Release Date: July 21, 2015
As tension in the United States over slavery and western expansion threatened to break into civil war, the Southern states found themselves squeezed between two nearly irreconcilable realities: The survival of the Confederate economy would require the importation of more slaves, a practice banned in America since 1807. But the existence of the Confederacy itself could not be secured without official recognition from Great Britain, who would never countenance reopening the Atlantic slave trade. How, then, could the first be achieved without dooming the possibility of the second? The South believed Britain would never risk losing the massive flow of cotton that fed British mills, and hoped this economic leverage would give it the bargaining chip it desperately sought.
The unlikely man at the roiling center of this intrigue was Robert Bunch, an American-born Englishman who had maneuvered his way to the position of British consul in Charleston, South Carolina, and grew in time to loathe slavery and the righteousness of its practioners. He used his unique perch and boundless ambition to become a key player, sending reams of dispatches to the home government and eventually becoming the Crown's best secret source about the motivations and plans of the confederacy. Doing so required living a double-life. To his Charleston neighbors Bunch was increasingly a pillar of Southern society, attending their galas and social events in presumptive agreement with their pro-slavery leanings. To the British government at Whitehall, though, he was a strident abolitionist, eviscerating Southern dissembling about plans regarding the slave trade.
In this masterfully told story of a unknown crusader, Christopher Dickey locates Consul Bunch as the key figure among Englishmen in America, determined to ensure the triumph of morality in the inevitable march to civil war. Featuring a cast of remarkable characters including the adventurer Richard Burton; legendary journalist William Howard Russell; and soldier of fortune Hugh Forbes, The Charleston Consul captures a decisive moment in Anglo-American history: the pitched battle between those who wished to reopen the floodgates of bondage and misery, and those who wished to dam the tide forever.
The result of a perfect storm of factors that culminated in a great moral catastrophe, the Salem witch trials of 1692 took a breathtaking toll on the young English colony of Massachusetts. Over 150 people were imprisoned, and nineteen men and women, including a minister, were executed by hanging. The colonial government, which was responsible for initiating the trials, eventually repudiated the entire affair as a great "delusion of the Devil."
In Satan and Salem, Benjamin Ray looks beyond single-factor interpretations to offer a far more nuanced view of why the Salem witch-hunt spiraled out of control. Rather than assigning blame to a single perpetrator, Ray assembles portraits of several major characters, each of whom had complex motives for accusing his or her neighbors. In this way, he reveals how religious, social, political, and legal factors all played a role in the drama. Ray’s historical database of court records, documents, and maps yields a unique analysis of the geographic spread of accusations and trials, ultimately showing how the witch-hunt resulted in the execution of so many people—far more than any comparable episode on this side of the Atlantic.
Murder by Candlelight: The Gruesome Slayings Behind Our Romance with the Macabre by Michael Knox Beran
Release Date: August 8, 2015
In the early nineteenth century, a series of murders took place in and around London which shocked the whole of England. The appalling nature of the crimes—a brutal slaying in the gambling netherworld, the slaughter of two entire households, and the first of the modern lust-murders—was magnified not only by the lurid atmosphere of an age in which candlelight gave way to gaslight, but also by the efforts of some of the keenest minds of the period to uncover the gruesomest details of the killings.
These slayings all took place against the backdrop of a London in which the splendor of the fashionable world was haunted by the squalor of the slums. Sir Walter Scott, Lord Byron, Thomas De Quincey, Thomas Carlyle, and Percy Bysshe Shelley and others were fascinated by the blood and deviltry of these crimes.
In their contemplations of the most notorious murders of their time, they discerned in the act of killing itself a depth of hideousness that we have lost sight of, now living in an age in which murder has been reduced to a problem of social science and skillful detective work. Interweaving these cultural vignettes alongside criminal history, acclaimed author Michael Beran paints a vivid picture of a time when homicide was thought of as the intrusion of the diabolic into ordinary life.
Release Date: April 26, 2015
It is a story replete with fascinating questions. What was the true nature of Elizabeth's relationship with her father, Henry VIII, especially after his execution of her mother? How close was she to her half-brother Edward VI - and were relations with her half-sister Mary really as poisonous as is popularly assumed? And what of her relationship with her Stewart cousins, most famously with Mary Queen of Scots, executed on Elizabeth's orders in 1587, but also with Mary's son James VI of Scotland, later to succeed Elizabeth as her chosen successor?
Elizabeth's relations with her family were crucial, but just as crucial were her relations with her courtiers and her councillors. Here again, the story raises a host of fascinating questions. Was the queen really sexually jealous of her maids of honour? Did physically attractive male favourites dominate her court? What does her long and intimate relationship with the Earl of Leicester reveal about her character, personality, and attitude to marriage? What can the fall of Essex tell us about Elizabeth's political management in the final years of her reign? And what was the true nature of her personal and political relationship with influential and long-serving councillors such as the Cecils and Sir Francis Walsingham? And how did courtiers and councillors deal with their demanding royal mistress?