Historyland’s Top Five History Books from 2018

Once more good people, books flooded my reading list last year in such quantities that at times I found myself swimming in them. In total I think I read one, maybe two books that was not related to research or that I had not been asked to review. My undying thanks goes out to all the wonderful author’s and publicists who have given me the opportunity to indulge in what I love to do. So now I present my five favourite history books from 2017, there’s no particular order here but here they are in the order they were posted.

Isabella of Castile. Giles Tremlett.
‘For its blend of grandeur, cruelty, drama and sheer unrepentant passion nothing can match the history of the Spanish Empire. And it all started with a young strawberry blond Castilian girl named Isabella. This wonderfully produced book will engross you to the very finish’.

The Late Lord. Jacqueline Reiter.
‘The Late Lord is a confident, elegantly written biography, rooted in iron clad fact, rarely ever straying from what cannot be substantiated. I think it also brings to the fore the wider strategy Britain adopted to defeat France. Brilliantly highlighting, at the same time, the life of a man who represents a substrata of British statesmen and aristocrats during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. This book does much to retake lost ground, questioning what has been taken for granted, and bringing a much needed spotlight of unbiased scholarship to a fascinating and tragic life.’

Time Traveller’s Guide to Restoration Britain. Ian Mortimer.
‘Ian Mortimer’s Books are so brilliant. Not because they bring the past back to life, but because they prove that there was once life in the past … The Time Traveller’s Guide to Restoration Britain maintains the high standard of the series, with Mortimer’s usual verve and humour. An eye opening tour that thoughtfully opens up, not a world lost, but a world gone by’.

Koh I Noor. William Dalrymple and Anita Anand.
‘A book that shines in its ability to string together thousands of years of history, involving politics, war, personalities and rivalries into a fluid tale. In many ways parting the mists of myth that surround the diamond. A highly readable, exciting and poignant work, that cleverly tells the history of the diamond and at the same time using it as a vehicle to tell the history of India’.

Tartan Turban. John Keay.
‘This … is a story that is worthy of motion picture treatment. Few lives could have been so heroically flawed and so madly eccentric or so deserving of notice, but at the same time it was a life played in a sort of gaudy, inglorious, undertone, because Gardiner never stepped fully into the limelight in his own lifetime. Happily we now have John Keay’s book to bring this fascinating character back into focus’.

Happy reading in 2018 everyone.

A view of Florence and the nature of History.

This is the find of the week for me, something I’ve not seen before that I suddenly noticed adorning a book jacket. A view of Florence c1490, painted I hope by the anonymous gentlemen pictured in it. It’s amazing what art can do. Today I was feeling pretty humdrum, nothing much to stir the juices, then two or three hours ago I caught a glimpse of this and suddenly everything went into warp drive. This little post is the result.

A View of Florence.

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Ask me about 1066: The Answers part 3.

After a delay which I could put down to factors beyond my control, but instead will attribute to seeing something shiny, this video has been unnecessarily delayed but hurrah! At last I have posted by latest 1066 Q&A vid, I’d love for you to like, comment and favourite, I’d love it even more if you subscribed to my channel but no pressure, I’m easy going like that, wether 10 or 10,000 people watch it. (But please, please, please do).


Book Review: British Redcoat vs French Fusilier by Stuart Reid


Publisher: Osprey Publishing (24 Mar. 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1472812433
ISBN-13: 978-1472812438

The Combat series is fast becoming one of Osprey’s strongest assets as it bridges the gap between warrior, men at arms, elite and campaign, being a fair blend of them all. It fits in neatly with the spirit of the other lines the publisher has produced over the years. Bringing an in depth look at a specific point, and in addition “Versus” as it is also called, allows enthusiasts to actually investigate the age old “who would win” conversation.

This book examines the experiences of British and French regular soldiers during the French and Indian War 1755-1763. Essentially this is the story less told in the Last of the Mohicans, that of the red and white coats who formed the nucleus around which the more famous Rangers, Couriers du Bois, Indians and light infantry units were formed around.

Therefore bush warfare is not investigated here, rather it is the set piece battle in the open that the author, Stuart Reid looks at. At that immediately focuses the scope to a short period between 1759 and 1760 that nevertheless saw the little studied Battle of Fort Niagara, the legendary Battle of Quebec and the often overlooked Battle of St Foie.

These three battles don’t particularly reveal anything greatly striking about how conventional forces engaged each other in the 18th century. Rather they highlight some of the differences and challenges that regular troops, not trained for bush warfare, faced in North America. The French had to adapt set battle plans regarding columns to accommodate much smaller armies, they also had to make allowance for a large amount of militia being attached to regular battalions. The British were mostly refining their musketry, and did very little different, except in this sphere.

Both armies proved themselves to be incredibly flexible of course, but what the book actually revealed to me is a distinct lack on the part of field commanders, especially on the French side, which is telling, and how when push came to shove it was often down to battalion level officers to do the right thing. The lack of the horse in these campaigns would prove a distinct handicap to communications.

Maps and images, well chosen and properly accompanied by illustrative text, accompany every Osprey book, as do original paintings. Combat offers a look at both types of soldier, plus a split screen page were the same event is observed from both sides, and a traditional full page spread by Peter Dennis. As per usual with this artist, these illustrations are action packed, and very colourful. In the artist’s brief Reid must have stressed that Dennis pose the British Redcoat leaning forwards into the shot, which gives him a slightly strange look but highlights the sort of detail you can expect.

In other combat titles, a theme is used where either the same regiment, or the same soldier is used multiple times to allow a go pro “point of view” read. Here Reid’s combat analysis is based on the testimonies of a greater range of participants, which gives a more conventional “birds eye view” to the actions than is usual in some of the other ones, nevertheless it is an excellent short overview of linear fighting in America and highlights some interesting aspects of the war, showing how the two sides attitudes adapted to try and gain supremacy in Canada.