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1939: The Last Season

1939: The Last Season

A wonderful portrait of British upper-class life in the Season of 1939 – the last before the Second World War.

The Season of 1939 brought all those ‘in Society’ to London. The young debutante daughters of the upper classes were presented to the King and Queen to mark their acceptance into the new adult world of their parents. They sparkled their way through a succession of balls and parties and sporting events.

The Season brought together influential people not only from Society but also from Government at the various events of the social calendar. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain chaperoned his debutante niece to weekend house parties; Lord Halifax, the Foreign Secretary, lunched with the Headmaster of Eton; Cabinet Ministers encountered foreign Ambassadors at balls in the houses of the great hostesses. As the hot summer drew on, the newspapers filled with ever more ominous reports of the relentless progress towards war. There was nothing to do but wait – and dance. The last season of peace was nearly over.
A Million Years in a Day

A Million Years in a Day

‘A wonderful idea, gloriously put into practice. Greg Jenner is as witty as he is knowledgeable’ – Tom Holland

‘You will love Greg Jenner’s jolly account of how we have more in common with our ancestors than we might think … all human life is here, amusingly conveyed in intriguing nuggets of gossipy historical anecdote’ – Daily Mail


Every day, from the moment our alarm clock wakes us in the morning until our head hits our pillow at night, we all take part in rituals that are millennia old. In this gloriously entertaining romp through human history – featuring new updates for the paperback edition – BBC Horrible Histories consultant Greg Jenner explores the hidden stories behind these daily routines.

This is not a story of politics, wars or great events, instead Greg Jenner has scoured Roman rubbish bins, Egyptian tombs and Victorian sewers to bring us the most intriguing, surprising and sometimes downright silly nuggets from our past.

It is a history of all those things you always wondered – and many you have never considered. It is the story of our lives, one million years in the making.
Children of the Raj

Children of the Raj

Vyvyen Brendon’s evocative, at times heart-tugging book, runs from the 18th century and the East India Company, through the Afghan wars, the Indian mutiny and the more settled era of the Queen Empress, and culminates in the conflict leading to Britain’s hurried exit in 1947. Its subject is the young progeny of traders, soldiers, civil servants, missionaries, planters, engineers and what should be done with them.

Until the coming of air travel these children often only saw their parents every few years. Then there were the children born of Anglo-Indian marriages and affairs. Sent back to Britain they were often reviled as ‘darkies’, ‘a touch of the tar-brush’. And then there were the children educated in India. Brendon reveals appalling stories of abuse at the hands of servants. What frequently unites Brendon’s wildly different subjects is their loneliness–drawing on letters, diaries, memoirs and interviews, she portrays children who had to discipline themselves to adapt (often ingeniously) to unfamiliar cultures, far away from family and forced to spend termtime in boarding schools and holidays with unfamiliar families.
Civilization of Angkor

Civilization of Angkor

A short history of the ancient civilization of Angkor, home to the spectacular temple of Angkor Wat.

In the late sixteenth century a mythical encounter was reported on an elephant hunt in the dense jungle north of the Tonle Sap, or Great Lake, of central Cambodia. King Satha of Cambodia and his retainers were beating a path through the undergrowth when they were halted by stone giants, and then a massive wall. The King, the fable reported, ordered 6,000 men to bring down the wall, thereby exposing the city of Angkor ‘lost’ for over a century.

Subsequent reports from Portuguese missionaries described its four gateways, with bridges flanked by stone figures leading across a moat. There were idols covered in gold, inscriptions, fountains, canals, and ‘a temple with five towers, called Angor [sic]’. For four centuries, this huge complex has inspired awe amongst visitors from all over the world, but only now are its origins and history becoming clear.

This book begins with the progress of the prehistoric communities of the area and draws on the author¿s recent excavations to portray the rich and expansive chiefdoms that existed at the dawn of civilization. It covers the origins of early states, up to the establishment, zenith and decline of this extraordinary civilization, whose most impressive achievement was the construction of the gilded temple mausoleum of Angkor Wat, in the twelfth century, allegedly by 70,000 people.
Dead Famous

Dead Famous

During these extraordinary times Greg Jenner is able to sign you a personalised bookplate for your hardback. Please email info@gregjenner.com with the name you would like the book dedicated to and the postal address.

‘Fizzes with clever vignettes and juicy tidbits… [a] joyous romp of a book.’ Guardian

‘A magical mystery tour through the history of celebrity – eye opening, provocative, triumphant.’ Kate Williams, bestselling author and historian

‘A fascinating, rollicking book in search of why, where and how fame strikes. Sit back and enjoy the ride.’ Peter Frankopan


Celebrity, with its neon glow and selfie pout, strikes us as hypermodern. But the famous and infamous have been thrilling, titillating, and outraging us for much longer than we might realise. Whether it was the scandalous Lord Byron, whose poetry sent female fans into an erotic frenzy; or the cheetah-owning, coffin-sleeping, one-legged French actress Sarah Bernhardt, who launched a violent feud with her former best friend; or Edmund Kean, the dazzling Shakespearean actor whose monstrous ego and terrible alcoholism saw him nearly murdered by his own audience – the list of stars whose careers burned bright before the Age of Television is extensive and thrillingly varied.

Celebrities could be heroes or villains; warriors or murderers; brilliant talents, or fraudsters with a flair for fibbing; trendsetters, wilful provocateurs, or tragic victims marketed as freaks of nature. Some craved fame while others had it forced upon them. A few found fame as small children, some had to wait decades to get their break. But uniting them all is the shared origin point: since the early 1700s, celebrity has been one of the most emphatic driving forces in popular culture; it is a lurid cousin to Ancient Greek ideas of glorious and notorious reputation, and its emergence helped to shape public attitudes to ethics, national identity, religious faith, wealth, sexuality, and gender roles.

In this ambitious history, that spans the Bronze Age to the coming of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Greg Jenner assembles a vibrant cast of over 125 actors, singers, dancers, sportspeople, freaks, demigods, ruffians, and more, in search of celebrity’s historical roots. He reveals why celebrity burst into life in the early eighteenth century, how it differs to ancient ideas of fame, the techniques through which it was acquired, how it was maintained, the effect it had on public tastes, and the psychological burden stardom could place on those in the glaring limelight. DEAD FAMOUS is a surprising, funny, and fascinating exploration of both a bygone age and how we came to inhabit our modern, fame obsessed society.
Dog's Best Friend

Dog's Best Friend

‘DOG’S BEST FRIEND is as fascinating, funny and wise as we’ve come to expect from Simon Garfield. More than that, it’s a book that asks profound questions about what it means to be canine’ ANDY MILLER, author THE YEAR OF READING DANGEROUSLY

‘This is a book that will make your tail wag’ KATE HUMBLE

‘A fascinating, informative and highly entertaining expedition through the highways and byways of dogdom’ JOHN BRADSHAW, author of IN DEFENCE OF DOGS

‘Simon Garfield has written a book every owner will lap up with the same delight and enthusiasm their Fido would a discarded box of fried chicken. That is to say, with great pleasure’ KATE SPICER, author of LOST DOG

***

One of the first words we learn. Perhaps the best friend we’ll have. An animal so much part of our lives that we speak to it like a child and spend small fortunes on its wellbeing and wardrobe.

Dogs and humans: in the last 200 years no inter-species relationship has developed so fast nor come so far. Dogs accompany us in every walk of life, usually three times a day. How and why did this relationship begin? How has it changed over the centuries? And who’s getting the upper hand?

DOG’S BEST FRIEND investigates this unique bond by revisiting some of the most important milestones in our shared journey. It begins with the earliest visual evidence on ancient rock art, and ends at the laboratory that sequenced the first dog genome. En route we encounter the first Labradoodle in Australia, a misguidedly loyal Akita in Japan, an ill-fated Poodle trainer in the United States, and a hilariously disobedient Romanian rescue dog named Kratu at the Birmingham NEC. We will also meet Corgis and Dorgis at the Palace, the weightless mutniks of the Soviet space programme, a Dalmatian who impersonates Hitler, and an owner who claims his Border Collie can remember the names of more than a thousand soft toys.

If you own or once owned a dog, you will know that our relationship can be as rich, complicated and rewarding as the relationship we have with other humans, and the book reflects this diversity with the aid of trainers, breeders and psychologists. Above all, it explores the extraordinary ability of dogs to enhance so many aspects of our lives. DOG’S BEST FRIEND is as entertaining as it is informative, as eccentric as it is erudite, and all told with Simon Garfield’s irrepressible gift for witty and insightful storytelling.
Empire of the Deep

Empire of the Deep

The bestselling complete history of the British Navy – our national story through a different prism.

The story of our navy is nothing less than the story of Britain, our culture and our empire. Much more than a parade of admirals and their battles, this is the story of how an insignificant island nation conquered the world’s oceans to become its greatest trading empire. Yet, as Ben Wilson shows, there was nothing inevitable about this rise to maritime domination, nor was it ever an easy path.

EMPIRE OF THE DEEP: THE RISE AND FALL OF THE BRITISH NAVY also reveals how our naval history has shaped us in more subtle and surprising ways – our language, culture, politics and national character all owe a great debt to this conquest of the seas. This is a gripping, fresh take on our national story.
Fighting Fit

Fighting Fit

At the beginning of the Second World War, medical experts predicted epidemics of physical and mental illness on the home front. Rationing would decimate the nation’s health, they warned; drugs, blood and medical resources would be in short supply; air raid shelters and evacuation would spread diseases; and the psychological effects of bombing raids would leave mental hospitals overflowing. Yet, astonishingly, Britain ended the war in better health than ever before.

Based on original archival research and written with wit and verve, FIGHTING FIT reveals an extraordinary, forgotten story of medical triumph against the odds. Through a combination of meticulous planning and last-minute scrambling, Britain succeeded in averting, in Churchill’s phrase, the ‘dark curse’ on the nation’s health. It was thanks to the pioneering efforts of countless individuals – doctors, nurses, social workers, boy scouts, tea ladies, Nobel Prize winners, air raid wardens, housewives, nutritionists and psychologists – who battled to keep the nation fit and well in wartime. As Laura Dawes shows, these men and women not only helped to win the war, they paved the way for the birth of the NHS and the development of the welfare state.
Heyday

Heyday

‘Excellent . . . This is narrative history of the highest quality’ Andrew Lycett, Sunday Telegraph

‘Wonderfully engrossing and intelligent . . . clever and entertaining’ Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times

HEYDAY brings to life one of the most extraordinary periods in modern history. The 1850s was a decade of breathtaking transformation, with striking parallels for our own times. The world was reshaped by technology, trade, mass migration and war. The global economy expanded fivefold, millions of families emigrated to the ends of the earth to carve out new lives, technology revolutionised communications, while steamships and railways cut across vast continents and oceans, shrinking the world and creating the first global age.

In a fast-paced, kaleidoscopic narrative, the acclaimed historian Ben Wilson recreates this time of explosive energy and dizzying change, a rollercoaster ride of booms and bust, focusing on the lives of the men and women reshaping its frontiers. At the centre stands Great Britain. The country was the peak of its power as it attempted to determine the destinies of hundreds of millions of people. A dazzling history of a tumultuous decade, HEYDAY reclaims an often overlooked period that was fundamental not only in in the making of Britain but of the modern world.
Hitler's U-Boat War

Hitler's U-Boat War

The second and final volume of the definitive account of the German submarine war.

Acclaimed on its publication in 1997 (‘should become the standard history of the Unterseeboote’ – Washington Post) volume one of Clay Blair’s magnum opus is here followed by volume two, The Hunted covering 1942-45. In this volume the fortunes of the German navy are completely reversed – due in no small part to Allied codebreaking – and they suffer perhaps the most devastating defeat of any of the Germany forces. destroying their submarine service entirely.

Blair has been at work on this history for nine years since the British and American governments began to release official WWII records in the 1980s. Blair himself served in submarines in combat in WWII. He chronicles the U-Boat war with authority, fidelity, objectivity and extraordinary detail. He also writes vivid and dramatic scenes of naval actions and dispassionate, but startling new revelations, interpretations and conclusions about all aspects of the Battle of the Atlantic.
Japanese Society

Japanese Society

Why do the Japanese almost always go for holidays in groups? Do Japanese families experience our sort of ‘family life’? Why do conversations with Japanese friends and acquaintances often seem to come to an abrupt halt just when they’re getting interesting – that is, a little controversial? What motivates the Japanese man in the street?

Professor Nakane, writing with an intimate knowledge of her own people, provides in this fascinating book the answers to these and many other perplexing questions.

Using the structure of Japanese society as the basis of her analysis, rather than explaining it in cultural or historical terms, Professor Nakane begins by examining one-to-one relationships, following through to the structure of the group and finally that of the society as a whole.
Sands of Death

Sands of Death

Desert explorer Michael Asher investigates the most disastrous exploration mission in the history of the Sahara

In December 1880 a French expedition attempted to map a route for a railway that would stretch from their colony in Algeria right across the Sahara desert to reach their territories in West Africa. ‘Paris to Timbuctoo in Six Days’ was the slogan. It would do for the French colonies what the American railways were doing in the western states at the same time. No native opposition was expected. As one of the expedition’s organizers said, ‘A hundred uncivilized tribesmen armed with old-fashioned spears: what is that against the might of France?’

Four months later, a handful of emaciated survivors staggered into a remote outpost on the edge of the desert. Although armed with modern rifles, the column had been lured to destruction by the self-styled ‘lords of the desert’, the Tuareg. At this, the highpoint of European colonialism in Africa, this story of treachery, massacre, torture and even cannibalism made headlines around the world. Attacked by the Tuareg in their remote heartland, the survivors had been pursued for weeks on end, driven into the waterless desert to die. The desperate lengths they resorted to shocked Victorian sensibilities. They do not make easy reading now.

This grisly story, told by our greatest living desert explorer reveals what happened when the conceit of western colonialism met the equally arrogant Tuareg, who had dominated this remote region, and anyone trying to cross it, for a thousand years.
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