Rag And Bone by Lisa Woollett 

The Blurb On The Back:

From relics of Georgian empire-building and slave-trading, through Victorian London’s barged-out refuse to 1980s fly-tipping and the pervasiveness of present-day plastics, Rag and Bone traces the story of our rubbish, and, through it, our history of consumption.

In a series of beachcombing and mudlarking walks – beginning in the Thames in central London, then out to the Kentish estuary and eventually the sea around Cornwall – Lisa Woollett also tells the story of her family, a number of whom made their living from London’s waste, and who made a similar journey downriver from the centre of the city to the sea.

A beautifully written but urgent mixture of social history, family memoir and nature writing, Rag and Bone is a book about what we can learn from what we’ve thrown away – and a call to think more about what we leave behind. 

You can order RAG AND BONE: A FAMILY HISTORY OF WHAT WE’VE THROWN AWAY by Lisa Woollett from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

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Everything World War II by National Geographic Kids

The Blurb On The Back:

Brave soldiers, important battles, life on the Home Front!  It’s time to learn everything about World War II.

Packed with facts, pictures and maps it’s ideal for homework, topic work, KS2 school projects and anyone who is simply curious about history. 

EVERYTHING WORLD WAR II was released in the United Kingdom on 22nd July 2021.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

You can order Everything World War II: Facts And Photos From The Front Line To The Home Front by National Geographic Kids from Amazon USAAmazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

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The Hunt For Mount Everest by Craig Storti

The Blurb On The Back:

The height of Mount Everest was first measured in 1850, but the closest any westerner got to Everest during the next 71 years, until 1921, was 40 miles.  The Hunt For Mount Everest tells the story of the 71-year quest to find the world’s highest mountain.  It’s a tale of high drama, of larger-than-life-characters – George Everest, Francis Younghusband, George Mallory, Lord Curzon, Edward Whymper – and a first quiet heroes – Alexander Kelly’s, the 13th Dalia Lama, and Charles Bell.

A story that traverses the Alps, the Himalayas, Nepal and Tibet, the British Empire (especially British India and the Raj), the Anglo-Russian rivalry known as The Great Game, the disastrous First Afghan War, and the phenomenal Survey of India – it is far bigger than simply the tallest mountain in the world.  Encountering spies, war, political intrigues, and hundreds of mules, camels, bullocks, yaks, and two zebrules, Craig Storti uncovers the fascinating and still largely overlooked saga of all that led up to that moment in late June of 1921 when two English climbers, George Mallory and Guy Bullock, became the first westerners – and almost certainly the first human beings – to set foot on Mount Everest and thereby claimed the last remaining major prize in the history of exploration.

With 2021 bringing the 100th anniversary of that year, most Everest chronicles have dealt with the climbing history of the mountain, with all that happened after 1921.  The Hunt For Mount Everest is the seldom-told story of all that happened before. 

You can order THE HUNT FOR MOUNT EVEREST by Craig Storti from Amazon USAAmazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

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Seven Lives From Mass Observation by James Hinton

The Blurb On The Back:

What was it like to live in Britain during the second half of the twentieth century? In a successor to his acclaimed Nine Wartime Lives: Mass Observation and the Making of the Modern Self, James Hinton uses autobiographical writing contributed to Mass Observation since 1981 to explore the social and cultural history of late-twentieth-century Britain. Prompted by thrice-yearly open-ended questionnaires, Mass Observation’s volunteers wrote about their political attitudes, religious beliefs, work, childhoods, education, friendships, marriages, sex lives, mid-life crises, ageing – the whole range of human emotion, feeling, attitudes, and experience. At the core of the book are seven ‘biographical essays’: intimate portraits of individual lives set in the context of the shift towards a more tolerant and permissive society from the 1960s, and the rise of Thatcherite neo-liberalism as the structures of Britain’s post-war settlement crumbles from the later 1970s.

The mass observers featured in the book, four women and three men, are drawn from across the social spectrum – wife of a small businessman, teacher, social worker, RAF wife, mechanic, lorry driver, banker: all active and forceful characters with strong opinions and lives crowded with struggle and drama. The honesty and frankness with which they wrote about themselves takes us below the surface of public life to the efforts of ‘ordinary’, but exceptionally articulate and self-reflective, people to make sense of their lives in rapidly changing times.

You can order SEVEN LIVES FROM MASS OBSERVATION by James Hinton from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK. I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

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The Place For Me: Stories About The Windrush Generation by Black Cultural Archives

The Blurb On The Back:

”Home ain’t jus’ where you live.  Home is your heart an’ yer history.”

The Place For Me – twelve moving tales of sacrifice and bravery, inspired by first-hand accounts of the Windrush generation.  Each inspiring and authentic story helps to bring the real experience of Black British people into focus.

You can order THE PLACE FOR ME by the Black Cultural Archives from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

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Essaying The Past: How To Read, Write And Think About History by Jim Cullen

The Blurb On The Back:

Learn to craft the perfect historical research paper with this approachable and practical guide

Essaying The Past: How To Read, Write And Think About History, Fourth Edition continues the tradition of excellence established by the previous editions.  Equal parts research manual, study guide, and introduction to the study of history, this book teaches readers how to write excellent historical prose with approachable strategies and actionable tips.

Noted teacher and writer Jim Cullen has created an invaluable resource for novices and experts in the field of historical study, offering practical insights into determining how questions should be framed, developing strong introductions and topic sentences, choosing evidence, and effectively revising your work.

Essaying The Past includes seven appendices covering the major issues facing students today, including the pitfalls and temptations of plagiarism and the role of the internet.  It also contains an annotated case study outlining one student’s process of writing an essay and demonstrating the application of the concepts contained within the book.  Essaying The Past covers topics including:

– How to think and read about history and ask the right questions about what you’re reading

– The three components of crafting a compelling argument

– How to deal with counterarguments and counter-evidence

– How to properly construct a bibliography and insert footnotes

– How to assess the credibility of online resources

Perfect for students taking surveys or courses in methods or historiography.  Essaying The Past also belongs on the bookshelf with even a passing interest in studying, researching, consuming, or writing about history.  

You can buy ESSAYING THE PAST: HOW TO READ, WRITE AND THINK ABOUT HISTORY by Jim Cullen from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

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The Barbizon: The New York Hotel That Set Women Free by Paulina Bren

The Blurb On The Back:

Welcome to The Barbizon.  New York’s premier women-only hotel. 

Built in 1927, New York’s Barbizon Hotel was first intended as a home for the ‘Modern Women’ seeking a career in the arts.  Over the years its 688 tiny pink ‘highly feminine boudoirs’ housed Sylvia Plath, who fictionalised her time there in The Bell Jar, Joan Crawford, Grace Kelly (notorious for sneaking in men), Joan Didion, Candice Bergen, Charlie’s Angel Jaclyn Smith, Cybil Shepherd, Elaine Stritch, Liza Minnelli, Mona Simpson and a whole host of other writers and actors on the cusp of their careers.  Mademoiselle boarded its summer interns there – perfectly turned out young women, who would never be spotted hatless – as did Katherine Gibbs Secretarial School its students – in their white-gloves and kitten heels – and the Ford Modelling Agency its young models.

Not everyone who passed through the Barbizon’s doors was destined for greatness – for some it was a story of dashed hopes and expectations – but from the Jazz Age New Women of the 1920s, to the Liberated Women of the 1960s, until 1981 when the first men checked in, The Barbizon was a place where women could stand up and be counted. 

You can buy THE BARBIZON: THE NEW YORK HOTEL THAT SET WOMEN FREE by Paulina Bren from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

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The Organ Thieves by Chip Jones

The Blurb On The Back:

Virginia, 1968.  In the segregated American South, surgeons raced to do what many still thought was impossible: transplant a human heart.  After Bruce Tucker, a black man, was admitted to the state’s top hospital with a head injury, he never left the hospital alive: but his heart did, in the chest of a white man.

The decades of scandal and investigation which followed uncovered a long, gruesome history of human experimentation and racial inequality, of body-snatching and cover-ups stretching back to the nineteenth century and still resonating today.  The story is told here for the first tie in full by Pulitzer Prize-nominated reporter Chip Jones.

You can order The Organ Thieves by Chip Jones from Amazon USAAmazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

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Russia by Dmitri Trenin

The Blurb On The Back:

Over the past century alone, Russia has lived through great achievements and deepest misery; mass heroism and mass crime; over-blown ambition and near-hopeless despair – always emerging with its sovereignty and its fiercely independent spirit intact.

In this book, leading Russia scholar Dmitri Trenin accompanies readers on Russia’s rollercoaster journey from revolution to post-war devastation, perestroika to Putin’s stabilisation of post-Communist Russia.  Explaining the causes and the meaning of the numerous twists and turns in contemporary Russian history, he offers a vivid insider’s view of a country through one of its most trying and often tragic periods.  Today, he cautions, Russia stands at a turning point – politically, economically, and socially – its situation strikingly reminiscent of the Russian Empire in its final years.  For the Russian Federation to avoid a similar demise, it must learn the lessons of its own history.

You can order Russia by Dmitri Trenin from Amazon USAAmazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

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Pride: The Story Of The LGBTQ Equality Movement by Matthew Todd

The Blurb On The Back:

In June 1969, police raided New York gay bar The Stonewall Inn, and the LGBTQ equality movement was born.  Pride charts the events of that night in New York, the days and nights of rioting that followed, the ensuing organisation of the LGBTQ community – and the 50 years that followed in which activists and ordinary people have dedicated their lives to reversing the global position.

Pride documents the milestones in the fight for LGBTQ+ equality, from the victories of early activists to the passing of legislation barring discrimination, and the gradual acceptance of the LTBTQ community in politics, spot, culture and the media.  Rare images and documents cover the seminal moments, events and breakthroughs of the movement, while personal testimonies share the voices of key figures on a broad range of topics, including Maureen Duffy on the early days of the movement, Asifa Lahore on religion, Jake Shears on music, Will Young on mental health and Paris Lees on trans representation.  Pride is a unique celebration of LGBTQ cultures, an account of the ongoing challenges facing the community, and a testament to the equal rights that have been won for many as a result of the passion and determination of this mass movement.

You can order Pride: The Story Of The LGBTQ Equality Movement by Matthew Todd from Amazon USAAmazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

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Asia’s Reckoning: China, Japan, The US And The Struggle For Global Power by Richard McGregor

The Blurb On The Back:

The dramatic story of the relationship between the world’s three largest economies, by one of the foremost experts on East Asia. 

For more than half a century, American power in the Pacific has successfully kept the peace.  But it has also cemented the toxic rivalry between China and Japan, consumed with endless history wars and entrenched political dynasties.  Now, the combination of these forces with Donald Trump’s unpredictable impulses and disdain for America’s old alliances threatens to upend the region.  If the United States helped lay the post-war foundations for modern Asia, Asia’s Reckoning will reveal how that structure is now crumbling.

With unrivalled access to US and Asian archives, as well as many of the major players in all three countries, Richard McGregor shows how the confrontational course on which China and Japan have increasingly set themselves is no simple spat between neighbours.  And the fallout would be a political and economic tsunami for all of us.  

You can order Asia’s Reckoning: China, Japan, The US And The Struggle For Global Power by Richard McGregor from Amazon USAAmazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

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Chernobyl: History Of A Tragedy by Serhii Plokhy

The Blurb On The Back:

There is no blurb on the back, but there are the following quotes:

”A compelling history of the 1986 disaster and its aftermath … plunges the reader into the sweaty, nervous tension of the Chernobyl control room on that fateful night when human frailty and design flaws combined to such devastating effect.”

Daniel Beer, Guardian

“Extraordinary, vividly written, powerful storytelling … the first full-scale history of the world’s worst nuclear disaster, one of the defining moments in the Cold War, told minute by minute.”

Victor Sebastian, Sunday Times

“An insightful and important book, that often reads like a good thriller, and that exposes the danger of mixing powerful technology with irresponsible politics”

Yoval Noah Harari 

“Haunting … near-Tolstoyan.His voice is humane and inflected with nostalgia”

Roland Elliott Brown, Spectator

You can order Chernobyl: History Of A Tragedy by Serhii Plokhy from Amazon USAAmazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links. 

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Victorious Century: The United Kingdom, 1800 – 1906 by David Cannadine

The Blurb On The Back:

To live in Victorian Britain was to experience an astonishing series of changes, of a kind for which there was simply no precedent in the human experience.  This was an exhilarating time, but also a horrifying one.

In his dazzling new book David Cannadine has created a bold, fascinating new interpretation of Victorian Britain.  This was a country which saw itself at the summit of the world.  And yet it was a society also convulsed by doubt, fear and introspection.  Repeatedly, politicians and writers felt themselves to be staring into the abyss and what is seen as an era of irritating self-belief was in practice obsessed by a sense of its own fragility, whether as a great power or as a moral force.  Victorious Century is an extraordinary enjoyable book – its author catches the relish, humour and theatrically of the age, but also the dilemmas of a kind with which we remain familiar today. 

You can order Victorious Century: The United Kingdom, 1800 – 1906 by David Cannadine from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

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The Corner Shop: Shopkeepers, The Sharmas And The Making Of Modern Britain by Babita Sharma

The Blurb On The Back:

Britain is a nation of shopkeepers, and the story of corner shops is the story of who we are.

From the general stores of the first half of the 20th century (one of which was run by the father of a certain Margaret Thatcher), to the reimagined corner shops run by immigrants from India, East Africa and Eastern Europe from the 60s to the noughties, their influence has shaped the way we shop, the way we eat, and the way we understand ourselves. 

You can order The Corner Shop: Shopkeepers, The Sharmas And The Making Of Modern Britain by Babita Sharma from Amazon USA,  Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

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Lovers And Strangers: An Immigrant History Of Post-War Britain by Clair Wills

The Blurb On The Back:

The exhausted Britain of 1945 was desperate for workers.  From all over the world thousands of individuals came, assuming they would spend just a few years here, but instead large numbers stayed – and transformed the country.

Drawing on an amazing array of sources, Clair Wills’ new book brings to life the incredible diversity of the migrant experience. She introduces us to lovers, scroungers, dancers, homeowners, teachers, drinkers, carers and more to show the opportunities and excitement, the humiliation and poverty that could be part of their experience.  Irish, Pakistanis, West Indians, Poles, Maltese, Punjabis and Cypriots battled to fit into Britain and found themselves making permanent homes.  

You can order Lovers And Strangers: An Immigrant History Of Post-War Britain by Clair Wills from Amazon USAAmazon UKWaterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

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The Traitors: A True Story Of Blood, Betrayal And Deceit by Josh Ireland

The Blurb On The Back:

September 1939.  For years now Britain has been rudderless, divided and grievously unequal. Successive governments have floundered as they struggled to cope with economic misery at home and machinations abroad.  Many of the country’s citizens are seduced by fascism; others are simply left alienated by leaders who seem unwilling or unable to take the decisive action that is so desperately needed.

When war breaks out the imperilled nation achieves the unity and purpose that has eluded it for more than a decade.  It is a time of heroism and sacrifice, in which many thousands of soldiers and civilians give their lives.  But some Britons choose a different path, renegades who will fight for the Third Reich until its gruesome collapse in 1945. The Traitors tells the stories of four such men: the chaotic, tragic John Amery; the idealistic but hate-filled William Joyce; the cynical, murderous conman Harold Cole; and Eric Pleasants, an iron-willed pacifist and bodybuilder who wants no part in this war.

Drawing on recently declassified MI6 files, as well as diaries, letters and memoirs, The Traitors is a book about disordered lives in turbulent times; idealism twisted out of shape; of torn consciences and abandoned loyalties; of murder, deceit, temptation and loss.  It shows how a man might come to desert his country’s cause, and the tragic consequences that treachery brings in its wake.   

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Directorate S: The CIA And America’s Secret Wars In Afghanistan And Pakistan, 2001 – 2016 by Steve Coll

The Blurb On The Back:

In the wake of the terrible shock of 9/11, the CIA scrambled to work out how to destroy Bin Laden and his associated. The CIA had long familiarity with Afghanistan and had worked closely with the Taliban to defeat the Soviet Union there. Superficially the invasion was quick and efficient, but Bin Laden’s successful escape, together with that of much of the Taliban leadership, and a catastrophic failure to define the limits of NATO’s mission in a tough, impoverished country the size of Texas, created a quagmire, which has now lasted many years.

At the heart of the problem lay ‘Directorate S’, a highly secretive arm of the Pakistan state, which had been covertly arming and training the Taliban for years as part of a wider competition for global influence, and which assumed that the USA and its allies would soon be leaving.

This remarkable new book tells a powerful, bitter story of just how badly foreign policy decisions can go wrong. 

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There Was A Country: A Personal History Of Biafra by Chinua Achebe

The Blurb On The Back:

From the lengendary author of Things Fall Apart comes a long-awaited memoir of coming of age with a fragile new nation only to watch it torn asunder in a tragic civil war.

The defining experience of Chinua Achebe’s life was the Nigerian civil war, also known as the Biafran War, of 1967 – 1970.  The conflict was infamous for its savage impact on the Biafran people, Chinua Achebe’s people, many of whom were starved to death after the Nigerian government blockaded their borders.  By then, Chinua Achebe was already a world-renowned novelist, with a young family to protect.  He took the Biafran side in the conflict and served his government as a roving cultural ambassador, from which vantage he absorbed the war’s full horror, immediately after the war, Achebe took refuge in an academic post in the United States, and for more than forty years he has maintained a considered silence on the events of those terrible years, addressing them only obliquely through his poetry.  Now, decades in the making, comes a towering reckoning with one of modern Africa’s most fateful events, from a writer whose words and courage have left an enduring stamp on world literature.

Achebe begins his story with Nigeria’s birth pangs and the story of his own upbringing as a man and as a writer, so that we may understand both the young country’s keen sense of promise, which too quickly turned to horror, and Achebe’s view of the particular obligation of the artist, especially in a time of war.  For Chinua Achebe, to be a serious writer is to be a committed writer – to speak for one’s history, one’s beliefs, and one’s people, especially when others cannot.

A marriage of history and memoir, vivid first-hand observation and decades of further research and reflection, There Was A Country is a work whose wisdom and compassion remind us of Chinua Achebe’s place as one of the great literary and moral voices of our age. 

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The Unwomanly Face Of War by Svetlana Alexievich

The Blurb On The Back:

Bringing together dozens of voices in her distinctive style, The Unwomanly Face Of War is Svetlana Alexievich’s collection of stories from Soviet women who lived through the Second World War: on the front lines, on the home front, and in occupied territories.  As Alexievich gives voice to women who are absent from official narratives – captains, sergeants, nurses, snipers, pilots – she shows us a new version of the war we’re so familiar with, creating an extraordinary alternative history from their private stories.

Published in 1985 in Russia and now available in English for the first time, The Unwomanly Face Of War was Alexievich’s first book and a huge bestseller in the Soviet Union, establishing her as a brilliantly revolutionary writer.  

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The Pharmaceutical Studies Reader edited by Sergio Sismondo and Jeremy A. Greene

The Blurb On The Back:

The Pharmaceutical Studies Reader is an engaging examination of this new and growing field, bringing together provocative, multidisciplinary articles to look at the interplay of medical science, clinical practice, consumerism, and the healthcare marketplace.  Ranging far beyond the simple discussion of patients, symptoms, and pills, this reader offers important insights into contemporary cultures of health and illness and the social life of pharmaceuticals.

Drawing on anthropological, historical, and sociological research, it delves into the production, circulation, and consumption of pharmaceuticals.  The coverage here is broad and compelling with discussion of topics such as the advent of oral contraceptives, taxonomies of disease, the evolution of prescribing habits, the ethical dimension of pharmaceuticals, clinical trials, and drug production in the age of globalisation.  Placing a strong focus on context, this collection exposes readers to a variety of approaches, ideas, and frameworks and provides them with an appreciation and understanding of the complex roles pharmaceuticals play in society today.  

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The Way Of The Strangers: Encounters With The Islamic State by Graeme Wood

The Blurb On The Back:

Graeme Wood’s The Way Of Strangers is a riveting, intimate journey into the minds of the Islamic State’s true believers, one which up-ends our understanding of their psychology, character and aims.

From the streets of Cairo to the mosques of London to the suburbs of Melbourne, Wood, a national correspondent for The Atlantic, interviews supporters, recruiters and sympathisers of the world’s most infamous jihadist group.  We meet an Egyptian tailor who once made bespoke suits for Paul Newman and now wants to live under Sharia; a garrulous Australian convert who translates the group’s sermons and threats into English; and a self-taught Muslim cleric who is now determined to see America, the nation of his birth, drenched in blood.  Drawing on insights from a wide spectrum of Islamic scholars, Wood explores the group’s apocalyptic dogma and the theology that influences its expansionist project.

The Islamic State is bent on murder and apocalypse, but its recruits find meaning and fellowship in a utopian dream.  This appeal of the Islamic State is key to understanding it – and predicting what its followers will do next.

With on-the-ground reporting, vivid character studies and clear-eyed analysis, The Way of Strangers uncovers a movement that has inspired tens of thousands of people to abandon or uproot their families.  It will shape how we see a new generation of terrorists.  

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Suffragettes And The Fight For The Vote by Sarah Ridley

The Blurb On The Back:

While the First World War still raged on, another battle was finally seeing some results.  In February 1918, British women over the age of 30 finally gained the right to vote in general elections.  The hard-won victory was the result of a long struggle.  This book takes up the story in the mid 19th century, when the first petition was presented to Parliament, and traces the fight for the vote through the work of suffrage organisations and the suffragettes.  From peaceful demonstrations to violent campaigns and prison hunger strikes, the story is brought to life through fascinating historical photos and artefacts.

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From Prejudice To Pride: A History Of The LGBTQ+ Movement by Amy Lamé

The Blurb On The Back:

FROM PREJUDICE TO PRIDE looks at the rise and achievements of the LGBTQ+ movement for equal rights and the different communities, pioneers and stories of heartbreak and courage that have marched alongside it.

Follow LGBTQ+ history from ancient civilisations to the present-day, and learn about key events including the trial of Oscar Wilde, the Stonewall riots, the AIDS crisis and same sex-sex marriage.

Gain insight into the shifting attitudes that have challenged lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and the experiences that help us understand what it means to be LGBTQ+ today.

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A Crime In The Family by Sacha Batthyany

The Blurb On The Back:

In the spring of 1945, as the Red Army approached the village of Rechnitz in Austria, Countess Margit Batthyany hosted a party in her ancestral home.  Around midnight, the guests – German aristocrats and SS officers – left the castle and shot 180 Jewish labourers waiting in the village below.  The bodies disappeared into a mass grave: the massacre remained a secret for decades, until Countess Margit’s great-nephew began to ask questions.

This is the story of those questions, and of the answers Sacha Batthyany found: of how an atrocity was concealed and how it was uncovered.  It is a story of Nazi Germany, of the gulags of Siberia, of Budapest in the darkest days of the Cold War, of an Auschwitz survivor alive today in Argentina, and of whole generations of Europeans: monsters and heroes, executioners and victims.

A Crime In The Family is a singular and heart-rending true story, told by an extraordinary writer confronting not only his family’s past but humanity’s. 

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