As is common in many forums, writers and readers of varying stripes are presenting their end of the year book recommendations. I shall do the same focusing on non-government books with a later posting covering those produced by government agencies. This year conservatives mourned Margaret Thatcher’s earthly departure, but celebrated her heavenly admission. Following her death this spring, the first volume of her authorized biography Margaret Thatcher: From Grantham to the Falklands was published by British historian and journalist Charles Moore and provides detailed and incisive coverage and analysis of Thatcher’s background and rise to power. It provides vivid detail of her personal and political relationships, the factionalism within the British Conservative Party, and the challenges of her premiership’s early years through the victorious Falklands War of 1982. We can look forward to the subsequent volume of this biography covering the remainder of her premiership and her post-political life.
I was fortunate enough to travel to France t his year and this sojourn produced significant reading experience. One of many highlights from this experience was visiting Louis XIV’s Versailles and Ian Thompson’s The Sun King’s Gardens: Louis XIV, Andre Le Notre and the Creation of the Garden of Versailles provides detailed background on Louis relationship with his gardener Andre Le Notre (1613-1700) and how the brobdingnagian gardens at Versailles came about. Other useful works on various developments in French history include Martin Evans’ Algeria: France’s Undeclared War which had a searing impact on French political and military life and remains a delicate issue in France five decades after its conclusion, Stephane Kirkland’s Paris Reborn: Napoleon III, Baron Haussmann, and the Quest to Build a Modern City describing the efforts of this French emperor and his master developer to create much of today’s Paris, Michael Bonura’s Under the Shadow of Napoleon: French Influence on the American Way of Warfare from the War of 1812 to the Outbreak of WWII documenting French military influence on the U.S., and Joseph Harris’ The Tallest Tower: Eiffel and the Belle Epoque documenting the Eiffel Tower’s construction and subsequent usage.
This coming year we commemorate the beginning of World War I as a global conflagration killing millions and which continues affecting us today. Peter Hart’s The Great War: A Combat History of the First World War provides detailed overview and analysis, along with vivid coverage, of this conflict’s events going beyond traditional Western front coverage to detail the war’s impact on the Mideast and the Eastern Front. The debate over the origins of this conflict has a century long historiography with good additions to this being Christopher Clark’s The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 and Sean McMeekin’s July 1914: Countdown to War describing the fateful five weeks between Austrian heir Franz Ferdinand’s June 28 assassination by Gavrilo Princips in Sarajevo and the outbreak of war which then British Foreign Secretary Earl Grey described as “the lights are going out all over Europe. They shall not be lit again in our lifetime.”
Cambridge University historian Brendan Simms presents a masterful geopolitical history of Europe over the last five hundred sixty years in Europe: The Struggle for Supremacy from 1453 to the Present. Finally, for those involved in the debate on the nature of marriage and I encourage you to consult Peter Sprigg’s The Top Ten Harms of Same Sex Marriage which should be highly effective ammunition against any fools claiming that changing the millennia old definition of marriage from a lifelong relationship between a man and a woman will not have any negative societal implications.