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Review: Volume 1 - Biography

Review: Volume 1 - Biography


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Charles Hudson VC was one of the twentieth century's outstanding fighting soldiers. His military career through two world wars and in Russia in 1919 earned him a host of medals. He was also a man of deep feeling, an accomplished poet and, in many ways, a rebel. In this compelling biography, the author skilfully interweaves his own narrative insight with his father's wartime journals and other unpublished material. The narrative includes detailed personal descriptions of the Battle of the Somme and other actions. It recounts the authoress Vera Brittain's bitter reaction to the death of her brother Edward when under Hudson's command in Italy in 1918 and tells how Hudson, out of compassion for her feelings, did not reveal the truth until he met her in 1934. It tells of the extraordinary affair in the summer of 1940, when the Secretary of State for War, Anthony Eden, asked a meeting of senior army commanders in the then beleaguered Britain whether, in the event of a successful German invasion, their soldiers would agree to be evacuated to Canada or whether they would insist on going home to support their families. The author examines Hudson's motivation in both wars and delves deeply into his complex, and highly courageous, character.

Born in 1904, Brandt played a major role in the first mass killing programme of the Third Reich, the so called 'euthanasia' programme. As Reich Commissioner for Health and Sanitation, Karl Brandt became the highest medical authority in the Nazi regime; he initiated experiments on concentration camps inmates and was eventually put in charge of biological and chemical warfare. How was it that a rational, highly cultured, literate, young professional could come to be responsible for mass murder and criminal human experiments on a previously unimaginable scale? In this riveting biography, Ulf Schmidt explores in detail that Brandt belonged to a generation of a young 'expert elite', who in the 1930s and 1940s were willing, and empowered, to support and conceive an oppressive, militarist, and racist government policy, and ultimately turn its exterminatory potential into reality. Through a critical biography of Brandt, Schmidt re-evaluates the system of communication at the centre of Hitler's regime. The book extends our understanding of the culture of detachment between a regime that was geared towards total destruction, and a government that was almost totally removed from its people.

One of the greatest medieval warriors Harald Sigurdsson, nicknamed Hardrada (Harold the Ruthless or hard ruler) fell in battle in an attempt to snatch the crown of England. The spectacular and heroic career which ended at Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire on 25 September 1066 had taken Harald from Norway to Russia and Constantinople and saw him gain a kingdom by force and determination rather than right or inheritance. He was one of the most feared rulers in Europe and was first and foremost a professional soldier, who acquired great wealth by plunder and showed no mercy to those he conquered. "Harald Hardrada: The Warrior's Way" reconstructs a military career spanning three and a half decades and involving encounters with an extraordinary range of allies and enemies in sea-fights and land battles, sieges and viking raids across a variety of theatres of war. John Marsden's superbly researched and powerfully written account takes us from the lands of the Norsemen to Byzantium and the Crusades and makes clear how England moved decisively from three hundred years of exposure to the Scandinavian orbit to a stronger identification with continental Europe following the Norman invasion.

This biography of Lord Palmerston was published in 1892 by John Campbell, better known by his title of Marquis of Lorne (and later the ninth Duke of Argyll). It details the life and work of this great British statesman, who held government positions almost continuously from 1807 until his death in 1865, serving twice as prime minister during this time. Using the wealth of correspondence left behind by Palmerston, both official and private, the author paints a portrait of a man whose beliefs and opinions moulded his sense of duty, a duty which was clearly expressed in his public actions. This fascinating study covers Palmerston's early years and education, his entrance into public life, the defining period spent in the Foreign Office, as well as his two terms as prime minister.

"The Right Honourable William Ewart Gladstone" is an insightful biography of this great man of nineteenth-century British politics, written in 1891 from the unparalleled stance of his contemporary acquaintance, George Russell. The author presents a clear, chronological account of the events that had, thus far, taken place in Gladstone's life, from his childhood, education and early political influences through to his roles as leader of the Liberal Party and prime minister in three governments. He reveals the moral authority Gladstone stamped upon politics during his career through reforms which affected almost every sphere of life at the time. Coupled with a unique insight into the true character of Gladstone as a man, this valuable biography provides a complete portrait of one of the greatest statesman in British history.

Craig Nelson's rich and vivid biography does justice to one of of the world's greatest thinkers, bringing him to life against the dramatic backdrop of the Revolutionary era and the Age of Enlightenment that he helped to shape. Nelson traces Paine's dramatic path from his years as a struggling London mechanic to his journey after fortune in the New World; from his early pamphleteering to his heroism as the voice of revolution on two continents; and from his miraculous escape from execution in Paris to his final years in America.

Elizabeth Fry, mother of eleven children and a Quaker minister, is today seen as one of the most influential and enigmatic women in English history. Dismayed by the terrible prison conditions in the early nineteenth century, Fry drew the world's attention to the plight of incarcerated women, and became a living legend. A symbol of saintliness and virtue, 'Betsy' Fry was described in parliament as 'the genius of good'. Yet, during her lifetime this remarkable woman aroused hostility as well as admiration. Quakers found her 'worldliness' disquieting; not all of her fellow penal reformers approved of her unorthodox ways and her family felt neglected. As for Betsy herself, she was tortured throughout her life by self-doubt and anxiety and torn between the demands of her family, her religion and her own attraction to the 'high life'. June Rose's classic biography, based on Elizabeth Fry's private journals, reveals the 'saint' as she really was. She removes Fry from her pedestal and reawakens our interest in this complex, contradictory personality who defied the conventions of her age to fulfil her destiny.

Beautiful and talented, versatile and charismatic, Elizabeth Robins was one of the foremost actresses of her day. Yet, this enduring character was also an active and lifelong feminist, and her life as a suffragette saw her working alongside the Pankhursts in the Women's and Social and Political Union. A prolific novelist and playwright, her play "Votes for Women!" changed the nature of theatre by instigating suffrage drama. She became so well known for portraying characters from Ibsen's plays that she is credited with bringing the playwright's work to prominence. Born in America during the Civil War, Elizabeth nevertheless made her home in England, where she became acquainted with Oscar Wilde, Virginia and Leonard Woolf and Henry James. Oscar Wilde introduced her to the London stage, and before long she had become one of the most popular actresses in London with an assured entry into London's leading artistic and political circles. Encountering heartbreak and solitude (Elizabeth's husband George Park drowned himself in 1887), this remarkable actress became one of the most fascinating characters of the fin de siecle world. In this intriguing biography, Angela John examines Elizabeth's historical identity and, drawing extensively on her diaries, letters and reviews, provides a fascinating study of the social culture surrounding a woman who lived a life in the spotlight.

Thomas Hodgkin (1910-1982) was an intriguing figure: public schoolboy, Oxford student, colonial official, Marxist, dissident and Oxford don. He left the colonial office after becoming convinced that Britain was not respecting the Palestinians. He travelled extensively in Africa and became one of the founders of the new discipline of African Studies, writing African Political Parties and Nationalism in Colonial Africa. His Vietnam: The Revolutionary Path was written in the midst of the American intervention. An unconventional scholar, he met many prominent political figures - Frantz Fanon, Che Guevara and Kwame Nkrumah among them. Wolfers records the successes and strengths as well as failures and weaknesses, candidly telling the story of Hodgkin's unusual 'marriage of three'. Drawing on an immense store of unpublished material in the Hodgkin family papers, Michael Wolfers provides the first detailed biography of Thomas Hodgkin - a remarkable human being and intellectual.


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