If in doubt, get a book. History lovers adore books. Some our recommendations are less academic then some of the books that appear on our other booklists, but they do represent outstanding recent books that most history lovers should enjoy. Here are some releases that are worth your history lovers attention. In addition to the standard paper format, some of these books are also available on Kindle, iTunes Books, and Audible.
The Strange Career of William Ellis: The Texas Slave Who Became a Mexican Millionaire by Karl Jacoby (W.W. Norton & Company, 2017)
How did a former slave from Texas named William Ellis, transform himself into a fabulously wealthy Mexican millionaire named Guillermo Elliseo after the Civil War? Historian Martha A. Sandweiss stated that Jacoby’s tale of William Ellis crafts “a powerful narrative about the porous borders of class, race, and national identity in late 19th and early 20th century American life.” Jacoby’s book successfully illuminates both a life of a unique and fascinating American while addressing broader issues of race and the American borderlands. The book was also the recipient of the Ray Allen Billington Prize from the OHA.
The Viking, or more accurately Danish and Norsemen, invasions of England in the 9th century CE (865) helped lead to what ultimately would become the united country of England. Before 865, England was divided into four or sometimes more countries, populated by Angles and Saxons (or Anglo-Saxons). Wales and Cornwall were also occupied by the remaining Britons, who were the pre-Roman population of the British Isles.
These divided lands often fought each other; however, a clear dominant kingdom rarely emerged. In the 860-890s, Alfred of Wessex forged the idea of an England, one that was a united kingdom from Anglo-Saxons. This did not happen in his lifetime but by the reign of his grandson, Æthelstan, it became a reality in 927. In effect, the invasions by the Danes and Norsemen set off a series of events that ultimately led to the unification of England. After the Viking invasion, England would never be seen as having multiple states or crowns.
The guns fell silent on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. Over four years of incredible destruction came to a silent end. For the belligerent Central and Allied Powers the armistice brought tremendous uncertainty. The Kaiser had just been overthrown and a new alliance of Liberals and Socialists announced a democratic regime at Weimar. The other Central Powers had collapsed in disarray and revolution. Russia, out of the war in early 1918 was in the midst of a deepening Civil War. Many of the Allies were exhausted and drained.
The delegates that crafted the treaty that ended the First World War believed that they had brought a lasting peace to Europe. President Wilson believed that the war had made much of the world safe for democracy to spread. However, conflicting goals, the harsh terms of the treaty and Germany’s response to those terms would to the most destructive conflict in world history – World War Two.
Helen Keller (1880–1967) is best known for her triumph over blindness, deafness, and muteness. Rescued from the isolation of her afflictions as a young girl by the Perkins Institute for the Blind teacher Anne Sullivan, Keller learned to understand a basic form of sign language and learned to “feel” and imitate the sound of the human voice. With a world of comprehension and communication opened to her, Keller excelled, graduating cum laude from Radcliffe College, eventually writing books about her life and education under Sullivan, appearing in motion pictures to demonstrate her communication methods, and campaigning for the deaf and blind around the world.
For all of this fame, however, not many know that Keller was also a prominent figure in the American socialist movement: a champion of the working class against industrial oppression, a consistent foe of militarism and imperialism, and a crusader for a better society.
Today, feminism is an ideology/theory that most people fail to fully understand. Feminism has been described as having three separate waves. The first wave of feminism started in the mid-19th Century and culminated with the women’s suffrage movement. Second wave feminism started in the late 1950s moved into the 1980s. Historians and feminist/gender scholars describe today’s feminist theory, ideology and social/political movement as the third wave of feminism. The ‘’second wave’’ of feminism started after the women were forced out of the workplace after end of World War Two and essentially ended with the failure to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. Second-wave feminism splintered after criticism grew that the movement had focused on white women to the the exclusion of everyone else.
The women’s movement before the 1920s was characterized by the suffrage movement that led to women gaining the right to vote. From the 1890s and early part of the 20th century, much of the women’s movement focused on general societal inequalities and, such as poor working and housing conditions, while also focusing on social ills such as alcoholism and prostitution. Black women in the Southwest of the United States, during the 1930s, for instance, joined labor unions such as the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU) to protest poor wages and work environments they had to endure.  Apart from this general social activism and gaining the right to vote, gender-specific topics, including equality in work and pay, were not major focus areas.
In the 1940s, women gained increasing employment as men left overseas to fight in World War II. In fact, it was World War II that can be argued as the major trigger for the second wave feminist movement that occurred after the war. During the war years, the labor unions that had grown in the 1930s became even stronger as women became increasingly employed, particularly in manufacturing jobs required to support the war effort. During the 1940s, new work benefits became available to women, including maternity leave, daycare, and counseling. These benefits developed more substantially in Europe, as many countries there were devastated by war, where much of the male population was reduced. Nevertheless, in the United States, women’s participation in the labor force in World War II created a feeling among many women, after the war ended, that they also deserved the same types of rights as men in jobs they filled. This was highlighted by the fact that many men who came back and retook their old jobs from women who were doing them during the war also were given higher salaries, further highlighting this inequality.
Operation Market Garden, launched in September 1944, was an unsuccessful Allied offensive mainly, fought in the Netherlands. It was the largest airborne operation in history up to that time. The operation was a daring one and it was the brainchild of the British General Bernard Montgomery. His intended the airborne offensive to allow the allies to break into the German heartland and to end the war, quickly. However, this was not the case, the allied offensive was to prove to be a costly failure and may have even delayed their victory in Europe. This article will discuss the reasons for the failure of the operation and they will be Montgomery’s over-optimistic planning, poor strategy, poor leadership, German resistance and the terrain.
The Allies had landed in Normandy on the 6th of June 1944. After establishing several beach heads in Normandy, the Allies managed to push forward into the Normandy countryside. The Germans initially managed to slow the Allies advance, however, a brilliant piece of Allied strategy, resulted in the encirclement of a large part of the Nazi army, in the Falaise Pocket. The combined Anglo-American divisions inflicted huge losses on the Germans. The German army was forced into a headlong retreat. Paris was soon retaken by the Allies. The Nazi army was practically forced out of France and retreated towards Alsace-Lorraine and Belgium. It seemed to many that the Allies were on the verge of invading German and some even spoke optimistically of ending the war by Christmas.
However, in truth, the Allied successes had brought its own problems. The Allies supply lines were overstretched and this was slowing down the Americans and British in particular, the shortage of oil meant that Patton’s armored divisions had to halt their advance. This was to prove crucial and it allowed the Germans to regroup in the west, when it appeared that they would disintegrate, leading to the end of the war.
The German Spring Offensive of 1918 was one of the last great offensives of the First World War. The offensive ultimately failed and the allies were able to beat back the German attacks. The German Spring Offensive of 1918 was the last effort by Germany to win the war and its failure meant that the Central Powers had effectively lost. If the Spring Offensive had succeeded the outcome of the war and the course of history in the Twentieth Century would have been very different. The German Spring Offensive stalled for a variety of reasons including inadequate supplies, stubborn Allied defensive tactics, an over reliance on German Stormtroopers, and the German military overestimation of their offensive capabilities.
The German army was under the direction of General Erich Ludendorff, by this stage in the war, his old collaborator Field Marshall von Hindenburg was only nominally German Chief of Staff. He was the mastermind of the Spring offensive in 1918, which is often referred to as the “Ludendorff Offensive.” On the face of it, Germany and the Central Powers were in a strong position in early 1918. After the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, the Russians had withdrawn from the war and the Germans had secured new territory in the east. Romania had been defeated and Italy and Greece were no longer a threat. By 1918, it was clear that the Great War would be decided on the western front. The German command knew that after America joined the war they could potentially tip the balance in favour of the allies. By early 1918, the Americans had already begun to make a difference on the western front. Germany was concerned that if they were allowed to build up their strength the allies could inflict a decisive defeat on Imperial Germany.
Furthermore, as a result of the allied naval blockade, Germany was on the brink of starvation. Unrest and labor strikes had become common in German cities.. Ludendorff was in a race against time. Germany had to defeat Britain and France or they faced almost certain defeat, Ludendorff believed that they had only one last chance to strike a decisive blow against the allies before it was too late. Ludendorff was a realist and knew that the situation was grave for Germany. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk allowed the German Army to transfer some 50 divisions from the eastern to western front, in early 1918. Ludendorff decided to use these divisions in his last offensive and force the Allies to sue for peace.