Saturday 05 July 1997
Hitler's Willing Executioners by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen (Abacus, pounds 9.99) This controversial book pushes anti-revisionism to bizarre lengths: all Germans had been inculcated with an "exterminationist" anti-Semitism and were prepared to collaborate in the Holocaust. Does this include exiles? Or assimilated Jews? Goldhagen makes a case, but he is prosecuting an entire people.
Stalin by Edvard Radzinski (Sceptre, pounds 7.99) Writing a tyrant's biography forces historians into odd complicities; Radzinski obsessionally tells us how vile Stalin was to the point where condemnation becomes perverse praise. Stalin wanted to be a tyrant and learnt well from his mentors and rivals. Radzinski knocks many legends on the head, but never quite makes sense of the man.
The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir (Pimlico, pounds 8.99) This is heritage history as far as its subject matter goes, but Weir devotes considerable intelligence to telling the story and giving it a context. Romance is absent: women married Henry for power and security in a world of judicial murder and constant disease.
A People's Tragedy by Orlando Figes (Pimlico, pounds 12.50) Figes views the Russian Revolution as inevitable, and inevitably atrocity-packed; the old order just went on too long. He is brilliant on the sweep of events and underlying economic forces, and on the individuals made and broken by revolution. One of the best narrative histories of our time.
One Hundred Years of Socialism by Donald Sassoon (HarperCollins, pounds 14.99) This dour book ends up trapped by its sense of the inevitable. What happened to socialism - its metamorphosis into market-oriented social democracy - was always going to happen. Sassoon is an essential source on the facts of organisation and economics, though less good on the passions.
Empire by Dennis Judd (Abacus, pounds 9.99) Weak on the story of rivalry with France and protection of merchants in India, this is at its best in its memorable vignettes of the High Victorian and Edwardian empire, and in its account of the decline of the indefensible. As one-volume histories of huge subjects go, it is competent and readable.
Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre (HarperCollins, pounds 8.99) All accounts of the Raj's end are partisan. This is the best pro- Mountbatten book, and makes its case with skill. Fair-minded to all participants (without demonising Jinnah), it views the massacres of Partition as unforeseeable. This begs a few questions in an otherwise solid narrative.
God's Chinese Son by Jonathan Spence (HarperCollins, pounds 7.99) Chinese obsessions with unitary rule have their background. Hong Xiuquan, whose conversion to Christianity con- vinced him that he was Christ's younger brother, led a rebellion that nearly toppled the empire, helped European victory in the Opium Wars and killed 20 million. Spence's account is sparky and scholarly.
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Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Oxygen-starved 'dead zones' with no marine life up to 100-miles long discovered in the Atlantic Ocean
- 2 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 3 Indonesia executions: Death row British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford will refuse to wear a blindfold when she faces firing squad
- 4 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 5 Tory activist asked to step down after Labour candidate Rupa Huq is 'manhandled' while questioning Boris Johnson on the campaign trail
The C-Word - review: Sheridan Smith shines in a warm, honest adaptation of Lisa Lynch's book about living with cancer
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Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils