Tag: World History

Shelf Control #74 – 09/02/2024

For those of us done with another working week – congrats on making it! If not, well, sorry… 😅 As you all know by now, I regularly share a Shelf Control feature post. It’s a great way to get excited about upcoming books on my reading list and share with you exactly what inspired me to add them in the first place!

As usual, I’ll share the official blurb and then we’ll get into the book that’s made it into this Shelf Control post!

Shelf Control is a meme run by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies. It’s a celebration of the unread books on our shelves! The idea is to pick a book you own but haven’t read and 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!

If you want to read more about the Shelf Control feature, check out Lisa’s introductory post.

 

The Woman Who Would be King – Kara Cooney

 

Genre: Non-fiction / History

Pages: 298

Audience: Adult

Publisher: Crown Publishing

Publication Date: 14 Oct 2014

 

 

Goodreads – The Woman Who Would be King

An engrossing biography of the longest-reigning female pharaoh in Ancient Egypt and the story of her audacious rise to power in a man’s world.

Hatshepsut, the daughter of a general who took Egypt’s throne without status as a king’s son and a mother with ties to the previous dynasty, was born into a privileged position of the royal household. Married to her brother, she was expected to bear the sons who would legitimize the reign of her father’s family. Her failure to produce a male heir was ultimately the twist of fate that paved the way for her inconceivable rule as a cross-dressing king. At just twenty, Hatshepsut ascended to the rank of king in an elaborate coronation ceremony that set the tone for her spectacular twenty-two year reign as co-regent with Thutmose III, the infant king whose mother Hatshepsut out-maneuvered for a seat on the throne. Hatshepsut was a master strategist, cloaking her political power plays with the veil of piety and sexual expression. Just as women today face obstacles from a society that equates authority with masculinity, Hatshepsut had to shrewdly operate the levers of a patriarchal system to emerge as Egypt’s second female pharaoh.

Hatshepsut had successfully negotiated a path from the royal nursery to the very pinnacle of authority, and her reign saw one of Ancient Egypt’s most prolific building periods. Scholars have long speculated as to why her images were destroyed within a few decades of her death, all but erasing evidence of her rule. Constructing a rich narrative history using the artifacts that remain, noted Egyptologist Kara Cooney offers a remarkable interpretation of how Hatshepsut rapidly but methodically consolidated power—and why she fell from public favor just as quickly. The Woman Who Would Be King traces the unconventional life of an almost-forgotten pharaoh and explores our complicated reactions to women in power.

 

My Thoughts

This is the second non-fiction book that I have featured in this series already in 2024. The last book was based around the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Today’s feature is a completely different period and topic, but it’s one that I’m no less excited to read.

Unlike my previous feature Auschwitz, I have a lot less knowledge on Egyptian pharaohs in general. I have watched some documentaries in the past, but it’s not a topic I have read about before. It’s for this reason that I added The Woman Who Would be King in the first place. Of course, I am also fascinated by the prospect of a female Pharaoh as they were few and far between.

Hatshepsut isn’t the first name that may jump to your mind when you think of famous female Pharaohs. Cleopatra is probably the most well-known, and she has been the feature of some of the documentaries I have watched in the past. I deliberately wanted to choose another famous female in order to broaden my knowledge.

I’m hoping I go on to enjoy this book as much as I think I will, as it is a period of history I would be interested in exploring in more detail in future!

Have you read The Woman Who Would be King or any other great non-fiction books about Pharaohs?

 

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Shelf Control #73 – 12/01/2024

Happy Friday and welcome to today’s instalment of my regular Shelf Control feature!

Shelf Control is a regular feature on my blog – a meme run by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies. It’s a celebration of the unread books on our shelves! The idea is to pick a book you own but haven’t read and 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!

If you want to read more about the Shelf Control feature, check out Lisa’s introductory post.

Today’s book is a historical non-fiction about a topic I am morbidly obsessed with – the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. More specifically, the experiences of those who lived and suffered there. Today’s feature is a collective of over 100 interviews from those who experienced the camp first-hand. Their unique insight into the inner workings should make for compelling, if equally horrific, reading!

 

Auschwitz – Laurence Rees

Genre: Non-fiction / History

Pages: 327

Audience: Adult

Publisher: Public Affairs

Publication Date: 01 Jan 2005

 

 

Goodreads – Auschwitz

Auschwitz-Birkenau is the site of the largest mass murder in human history. Yet its story is not fully known. In Auschwitz, Laurence Rees reveals new insights from more than 100 original interviews with Auschwitz survivors and Nazi perpetrators who speak on the record for the first time. Their testimonies provide a portrait of the inner workings of the camp in unrivalled detail—from the techniques of mass murder, to the politics and gossip mill that turned between guards and prisoners, to the on-camp brothel in which the lines between those guards and prisoners became surprisingly blurred.

Rees examines the strategic decisions that led the Nazi leadership to prescribe Auschwitz as its primary site for the extinction of Europe’s Jews—their “Final Solution.” He concludes that many of the horrors that were perpetrated in Auschwitz were driven not just by ideological inevitability but as a “practical” response to a war in the East that had begun to go wrong for Germany. A terrible immoral pragmatism characterizes many of the decisions that determined what happened at Auschwitz. Thus the story of the camp becomes a morality tale, too, in which evil is shown to proceed in a series of deft, almost noiseless incremental steps until it produces the overwhelming horror of the industrial scale slaughter that was inflicted in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.

 

My Thoughts

For reasons I can’t put my finger on, I love reading about the Auschwitz camp. I’m fascinated by the subject and learning what happened to the poor individuals that ever passed through these gates.

I have read both fiction and non-fiction on the subject. If you are more interested in the fiction side of things, then I can recommend The Tattooist of Auschwitz and Cilka’s Journey. Three Sisters is on my TBR. More recently, I read The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz by Jeremy Dronfield. This is a non-fiction account of a father and son who refuse to be separated and endure together. Theirs is a unique story in that they are the only known pair to have been interred together and survive to tell their shared story.

Anyway, back to the current book of discussion! It’s the multi-perspective aspect of Auschwitz that I am excited for. I’ve read several books from same or limited perspectives in the past – see the above examples. The nature of the book featuring so many different voices and experiences should make for a rounded learning opportunity. As a result, Auschwitz promises detailed insight into the workings of the camp and what life was like there. 

Auschwitz has been on my reading list since 2018. It’s definitely coming up due to be read. What better time than the year I’m continuing with a reading goal of deliberately picking up non-fiction?

Do you enjoy reading about Auschwitz-Birkenau, World War II or similar? Do you have any recommendations for further reading for me to look at?

 

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Well, I Didn’t Know That! #11

For today’s Well, I Didn’t Know That! feature, I am sharing a streaming service dedicated to history lovers. I had no idea it existed until I got an offer on a reduced subscription for six months through a professional membership body.

Naturally, as a fan of history, I’ve decided to give it a go – and today’s post is all about making you aware of it!

If you are interested in reading more posts from this mini-series on my blog, here is a link to the original post and an index of the posts I have shared so far!

 

What is History Hit?

The service I’m talking about in today’s post is called History Hit. In reality, it is more than a streaming service… but I’ll talk about more of that below. It also seems to be continually growing, so the features I outline in today’s post could become outdated quickly!

History Hit was set up in order to make history accessible to everybody across modern platforms. And the site does so across a variety of mediums.

Whatever period of history you’re interested in, you can easily find it on the site. Across all of its mediums, different periods of history are segregated by time period accordingly. If you want to read about the ancients, or watch a documentary about the medieval period, they each have their own designated section. Multiple periods of history are covered; from ancient history to 20th century, revolutions and world wars… there is something for everyone!

 

Features

 

Documentaries and Podcasts

Regardless of how or when you like to dabble in history, there is a medium for each occasion. If you enjoy watching documentaries, then there are hundreds available on the subscription service. Again, all of these are broken down by category based on their time period. For example, I recently explored the Ancient section and watched a couple of documentaries on the last days of Pompeii before Mount Vesuvius erupted and destroyed the town in 79 A.D.

The documentaries available vary in length. The shortest documentary I have seen whilst browsing is just 20 minutes long. In contrast, the second Pompeii documentary I watched was around 55 minutes.

If you aren’t in a position to be able to watch anything, then good news! There are thousands of podcast episodes already available on the site, and they are updated each week with brand-new ones. Earlier this week, I listened to a couple of very different podcasts. The first of those was about Tutankhamun and Ancient Egypt. The second was about one of the most famous buildings in Greece, the Parthenon.

Although I have definitely shown a bias towards ancient history here (it’s a period I enjoy, clearly), there is the variety in time periods I’ve already discussed. I’ve only been using the site for a few days, so I still have plenty to explore myself.

 

Articles & Travel Guides

If you only have a few minutes, then there are plenty of articles on that website that you can access and read instead! As a reader, this is obviously something that will appeal to me. I’m hoping the site will be a good way of gaining an introduction to a topic that I might then go away to find out more about. That may be finding other media on their site about it (such as a podcast or documentary) or by going away and reading something else.

One further avenue they seem to be branching out into is travel. Anybody wanting to go and visit key historic sites as part of their holiday travels can also consult the site in order to get recommendations and expert advice. This is something I haven’t explored, but it’s not something I’ve seen elsewhere either. It’s definitely a unique selling point if this is the sort of holiday you like to plan!

 

How can I access it?

History Hit have their own app that can be downloaded on smart devices. I have the app downloaded on my phone so I could watch documentaries or listen to podcasts on the go. They also have an app that can be downloaded onto newer smart TVs, or through services such as the Amazon fire stick, Chromecast or similar.

They also have their website for articles and the travel guide information.

 

I wanted to feature History Hit in this Well, I Didn’t Know That! post as it has such variety in its media. It touches on reading, but also other media to explore depending on personal preferences or situation. I’ve also enjoyed using the site and plan to continue exploring new time periods, whether that’s watching a documentary at home or listening to a podcast at work. 

I hope I’ve been able to share something new with you in today’s Well, I Didn’t Know That! post.

Had you heard of History Hit? Do you subscribe?

 

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Shelf Control #57 – 25/11/2022

Here’s hoping you are having the happiest of Fridays, and that you’re excited about another Shelf Control post from yours truly.

Shelf Control is a regular feature on my blog. It’s a meme run by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies… a celebration of the unread books on our shelves! The idea is to pick a book you own but haven’t read and 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!

If you want to read more about the Shelf Control feature, check out Lisa’s introductory post.

This week’s feature is a little unusual; I have been inspired to pick it up based on a video game I played as a teenager.

 

The Templars – Dan Jones

Genre: Non-fiction

Pages: 448

Audience: Adult

Publisher: Viking 

Publication Date: 19 Sept 2017

 

 

Goodreads – The Templars

A faltering war in the middle east. A band of elite warriors determined to fight to the death to protect Christianity’s holiest sites. A global financial network unaccountable to any government. A sinister plot founded on a web of lies.

Jerusalem 1119. A small group of knights seeking a purpose in the violent aftermath of the First Crusade decides to set up a new order. These are the first Knights Templar, a band of elite warriors prepared to give their lives to protect Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land. Over the next two hundred years, the Templars would become the most powerful religious order of the medieval world. Their legend has inspired fervent speculation ever since. 

In this groundbreaking narrative history, Dan Jones tells the true story of the Templars for the first time in a generation, drawing on extensive original sources to build a gripping account of these Christian holy warriors whose heroism and alleged depravity have been shrouded in myth. The Templars were protected by the pope and sworn to strict vows of celibacy. They fought the forces of Islam in hand-to-hand combat on the sun-baked hills where Jesus lived and died, finding their nemesis in Saladin, who vowed to drive all Christians from the lands of Islam. Experts at channeling money across borders, they established the medieval world’s largest and most innovative banking network and waged private wars against anyone who threatened their interests.

Then, as they faced setbacks at the hands of the ruthless Mamluk sultan Baybars and were forced to retreat to their stronghold in Cyprus, a vindictive and cash-strapped King of France set his sights on their fortune. His administrators quietly mounted a damning case against the Templars, built on deliberate lies and false testimony. Then on Friday October 13, 1307, hundreds of brothers were arrested, imprisoned and tortured, and the order was disbanded amid lurid accusations of sexual misconduct and heresy. They were tried by the Pope in secret proceedings and their last master was brutally tortured and burned at the stake. But were they heretics or victims of a ruthlessly repressive state? Dan Jones goes back to the sources tobring their dramatic tale, so relevant to our own times, in a book that is at once authoritative and compulsively readable.

 

My Thoughts

I will fully admit that today’s Shelf Control feature came on my radar as a result of playing the original Assassin’s Creed game. What could possibly have made it onto my list that’s related to this, I hear you ask. Well, I wanted to learn more about a prominent faction throughout the storyline – the Templars. I’m not going to go spoiling anything about the game, so don’t worry on that front. All I will say is that having played it for myself, I wanted to learn more about the history and setting of the story.

The great thing about this book is that I am already familiar with the author through TV. Not only does he make use of books and writing as part of his profession, but he’s also prominent on television as a broadcaster for historical documentaries. I am sure I’ve watched a number of documentaries in which he features, and I really enjoyed his narration style. I’m hoping this carries through into today’s book.

Another reason I’m looking forward to picking up this book is that it will expand my wider knowledge of history. As you know, I am keen to learn new things. I’m also trying to make more of an effort to read more non-fiction, so this ticks that box as well. This isn’t a period of history that I have ever looked at before. Religion isn’t particularly prominent in my reading either, so The Templars stands out for that reason too. I for one I’m looking forward to exploring both elements together through this book!

 

Have you been inspired to learn about something based on a game or hobby before? Let me know in the comments! 

 

 

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Book Review: Midnight in Chernobyl – Adam Higginbotham

In today’s blog post I’m going to be sharing a book review for a non-fiction book I read at the very beginning of 2021. I believe I carried this over from December 2020 to finish it, so it’s been quite a while since I read it. However, it made a lasting impression on me! I thought the book was really good and it’s about a subject that I wanted to learn more about as a result of a TV series I watched.

The events around and following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster are harrowing to read, but I think the book does an excellent job of informing the reader in a way that keeps them engaged and entertained. I certainly learned a lot from it!

 

Midnight in Chernobyl – Adam Higginbotham

Goodreads – Midnight in Chernobyl

The definitive, dramatic untold story of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster, based on original reporting and new archival research.

April 25, 1986, in Chernobyl, was a turning point in world history. The disaster not only changed the world’s perception of nuclear power and the science that spawned it, but also our understanding of the planet’s delicate ecology. With the images of the abandoned homes and playgrounds beyond the barbed wire of the 30-kilometer Exclusion Zone, the rusting graveyards of contaminated trucks and helicopters, the farmland lashed with black rain, the event fixed for all time the notion of radiation as an invisible killer.

Chernobyl was also a key event in the destruction of the Soviet Union, and, with it, the United States’ victory in the Cold War. For Moscow, it was a political and financial catastrophe as much as an environmental and scientific one. With a total cost of 18 billion rubles—at the time equivalent to $18 billion—Chernobyl bankrupted an already teetering economy and revealed to its population a state built upon a pillar of lies.

The full story of the events that started that night in the control room of Reactor No.4 of the V.I. Lenin Nuclear Power Plant has never been told—until now. Through two decades of reporting, new archival information, and firsthand interviews with witnesses, journalist Adam Higginbotham tells the full dramatic story, including Alexander Akimov and Anatoli Dyatlov, who represented the best and worst of Soviet life; denizens of a vanished world of secret policemen, internal passports, food lines, and heroic self-sacrifice for the Motherland. Midnight in Chernobyl, award-worthy nonfiction that reads like sci-fi, shows not only the final epic struggle of a dying empire but also the story of individual heroism and desperate, ingenious technical improvisation joining forces against a new kind of enemy.

 

My Thoughts…

Considering that the disaster only took place in recent history, I went into this book with only vague knowledge of what had happened. I had briefly covered the subject in school in terms of its relation to the breakdown of the Soviet Union in my studies of the Cold War. In addition, I had some idea of the lasting effects of the disaster as a friend of mine’s family have previously hosted a child visiting the Island where I live. There is a charity called ‘Friends of Chernobyl’, who give children who live in areas still affected by radiation the opportunity to visit places such as where I live for an extended period for the benefit of their health. My friend’s family used to look after a girl in the summer holidays. Aside from that, the rest of what I knew about the disaster came from the TV series Chernobyl.

That’s not very good really in my opinion, and that’s why I wanted to look into this further for myself. I’m glad I picked up Midnight in Chernobyl to do this. There is a lot of interesting detail in the book, but it’s delivered in such a way that it is entertaining to read as well as informative.

I liked the way this book is written out. Each chapter is documented with a time and date and follows in chronological order, so it’s easy to follow what happens. I enjoyed how the book covers the whole history of the plant and nearby town Pripyat as opposed to just focusing on the disaster. Naturally, this takes up the majority of the book but seeing how and why it was built and the consequences of how Chernobyl came to be the place it was at the time of the disaster was interesting.

If you can also appreciate a little bit of science then I think you will also enjoy reading the explanatory narrative about how the reactors were designed to work. It was a little bit of a technical section, but not horrendously complicated and it went a long way to helping me understand what ultimately went wrong on that fateful day.

I think even if you know what happened, it’s only when you read the intimate experienced of each individual involved, and the loss of their loved ones, that it hits home.

I’m not overly surprised at the events of the disaster given the reasons it happened, but also how it was responded to. There was a ridiculous amount of secrecy around events such as these in the USSR. Chernobyl is one of the most well-known disasters, the truth is that there were a lot of smaller-scale disasters at other nuclear plants throughout the USSR in the period. But, like me, you probably didn’t know about these. Just like the scale of the Chernobyl disaster at the time, the powers that be were determined to hush it up and underplay it as much as possible. It’s despicable really when you think about the human cost.

Midnight in Chernobyl is a great read if you want a balance of information and an interesting read. I think the author does a very good job of informing readers about the event but also doing it in a way that highlights individual stories and personal consequences with dignity, with a view to outing the truth after decades of secrecy.

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