In the 20th century, Germany suffered defeat in two world wars and withstood two kinds of dictatorship. Yet today it is Europe’s strongest economy. Hester Vaizey, fellow of Clare College, Cambridge, and author of Born in the GDR, selects five brilliant books on a tumultuous century.
Race is a real and powerful force and one he has spent his adult life trying to understand, says Anglo-Nigerian historian, writer and producer, David Olusoga. He talks us through five books on the tragedy of slavery—from the horrors of the gulag, to the plantations of Virginia, to the Islamic slave trade.
A “powerful and aggravating absence of consensus” came to define the Irish political experience, says the historian Richard Bourke. Here he picks the best books for gaining a range of perspectives on Irish history, singling out James Joyce as offering insight into the divergence of nationalist opinion.
The explorer and author of Into the Silence, Wade Davis, tells us that the consequences of the Great War were much more than merely political. He says the war had a noticeable impact on exploration, arts and literature, and modernity itself.
The Belle Epoque combined a preoccupation with the noblesse of the old regime with the seeds for modernism, says the Oxford professor of history. She picks the best books on a golden period in France before the outbreak of World War I.
The Russian revolution was the beginning of the modern age, says award-winning author Roland Chambers. He tells us what Solzhenitsyn imagined Lenin was like, and about the children’s author who led a double life as a spy in Bolshevik Russia.
History books often focus on big political or economic events, wars and leaders. But there’s much to learn from studying the way people lived, and what made the Victorian age both like and unlike our own, as Judith Flanders explains.
Hazareesingh’s book choices include de Gaulle’s “very readable” war diaries. In books of condolences after the leader’s death, people wrote things like, “Goodbye Charles, you were greater than Napoleon”
The historian and author chooses five books on de Gaulle and the Resistance. He says the British tried to veto de Gaulle’s famous 1940 speech from London calling on the French to stand up to German occupation
In the years immediately after World War II, the Holocaust was little studied. That all changed with the publication of Raul Hilberg’s The Destruction of the European Jews. Steven Katz, professor of Jewish Holocaust Studies at Boston University and former Director of the Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies, introduces the best books on the Holocaust.
Robert Service, Professor of Russian Studies at Oxford, when forced to choose between Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin, says Stalin was definitely the worst of the lot. He takes a look at the dynamics of totalitarian Russia, gleaning insights from Thucydides to Orwell.
© Five Books 2018