Best books of 2021: History

North America: The Story of a Founder Legend
by Gordon Campbell, Oxford University Press £20

The idea that the Vikings were ahead of Christopher Columbus in “discovering the Americas” became popular in 19th-century America. Gordon Campbell’s fascinating book explains how this questionable theory developed into an argument. for cultural supremacy of people of Nordic Protestant descent over Americans of different ancestry.

Guns, ships and pens: War, the Constitution, and the Making of the Modern World
by Linda Colley, Profile Book £25 / Liveright $35

Linda Colley stretches from the US, Western Europe and Russia to Haiti, Japan and Tahiti as she describes how sea and land warfare in the 18th and 19th centuries prompted the birth of written constitutions. She produced global history has remarkable depth, imagination and insight.

The Horde: How the Mongols changed the world
by Marie Faveeau, Belknap Press £23.95

In medieval Europe, the Mongols ruled a large area of ​​Eurasia that stretched as far as western modern Ukraine. Marie Favereau, a French expert on nomadic empires, illuminates Mongolia’s system of government in a way that is accessible to general readers and scholars alike.

The Volga: History of Russia’s Greatest River
by Janet M Hartley, Yale University Press £25

Janet Hartley’s study of the Volga, the river that symbolizes Russian identity, is a worthy companion to her 2014 book Siberia: The History of Man. She’s particularly adept at how Russians and non-Russians interacted in the centuries following Ivan the Terrible’s conquests of Kazan and Astrakhan in the 1550s.

Ghosts of War: International Communism and the Origins of World War II
by Jonathan Haslam, Princeton University Press £30

Anyone interested in global tensions in the interwar period will learn much from the latest book by Jonathan Haslam, a Princeton University historian. He draws on his lifelong experience of the Soviet Union and Russian foreign policy to explain how fear of communism pervaded international relations after 1917.

Book of the Year 2021

Consequence: Life in the Fall of the Third Reich 1945-1955
by Harald Jähner, translated by Shaun Whiteside, WH Allen £20 / Knopf $27

A book worth reading in Germany, where it came out in 2019, Consequence brilliantly captures the atmosphere of everyday life in the ravaged cities of post-war divided Germany. Jähner’s story goes beyond the familiar stories of the black market and the birth of the West German economic miracle to include art, consumer culture and education.

The Fall of Robespierre: 24 Hours in Revolutionary Paris
by Colin Jones, Oxford University Press £25

July 27, 1794, or 9 Thermidor of Year II according to the French revolutionary calendar, was the day Maximilien Robespierre resigned, signaling the end of the Terror. Colin Jones, a leading authority on 18th-century French history, told story in an hour-by-hour, almost minute-by-minute narrative filled with color and insight.

London and the 17th century: The formation of the greatest city in the world
by Margarette Lincoln, Yale University Press £25

From the death of Elizabeth I in 1603 to the founding of the Bank of England in 1694, the 17th century for London was a tumultuous period of civil war, revolution, plague, fire, commercial enterprise, and development. maritime development. Margarette Lincoln has a curator gift for choosing all the right details for a thorough absorption account.

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What’s your favorite book on this list – and which ones did we miss? Tell us in the comments below

Napoleon: A Life in Gardens and Shadows
by Ruth Scurr, Chatto & Windus £30 / Liveright $28.95

Some 200 years after his death, writing something new about Napoleon Bonaparte seemed an impossible challenge, but Ruth Scurr managed it. Cambridge University historian examines the French emperor’s interest in the natural world in one book stimulating and very unique.

Partitions: Partition of Ireland, 1885-1925
by Charles Townshend, Allen Lane £25

The 2016 Brexit referendum campaign and subsequent controversies over the status of Northern Ireland illustrate how political struggles on the British mainland risk dividing and destabilizing the province. Townshend, a leading scholar of modern Irish history, wrote an authoritative study on the origin of the partition of Ireland.

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