Tommy’s War – Thomas Cairns Livingstone

Tommy's War - Thomas Cairns LivingstonThe literary world abounds with the diaries of statesmen, (so called) “celebrities”, politicians, and key historical figures. What are much less common are the diaries of the ordinary man in the street. Whether this is due to a lack of literacy or the simple fact that families might not find Uncle Herbert’s musings particularly significant and therefore dispose of the diaries (although this is certainly not the case in this instance), it’s unclear. What is clear is that very few survive the test of time. For one reason or another, Che Guevara or George Orwell’s diaries are simply more likely to capture the imagination than the average man’s. Or are they?

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Where the Hell Have You Been? - Tom Carver

Where the Hell Have You Bee? - Tom CarverThere is something about the generation that fought in World War 2 that seems so alien to more recent generations. Perhaps it was the fact that the war was so all-encompassing that made men more resourceful, more cognisant of their sense of duty, and more capable of (and prepared to conduct) acts of derring-do.  If this is something we have lost for good, we are the worse off for it. Tom Carver’s “Where the hell have you been?” is one such tale of overcoming the odds in the face of adversity, in a typically “British” fashion.

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Henry, Virtuous Prince - David Starkey

Henry, Virtuous Prince - David StarkeyWhether the image is an actual contemporary portrait by Hans Holbein, a film portrayal such as by Charles Laughton in 1933, television appearances by actors such as Keith Michell in the 1970s or more recently Jonathan Rhys Meyers in the current BBC 2 series “The Tudors”, many amateur students of British history would claim to have an awareness of the reign of Henry VIII and a picture in their minds of Henry, the man. Henry’s reign forms a favourite component on many a school syllabus or course of study. “Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived” is probably one of the most frequently uttered mnemonics by secondary school pupils trying to recall the sequence of Henry VIII’s six wives.

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Edward IV and the Wars of the Roses - David Santiuste

Edward IV and the Wars of the Roses - David SantiusteFor many today, the Wars of the Roses is a term very loosely attached to the sporting rivalry between the current counties of Yorkshire and Lancashire, primarily on the cricket pitch, little realising that the term in fact applies to the civil war of very bloody proportions fought between the 15th century Houses of York and Lancaster and their adherents – a very different concept. For those who rely on the plays of William Shakespeare for their insight in to aspects of English history, despite the bard’s historical licence, it is the period covered by the trilogy of Henry VI which appears relatively dull in comparison with the better known, more dramatic works which relate to the deeds of Henry V and Richard III. For the student of history who seeks a concise, detailed and action packed narrative of that intervening period, this scholarly yet very readable account by David Santiuste is essential reading.

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