Making history

The Gunpowder Plot by Antonia Fraser (Weidenfeld, pounds 12.99) The Jacobean Catholic laity had been suspected of treason for so long that they decided to commit it. Fraser's even-handed account, informed by her upbringing, makes clear that a plot was encouraged by agents provocateurs and discouraged by the Jesuits, who still died for it.

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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

    Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on