The Norman Conquest by Marc Morris - £3.95
An upstart French duke who sets out to conquer the most powerful and unified kingdom in Christendom. An invasion force on a scale not seen since the days of the Romans. One of the bloodiest and most decisive battles ever fought. This riveting book explains why the Norman Conquest was the single most important event in English history.
Assessing the original evidence at every turn, Marc Morris goes beyond the familiar outline to explain why England was at once so powerful and yet so vulnerable to William the Conqueror's attack. Why the Normans, in some respects less sophisticated, possessed the military cutting edge. How William's hopes of a united Anglo-Norman realm unravelled, dashed by English rebellions, Viking invasions and the insatiable demands of his fellow conquerors. This is a tale of powerful drama, repression and seismic social change: the Battle of Hastings itself and the violent 'Harrying of the North'; the sudden introduction of castles and the wholesale rebuilding of every major church; the total destruction of an ancient ruling class. Language, law, architecture, even attitudes towards life itself were altered forever by the coming of the Normans.
The Last Escape: The Untold Story of Allied Prisoners of War in Germany 1944-1945 by John Nichol and Tony Rennell - £2.99
Colditz is probably the best known prisoner of war camp. Its inmates and their exploits were extraordinary, but its liberation, in April 1945, was straightforward compared with what happened to the vast majority of British, American and Commonwealth prisoners in the last desperate months of the war. This title discusses how World War II ended for a quarter of a million men held in 55 camps and how, in the last months of the war, most of them became caught up in a desperate endgame. The story of their escape is told through the men, now in their 70s and 80s, who lived through this terrible time. Beginning with the D-day landings in June 1944, the text follows them through the closing days of their incarceration and then on their marches across a Europe in chaos. Their experiences are placed in the wider context of the Allied advance and the German retreat, and the increasingly frenzied attempts of those in London and elsewhere to keep track of them.
The Sugar Barons by Matthew Parker - £3.95
For 200 years after 1650 the West Indies were the most fought-over colonies in the world, as Europeans made and lost immense fortunes growing and trading in sugar - a commodity so lucrative that it was known as white gold.
Young men, beset by death and disease, an ocean away from the moral anchors of life in Britain, created immense dynastic wealth but produced a society poisoned by war, sickness, cruelty and corruption.
The Sugar Barons explores the lives and experiences of those whose fortunes rose and fell with the West Indian empire. From the ambitious and brilliant entrepreneurs, to the grandees wielding power across the Atlantic, to the inheritors often consumed by decadence, disgrace and madness, this is the compelling story of how a few small islands and a handful of families decisively shaped the British Empire.
The Roses of No Man's Land by Lyn MacDonald - £3.99
THE INSPIRATION BEHIND THE BBC DRAMA THE CRIMSON FIELD
Yet the volunteer nurses rose magnificently to the occasion. In leaking tents and draughty huts they fought another war, a war against agony and death, as men lay suffering from the pain of unimaginable wounds or diseases we can now cure almost instantly. It was here that young doctors frantically forged new medical techniques - of blood transfusion, dentistry, psychiatry and plastic surgery - in the attempt to save soldiers shattered in body or spirit. And it was here that women achieved a quiet but permanent revolution, by proving beyond question they could do anything. All this is superbly captured in The Roses of No Man's Land, a panorama of hardship, disillusion and despair, yet also of endurance and supreme courage.
The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown - £3.61
An epic journey from Depression-era America to the heart of Hitler's Berlin.
The Boys in the Boat is the story of Joe Rantz, a charismatic young man born dirt poor in the woods of Washington State, who dreams of escaping the challenges of the Great Depression, and a complicated family life full of painful memories. What follows is an extraordinary journey, as Joe and eight other young men exchange the sweat and graft and dust of ordinary life for the purer rigours of sport at its very highest level -- a journey at the end of which lies a gold medal rowing race at the Berlin Olympics of 1936, in front of Hitler himself.
Told against the grand backdrop of 1930s America, The Boys in the Boat is a story full of lyricism and unexpected beauty; a story that rises above sport, and even the grand sweep of history itself, in favour of something more personal. For as becomes clear in an interview with Joe shortly before his death, during the writing of this book, what shines most brightly in the old man's mind is not memories of medals, or the boat in particular, or even the boys that he called his friends. It is the thought of something more transcendent; 'a singular thing that had happened in a fleeting, golden sliver of time long gone, when nine good-hearted young men strove together, pulled together as one, gave everything they had for one another, bound together forever by unspoken bonds of pride and respect and love. Joe was crying, at least in part, for the loss of that vanished time, but much more, I think, for the sheer beauty of it.'
On Royalty by Jeremy Paxman - £3.99
What is the point of Kings and Queens? What do they do all day? And what does it mean to be one of them?
Jeremy Paxman is used to making politicians explain themselves but royalty has always been off limits. Until now. In On Royalty he delves deep into the past and takes a long hard look at our present incumbents to find out just what makes them tick. Along the way he discovers some fascinating and little-known details.
No other book will tell you quite as much about our kings, queens, princes and princesses: who they are and what they're for.