In our new history books section, we keep track of some of the books coming out by Five Books interviewees and frequently recommended authors. We're also scanning dozens of catalogues and highlighting interesting new history books being published that come to our attention. It's impossible to cover all aspects of history, so these choices inevitably reflect personal preferences and quirks, but do email us (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you see a particularly glaring omission on our list!
It's a golden age for historical writing, as well-researched and sometimes quite specialist books by historians are written in an engaging style for a broad audience. Finding an enthusiastic audience among readers then encourages publishers to publish more of the same, in what will hopefully be a virtuous circle.
From the great Latin poet Ovid, to the poet of the 17th century English republic, John Milton. From the Jews in Reformation Europe, to the world of the Aztecs across the centuries. From the life of Ludwig van Beethoven to the importance of language, in all its varieties, to studying history. Paul Lay, editor of History Today, recommends his favourite history books of 2020.
The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper
by Hallie Rubenhold
The Boundless Sea: A Human History of the Oceans
by David Abulafia
Chaucer: A European Life
by Marion Turner
A History of the Bible
by John Barton
A Fistful of Shells: West Africa from the Rise of the Slave Trade to the Age of Revolution
by Toby Green
Cricket Country: An Indian Odyssey in the Age of Empire
by Prashant Kidambi
If you’re looking for the best history books published this past year, the annual Wolfson History Prize is a great place to start. Each year, the judges pick out outstanding books that are both originally researched and readable. Historian and Wolfson judge Richard Evans talks us through the six history books that made the 2020 shortlist.