was told he would have to go amateur if he wanted to captain England.
GENTLEMEN & PLAYERS focuses on the final ten years of amateurism and the Gentlemen v. Players fixture, starting with Charles Williams’ own presence in the (amateur) Oxbridge teams that included future England captains such as Peter May, Colin Cowdrey and M.J.K. Smith, and concluding with the abolition of amateurism in 1962 when all first-class players became professional. The amateur innings was duly declared closed.
Charles Williams, the author of a richly acclaimed biography of Donald Bradman, has penned a vivid social-history-cum-memoir that reveals an attempt to recreate a Golden Age in post-war Britain, one whose expiry exactly coincided with the beginnings of top-class one-day cricket and a cricket revolution.
Men, money, duelling and murder: welcome to the infamous Derby race of 1844 and the gambling mania that gripped early 19th century Britain.
This is a tale of money, gambling and sporting obsession; of rogues and rascals, outrageous criminality, aristocratic complacency, and a gripping investigation to expose the most audacious sporting plot of the age. In the early 1840s, Britain was the gambling capital of Europe and the Epsom Derby was attracting countless spectators and many millions of pounds in wagers. It was a time of frenzied speculation, high stakes and low morals.
But as the unprincipled Regency era gave way to the high-mindedness of the Victorian period, reformers decided it was time to challenge the murky world of illegal gambling and in 1844, launched the far-reaching Parliamentary Enquiry. When the Derby of the same year ended in chaos, with the two favourite horses doped, the Turf’s most dedicated follower and greatest tyrant Lord George Bentinck, took it upon himself to uncover the truth of what happened that day, which led to one of the most sensational court cases of the 19th century. A compelling detective story peopled with low-life aristocrats and high-minded reformers, GENTLEMEN AND BLACKGUARDS paints a rich picture of early Victorian society, bringing to light an overlooked turning point in British history.