The Secret Lives of Colour
By Kassia St Clair
THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER'A mind-expanding tour of the world without leaving your paintbox. Every colour has a story, and here are some of the most alluring, alarming, and thought-provoking. Very hard painting the hallway magnolia after this inspiring primer.' Simon GarfieldThe Secret Lives of Colour tells the unusual stories of the 75 most fascinating shades, dyes and hues. From blonde to ginger, the brown that changed the way battles were fought to the white that protected against the plague, Picasso's blue period to the charcoal on the cave walls at Lascaux, acid yellow to kelly green, and from scarlet women to imperial purple, these surprising stories run like a bright thread throughout history. In this book Kassia St Clair has turned her lifelong obsession with colours and where they come from (whether Van Gogh's chrome yellow sunflowers or punk's fluorescent pink) into a unique study of human civilisation. Across fashion and politics, art and war, The Secret Lives of Colour tell the vivid story of our culture.
Street of Eternal Happiness
By Rob Schmitz
'Enjoyable and illuminating . . . Rob Schmitz writes with great affection' GuardianShanghai: a global city in the midst of a renaissance, where dreamers arrive each day to partake in a mad torrent of capital, ideas and opportunity. Rob Schmitz is one of them. He immerses himself in his neighbourhood, forging relationships with ordinary people who see a brighter future in the city's sleek skyline. There's Zhao, whose path from factory floor to shopkeeper is sidetracked by her desperate measures to ensure a better future for her sons. Down the street lives Auntie Fu, a fervent capitalist forever trying to improve herself while keeping her sceptical husband at bay. Up a flight of stairs, CK sets up shop to attract young dreamers like himself, but learns he's searching for something more. As Schmitz becomes increasingly involved in their lives, he makes surprising discoveries which untangle the complexities of modern China: a mysterious box of letters that serve as a portal to a family's - and country's - dark past, and an abandoned neighbourhood where fates have been violently altered by unchecked power and greed. A tale of twenty-first-century China, Street of Eternal Happiness profiles China's distinct generations through multifaceted characters who illuminate an enlightening, humorous and, at times, heartrending journey along the winding road to the Chinese dream. Each story adds another layer of humanity to modern China, a tapestry also woven with Schmitz's insight as a foreign correspondent. The result is an intimate and surprising portrait that dispenses with the tired stereotypes of a country we think we know, immersing us instead in the vivid stories of the people who make up one of the world's most captivating cities.
By John Julius Norwich
'Sicily is the key to everything' Johann Wolfgang von Goethe The author of the classic book on Venice turns his sights to Sicily in this beautiful book full of maps and colour photographs.'I discovered Sicily almost by mistake . . .We drove as far as Naples, then put the car on the night ferry to Palermo. There was a degree of excitement in the early hours when we passed Stromboli, emitting a rich glow every half-minute or so like an ogre puffing on an immense cigar; and a few hours later, in the early morning sunshine, we sailed into the Conca d'Oro, the Golden Shell, in which the city lies. Apart from the beauty of the setting, I remember being instantly struck by a change in atmosphere. The Strait of Messina is only a couple of miles across and the island is politically part of Italy; yet somehow one feels that one has entered a different world . . . This book is, among other things, an attempt to analyse why this should be.' The stepping stone between Europe and Africa, the gateway between the East and the West, at once a stronghold, clearing-house and observation post, Sicily has been invaded and fought over by Phoenicians and Greeks, Carthaginians and Romans, Goths and Byzantines, Arabs and Normans, Germans, Spaniards and the French for thousands of years. It has belonged to them all - and yet has properly been part of none. John Julius Norwich was inspired to become a writer by his first visit in 1961 and this book is the result of a fascination that has lasted over half a century. In tracing its dark story, he attempts to explain the enigma that lies at the heart of the Mediterranean's largest island. This vivid short history covers everything from erupting volcanoes to the assassination of Byzantine emperors, from Nelson's affair with Emma Hamilton to Garibaldi and the rise of the Mafia. Taking in the key buildings and towns, and packed with fascinating stories and unforgettable characters, Sicily is the book he was born to write.
Sorry! The English and Their Manners
By Henry Hitchings
Most of us know a bit about what passes for good manners - holding doors open, sending thank-you notes, no elbows on the table. We certainly know bad manners when we see them. But where has this patchwork of beliefs and behaviours come from? How did manners develop? How do they change? And why do they matter so much to us? In examining our manners, Henry Hitchings delves into the English character and investigates our notions of Englishness.Sorry! presents an amusing, illuminating and quirky audit of English manners. From basic table manners to appropriate sexual conduct, via hospitality, chivalry, faux pas and online etiquette, Hitchings traces the history of our country's customs and courtesies. Putting under the microscope some of our most astute observers of humanity, including Jane Austen and Samuel Pepys, he uses their lives and writings to pry open the often downright peculiar secrets of the English character. Hitchings' blend of history, anthropology and personal journey helps us understand our bizarre and contested cultural baggage - and ourselves.
By Charles Allen
This text retells the story of a brotherhood of young men who together laid claim to one of the most notorious frontiers in the world: India's north-west frontier, which in the late 1990s forms the volatile boundary between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Known collectively as Henry Lawrence's Young Men, each had distinguished himself in the East India Company's wars in the Punjab in the 1840s before going out to carve out names for themselves as politicals on the frontier. Drawing extensively on the men's diaries, journals and letters, Charles Allen weaves the individual stories of these Soldier Sahibs together with the tale of how they came together to save British India, ending climatically on Delhi Ridge in 1857.
By Justin Pollard
Some of our most intriguing history is missing. Perhaps there has been a conspiracy, a cover-up? Or maybe some stories have been lost, forgotten or were just too embarrassing to talk about at the time? But now they are back, revealed in all their glory: secret passages, events, societies, loves, identities and even dark secrets of the grave. After much sleuthing, Justin Pollard takes us into undisclosed historical waters to discover why the city of Burlington isn't on the map; how 'Agent Pickle' saved the lost treasure of Bonnie Prince Charlie; what Sir Thomas Overbury knew in 1613 that got him murdered with a poisoned enema and how Virginia Woolf sweet-talked her way aboard HMS Dreadnought dressed as Abyssinian Prince.Secret Britain also reveals the tragic love story behind the Rolls Royce mascot; how agent Garbo managed to get an MBE and an Iron Cross; the sinister properties of the Hand of Glory; the lost smuggling ship Peggy; the Mystery Runner of Nos Galan; the extraordinary history of the Fairy Flag of Dunvegan; London's only Nazi war memorial and the secrets of the WWII Monopoly board.
The Secret Life of Words
By Henry Hitchings
Communication is essential to our lives, but how often do we stop to think about where the words we use have come from? Have you ever thought about which words in English have been borrowed from Arabic, French or Dutch? Try admiral, landscape and marmalade just for starters. The Secret Life of Words is a wide-ranging account not only of the history of English, but also of how words witness history, reflect social change and remind us of our turbulent past. Henry Hitchings delves into our promiscuous language and reveals how and why it has absorbed words from more than 350 other languages many originating from the most unlikely of places, such as shampoo from Hindi and kiosk from Turkish.From the Norman Conquest to the present day, Hitchings narrates the story of English as an archive of our human experience and uncovers the secrets behind everyday words. This is a celebration of our language; after reading it, you will never again take the words we use for granted.
The Slave Ship
By Marcus Rediker
The slave ship was the instrument of history's greatest forced migration and a key to the origins and growth of global capitalism, yet much of its history remains unknown. Marcus Rediker uncovers the extraordinary human drama that played out on this world-changing vessel. Drawing on thirty years of maritime research, he demonstrates the truth of W.E.B DuBois's observation: the slave trade was the most magnificent drama in the last thousand years of human history. The Slave Ship focuses on the so-called golden age of the slave trade, the period of 1700-1808, when more than six million people were transported out of Africa, most of them on British and American ships, across the Atlantic, to slave on New World plantations. Marcus Rediker tells poignant tales of life, death and terror as he captures the shipboard drama of brutal discipline and fierce resistance. He reconstructs the lives of individuals, such as John Newton, James Field Stanfield and Olaudah Equiano, and the collective experience of captains, sailors and slaves. Mindful of the haunting legacies of race, class and slavery, Marcus Rediker offers a vivid and unforgettable portrait of the ghost ship of our modern consciousness.
The Seven Lives of John Murray
By Humphrey Carpenter
From the burning of Byron's memoirs, Jane Austen's clipped businesslike manner, and the lucrative controversy caused by the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species, through to the discovery of the new young poet John Betjeman, the name John Murray has for more than two hundred years been synonymous with challenging, intelligent and progressive publishing. From its birth in 1768, when the first John Murray of Edinburgh came down to London, each of its seven leaders has made his own contribution to the dissemination of literature and the understanding of the world. One became Byron's publisher and confidante; another began the revolutionary series of Murray handbooks which transformed world travel in the early years of the railways; a third broke controversial new ground with the publication of Queen Victoria's letters. So the tradition progressed to the end of the twentieth century, and a list of literary giants including Patrick Leigh Fermor, Osbert Lancaster, Fransoise Sagan and Poet Laureate, John Betjeman. Written in Carpenter's rollicking and iconoclastic style, it is an affectionate and vibrant account of the longest-surviving publishing house in the world.
By Leo McKinstry
In June 1940, the German Army had brought the rest of Europe to its knees. 'Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world will move forward into broad, sunlit uplands,' said Churchill. The future of Europe depended on Britain. A self-confident Herman Göring thought that it would be only a matter of weeks before his planes had forced Britain to surrender. The courage, resourcefulness and brilliant organisation of the RAF were to prove him wrong. By late September 1940, the RAF had proved invincible, thanks to the Vickers Supermarine Spitfire. It exceeded anything that any other air force possessed. RJ Mitchell, a shy and almost painfully modest engineer, was the genius behind the Spitfire. On the 5th March 1936, following its successful maiden flight, a legend was born. Prize-winning historian Leo McKinstry's vivid history of the Spitfire brings together a rich cast of characters and first hand testimonies. It is a tale full of drama and heroism, of glory and tragedy, with the main protagonist the remarkable plane that played a crucial role in saving Britain.
By Martin Gilbert
The Battle of the Somme, fought between July and November 1916, was among the bloodiest conflicts of all time. The aim was to end the stalemate on the Western Front - the result was carnage. In a total of just over a hundred days of fighting, the death toll reached 310,459. Half the bodies were never recovered. At the close of the battle, the British and French forces had not even reached the line they set themselves for the first day. Yet, despite its horrific destruction, the fighting at the Somme was characterised by incredible individual bravery. In commemoration of the 90th anniversary of the battle, Martin Gilbert, one of Britain's most distinguished historians, graphically recreates the tragedy. He interweaves individual stories, wartime documents, letters and poetry in a deeply moving, succinct narrative. From gripping descriptions of struggles on the battlefield to poignant evocations of the memorials and cemeteries that stand there today, this is a definitive guide to the Somme. It is a story of unparalleled folly and heroism, from which, as it unfolds, there emerge deep implications that are shared by all wars.
By Stephen Walker
August 6th, 1945, 9.15 a.m. Six miles above Hiroshima, the bombardier of the Enola Gay releases an atomic bomb into the freezing skies. Seconds later, the city is obliterated in a single, monumental blast of fire. The destruction is immediate and catastrophic, as if a small sun had suddenly exploded. Tens of thousands of people are instantly annihilated. In that moment, the world will never be the same again. Combining a rich array of interviews with gripping storytelling, Stephen Walker's Shockwave presents an extraordinary and unforgettably moving portrait of one of the defining events of the twentieth century.
Salaam Brick Lane
By Tarquin Hall
After ten years living abroad, Tarquin Hall wanted to return to his native London. Lured by his nostalgia for a leafy suburban childhood spent in south-west London, he returned with his Indian-born, American fiance in tow. But, priced out of the housing market, they found themselves living not in a townhouse, oozing Victorian charm, but in a squalid attic above a Bangladeshi sweatshop on London's Brick Lane. A grimy skylight provided the only window on their new world: a filthy, noisy street where drug dealers and prostitutes peddled their wares and tramps urinated on the pavements. At night, traffic lights lit up the ceiling and police sirens wailed into the early hours.Yet, as Hall got to know Brick Lane, he discovered beneath its unlovely surface an inner world where immigrants and asylum seekers struggle to better themselves and dream of escape. Salaam Brick Lane is a journey of discovery by an outsider in his own native city. It offers an explicit glimpse of the underbelly of London's most infamous quarter, the real-life world of Monica Ali's bestselling novel.
Setting the East Ablaze
By Peter Hopkirk
By Giles Milton
In 1611 an astonishing letter arrived at the East India Trading Company in London after a tortuous seven-year journey. Englishman William Adams was one of only twenty-four survivors of a fleet of ships bound for Asia, and he had washed up in the forbidden land of Japan.The traders were even more amazed to learn that, rather than be horrified by this strange country, Adams had fallen in love with the barbaric splendour of Japan - and decided to settle. He had forged a close friendship with the ruthless Shogun, taken a Japanese wife and sired a new, mixed-race family.Adams' letter fired up the London merchants to plan a new expedition to the Far East, with designs to trade with the Japanese and use Adams' contacts there to forge new commercial links.SAMURAI WILLIAM brilliantly illuminates a world whose horizons were rapidly expanding eastwards.