Category: NHD

And The Show Went On

In June 1940, Paris fell to the Nazis who made the world’s cultural capital their favourite entertainment ground. Music halls and cabarets thrived during the occupation, providing plenty of work for actors, singers and musicians except for the Jews. The likes of Maurice Chevalier and Edith Piaf, who had entertained the French troops, now unabashedly provided amusement to the Germans.

After the invasion of France, those artists still in Paris had to find ways to survive. Although Matisse and others kept out of view, Picasso could not avoid Nazi visitors. A few, like Beckett, joined the Resistance. Some were arrested and died in German hands. Others entertained the enemy. The theatres reopened, the movie cameras rolled, galleries sold paintings looted from Jewish families, pro-German writers and their rivals fought in print. Told through the experiences of renowned creative figures and witnesses of the times, And the Show Went On is an authoritative account of how Paris’s artistic world lived through the Occupation during which some suffered Nazi oppression while others prospered through collaboration.

Queen of Spies

The only biography of Britain’s celebrated female spy – now fully updated with previously classified materials.

From being raised in a Tanzanian shack, to attaining MI6’s most senior operational rank, Daphne Park led a highly unusual life. Drawing on first-hand accounts of intelligence workers close to agent Park, Hayes reveals how she rose in a male-dominated world to become Britain’s Cold War spy master.

With intimate, nail-biting details Queen of Spies captures both the paranoia and on-the-ground realities of intelligence work from the Second World War to the Cold War, and the life of Britain’s celebrated female spy.

The Optickal Illusion

In The Optickal Illusion, Rachel Halliburton’s meticulous recreation of Georgian society reveals the sordid details of a genuine scandal that deceived the British Royal Academy.

Her debut novel questions the lengths women must go to make their mark on a society that seeks to underplay their abilities – a theme only too relevant today. It is three years from the dawn of a new century and in London, nothing is certain any more: the future of the monarchy is in question, the city is aflame with right and left-wing conspiracies, and the French could invade any day.

Against this feverish atmosphere, the American painter Benjamin West is visited by a strange father and daughter, the Provises, who claim they have a secret that has obsessed painters for centuries: the Venetian techniques of master painter Titian. West was once the most celebrated painter in London, but hasn’t produced anything of note in years so against his better judgment he agrees to let the intriguing Ann Jemima Provis visit his studio and demonstrate what she knows. What unravels reveals more than he has ever understood – about himself, about the treachery of the art world and the seductive promise of genius. The nature of truth itself is called into question in this story of envy, lust and corruption.

Churchill and Orwell

Today, as liberty and truth are increasingly challenged, the figures of Churchill and Orwell loom large. Exemplars of Britishness, they preserved individual freedom and democracy for the world through their far-sighted vision and inspired action, and cast a long shadow across our culture and politics. In Churchill & Orwell, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Thomas E. Ricks masterfully argues that these extraordinary men are as important today as they ever were. Churchill and Orwell stood in political opposition to each other, but were both committed to the preservation of freedom. However, in the late 1930s they occupied a lonely position: democracy was much discredited, and authoritarian rulers, fascist and communist, were everywhere in the ascent. Unlike others, they had the wisdom to see that the most salient issue was human liberty – and that any government that denies its people basic rights is a totalitarian menace to be resisted. Churchill and Orwell proved their age’s necessary men, and this book reveals how they rose from a precarious position to triumph over the enemies of freedom. Churchill may have played the larger role in Hitler’s defeat, but Orwell’s reckoning with the threat of authoritarian rule in 1984 and Animal Farm defined the stakes of the Cold War and continues to inspire to this day. Their lives are an eloquent testament to the power of moral conviction, and to the courage it takes to stay true to it.

Empire of Guns

Winner of the Jerry Bentley Prize in World History (American Historical Association).

Award-winning historian Priya Satia presents a new history of the Industrial Revolution that positions war and the gun trade squarely at the heart of the rapid growth of technology and Britain’s imperial expansion. Satia’s thorough examination advances a radical new understanding of the historical roots of the violent partnership between the government, military and the economy. Sweeping in its scope and entirely original in its approach, Empire of Guns illuminates Britain’s emergence as a global superpower in a clear and novel light. 

Reviews of Empire of Guns:

‘A fascinating study of the centrality of militarism in 18th-century British life, and how imperial expansion and arms went hand in hand… This book is a triumph.’ Guardian

‘A fascinating and important glimpse into how violence fueled the industrial revolution, Priya Satia’s book stuns with deep scholarship and sparkling prose.’ Siddhartha Mukherjee, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies

‘Fascinating.’ New York Times

‘A strong narrative bolstered by excellent archival research… tremendous scholarship.’ Booklist

‘Boldly uncovers a history of modern violence and its central role in political, economic, and technological progress. As unsettling as it is bracing.’ Pankaj Mishra, author of Age of Anger

‘A solid contribution to the history of technology and commerce, with broad implications for the present.’  Kirkus

Revolution

It is easy to see bicycles as commonplace machines, but at the end of the nineteenth-century there was no other piece of technology which attracted the same level of excitement, discussion or controversy. Significant societal shifts followed the invention of the modern bicycle and with cycling’s ever-increasing popularity there has never been a better time to tell this story.

Revolution delves into the social history of cycling in 1890s Britain while exploring international parallels that existed in countries such as the US, France and Australia. Drawing on a range of sources from cycling club journals to the writings of H.G. Wells, the book illuminates the major impact the bicycle had on the day-to-day lives of people across the social spectrum with millions experiencing a cheap and personalised means of transport for the first time. Particularly for women it was known as the great emancipator from crib, kitchen and convention. Affordable to the working class, cycling dramatically increased the number of potential marriage partners, bridging the gaps between villages, to the extent that leading biologist Steve Jones has ranked the invention of the bicycle as the most important event in recent human evolution.

From cycling as a source of fashion and socialising in sporting clubs, to travel around the British countryside, to its importance for widening the gene pool and its role in the women’s liberation movement Revolution presents the bicycle as a marvel of modern technology that transformed Britain and the world over.

The Royal Art of Poison

The story of poison is the story of power…

For centuries, royal families have feared the gut-roiling, vomit-inducing agony of a little something added to their food or wine by an enemy. To avoid poison, they depended on tasters, unicorn horns and antidotes tested on condemned prisoners. Servants licked the royal family’s spoons, tried on their underpants and tested their chamber pots.

Ironically, royals terrified of poison were unknowingly poisoning themselves daily with their cosmetics, medications and filthy living conditions. Women wore makeup made with lead. Men rubbed feces on their bald spots. Physicians prescribed mercury enemas, arsenic skin cream, drinks of lead filings and potions of human fat and skull, fresh from the executioner. Gazing at gorgeous portraits of centuries past, we don’t see what lies beneath the royal robes and the stench of unwashed bodies; the lice feasting on private parts; and worms nesting in the intestines.

The Royal Art of Poison is a hugely entertaining work of popular history that traces the use of poison as a political – and cosmetic – tool in the royal courts of Western Europe from the Middle Ages to the Kremlin today.