Genocide isn’t the preserve of fanatics and racist thugs – it’s part of human nature, says Stanford historian Norman Naimark. He tells us how genocide happens, who denies it, where it could return, and the best books to read about it.
At Home in Renaissance Italy
by Marta Ajmar-Wollheim and Flora Dennis (editors)
by Giovanni della Casa
by Lisa Jardine and Jerry Brotton
Empire of Great Brightness
by Craig Clunas
Dutch New York, Between East and West
by Deborah L Krohn, Marybeth De Filippis and Peter Miller
New scholarship is opening up different ways of looking at the Renaissance. The historian explains what we should read to gain a wider appreciation of this key period in European history
The 1930s are hugely underrated as a decade, says the historian. She tells us about the social and design revolutions that made the thirties much more than just a prelude to war
He was the Machiavelli of English kings – a chancer and usurper with a highly dubious claim to the throne. But Henry VII ruled for 25 years and founded a dynasty. His biographer tells us how he did it
The US has repeatedly misdiagnosed the war in Afghanistan. Former soldier, Andrew Exum, tells us about flawed policy, unhappy outcomes and what could and should have been different.
The Middle East scholar tells us what to read if we’re to understand where upheaval in the Arab world came from, and where it’s going.
India’s first-ever consul general to Karachi says Pakistan is not a failed state. He is convinced that its middle class will save it from the Taliban, and that it can engage with India and set aside historic hostilities.
The professor of history at Cambridge asks why Oliver Cromwell remains Britain's most controversial ruler, and what the morbid story of Cromwell's head after his death has to say about British history.
Hugo Vickers talks about what makes a good royal biography, and how he helped Helena Bonham Carter prepare for her film role as the Queen Mother
Bestselling novelist and historian Stella Tillyard says the 19th century Regency era was, apart from the duels and empire-line dresses, much like our own – a time of war and economic uncertainty.
Fear is a great examiner of one’s character, argues the World War II veteran and eminent historian of war, Sir Michael Howard. He recommends the best books on war, two on strategy and three on what it’s actually like for soldiers and commanding officers.
The story and tragedy of the Kennedys is so incredible you don’t need to turn to fiction, says the biographer of Joseph P Kennedy, David Nasaw. He talks us through the Kennedy generations.
Rory McTurk, Emeritus Professor of Icelandic Studies at the University of Leeds, introduces us to the landscape of old Icelandic culture, addressing the Icelandic sagas, medieval Nordic history, and links to Anglo-Saxon England.
The Cambridge Egyptologist discusses his favourite works on Ancient Egypt, from the first book he bought on the subject to an authoritative coffee-table tome.
Andy Beckett’s choices point to a welcome reassessment of the 1970s, that much-maligned ‘gothic’ decade, and sweep from London to Los Angeles by way of Malcolm Bradbury and John le Carré
Hitler has a reputation as the incarnation of evil. But, as British historian Michael Burleigh points out in selecting the best books on the German dictator, Hitler was a bizarre and strangely empty character who never did a proper day’s work in his life, as well as a raving fantasist on to whom Germans were able to project their longings.
Andreas Wesemann says WWI reparations did not fuel the rise of Nazism – Germany hardly paid any. He tells the true story of the rise of fascism
In military terms, the traditional view is that the rest of the world is struggling to catch up with the West, says Professor Jeremy Black. But, as some of his book choices reveal, this is historically inaccurate
Professor James Dunkerley at Queen Mary’s, University of London, says that ‘Latin America’ is a term that only dates from the 1830s. He chooses five books that illuminate the cultural and political history of the continent.
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”
Robert Chandler, one of the best known translators of Russian literature, recommends some of his favourite tales of Soviet Russia. There’s the one about a dog in space and the one about the Soviet café which stocked nothing but champagne and Mars bars…
Yale professor John Lewis Gaddis points to research showing that, contrary to widespread belief, Mao was regularly briefed on the famine he had caused
From the Cold War to the post-9/11 world, Professor Patrick Porter looks at America’s destiny and international function. Grappling with geopolitical questions, he looks at whether America’s flirtations with empire can be reconciled with republican ideals.
The author and historian Richard Wolin explains that French people in the late 1960s were desperate for a utopian political alternative.
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
Princeton professor of Hellenic studies says the 17th-century Mediterranean is fascinating because it was a time when nobody was in charge. And yet, it was possible to have “order without law”
The veteran British journalist and broadcaster on his history reading list. Says Stalingrad was touch and go. Wellington was feared, respected and admired by his men, but he wasn’t loved.
Acknowledged expert on the unresolved conflicts of the South Caucasus selects five books that encapsulate the fragility of the region and the impact of the desperate scramble for the spoils of the Soviet Union
Author and founder of Virago Press decries the absolute silence of the church during the Holocaust, and discusses five books on the “dark and murky side” the French have now “faced up to”
Anthropologist and Afghanistan expert Thomas Barfield gives a panoramic view of Afghanistan, from founding dynasties to the failed central Asian states of today. He picks the best books on Afghanistan.
The Pakistani author and professor describes the past and future of Pakistan, the influences of India, Britain, the US and Islam, via two seminal non-fiction works and three sweeping Pakistani works of fiction
Reading about Russia’s 20th century is like finding another vision of how the world might have been. Francis Spufford, author of Red Plenty, recommends books that tell the story of Russia in the last century — from Soviet science fiction set in capitalist wastelands to Khrushchev as raconteur.
Using examples that range from vaudeville plays to secret societies, Josefowicz paints a colourful picture of the period when, inspired by Napoleon, the French were whipped into an Egyptian frenzy
by David Starkey and Susan Doran
The Faerie Queene
by edited by Thomas P Roche Jr and C Patrick O’Donnell Jr & Edmund Spenser
Translations by Elizabeth I, 1592-98
by Janel Mueller and Joshua Scodel
Rewriting the Renaissance
by Margaret W Ferguson, Maureen Quilligan and Nancy Vickers
Representing Elizabeth in Stuart England
by John A Watkins
University College London professor Helen Hackett selects five books on the Virgin Queen, including one by the monarch herself. “You get a sense of her independence of mind. She does her own thing”
The American writer has an obsession with recording Burma’s vanishing stories before the current regime’s actions result in the rewriting of Burmese history. She chooses five books on the real Burma
Mary Elise Sarotte, holder of the Kravis Chair in Historical Studies at Johns Hopkins, discusses five books on the end of the Cold War and East Germany’s attempts to grapple with its new future post-reunification
Professor at the Institute of Advanced Study views art, literature, politics and war as intimately interconnected and says cultural attitudes directly affect military doctrine. He chooses five books on war & intellect
by Augustine (translated by Maria Boulding)
by Kurt Vonnegut
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
by Michael Henry Heim (translator) & Milan Kundera
A Treatise on the Difference between Temporal and Eternal
by Juan Eusebio Nieremberg
From Whom God Hid Nothing
by Meister Eckhart
Countries do have to come to terms with their own history, and it’s unhealthy that China has not yet come to terms with the Cultural Revolution, argues the West’s leading scholar of the period, Roderick MacFarquhar. He chooses the best five books on the Cultural Revolution.
The bestselling Irish novelist and author of Damage selects five books to help us understand the narrative of Irish history. She argues that “the permanent narrative of victimhood is not quite accurate”
Stanford University classics scholar Adrienne Mayor says a comparison between Mithradates, a deadly enemy of the Roman Empire, and Osama bin Laden, who set his sights on the American Empire, is a tempting one.
The feminist historian and author of History of Women in the Americas shares her book choices and explains why abortion will always remain a flashpoint in the United States.
Leading architectural historian, chooses books on art and culture in the Elizabethan era. From CS Lewis on literature, to the fantastic embroideries at Hardwick Hall, to baked rabbit and more.
A better understanding of Iran starts with a better understanding of the country’s history. Historian Ali Ansari talks us through some of the most influential works about Iranian history available in English.
The author and academic talks about KGB tricks to get American victims of the Great Depression in Russia to take Soviet citizenship. ‘They had to hand over their American passports temporarily and never saw them again’
From the days it was known as Muscovy to the Russian Empire described by the great novelists of the 19th century, historian Andrei Maylunas recommends books that give a feel for the country. Two are works of history, one is notes from a visiting ambassador in the 16th century, two are novels. All are entertaining to read and key to understanding the present.
The senior lecturer in the Department of War Studies, King’s College London, chooses books on the real pioneers of British and American espionage – flawed men who saved lives and made a difference.
British novelist and poet Adam Foulds discusses fading empire in the context of Kenya, including the horrors of British gulags, the Mau Mau uprising, and the social deprivation endured by the Kikuyu.
Journalist and author named Foreign Correspondent and Amnesty Journalist of The Year for 2004 chooses five books on the death of empires – and says that all empires are obsessed with the prospect of their own decline