Tag: history

First Lines Friday – 24/09/2021

Welcome to today’s First Lines Friday post!

I’ve gotten back into the habit of sharing one of these posts every couple of weeks, but what makes today’s post a slight exception is that I have set myself a challenge. In today’s post, my challenge is to feature the opening paragraph of a non-fiction novel. I don’t feature non-fiction very often, however that is something I am looking to change very soon. With that in mind I decided to start here and feature a non-fiction novel as part of this series.

 

Sometimes, even when you are a case-hardened professional, you see history differently. I had one such moment when I first visited the Great Hall of the National Archives in Washington. I was faintly shocked by the way in which the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were displayed, like Arks of the Covenant, on a dimly lit altar and between American flags and impossibly upright American marines.

But what really struck me was the presence of a copy of Magna Carta. It was, as it were, in a side chapel. Nevertheless, here it was, this archetypically English document, in the American archival holy of holies.

It was placed there out of the conviction that it was the ancestor, however remote, of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. And its presence set me thinking. Was this assumption correct? Does it help explain current concerns – like Britain’s, or England’s, reluctance to be absorbed in the European Union? Does it mean that there is an Anglo-Saxon way and European way, as the French undoubtedly think? Does the difference derive from the contrast between Roman law and English Common Law? Is it, finally, England versus Rome?

 

Crown and Country – A History of England Through the Monarchy – David Starkey

Goodreads – Crown and Country

An exploration of the British monarchy from the retreat of the Romans up until the modern day. This compendium volume of two earlier books is fully revised and updated.

The monarchy is one of Britain’s longest surviving institutions – as well as one of its most tumultuous and revered. In this masterful book, David Starkey looks at the monarchy as a whole, charting its history from Roman times, to the Wars of the Roses, the chaos of the Civil War, the fall of Charles I and Cromwell’s emergence as Lord Protector – all the way up until the Victorian era when Britain’s monarchs came face-to-face with modernity.

This collection of biographies of Britain’s kings and queens provides an in-depth examination of what the British monarchy has meant, what it means now and what it will continue to mean.

 

My Thoughts…

I will be the first person to hold my hands up and say that my knowledge of the British monarchy is terrible. I could name a few, but could I tell you which order they came in or what order they reigned in? Not really. Aside from the infamous Henry the eighth, I couldn’t even give you an estimate timeline.

British history was rather lacking at school. Yes, we learned vaguely about certain topics, but my later years in the subject, which were studied more seriously, was focused on the world wars, the Cold War and the economic boom and bust of the 1920s and 30s. When I added this book to my TBR it was to rectify this lack of knowledge on my part.

Not only does this fulfil the desire to learn more in general about British history and monarchy, but I also like that this book features biographies from reigning Monarchs. If there was a better book to gain insight of how Britain used to be, then I haven’t met it yet. I’m really excited to pick this one up and give myself the opportunity to learn more about more local history!

I hope you have enjoyed today’s First Lines Friday post! Did you learn about British monarchy at school? How does your knowledge compare?

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Shelf Control #33 – 06/08/2021

Happy Friday and welcome to today’s Shelf Control post! Shelf Control is a regular feature here on Reviewsfeed and is a meme run by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies. It’s a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up!

For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out Lisa’s introductory post.

I like to share these posts on a regular basis as it gives me the opportunity to continually review the books on my TBR. I can also decide if I still want to read them, or whether perhaps my reading taste has changed and it’s no longer for me. A lot of the early books on my list were added several years ago now; that’s quite a lot of time for my opinion to change. What I have found, since doing the series, is that I have taken a few books off this list. It’s a productive activity, and it gives me some bookish content that I can share with you. And who knows, by featuring those books I still want to read, maybe I can introduce you to something that will take your fancy as well!

This week’s featured book is a non-fiction novel. In the grand scheme I’d say these are in the minority on my list, however there are certain subjects that I will go back to again and again. Psychology is one of them. I studied psychology at school and having really loved the subject, I’ve always kept in touch with a little. It’s not an exact science and I love all the history of the ‘science’ of dealing with mind. That is particularly important for today’s featured book, as it looks at how psychology and mental illness was treated in the 19th century.

 

Lunatics, Imbeciles and Idiots: A History of Insanity in Nineteenth-Century Britain and Ireland – Kathryn Burtinshaw & John Burt

Lunatics, Imbeciles and Idiots

Goodreads – Lunatics, iImbeciles and Idiots

In the first half of the nineteenth-century treatment of the mentally ill in Britain and Ireland underwent radical change. No longer manacled, chained and treated like wild animals, patient care was defined in law and medical understanding, and treatment of insanity developed.

Focussing on selected cases, this new study enables the reader to understand how progressively advancing attitudes and expectations affected decisions, leading to better legislation and medical practice throughout the century. Specific mental health conditions are discussed in detail and the treatments patients received are analysed in an expert way. A clear view of why institutional asylums were established, their ethos for the treatment of patients, and how they were run as palaces rather than prisons giving moral therapy to those affected becomes apparent. The changing ways in which patients were treated, and altered societal views to the incarceration of the mentally ill, are explored. The book is thoroughly illustrated and contains images of patients and asylum staff never previously published, as well as first-hand accounts of life in a nineteenth-century asylum from a patients perspective.

Written for genealogists as well as historians, this book contains clear information concerning access to asylum records and other relevant primary sources and how to interpret their contents in a meaningful way.

 

My Thoughts….

To an extent I touched on some of the topics I expect to be in this book as part of my course. With that in mind, I would say it’s probably not for those of the faint-hearted. Early psychological treatment was barbaric. I’m sure it seemed innovative at the time, but back in the day there was very little understanding of how the mind actually worked and how it could be treated (other than by brute force). I leave it at that, in case any of you are on the squeamish side I don’t want the details!

To think how far along treatment has come in just a comparatively short time, there is a lot that can be covered in this book. It will build upon the topics that I enjoyed at school and I’m also interested to see how changes in the law impacted the subject.

It’s a slightly unusual one, but I’m really interested to see what this book has to offer and I’m looking forward to learning something new!

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