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  • 05/23/14--04:30: The Friday Digest 23/05/14
  • THP Friday digest
    This week's update features 'Jurassic Mary', a First World War love story and fifty years of Nutella. 

    A French soldier is shot during a counter attack (Alamy)


    Verdun's storm of shellfire that obliterated 300,000 men  'an inferno that marked the birth of the age of warfare by mass destruction'. 

    (L-R) Joseph Oklahombi, Tobias Frazier and Otis Leader

    The Native American 'code talkers' who baffled the German code breakers.

    GALLIPOLI: The 52nd Lowland Division fought in the famous battle.

    * The ongoing battle to tell the story of Gallipoli heroes and the role the 52nd Division played in the First World War in school history lessons 

    Tyne Cot Memorial & Cemetery. Image from

    * Why are schoolchildren being sent to the First World War battlefields?  


    Fred and Nellie Sharp, 5 August 1916. Photo with kind permission of Joy


    Have we finally found Fred and Nellie? The First World War love story mystery solved by Facebook.


    Mary Anning Google doodle

    * On Wednesday, 21 July, Google's doodle marked the the 215th birthday of geologist Mary Anning. Find out more about the extraordinary life of 'Jurassic Mary' and the primeval monsters here.

    Austin Powers poster bearing the words "Groovy Baby"


    * 10 slang phrases that perfectly sum up their era.


    History beyond the academy: children dress up in period costume on a visit to Lacock Academy, Wiltshire


     * Academic history is important, but there are other ways of engaging with the past, says Ian Mortimer. Do you agree? 


    Tamut, a high-ranking priest's daughter. Shown here is a detail of the cartonnage case that contains the mummy.


    * Eight mummies, eight lives, eight stories.  

    The Union of England and Scotland, Peter Paul Reubens, c.1633


    * Is the idea of 'Britishness' just a Scottish invention?

    Adolf Hitler's 'Shelter in Fournes', 1915. AKG Images

    * Churchill and Hitler did not have much in common, but they shared one interest: both were amateur painters

    Diego Maradona scores 'hand of God' goal, 1986: brick-by-brick reconstruction of a classic World Cup moment

    * With only a few weeks to go until the World Cup kicks off, The Guardian are publishing a series of 'brick-by-brick reconstructions' of classic moments from previous World Cups, starting with Diego Maradona's 'hand of God' goal of 1986.


    Nutella stamp 

    * Nutella: How the world went nuts for a hazelnut spread

    The first Yorkist king of England, Edward IV (1442–1483) - Getty Images

    * History Extra examine the life, death and reign of Edward IV

    Booskeller MD Nigel Roby took over the "Nibbies" six years ago, though the event dates back a quarter century in all.


    * The UK Nibbies have reached the grand old age of 25 but why do industry awards matter? 

    The independent publishing sector is in good health, Bridget Shine writes, despite the recent sale of Constable & Robinson.




    * Why used ebooks still have not happened.


    Book shelf. Image from


    * No more Mr Darcy? Jean Burnett and the fascination of historical fiction.  

    * The mysterious case of the aging sleuths and the dying detectives.


    Josh Hartnett and Scarlett Johansson in the film The Black Dahlia. 'I became fascinated by the Black Dahlia case after reading a reference to it in a crime novel.' Photograph: Universal/Sportsphoto Ltd/Allstar


    * Why women enjoy the gory details, but only in crime fiction

    * Publishing Perspectives asks: does literature need warning labels? 


      Which history and publishing stories have you enjoyed reading this week?

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  • 05/25/14--03:00: A circus of my own
  • Nell Gifford at Folly Farm (James Waddell)

    When I see a show I don’t want to just be amused or moved – I want to cry. I think that a good circus should make you cry. Furthermore, a good circus, a circus that is doing its job, should somehow feel like a moment of crisis, like it is on the very brink of extinction, as if a moment of excess and  brilliance has been reached and over reached. A good circus is a sublimely existential thing, living acutely and only for the golden present moment. This is what I have discovered.

    I feel that I am always at the moment of being extinguished, that the thing is going to vanish, and yet it doesn’t. It keeps opening up, there is always another bend in the road that I can’t see around; when I get further, I find more circuses, and all I can see is that; more shows, more circuses, or something that was a circus but is now somehow different and yet more of a circus than I could ever have wished for, a circus that I did dream of, a circus to make a pilgrimage for: Giffords Circus. I can’t get away from it, it chases me and I chase it, and I love it.

    I am going to try and start at the beginning. I am 18 years old and I am in a circus in America. I am the guest of my brother’s brother-in-law, Gerald Balding. I am very beautiful but have no idea of this and I am a very shy teenager. Back home in England my mother is in a coma following a catastrophic riding accident, and the memories of the lovely home that we lived in, filled with all the sweet furnishings of a happy childhood, are being slowly rubbed out forever. In the circus in America I saw a vision of the future, a happy place, cared for and loved, where children and animals played together in the sunshine and the workplace was a huge candy-striped tent, full of music.

    This was my childhood. My dad is a film director and much younger than my mum. I have two older sisters, an older brother and a younger sister. First we lived in Oxford and then we lived in Wiltshire. Big houses, not much money, non-stop fun – friends, family, books, paintings – a threadbare,  beautiful Bohemian life. That was what stopped when my mother’s terrible tragedy happened. A broken life, cracks that will run relentlessly into the future, tearing us all apart, the ground falling away as we try to walk forward, valleys and gullies of pain streaming between us as we desperately try to clasp hands and hearts.

    When you lose your mother you lose yourself. The distinct person that you are to your mother you are to no one else. So that person has to be quiet then, forever, because no one else but your mother will hear them. When I came back from working in America at Circus Flora I went to New College at the University of Oxford to read English. I had by this point decided that I wanted to run my own circus. The situation at home became more desperate as my mother made no signs at all of recovery and I fell into a dark place. I took a razor to my blonde curls and dressed in heavy boys’ clothes. I felt as if I broke everything that I came into contact with. I had no idea what to do, how to relate to people or who I was.

    After finishing my final exams I bought an old van from an auction and joined the first circus that came to town, which was, if nothing else, a job and a shaky step towards what felt like an insurmountable dream. For the next few years I worked on many different circus shows. I can’t say that crawling through the mud in the middle of the night rolling up rubber stable mats, my throat burning with the fumes of elephant pee, was exactly what I had in mind, but it gave me something to do – a track, a path – and that path nonetheless made sense to me. And in a world of remorseless hard living, mud, wheels, metal stakes, ropes and roads, there was nothing to break except myself.

    Giffords Circus

    This is an extract from Giffords Circus: The First Ten Years by Nell Gifford which is available now. 

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  • 05/26/14--03:15: The Swinging Sixties
  • Dee Gordon 1960s mod

    If you were not a teenager in the 60s, then the chances are that they did not swing too much for you.  However, the working class, (and Northerners!) started to have a voice on screen and in literature; and teenagers (like me) found there were plenty of jobs available.  We had our own clothes for the first time, no longer hankering to dress like our parents.  We had our own music, our own dances and dance halls, our own language, and our own voice, resulting in many of us attending C.N.D. or anti-Vietnam rallies.

    Unpredictably perhaps, as a Mod, the place I was to gravitate to on an annual basis from 1965 onwards was Clacton – not to riot on the beaches or insult the Rockers, but for the first holidays without mum and dad: Butlin’s.  

    Aaah, Butlin’s.   The scale of the enterprise was an experience in itself, as someone used to the annual guest house with mum and dad.  Who remembers the Spaghetti-eating race, the cramped chalets with bunk beds, paper-thin walls and noisy plumbing, the tropical South Seas bar, the Glamorous Granny contest, the early “Good Morning Campers” announcements … … 

    Teenagers, children and parents were actually catered for separately when it came to entertainment.  But I’d go with a girlfriend, another Mod from the East End of London that my parents 'trusted' – little did they know.  To my horror (honest!) Miss Butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-her-mouth (I’ll call her Betty from hereon, not her real name) was looking for notches on her early teenage bedpost – and the notches she wanted were from the members of the featured rock band, starting with the lead singer.  Was she the first groupie – the word not yet in circulation – probably she was!

    So Betty and I went our separate ways on these holidays and she would often disappear for the whole night and appear for breakfast with sunglasses.  I have a photo of her with a plateful of English fry-up in front of her, fork in one hand and cigarette in the other – wonder what happened to her…  As for me, I just danced the day away, and well into the evening. 

    In 1965, Mods were into bespoke tailoring, usually from Brick Lane in London, although Biba in Kensington and all the shops in Carnaby Street were also Mod haunts by then.   My favourite Mod outfit was a floor-length mustard coloured suede coat, with navy blue sleeves, collar, trims and belt.  I wore it everywhere, including the dance floor where, for the first time, you didn’t need a partner – Chubby Checker’s Twist had introduced solo dancing but many other funkier versions followed, with Mods adapting them with their own individual moves.

    Les Butlins 1965

    And it was on the dance floor at Butlin’s when I spotted him.  A Rod Stewart look-alike, with Rod Stewart hair, and a Mod Italian-style mohair suit with the on-trend number of cuff buttons, pockets and vents.  I was more of a Twinkle [1] look-alike, and I know the blonde hair and two sets of false eyelashes attracted attention, but not his, which was a bit annoying.   He did notice me in the bar later, and turned out to be my waiter in the very functional and noisy dining room where cheap food was dished up three times a day – and he would tip me off as to what foods to avoid – very useful.  (Yes, reader, we married in 1971 after he had five 'seasons' at Butlin’s, ending up as a chef.)

    When holidaying at Clacton, I managed to avoid any clashes between Mods and Rockers.  But you couldn’t avoid hearing about them as even the national press were interested.  The worst was at Easter Bank Holiday in 1964, before my first visit, but it seems the 'terror' was in any case vastly exaggerated. 

    For home-grown live talent, e.g. Georgie Fame, Alan Price, Rod Stewart, Eric Burdon, Chris Farlowe, Long John Baldry, and their ilk, London’s West End  was the place to be – especially the Scene in Windmill Street, and the Marquee and the Flamingo in Wardour Street. 

    Incidentally, it was on arriving back at Stepney Green underground late on the 22nd November 1963 that the ticket collector told me that Kennedy had been assassinated.  This completely ruined what had been a great evening of ska at Leyton Town Hall – a passing phase, along with the maxi skirt I was wearing which had been popularised by Bonnie in Bonnie and Clyde.

    As a devotee of the early Beatles’ music, I joined their fan club, and remember a concert for fan club members “from the South” in December 1963.  This meant travelling all the way across London to the Wimbledon Palais, but was well worth it because after their performance, fans had the chance to meet them.  We had to queue up and had the opportunity to shake four famous hands before being ushered out, but if you chatted up the security guard, you could manage to get round a second or even a third time.  Oh, heady days. 

    Mods were pretty evenly split between the Stones and the Beatles, and I do remember feeling a bit treacherous when I went to see the Rolling Stones live at a tiny club called, I think, the Chez Don, in Dalston – it was the day after Kennedy’s assassination, and the mood was generally muted, although their energy was not.  But they were too ugly for me, although I expect Betty would have been more than satisfied.

    I even spent a night on the street – on Harley Street to be exact – in 1964 waiting for Paul McCartney to leave Jane Asher’s family home (they were courting – - to use the relevant expression - at the time) but to no avail.  Thank goodness I had understanding parents.  Not sure I’d recommend it to any daughter of mine in 2013, however.           

    Living in East London at the time, it was only twenty minutes on the tube to Carnaby Street, rather longer to Kensington, but worth the trip even if you didn’t buy anything, just to people watch.  Young men had discovered colourful clothes for the first time, and the girls’ micro skirts and Sassoon haircuts were a source of fascination.  Then there were the Hippies from the mid 60s onwards, and the representatives of Hare Krishna in their orange robes.  A time of change and of contrasts.  I’m glad I was there.  And for me, it swung.

    The Little Book of the 1960s

    Dee Gordon is the author of The Little Book of the 1960s and lives in Southend-on-Sea.

    [1] For those who don’t remember Twinkle, she was a 60s pop singer who had a big hit with Terry, similar to the Shangri Las’ Leader of the Pack,  tragedy songs that were popular at the time.

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  • 05/28/14--00:00: A trip to the Crime Museum
  • New Scotland Yard

    If there’s one item in the Crime (formerly Black) Museum that people remember, it’s the cooker. However, for the sake of less hardy souls I’ll pass over this item and say that the first surprising thing you should know is that the museum has one of those black audio guides – dial ‘70’ to find out who this skull belonged to. (Answer: a murderess, who turned a skull cap into an attractive silver-handled cup). The commentary is fascinating – and that’s before you even get to the exhibits.

    The room itself is small but cleverly arranged. There are chairs in the corner in case you suddenly feel faint. I soon discover why. The first thing you’ll see, looking down, is Charlie Peace’s violin. Look up and you’ll see his ladder, a ‘do not touch’ sign on one rung. His tools and skeleton keys are nearby. Against the nearest wall you’ll find a cabinet of curios including the Tichbourne Claimant’s hair, a letter from Baby Farmer Amelia Dyer, and the snuff box of John Thurtell (the man who cut the throat of solicitor William Weare). Above loom original sketches of Jack the Ripper’s crime scenes, carefully hand-coloured by the artist. Turn again and you’ll find a wall of hangmen’s nooses, each one labelled with the names of their respective clients (including Mrs Pearcey, who wheeled her victim down the road in a large Victorian pram). Did you know that early-Victorian ropes – the ones used when hangings still took place outside the prison walls – are much thinner than later ones? The dark brown ropes of the 1840s look like clothes lines – camping lines. By the end of the century they are cream-coloured and as thick as half my wrist – measured by the thumb, Neil tells me. Crime historian and The History Press author Neil Storey is, in fact, the reason I’m looking at these exhibits, which very few people have ever seen – he kindly invited me to be his guest at the annual soiree of the Met Police History Society, and he (and the Society, who have allowed me to attend and prove to be the best company you can imagine meeting) will consequently be on my Christmas-card list for life.   

    So – back to the museum! Turn again and you’ll find cabinets filled with weapons: weapons which have been used to attack the police; umbrella guns and rings with razors that pop out; the revolver that Ruth Ellis used to shoot her lover (and her post-mortem report, which I missed but which lists ‘aroma of brandy’ in the section on her stomach contents); the old-fashioned pistol that Oxford fired at Queen Victoria. A bust of Frederick Deeming looks on approvingly from his plinth in the corner. Then that infamous cooker (alongside a bath, which I’ll also pass over), followed by tall glass cases filled with some of the most famous objects in British criminal history. Inside you’ll find a shelf displaying a piece of vertebrae from John Christie’s garden, tree roots twisting through it, and the indestructible red plastic handbag and dentures of Mrs Durand-Deacon – these arranged, of course, next to the acid-splashed apron of John George Haigh, the man who took her life.

    Then there are the poisoners: the fragments of Cora Crippen’s pyjamas (underneath a telegram declaring ‘Crippen caught!’); the actual fly paper and neatly labelled jars of ‘meat juices’ from the trial of the famous Florence Maybrick; the potions of Dr Neil Cream. Turn to see the killer suitcase and wooden crossbow of the Kray brothers, and try not to brush the wicker trunk which once contained Miss Minnie Bonati as you pass. I saw the tin opener – don’t ask – of the Blackout Killer, and something I won’t dwell on floating in a large glass jar nearby. Dark its contents may be, but I’ve never enjoyed a museum so much in all my life. To see an item and think ‘that’s the real one’ was extraordinary. Not a photograph. Not a description. Not a copy. The real bones, bullets and bottles. (One tomato-ketchup bottle stands out – as do Ronnie Biggs’ fingerprints, glowing white on its side.)

    I loved the whole day – the talk by Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the section of the upcoming film Secrets of Scotland Yard (11 June on Channel 19 – don’t miss it!) before dinner. So word to the wise: don’t ask me about it unless you really want to know, because I’ll tell you everything – even if you’re trying to eat your dinner. Did I mention the oven?

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    An Atlantic Empress by the celebrated maritime artist Norman Wilkinson (1878–1971), who began  painting for the CPR around 1908 and continued for the next two decades. The original was probably lost in the bombing of Liverpool during the Second World War. Wilkinson was the originator of  dazzle camouflage to protect merchant vessels during the First World War. (Author

    It was all over in fourteen terrible minutes. By the time RMS Empress of Ireland, pride of the Canadian Pacific Railway’s Atlantic fleet, settled to the bottom of the St Lawrence River on 29 May 1914, more than 1000 people had lost their lives. It was, and remains, Canada’s worst maritime disaster.

    Built at Govan, Scotland, and launched in 1906, the Empress set new standards of speed and luxury on the Britain-Canada run. Between June 1906 and May 1914, the ship transported almost 200,000 people across the Atlantic to and from her home port of Liverpool.  She carried emigrants and their children to new lives in Canada and the United States, business travellers, tourists, military personnel, noted scientists and even Nobel prize winners.

    Struck amidships below the waterline by the Norwegian collier Storstad, in dense fog, the wound was fatal. The stricken Empress began rapidly filling with water and began listing to starboard. Hundreds of passengers, newly boarded at Quebec City and unfamiliar with the layout of the ship, were trapped below decks. Those who made it out found themselves in near-freezing water and died of exposure in mere minutes if not picked up in the few lifeboats that were launched. 

    Salvage operations began in June 1914 and ended in September, after recovering many bodies, much of the mail, and a valuable cargo of silver ingots. Re-discovered by scuba divers in 1964, the Empress became the most pillaged shipwreck in the world, until it was declared a protected site in April 1999.

    Though overshadowed by the Great War, the ship was never forgotten by those who once sailed her. Using diaries, letters and interviews with former Empress passengers and crew, the author provides a vivid, first-hand impression of life aboard one of the finest ships of the Edwardian era. Lavishly illustrated with some two hundred photos and paintings, the pre-1914 colour illustrations (almost one hundred in all) helped bring the ship to life—for me, at least--in a way I had never imagined possible.

    RMS Empress of Ireland

    Derek Grout is the author of RMS Empress of Ireland: Pride of the Canadian Pacific's Atlantic Fleet. 29 May 1914 marked the date of the biggest Canadian maritime disaster in peacetime. Despite the scale of the disaster, and the fact that the ship had an excellent safety record with eight years in service, the Empress has been sadly overlooked. This lavishly illustrated luxury edition seeks to remedy this on the centenary of the tragic event. 

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    Pleasure Boating on the Thames


    Simon Wenham will be at WH Smith, Cornmarket on Saturday 21st June from 11am signing copies of his new book, Pleasure Boating on the Thames: A History of Salter Bros, 1858-Present Day

    The River Thames above London underwent a dramatic transformation during the Victorian period, from a great commercial highway into a vast conduit of pleasure. Pleasure Boating on the Thames traces these changes through the history of the fi rm that did more than any other on the waterway to popularise recreational boating. Salter Bros began as a small boat-building enterprise in Oxford and went on to gain worldwide fame, not only as the leading racing boat constructor, but also as one of the largest rental craft and passenger boat operators in the country.

    Simon Wenham’s illustrated history sheds light on 150 years of social change, how leisure developed on the waterway (including the rise of camping), as well as how a family firm coped with the changes brought about by industrialisation – a business that, today, still carries thousands of passengers a year. 

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  • 05/30/14--06:05: The Friday Digest 30/05/14
  • THP Friday digest Brighton Swimming Club 1863
    This week's update features 'the loneliest boy in the world', some previously unseen photographs of the French Armoured Cavalry Branch, known as 'the hairy ones' in the First World War and how the concept of chivalry was born.

     Gearóid and his pet donkey in Dunquin in the 1950s

    * In 1948, newspapers dubbed Gearóid Cheaist Ó Catháin the 'loneliest boy in the world': he was the sole child on the Blaskets evacuation of 1953/54.


     Angels, Field of Mons

    * According to Yahoo News UK: the 'Angel' which saved British troops in the First World War 'may have been UFO'.

    The seal on King Tut's tomb - yet to be broken

    Rare historical photos include one of the unbroken seal on King Tut's tomb.

    * No pre-order button for forthcoming Hachette titles on Amazon in row over terms.

    * Foyles is to host international literary tours as it continues to diversify ahead of its move into the 'bookshop of the future'.

    Medieval War - Royal 16 G VI   f. 427v   Civil war in England - image courtesy British Library

    *Chivalry: an attempt to limit the death and destruction of warfare?

    Richard's skull

    *Leicester v. York: the battle over the king's last resting place is over.

    CWA-65_Object Lesson_Dying-Gual

    * He leans upon his hand – his manly brow
    Consents to death, but conquers agony

    The story of 'The Dying Gaul'

    Crime Story

    Crime Fiction v. Crime Fact: the real life of the Forensic Pathologist.

      Which history and publishing stories have you enjoyed reading this week?

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  • 06/01/14--00:00: Cars we loved in the 1960s
  • Jaguar Mark X, 1961

    Britain, the 1960s and cars are usually characterized by the Jaguar E-type at one end of the scale, and the Mini at the other. The affordable dream car and the economy runabout bringing new meaning to driving enjoyment on a budget, not to mention ingenious design. But what about some motoring innovations of the 1960s that rarely receive a nostalgic namecheck?

    How about the ground-breaking Esso marketing campaign in 1964 that urged you to ‘Put a tiger in your tank’. For one shilling and sixpence you could buy a woolly tiger’s tail to tie around your fuel cap of your car to prove you had, and millions did just that.

    Then there was the national obsession, inspired by the USA, for drive-in and automated everythings. In 1961, for instance, Britain’s first drive-in bank, a branch of Drummonds, opened in Trafalgar Square, and Southwark, south London saw the country’s first automated multi-storey car park. Two years later, you could drive under Hyde Park into a massive new car park after the Queen gave her permission to have it built. In 1967 came the first convenience store at a petrol station, opened by Shell in Liverpool. And then in 1969 came your first chance to drive into a hovercraft, as the first scheduled service between Dover and Boulogne began on 1 August.

    Of course, in addition to the dynamic duo mentioned at the start, there were some terrific new cars on offer in 1961 if you suddenly came into some money, such as the Lagonda Rapide – a sort of four-door Aston Martin – and the sleek Jaguar Mk X. If you wanted to enjoy what little sunshine there was in Britain then an exhilarating new sports car like the MG Midget/Austin-Healey Sprite MkII and Triumph TR4 of the same year was for you, while in 1962 the fabulous Lotus Elan, MGB, Triumph Spitfire and AC Cobra were all unleashed.

    MG Midget, 1961

    The country’s best-seller list was dominated by the neat, front-wheel drive Austin/Morrs 1100 and conventional but perfectly-packaged Ford Cortina. Foreign cars hardly got a look in, thanks to high import duties; the first Japanese car to go on sale in 1865, the Daihatsu Campagno, failed to take off, and the family hatchback concept pioneered by the Renault 16 that year didn’t get going until Austin copied it for the Maxi in 1969. This relatively protected British market allowed Vauxhall and Hillman to create small cars in the shape of the Viva and Imp, which were built in brand new factories in Merseyside and Glasgow.

    In 1963 both the Ford Lotus-Cortina and the Mini Cooper S were announced. Jim Clark was soon three-wheeling the former around Europe’s race tracks but the Cooper S’s muddy exploits were truly awe-inspiring, scooping a hat-trick of epic wins on the Monter Carlo Rally in 1963, ’64 and ’66.

    Thrilling stuff… unlike life on British roads. A speed limit of 70mph on motorways and major A-roads was introduced in November 1965 as a four-week experiment, and on 22 December it became permanent.

    The growth of the company car proved unstoppable. At first it was for thrusting young executives who, in 1963, could choose from two swish new British executive cars, the Rover 2000 and Triumph 2000.

    Then, in 1966, the lower management echelons were targeted when the neat new Ford Cortina MkII locked horns with the Hillman Hunter from the Rootes Group (now controlled by America’s Chrysler). Tycoons, of course, had never been short of choice but, even so, the 1965 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow – the first from Crewe without a separate chassis – and the Jensen Interceptor – whose FF derivative featured a world-first combo of Ferguson four-wheel drive and Dunlop anti-lock braking – made the bosses’ car park glitter with glamour.

    The end of the 1960s was an era of consolidation for Britain’s car industry, the end result being the formation 1968 of British Leyland. The new company made a staggering 46 different types of car, of which the most impressive was the amazing new Jaguar XJ6…but the corporation soon turned into a monster whose creation we’d regret.

    Cars We Loved in the 1960s

    Giles Chapman is the author of Cars We Loved in the 1960s. If you owned a car in 1960s Britain, then you’ll love this blast back in time to when driving was still fun, highway speed limits were unheard-of (well, until 1965 anyway), and buying a new car was a thrilling family event. It was a golden period for iconic classic cars – the Mini Cooper, Jaguar E-type, AC Cobra and MGB – but also a time when British manufacturers really got their act together with stylish family models.

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    Maureen Howes and Penni Blythe-Jones share their reactions to seeing the finished copy of  Emily Wilding Davison: A Suffragette's Family Album for the first time, upon its release.

    Maureen Howes, Emily Wilding Davison author

    Maureen: I spent 16 May in whirl of activity because I had not yet got a copy of my book. I decided that if the publisher's books had not arrived by 1.30 pm I would go into town and get a copy that Tim and Alice had said I could have from them as their thank you for me doing the signing at their shop.

    I rang Ian Leech who I knew wanted to finally fit in a photo session with me and he agreed that it would be an ideal opportunity to do that at Applebys and that he would meet me there at 2-30.

    As we walked towards the shop it was quite a thrill to see the posters on the shop window and copies of my book on display at last I felt it was reality. Something was happening for the local family to see for themselves and so they know that their contribution to Emily’s story is a reality and not still a pipe dream. It was now there in Applebys window for everyone to see.

    I was thrilled to actually hold my book and I was dying to flip through it but I had to be polite and talk to everyone. When I arrived home, there was a note on the door mat saying a parcel had been left at with one of my neighbours so off I went and now I have the copies I have ordered.

    The rest of the afternoon was spent snuggled up in a fleece reading my book and I was so emotional as it brought back so many memories and thoughts of how each step of the way we brought everyone together to tell their parents and grandparents' memories of Emily.

    With The History Press’s fantastic support, we have pulled off a minor miracle after the first publisher said it couldn’t be done in time. We together had brought the real Emily into the 21st century in our very own unique way and I think that we have done her and her family proud. At last a more reasoned version of what was happening in Emily’s life has been published. I cannot thank Cate and her team enough and I hope we will have begun to make a difference to counter the hype and sensationalism that has been Emily’s legacy since her death and will in all probability come to the fore again elsewhere during the centenary weekend. We here in Northumberland have proved our point with our very original and personal version of a very brave lady.

    Maureen Howes, Emily Wilding Davison author

    When I went into my office and placed a copy of my book on the shelf alongside all the suffragette books are that I have used for my research it hit home that I had really done it and I did a little dance of joy. Well done History Press, we have started to make people ask questions. My book is going into the schools here and Emily would be so proud of her family and what we are doing here in her centenary year.

    From now on there will be “No Surrender”, our Northern voices will be heard loud and clear.

    Why did you take on this project?

    : My answer is in the form of a question for you: how could any self-respecting genealogist say NO  to such a wonderful challenge? Of course in 2002 when I was asked to take on the voluntary research for the 2003 tribute project I knew “The Suffragette” was buried near my home in St Mary’s Churchyard but my knowledge of Suffragism was minimal. Genealogy and researching the border parishes of Northern Britain were my forte and that was the key that opened doors that had been firmly closed for almost a century. Once I began to locate the present day family members and heard their stories and was privileged to see saw their archive material I was hooked and I knew that we had to find out the truth behind Morpeth’s secret suffrage history.

    Sitting in the International Women's Day a few years ago as member of the Women’s Folk choir the speaker that year, the then Deputy Chief Exec of Northumberland County Council, Jill Dixon talking I was struck by how powerfully Emily had inspired my life.

    The personal history of my grandmothers (and indeed my own life) has long had me powerfully committed to the importance women having a voice, their stories and lives being embraced as valid, real and equal. Because of how society at the time they were born the voices, stories and lives of both my grandmothers were lost. One was born in 1909, the other round about 1900 – so both were alive in Emily’s life.

    Having been a member of the NCC Emily working Group for some time, offering, last June, to ‘help the centenary happen’ seemed a natural step. Little did I realise how Emily would take over – Emily Inspires! emerged!

    Maureen Howes, Emily Wilding Davison author

    How will this book impact Emily's legacy?

    Penni: I believe Emily Inspires! and particularly Maureen Howes’ book is bringing new truths to live. Giving Emily back her voice, through the family who have carefully nurtured evidence, her stories, her history, through demonstrating her relevance today

    So we clarify and transform the myths and misunderstandings about Emily - finally laying to bed the phrase ‘the woman who threw herself under the King’s Horse’. Replacing it with ‘the woman of joy, passion, artistry, courage and commitment – a true Daughter of Northumberland’

    Her legacy helps our next generations, healing, honouring where women’s stories are lost, disregarded and women are ‘dealt with’ as being less than equal. I hope that by inspiring an equality that serves the human race, we will encourage women and men, to take their place and build better, more sustainable societies.

    Emily Wilding Davison

    Emily's family share her story for the first time in the fascinating Emily Wilding Davison: A Suffragette's Family AlbumDrawing on the Davison family archives, and filled with more than 100 rare photographs, this volume explores the true cost of women’s suffrage, revolutionizing in the process our understanding of one of the defining events of the twentieth century.

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  • 06/04/14--10:00: Quizzes, trivia and history
  • A good quiz is a very effective way of stamping information on the brain. If you know the answer, you feel justifiably proud of yourself; if you’re unsure but manage to guess correctly there’s the gentle thrill of having gambled and won. And if you haven’t got a clue, the answer, when revealed, joins the stockpile of simultaneously useful and useless information in that part of your brain labelled ‘trivia’.

    The information doesn’t have to be of any obvious use, as long as it’s interesting. And weird, ideally. As an example that ticks all these boxes, have a stab at this:

    According to apocrypha, only one of these three mythical kings was not killed and eaten. Which one? Your options are King Mempricius, King Bladud and King Morvidus.

    Now, I would guess that only one in 10,000 interviewees, unaided by the wizardry of the internet, would be able to answer this with confidence; and perhaps one in 100,000 would actually be able to say something about all three kings in the list.

    The answer is King Bladud. He was the founder of the city of Bath, and died after crashing his one-man aeroplane into the Temple of Apollo in Troinovant (New Troy, later known as London) some time in the eleventh century BC. Mempric came a century or two earlier – an evil tyrant who was eaten by wolves in north Oxford. Morvidus, dating back to the fourth century BC, was another tyrant, dying after an unsuccessful tussle with a sea serpent.

    Quite what you do with such information, other than amaze your friends over a glass or two of something strong, I’m not sure. And I remain unsure after a lifetime’s addiction to quizzes, folklore and historical trivia. The only winners in all this are the pubs of England - far richer as a result of my 30-year pursuit of pub quizzes.

    Maybe it’s just that a quiz is a great way to digest information. I’m certainly not alone in thinking this: witness the success of classic shows such as Call My Bluff, or the more recent Would I Lie to You? and Horrible History Gory Games. They all have that irresistible gambling element – one question, more than one possible answer, and no tangible reward whatsoever for your efforts (not counting the beery rewards you sometimes reap at the local pub quiz).

    Maybe it’s the fact that the Q&A format can make strange century-hopping connections for you. To illustrate what I mean, try out these unlikely links. Metallic  leaders: Oliver ‘Old ironsides’ Cromwell, Margaret ‘Iron lady’ Thatcher and Charles ‘Iron Duke’ Wellesley (the Duke of Wellington) . Or body-part nicknames amongst royals: King Edward ‘Longshanks’ the First, King Richard ‘Crouchback’ the Third, and King Harold ‘Harefoot’ the First.

    But I don’t think it’s the weird lists that have the lasting appeal: it’s the good old fashioned tall tale. Popular history is all about good stories well told, and a historical quiz is a format that allows you to dip in and out of the centuries like a kleptomaniac at an antique fair, grabbing all the good stuff.

    Fortunately, that brain compartment labelled ‘trivia’ is a bit like the Tardis in Doctor Who – so big on the inside that an insatiable lifetime of trivia collecting can never hope to fill it.

    See you at the next pub quiz.

    Odd One Out 9780750955720


    Paul Sullivan is the author of Odd One Out. Think you can tell a killer from a king, a pirate from a pope? There'€™s only one way to find out! This amazing little quiz contains sixty different '€˜odd one outs'€™. Featuring royals and reprobates, palaces and poorhouses, take it today and find out just how much you really know about British history!

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    Disabled Ex-Service Men© IWM (Art.IWM PST 13806)


    It may feel a bit early to start talking about the long-term effects of the First World War on British society, but that was the subject of a recent edition of the BBC’s The Big Questions.  In fact, geographically, the discussion ranged far more widely, to encompass Europe, America and the Middle East, as well as Britain and her empire. However, only a brief mention was made of one of the most profound social impacts of the war, the return of large numbers of servicemen to civil society suffering from physical and psychological disability.

    The numbers of these men can be a bit hard to pin down.  Although Robert Graves and Alan Hodge asserted in their 1940 social history The Long Week-End that ‘everyone who had served in the trenches for as much as five months, or who had been under two or three rolling barrages, was an invalid’ [1], the officially recognised war disabled were far less numerous. According to the official statistics compiled by T. J. Mitchell and G. M. Smith in the Medical Services: Casualties and Statistics of the Great War volume of the History of the Great War Based on Official Documents, by 1929 1,600,000 British former servicemen, or 27% of those who served in the armed forces, had been awarded a pension or gratuity by the British government for disabilities attributable to their war service. [2] When compared to the 704,803 officially recorded war dead from the British Isles, the significance of the impact that such a number of men suffering from physical and psychological injuries becomes apparent.  This impact took a number of forms, from the political response which enshrined war pensions in statute through the rise in numbers and influence of philanthropic societies seeking to aid disabled ex-servicemen to the private ramifications that disability had for family relationships.

    Widespread and on-going war disablement had wider cultural impacts as well, including an important impact on understandings of masculine identities.  To a limited extent, some of this impact might be interpreted as progressive.  For instance, the sheer number of men surviving severe wounding or illness to live lives in disabled bodies points to improvements in medical care throughout the war, although as Roger Cooter and Steve Sturdy point out, we must be careful about how far we take this argument. [3] However, the numbers of these men was certainly one factor which put pressure on the British government to provide some form of guarantee for men who had suffered injury as a result of war service.  In 1917 war disability pensions became statutory, where previously they had been available only at the discretion of the individual armed services, and the Ministry of Pensions was created to administer them.  The availability of pensions remained highly contingent, with many wounds and illnesses being ruled undeserving as either unattibutable to war service or a result of the injured man’s own actions. Nonetheless, this was an important acknowledgement by the state of its duty of care to the men who had suffered physical or mental injury explicitly in its service.  It was a significant step in an ongoing process of renegotiating the relationship between the state and male citizens which had begun with debates over conscription.

    More directly, the prevalence of war disability force British society to reevaluate its attitudes to disability more generally. The disabled could no long be categorized simply as inherently unfit, or simply be institutionalized and forgotten.  Again, this argument should not be overstated.  As Peter Barham has demonstrated in relation to those suffering from psychological disability, some men undoubtedly were institutionalized in just such a fashion, and fear and stigma remained a significant part of the life of the war disabled man. [4] Yet the public outrage which led to protests in Parliament over the treatment of men disabled by war as ‘common lunatics’ demonstrates a shift in social understandings of disability.  Men whose disability arose from war service could still achieve a level of social acceptance rather than being labeled as embodiments of degeneracy as they might have been before the war.

    Nor was this gradual acceptance of disability as reflecting more on war experience than on an individual’s inherent ability to fulfill masculine ideals limited to psychological disability.  The need, both economic and social, to reintegrate the physically disabled ex-servicemen into society meant both the development of rehabilitative treatments for all those suffering from physical disabilities and the improvement in status of those whose disability was not attributable to war through their association with disabled ex-servicemen.  There was a certain amount of valourisation of a disability acquired through the idealized masculine role of military service which could, in turn reflect on the wider group of disabled, helping to reposition them relative to acceptable masculine identities.

    It is important not to overstate these arguments.  For all these small improvements in care and social status, the impact of the war on individual masculine identities was, on the whole, profoundly negative.  War disability entailed dramatic, sudden and profound losses.  These losses were numerous and included the obvious loss of health and of the identity of soldier and defender of the nation that the disabled man had been embodied up the moment of his disablement.  There was also the loss of independence, with many disabled servicemen finding themselves reliant on others, often women in the form of nurses, mothers and wives, to provide them with physical care.  This loss struck at the heart of definitions of mature masculinity in the period, which independence and self-reliance were vital.

    Related to the loss of physical and bodily independence was a loss of a working future and with it economic independence which had formed the core of many men’s sense of identity in civilian life.  The sense of this loss of civil identity as a provider, for themselves and for their families, comes across powerfully in letters that men wrote to the Ministry of Pensions in the years after the war.  Many of these letters detail the struggles that men faced in gaining and retaining paid employment.  Schemes such as the King’s Roll, designed to give employment preference to disabled ex-servicemen, had limited impact in these years of high unemployment when, as one pensioner pointed out, ‘disabled soldiers are not over popular as candidates for jobs.’[5] Men suffering from psychological disability faced particular difficulties, with many men hiding their condition and the fact that they were receiving a pension for it, from employers and potential employers, for fear of the stigma still firmly attached to mental illness.  For many pensioners, a pension might provide a small, limited acknowledgement of the state’s responsibility for their situation, but it could not compensate for the loss of financial independence and self-reliance that disability entailed. ‘I do not want a pension,’ J. J. Holland wrote in 1921. ‘I want to be clear of the whole thing, to go away and get well again.’[6]

    The sense of loss of independence that men expressed in their complaints about relying on the vagaries and limits of the state pension system was even more profound for men those who turned to charitable institutions for aid and support.  Numbers of these sprang up, including men still in existence such as St. Dunstan’s Hostel (now Blind Veterans UK), the Ex-Servicemen’s Welfare Society (now Combat Stress) and the Limbless Ex-Service Men’s Association (now BLESMA).  While such institutions could and did provide much needed financial support, legal lobbying and rehabilitative training, the fact that they were charitable organisations had profound impacts on the masculine status of the men they supported.  It was not simply that seeking charity was the antithesis of masculine independence and self-reliance, that pillar of ideal civil masculinity.  It was also the fact that charitable giving gave the giver considerable power over the recipient.  As Deborah Cohen has demonstrated, many charities for disabled ex-servicemen used this power to enforce a particular identity upon the disabled men in their care.[7]  These men were expected to inhabit roles that were passive, dependent, a-sexual and, above all, ‘cheerful though wounded’.  In short, they were defined not as men, but as children.  Men who resisted, as several did, were denied support, forcing them to either submit to a definition of disability that positioned them as unmasculine or to face an often unfriendly world without support and a reputation for ingratitude.

    For all the small steps towards a greater understanding and wider acceptance of disability that the sheer numbers of men disabled by war entailed, therefore, the post-war reality for war-disabled men was often bleak.  War had robbed them of bodily and mental health; post-war society seemed determined to rob them of their sense of masculine identity as well.


    Dr Jessica Meyer is a Wellcome Trust Research Fellow in the History of Medicine and Medical Humanities. She graduated from Yale University in 1999 and has an MPhil in European Studies and a PhD in Modern History from the University of Cambridge. Her book, Men of War: Masculinity and the First World War in Britain was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2009 and her blog about her research can be found here.  


    [1] Robert Graves and Alan Hodge, The Long Week-End: A Social History of Great Britain 1918-1939 (1940), p.16.

    [2] T. J. Mitchell and G. M. Smith, Official History of the War: Medical Services: Casualties and Statistics (1931), p.316.

    [3] Roger Cooter and Steve Sturdy, ‘Of War, Medicine and Modernity: Introduction’ in Roger Cooter, Mark Harrison and Steve Sturdy (eds.), War, Medicine and Modernity (1998), pp.6-7

    [4] Peter Barham, Forgotten Lunatics of the Great War (2004).

    [5] J. J. R. Larkin, Letter to the Secretary, Ministry of Pensions, 16th July, 1924, The National Archives, PIN 26/19942.

    [6] J. J. Holland, Letter to the Director General of Awards, Ministry of Pensions, 2nd July, 1921, The National Archives, PIN 26/21791.

    [7] Deborah Cohen, The War Come Home: Disabled Veterans in Britain and Germany 1914-1939 (2001).

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    FIFA World Cup Brasil

    With the World Cup fast approaching, kick off in just under a week’s time, we thought we would give our loyal fans the chance to win some fab goodies to celebrate the greatest sporting event in the world!

    The first 32 people to complete the form below will be automatically entered into The History Press World Cup 2014 competition. Make sure you sign up early so you don’t miss out. Once the places are gone, they’re gone!

    The closing date for the competition entry is Wednesday, 11 June.


    Here’s what you need to do to be in with a chance of winning…

    1. Enter your email address, full name and twitter handle in the form below.

    2. On Wednesday evening, you will receive an email in which you will be informed of your randomly assigned team

    3. Sit back, relax and enjoy the 2014 World Cup in Brazil!

    4. If your team earns a prize-winning place, we will get in contact to arrange for delivery.

    World Cup 2014


    The Prizes

    * If your team reaches the semi-finals only, you will win a copy of Never Mind the Penalties: The Ultimate World Cup Quiz Book.

    * If your team reaches the finals, you will win a copy of
    Never Mind the Penalties and a football book of your choosing!

    * If your teams win, you will win a copy of
    Never Mind the Penalties, a football book of your choosing, a copy of George Raynor and if that isn’t enough… a £20 discount code to use on our website!


    Sign yourself up now to be in with a chance of winning!

    Good luck and enjoy the World Cup!


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    CSM Stanley Hollis VC: D-Day Hero

    Middlesbrough-born Stanley Hollis, the only man to win a VC on D-day, should have been the most famous soldier of World War Two – but his natural modesty got in the way! The superb soldier and leader of men, who was uniquely recommended twice for the VC in blistering actions at Gold Beach, Normandy, on D-Day June 6, 1944, had top writers of the day knocking on his door desperate to tell his story to the world.

    But tough guy Stan sent them all packing, saying “anyone would have done what I did." So, until now Stan's stupendous courage and selfless acts which saved so many lives of his close Green Howards comrades on that momentous day in history became largely forgotten on the national stage for many years.

    At the outbreak of World War Two he joined the 6th Battalion, Green Howards and was sent with many pals to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force in 1940 as a dispatch rider. Wounded for the first of five times in the war, he survived a hair raising evacuation from Dunkirk. Later, he fought in the Western desert with the famed Eighth Army in the key North African Campaign, once taking out a Tiger tank single handed in a speedy bren gun carrier by slapping a sticky bomb on it.

    Killing more than 100 enemy soldiers during the war, Hollis rose to Company Sergeant Major just before the invasion of Sicily in 1943 where he was recommended for, but did not receive, a Distinguished Conduct Medal at the fierce battle of Primosole Bridge. But it was his actions at Gold beach, the Mont Fleury battery and Crepon on D-Day when he really came into his own.

    CSM Hollis and the battle hardened Green Howards, were hand picked by Monty to be one of the first assault battalions to set foot on the bloody Normandy sands. As his Company took many casualties moving inland from the beaches, Hollis suddenly saw two hidden German pill boxes which had been by-passed. Without hesitating for an instant, Stan rushed forward to the first pill-box, poking his Sten gun through the slit. He climbed on top and put a hand grenade inside. killing most of the enemy within and taking other occupants prisoner. Spotting a second strong point, he attacked that too, taking 25 prisoners. Hearing that two of his men had been left behind trapped in a house he bravely told Major Lofthouse, his CO, "I took them in. I'll try to get them out." Hollis sprang out into the open blazing away with his Bren with bullets spattering the ground all round him, enabling the trapped men to get away. He even got bullets lodged in bones of his feet, which he didn't know about until after the war!

    In September 1944 he was wounded for the fifth time in the conflict and evacuated to England where he was decorated with the VC by King George V1 in October 1944. Returning to North Ormesby, Middelsbrough, he got a job as a lorry driver and married Alice Clixby with whom he had a son Brian, who now lives at Linthorpe and a daughter Pauline, of Redcar. Both burst with pride when talking of their heroic dad. And many a person stopped the family in the street after the war and said 'My husband's come home alive because of what your father did on D-Day.' After the war, he was also a Teesside steelworker and partner in a local motor repair business  before training as a publican and ran the North Ormesby Green Howard pub and later the Holywell View pub at Liverton Mines near Loftus.

    Hollis died in February 1972. His funeral at Acklam Cemetery, Middlesbrough, was attended by two other VC winners, family and many Green Howards and VIPs. Now, Stan is to have a £150,000 memorial built in his honour by the StanleyEHollis Memorial Fund with permission from Middlesbrough Council at Linthorpe, just yards from Middlesbrough's Cenotaph to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day, to be opened later this year.

    There can be no greater tribute to a man regarded by military experts as one of the three finest VC winners of all time.


    Mike Morgan is the author of D-Day Hero published by The History Press. D-Day’s only Victoria Cross winner, Company Sergeant Major Stanley Hollis, was, uniquely, twice recommended for this coveted award on 6 June 1944. 

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  • 06/06/14--02:30: The Friday Digest 06/06/14
  • THP Friday digest
    This week's update features D-Day, the 'Bride of the Desert' and 107 reasons to love Foyles of Charing Cross Road. 

    D-Day landings, 6 June 1944

    * Today marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy in 'Operation Overlord', and D-Day events have been held ahead of international commemoration this week.

    US troops wading towards Omaha beach during the Normandy invasion on D-Day. Photograph: Robert F. Sargent/Time & Life Pictures/Getty

    The weather forecasts by the former naval meteorologist Harold Checketts which determined the timing of the Normandy landings



    * Ian Fyfe, the Daily Mirror reporter who was the only journalist to die on D-Day.

    One of the D-Day documents

    * The crucial role of Jean-Louis Cremieux-Brilhac, the man who prepared France for D-Day.  

    A man walks down a dirt road in the Atacama Desert. Despite being one of the most inhospitable places on earth, the Atacama is still mined: in 2010 this made world-wide news, when the Copiapó mining accident led to the dramatic rescue of 33 trapped miners (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills). Photograph: Dario Lopez-Mills/AP


    * Caliche: the conflict material that fuelled the First World War.

     British Mark V (male) tank

    * A history of the First World War in 100 Moments: the moment when the huge, lumbering 'mechanical monsters' entered the fray.  


     Football vs rugby

    * When the whistle blew ... 

    Middlesbrough during the First World War

    Tensions flared in September 1914 and the home front was no stranger to destruction as demonstrated when an angry mob attacked German shops on Cannon Street in Middlesbrough


    Japanese military photographer Yosuke Yamahata took the images showing the extent of the devastation


    * The chilling scenes of Nagasaki as it appeared one day after the atomic bombing, seen here in newly discovered pictures. 

    Temple of the ‘Bride of the Desert’

    * The temple of the 'Bride of the Desert' in Palmyra, one of the most stunning sites in the Middle East. 

    It girl: A portrait of Fanny Murray, who inspired the character of Fanny Hill

    * How the real Fanny Hill seduced High Society with her wit and milk-white breasts

    The excavation site at Koi Tangay Kandaray area in Mian Khan village. PHOTOS COURTESY: AWKUM

    Relics dating back to 190 BC have been unearthed in an archaeological dig in Mian Khan village, Katlang. 

    17th February 1906: The HMS 'Dreadnought' at its launch by the King at Portsmouth. (c) Getty Images

    * How the Dreadnought sparked the twentieth century's first arms race


    Honour crimes and infanticide in Ireland.

    Photo of Percy Toplis, the 'Monocled Mutineer'


    The heroes of the infamous Percy Toplis shooting incident have finally been honoured, ninety-four years after it happened.

    Birthday cake, file image

    * He was thought to be the oldest man in Tokyo  but when officials went to congratulate Sogen Kato on his 111th birthday, they discovered that he had been dead for thirty years.

    A celebrated image of a man trying to stop the tanks entering the square (AP)

    *  'Rows of troops advanced slowly, shooting directly into the crowd'. On the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests, Michael Fathers, The Independent's then Asia Editor, shares his dispatches from the atrocity.

    James Stanley 10th Earl of Derby


    Courtesy of Chester Nez

    Chester Nez, the last of the original Navajo code talkers, has died at the age of 93. Nez was the last remaining of the original twenty-nine Navajos recruited by the Marine Corps to develop the legendary unbreakable code that was used for vital communications during battle.

    Image from Some rights reserved by


    * Talk to any book lover and they will rave about how wonderful books smell but what causes the smell of new and old books?

    Paul Adams

    * Paul Adams shares his favourite spooky spots and horror films in a chat with The Spooky Isles here.


    * Belinda Pollard shares the one key reason why authors need to blog

    FINAL 107 LOGO

    * Publishing Perspectives  share 107 reasons to love Foyles of Charing Cross Road.  

    Laura Ingalls Wilder from the Little House Series


    * Kami Garcia has gathered the nine most fashionable literary characters but who would you add to this list?   


    * Penguin Random House has revealed its new branding which 'underscores [a] committment to a creative core' according to a press release from the company but the design has caused some controversy. What are your thoughts on the new logos?

    Amazon Kindle. Image (c) Daz Smith from

    * The UK e-book market 'to hit £1bn in 2018' according to a report by accounting group PwC

    Photo  Credit Michael Mabry

    * What exactly is lost as the use of handwriting fades? You may be surprised by this answer ...

    The distribution of English letters towards the beginning, middle and end of words.

    * A fascinating look at the distribution of English letters towards the beginning, middle and end of words


    Crime scene tape  Some rights reserved by Alan Cleaver. Image from

    * The ten most unexpected crime fiction settings.


    * How to get your villain to confess his crimes:  information for writers with Sgt. Derek Pacifico

    Malcolm Gladwell's books are published by both Hachette and Bonnier.

    * As the Hachette/Amazon dispute rumbles on, Malcolm Gladwell has noted his 'surprise' at becoming an Amazon bargaining chip.

      Which history and publishing stories have you enjoyed reading this week?

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  • 06/08/14--02:30: The final days of Henry VIII
  • This woodcut illustration from John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (1570) depicts Henry VIII upon his throne, with Thomas Cranmer to his left, presenting him with a Bible, while Pope Clement VII is prostrated at the king’s feet. Standing behind Cranmer is Thomas Cromwell. John Fisher supports the pope’s head, Cardinal Pole the pope’s back. Looking on in dismay is a group of monks.

    As the power-brokers of the next reign span their webs and hovered solicitously in the background, Henry VIII’s ailing body had deteriorated steadily throughout January 1547. Some thirty-eight years earlier, he had ascended the throne of England, the epitome of health and vitality, with ‘hair plenty and red’ and with ‘pulse great and full, digestion perfect, anger short, sweat abundant’. Now, however, his former vigour had finally deserted him and neither the constant examination of his stools and sputum, nor the continual letting of his blood in accordance with the waxing and waning of the moon could save him. Between August and December, indeed, the medical expenses of the privy chamber had increased more than fivefold and by the night of 27 January the end was imminent. The only remaining priority, therefore, was to fetch the cleric whom Henry knew and loved best, and as the king was overcome by a final paralysing weakness, Thomas Cranmer rode at breakneck pace from Croydon in the small hours of a bitter night when the rivers across Europe were frozen hard.

    The scene that greeted the archbishop upon his breathless arrival is a matter of some conjecture, but the resonances of the past were unlikely to have gone entirely unnoticed by him. All around at Whitehall were keen reminders of those who had died infamously at his master’s behest. Down the years, countless items ‘from sundry persons attainted’ had been delivered to the Crown’s receivers for them to distribute as they saw fit and much that had been confiscated from the estates of ‘traitors’ had found its way to the palace where Henry now lay. Among the furnishings arranged so painstakingly by Catherine Howard were Nicholas Carew’s former bedcoverings of purple velvet, embroidered cushions once belonging to Lord Montague and further bedchamber goods snatched from the estate of Edward Neville. All kinds of ornaments that had once been Wolsey’s, many of them still bearing his arms, were also everywhere to be seen.

    Around about, too, were hushed voices of the kind that had once stirred the king to frenzy but could now no longer touch him. The death of a sovereign was, after all, a public spectacle and since Henry’s will was unlikely to have been finalised until the evening of his death, its eleven witnesses, which included the ever-present Patrec, his  lutanist, may well have been in attendance to watch him die. Doubtless, all the unmistakable tokens of mortal sickness will also have been evident: the oppressive aroma of grey amber and musk to smother the stench of physical decay, the shadowy gloom created by the window tapestries, which were tightly drawn to bar the invasive damp, and the stifling fug generated by the great wood fire which was fed continually to eliminate all ‘evil vapours’. Surely, too, the king’s physicians were still fussing vainly, with their potions and plasters, their ointments and decoctions, now awaiting what they knew must surely come before the rising of another sun.

    Concerning the actual manner of the Henry’s passing, however, there is rather more doubt, for the chroniclers, predictably, were keen to spin his final moments with posterity in mind. And while most accounts of Henry’s final moments are tinged with triumphal Protestant undertones or tainted by the heavy odour of sanctity, so his legacy – more than five centuries later – continues to be subtly sanitised and rehabilitated. Now, indeed, we are far less likely to hear of a sordid despot who, in the words of the Elizabethan commentator, Sir Robert Naunton, had spared neither man in his anger nor woman in his lust, than of a seemingly ‘great’ ruler who, amongst his various achievements, strengthened both England’s international prestige and the authority of Parliament. Does such a sea change betoken the welcome triumph of ‘objective historiography’ or, more worryingly, is it indicative of the modern tendency to downgrade historical narrative in favour of purportedly more ‘analytical’ approaches, which effectively sideline the sufferings of individuals and fight shy of glaringly valid moral judgments? Even more worryingly, perhaps, is this perspective the result of a plain and inexplicable misinterpretation of the obvious, i.e. that Henry VIII signally failed in all his key priorities and left a poisonous legacy to the son and heir that he had striven for so wilfully and at such a cost to others? 

    John Matusiak with his book Henry VIII: The Life and Rule of England's Nero

    John Matusiak is the author of Henry VIII: The Life and Rule of England's Nero. This compelling new account of Henry VIII is by no means yet another history of the 'old monster' and his reign. The '€˜monster' displayed here is, at the very least, a newer type, more beset by anxieties and insecurities, and more tightly surrounded by those who equated loyalty with fear, self-interest and blind obedience. 

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    According to the ancient Greek geographer Ptolemy, the Parisi tribe occupied the area of the present-day East Riding of Yorkshire during the Roman period. Over the last few decades our understanding of this region and its inhabitants has been transformed through the work of research projects, archaeological investigation, and even chance finds. Discoveries including the Hasholme logboat, chariot burials, hoards of Iron Age gold coins and Roman settlements and villas have all helped to develop our knowledge of this area and provide a fascinating insight into the lives of a local tribe and the impact of Rome on their development. In The Parisi: Britons and Romans in Eastern Yorkshire,  Peter Halkon tells this captivating story of the history of the archaeology of the Parisi, from the initial investigations in the sixteenth century right through to modern-day investigations. 

    The Parisi


    Peter Halkon provides a highly valuable volume which gives an insight into how and why people lived where they did in Iron Age and Roman Eastern Yorkshire.

    The author explains how the geography of the landscape influenced the peoples of the area, something which is often forgotten in many texts. It explores the rich and distinctive archaeology of Iron Age and Roman Eastern Yorkshire within its landscape setting and assesses the extent of Roman impact on the region. By looking at the initial investigations in the sixteenth century through to the most modern high-tech analysis.

    The book focuses on the Parisi, who were a Celtic tribe which occupied areas of eastern Yorkshire. The boundaries of their territory have not hitherto been clear, but, as recent flood events have shown, old river-tributary routes linked many settlements and archaeological finds and suggest occupation patterns from Scarborough to Brough, the probable site of Petuaria their capital, mentioned in Ptolemy’s Geographica. Situated on a tidal inlet from the Humber, from it they could reach as far as Market Weighton (and nearby Arras) by boat, and through other river systems well into the region.

    He discusses the funerary traditions, such as chariot burial, burials with swords and spearheads, pigs and horses, and burial within square enclosures, appear to link their 'Arras culture' to, for example, the La Tène culture in Europe. In particular there is a link with the Parisii of Gaul. He also discusses the spectacular metalwork finds suggest an advanced culture and the involvement of high-ranking individuals.

    He moves on to consider how the Romans brought a new culture, including literacy. Parisi settlements near water sources and on trade routes attracted them, and Roman towns and farms appear in the landscape alongside and overlying Parisi sites. Agriculture was always important, but iron smelting,and goldsmithing also appear in the archaeological record at this time.

    He finishes by looking at the end of the Romano-British era took, which is a hotly debated topic with a sparsity of information, though evidence of burning, which may be a survival of an old custom, may also mark the coming of the Anglo-Saxons.

    The first single authored book for 35 years to bring together the exciting archaeology of Eastern Yorkshire in the Iron Age and Roman periods. It features a wealth of illustrations including colour plates: hill forts, linear earthwork systems, settlements, chariot burials, landscape and sea level change, Roman settlements, forts, and mosaics.

    This book is outstanding both in terms of its content and accessibility to read. It is an ideal in depth study of the Parisi in Eastern Yorkshire and provides a very good overview of all the finds and features associated with this particular period and area.


    Book: The Parisi

    Author: Peter Halkon

    Review by Joe Medhurst 

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    Sun Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee

    For blues pilgrims, driving across the Hernando De Soto Bridge over the Mississippi River, catching the first site of Memphis, Tennessee marks the half-way point on a journey from Chicago, the 'Blues Capital of the World' down to New Orleans, a place which for African Americans, Chuck Berry once referred to as 'the gateway from freedom'.  In the film Mystery Train, Jim Jarmusch’s two blues pilgrims debate whether their first port of call on arrival in Memphis should be Elvis Presley’s Graceland home or Sam Philip’s legendary Sun Studios.  Yet for me and everyone I’ve visited Memphis with during the course of researching Highway 61, we are at one in agreement, in that the first stop for blues pilgrims should be the National Civil Rights Museum.  The Museum is located at the site of the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was cut down by a snipers’ bullet one early evening in April 1968.   Visitors to the museum are greeted with a scene of 1960’s Americana, complete with the restored symmetry of the Lorraine Motel’s utilitarian façade, its electric tubed signage and two perfectly chromed gas guzzlers with rocket tail fins parked on the motel’s forecourt under the balcony where King died.  Beyond the motel’s façade, the museum introduces visitors to the tensions inherent within an American society grappling with the legacy of a population whose ancestors arrived either to pursue a dream of freedom or were imported as slaves and traded in the markets of Charleston, Savannah, Mobile, Natchez and New Orleans.  A couple of blocks away from the museum one can take a break for a period of reflection over a coffee in another Mystery Train location, the Arcade Restaurant, which claims to be Memphis’s oldest restaurant.  

    The Lorraine Motel, site of Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination, Memphis.

    The National Civil Rights Museum provides a historical compass which serves blues pilgrims as an invaluable guide as they travel further south.  For me visiting the museum was a foundation upon which I was able to make sense of the civil rights history that unfolded on my journey in search of the blues.  Today this is further aided by a growing acknowledgment of the civil rights struggle through State funded tourist initiatives. For instance, at the beginning of 2014, the fifteenth of twenty five Mississippi Freedom Trail markers was officially unveiled in Jackson, the State Capital, commemorating the life of Civil Rights activist C.C. Bryant.   

    For anyone contemplating a blues pilgrimage I strongly recommend two recent films, both of which reinforced for me the strength of America’s civil rights story. The first was Lee Daniel’s The Butler, released in 2013, which cleverly juxtaposes the reactive delivery of legislative reforms at Congressional level with the upward pressure for civil rights from ordinary Americans, in spite of unremitting intimidation and violence directed against those that sought change.  The second film, Steve McQueen’s Twelve Year’s A Slave, based on Solomon’s Northup own story,  for me powerfully depicts what Chuck Berry meant when he referred to the 'gateway from freedom'. 

    Highway 61


    Derek Bright is the author of Highway 61 – Crossroads on the Blues Highway. He is interviewed about his new book at

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    Operation Tabarin


    Stephen Haddelsey will be at Waterstones Trafalgar Square on Monday 16th June from 7-9pm launching his new book, Operation Tabarin: Britain's Secret Wartime Expedition to Antarctica 1944-46

    In 1943, with the German Sixth Army annihilated at Stalingrad and Rommel’s Afrika Korps in full retreat after defeat at El Alamein, Winston Churchill’s War Cabinet met to discuss the opening of a new front. Its battles would be fought not on the beaches of Normandy or in the jungles of Burma but amid the blizzards and glaciers of the Antarctic.

    Based upon contemporary sources, including official reports and the diaries and letters of the participants, Operation Tabarin tells for the first time the story of this, theonly Antarctic expedition to be launched by any of the combatant nations during the Second World War and one of the most curious episodes in what Ernest Shackleton called ‘the white warfare of the south’.

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    Giffords Circus


    Giffords Circus will be at Waterperry Gardens, Wheatly (Oxfordshire) on Friday 20th June signing copies their new book, Giffords Circus: the First Ten Years

    Each summer a small and glamorous part of the 1930s comes back to life, recreating magic from an era long past. Evoking a tradition common in the English countryside before the arrival of radio, cinema and television, since 2000 Giffords Circus has delighted fans from far and wide with good old-fashioned entertainment, complete with acrobats, jugglers, horses, magic, puppeteers, dancers and comedy. Lavishly illustrated with a wealth of stunning colour photographs, Giffords Circus goes behind the scenes at the not-so-big top, to show how the magic and mystery are created. 

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    The Wartime Housewife


    Biff Raven-Hill will be at Waterstones, Kettering on Saturday 26th June signing copies of her book, Wartime Housewife: A No-Nonsense Handbook for Modern Families

    The Wartime Housewife will bring old fashioned values and skills to our very modern world! In this book, she shares recipes and tips on budgeting, repairing things, mending and scavenging; ideas for the school holidays, outings, gardening, DIY, sewing and craft; and anything else that might prove useful in your daily life. The Wartime Housewife knows only too well what it is like to manage on a tight budget and, by following her way, you too can learn to make the very best of what you have, as well as seeing the value in what is around you and making the most of it. Written with sharp wit and illustrated with vintage photographs, Wartime Housewife is the perfect guide to navigating gracefully the rigours of modern life. 

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