Who started the First World War? The Germans right? Well, it depends who you ask and when you ask the question. This book is a history book about theWho started the First World War? The Germans right? Well, it depends who you ask and when you ask the question. This book is a history book about the writing and rewriting of history as it reflects the political mood in Europe and the US. It traces how the arguments and controversies around who was the most to blame for the war and sets them in the political framework of the times. The issues around Versailles meant that many historians set out to prove that the heavy price demanded by the victors were based upon wrong assumptions about who should be held responsible for the war. War guilt and the perceived unfairness of Versailles continued to drive politics in Germany and contributed, perhaps, to the rise of National Socialism. The uneasy consensus post WW2 that no one was really to blame and that Europe had slithered into war was blown apart in the 60s by Fischer who used primary sources to come to the conclusion that imperial Germany was the instigator of the war. The 60s were all about challenging orthodoxy and Fischer's work caused a storm of controversy. As far as some, mainly younger historians were concerned, war guilt for 14-18 was unfinished business. It was suggested that if the 'truth' has been faced earlier before 1939, then Hitler would not have found such fertile ground for Nazism. For conservative historians for whom WW1 was a memory not just history and for those historians who sought to portray Nazism as an aberration, the Hamburg school was heretical as it suggested that aggression and the seeking of world domination was an integral part of German state policy pre 1945. Mombauer traces how Fischer's version becomes accepted in part but that historians continue to seek excuses and scapegoats throughout the rest of the 20th century. This book is a fascinating insight into how history is anything but objective and must always be considered in the context in which it was written. It is immensely readable and suitable for both history students and the more casual reader with an interest in how history is written and why, as well as those who have a general interest in WW1....more
Barbara Emerson tells the story of the notorious King of the Belgians, who used his position and influence to build a personal empire in Africa that cBarbara Emerson tells the story of the notorious King of the Belgians, who used his position and influence to build a personal empire in Africa that cost the lives of millions of Africans.
While accepting that this was a biography of the man and therefore was going to talk about more than the Congo, Barbara Emerson is oddly reticent about the events there while devoting many pages to Leopold's Nile ambitions. She tells us many times that he was intelligent, well informed, controlling and hands on in all his projects and yet takes at face value his declarations that he knew nothing about the horrors unfolding in his personal domain. Several pages on the 'war' on the Arab slave trade fails to reveal the abuses of Africans forced into porterage and service for the 'white' masters and his appointment of a notorious slave trader as a provincial governor are glossed over as expedient.
Emerson wants us to believe that this able, well informed king of the capitalists had no idea that people were being worked to death to fill the coffers. She looks for excuses for his callousness from unhappy childhood, to a lack of love (primly blaming his wife at one point) while extolling his vitality and capacity for hard work which did not extend to knowing how so much rubber and ivory was being produced.
On the plus side, there is much useful background on Belgium's place in the scheme of things as 'the Great Powers' vied for land and riches, and it traces in detail the diplomatic machinations of Europe's ruling classes at the end of the 19th century. Emerson follows the money quite carefully but is detached about the consequences of the king's unbridled capitalism and obsessive imperialism for the majority of poor Belgians (they should have been grateful for all the public works, it seems, despite being amongst the poorest workers in Europe) and the African populations who suffered.
A surprisingly enjoyable yarn where a mysterious illness profoundly changes a whole town and how their small town society has to adapt to new forms ofA surprisingly enjoyable yarn where a mysterious illness profoundly changes a whole town and how their small town society has to adapt to new forms of being. A quick read but raises some interesting questions as good science fiction should....more
Enjoyable pastiche of Agatha Christie. Lightweight but with a solid historical background and lots of splendid stereotypical characters borrowed fromEnjoyable pastiche of Agatha Christie. Lightweight but with a solid historical background and lots of splendid stereotypical characters borrowed from adventure and mystery novels of the Victorian era....more
I'm a fan of Rendall's odd, creepy little tales of not very everyday people but this one was not one of her best efforts. I found some of the detail iI'm a fan of Rendall's odd, creepy little tales of not very everyday people but this one was not one of her best efforts. I found some of the detail irritating and her treatment of the 'underclass' quite unconvincing, they all seemed to rely on rather stereotypical characterisation. ...more
A young tourist loses her life during a Swedish summer holiday. The investigation to find her killer lasts through a cold grey Swedish winter. PeopleA young tourist loses her life during a Swedish summer holiday. The investigation to find her killer lasts through a cold grey Swedish winter. People are cold and have colds. They stand around on freezing street corners to catch the murderer. Things move slowly, grind to a halt, lurch forward with a lucky break yet when the denouement comes, it's quick, frightening and visceral. Then everyone goes home.
This was my first meeting with Martin Beck. It will not be my last.......more
Highly enjoyable and very funny (especially if you are a history geek) comic novel that satirises beautifully the Edwardian craze for cycling as wellHighly enjoyable and very funny (especially if you are a history geek) comic novel that satirises beautifully the Edwardian craze for cycling as well as giving a fascinating insight into how the English viewed the new young state of Germany. The book is really a series of sketches and observations, some like the throwing things at cats and the German attitude to grass are laugh out loud moments, others strike you as wry and strangely modern observations on such things as young children's habit of getting up at the crack of dawn or the limitations of journalism. I also learned after whom the cartoon cat and mouse Tom and Jerry were named thanks to a line in this book.
Near the end, there is a chill for the modern reader on reading JKJ's warning about the direction Germany could go in if they were governed by bad rulers.
A good piece of Edwardian comic writing well worth whiling away an afternoon reading seated in a deckchair with a glass of cold lemonade....more
An accidental re-read that reveals the book's meditation on growing old. Loneliness, loss of mental capacity and the effects of caring for the old onAn accidental re-read that reveals the book's meditation on growing old. Loneliness, loss of mental capacity and the effects of caring for the old on their families are explored in this superior police procedural. ...more