Through the Magic Door
Ursula Moray Williams, Gobbolino and the Little Wooden Horse
Ursula Moray Williams (1911–2006) wrote 68 children’s books – illustrating 30 of them – plus short stories, plays and poems. Best known for Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat, she only stopped writing at 76, and died aged 95. This biography explores how Ursula’s upbringing – an identical twin, raised in a ramshackle mansion in the woods – influenced her ideas, drawing upon family anecdotes and Ursula’s unpublished letters and diaries to create a vivid picture of her fascinating life.
The Man, The Medievalist, The Connoisseur
The art dealer John Hunt (1900–76) helped to shape the medieval collections of museums around the world and was Sotheby’s principal advisor on medieval art. This biography reveals not only the extent of Hunt’s published work on archaeological and historical topics but also his cultural benefactions to Ireland, the adopted homeland where he spent the 1950s restoring the crumbling 15th-century Bunratty Castle. The final chapter covers the investigation into recent allegations that Hunt had links to the Nazis.
The Last Tsar
The fate of Tsar Nicholas II and his family has long haunted the public imagination. The autocratic ruler of one-sixth of the earth’s land area, he was responsible for mass imprisonment, pogroms and the shooting of demonstrators; yet photographs show him as a shy, gentle family man. This balanced and sympathetic history outlines the personal and political background that shaped his doomed reign, and could have overwhelmed a far abler ruler.
Éamon de Valera
A Will to Power
The architect of Irish independence, Éamon de Valera is one of the most remarkable men in the country’s modern history, yet he remains a divisive figure. This meticulously researched biography charts his achievements without shying away from the limitations of his vision.
Dr Lachlan Grant of Ballachulish
General practitioner, researcher and activist Lachlan Grant influenced debate about social reform in rural Scotland in the early 20th century. The two parts of this book comprise a collection of essays examining a broad range of his interests, from the provision of healthcare in the Highlands and Islands to land reform and economic development, and a selection of his journalism, speeches and correspondence, including his evidence to the Dewar Committee in 1912.
When 20-year-old John Jacob Astor arrived in Baltimore from Germany in 1783, his ambition was to live comfortably from the sale of musical instruments. By the time of his death in 1848, he was the richest man in the United States. This absorbing, richly anecdotal history traces the fortunes of the dynasty he founded over five generations in the highest echelons of American and British society.
Keeping the Barbarians at Bay
The Last Years of Kenneth Allsop, Green Pioneer
The writer and broadcaster Kenneth Allsop was one of Britain’s first television celebrities, but while he enjoyed the high life of fast cars and smart parties, he was also an accomplished naturalist and passionate conservationist. Drawing on his unpublished diaries and papers, this biography charts his last years, his struggles with constant pain after a form of tuberculosis, and his despair at the environmental challenges facing the world.
Aldous Huxley's Hands
His Quest for Perception and the Origin and Return of Psychedelic Science
On learning that her father, Howard Thrasher, once photographed Aldous Huxley’s hands, Symons set out to discover how the two men’s paths had crossed. Here she reveals what she learned from conversations with her father and from a cache of letters: how Huxley’s eclectic circle undertook pioneering experiments into the healing potential of psychedelic drugs, because of their belief in the importance of visionary, mystical experience and their hope that this research would benefit humankind.
German historian Peter Longerich judges Joseph Goebbels to be have been a narcissist, driven by insecurity; the likely result of his relatively lowly background and a deformity of his right foot that isolated him from contemporaries in childhood. This comprehensive biography, translated from the German, draws on Goebbels’ extensive diaries to chart his rise to the top of the Nazi party and attempt to understand the views and actions of one of Hitler's most zealous lieutenants. Felt-tip mark on lower trimmed edge.
Poet, priest, inspirational teacher and indefatigable traveller, Peter Levi (1932–2000) was one of the most romantic and complicated of 20th-century Oxford characters. Relating his poetic development to his intense emotional life, this absorbing biography charts his Catholic upbringing, his friendships with Cyril Connolly, Iris Murdoch, Patrick Leigh Fermor and Bruce Chatwin, his often contentious membership of the the Jesuit order (which he left to marry Connolly’s widow), and his tenure as Professor of Poetry at Oxford.
The Life and Choices of Lady Anne Barnard
Lady Anne Barnard lived at the heart of Georgian society – the Prince of Wales was a friend, and Walter Scott admired her verses – but her defiance of convention made her an outsider. Drawing on her unpublished papers, including six volumes of memoirs, this thrilling biography brings the poet, musician, artist and hostess vividly to life, and tells how she travelled to France to observe the Revolution, married an army officer twelve years her junior, and raised an illegitimate child.
Nelson's Right Hand Man
The Life and Times of Vice Admiral Sir Thomas Fremantle
The 42-year naval career of Sir Thomas Fremantle (1765–1819) spanned a period when British naval power was crucial; his first experience of war was the American War of Independence, and he fought alongside his friend Nelson at Bastia, Tenerife, Copenhagen and, as captain of HMS Neptune, at Trafalgar. Drawing on personal letters and diaries, this biography paints a vivid picture of one of the Georgian navy’s greatest sea captains.
The Golden Warrior
The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia
Mythologized by his own writings and David Lean's film, TE Lawrence (of Arabia) is one of the enduring heroes of the First World War but the true nature of his personality and achievements has been subject to revisionism and counter-revisionism. This biography gives a full account of his life from his childhood and education to military leader, political advisor and writer, and attempts to adjudicate between rival interpretations to reveal the truth behind the legend.
Edith Cavell is honoured as a heroine executed by German firing squad in 1915 for helping Allied soldiers to escape, and for her words: 'Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness’. But who was she, and what shaped her? Tracing Cavell’s Norfolk upbringing, her life as a Victorian governess, and her decision to become a nurse, Souhami’s sympathetic biography creates a rounded portrait of a woman always driven 'to do something useful, something for people’.
From the Frontline
The Extraordinary Life of Sir Basil Clarke
Basil Clarke was an intrepid First World War correspondent and father of the public relations industry. This first-ever biography tells how he defied Kitchener’s ban on reporters in 1914 to live as an ‘outlaw’ in Dunkirk, reported from the Battle of the Somme and the Easter Rising, and caused a global scandal by accusing the government of failing to enforce its naval blockade of Germany, before going on to create Britain’s first PR firm.
The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo
Charles Deville Wells, Gambler and Fraudster Extraordinaire
Charles Deville Wells (1841–1922) became a household name in 1891, when his enormous gains at Monte Carlo’s roulette tables inspired the famous music hall song. But had he invented an ‘infallible’ gambling system, or was his success the result of extraordinary luck, or even clever fraud? This first biography of Wells uncovers details of his famous few days at the casino, as well as revealing the other exploits of ‘the man with 36 aliases’ who was Europe’s most wanted criminal.
Lenin the Dictator
An Intimate Portrait
‘First we must seize power’, Lenin told Trotsky in 1917. ‘Then we decide what to do with it.’ This compelling biography draws on long-suppressed documents to present a nuanced portrait of this complex, emotional man. It charts his long years in exile, his decisive seizure of power, and his intense relationships with his wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, and his lover, Inessa Armand, examining how this sensitive nature lover came to create a new kind of state.
The Beauty of Her Age
A Tale of Sex, Scandal and Money in Victorian England
Yolande Duvernay was born in poverty in Paris in 1812. Under the control of her mother, she became a celebrated ballerina and mistress of a series of wealthy men. This intriguing tale of sex, money and power tells how she persuaded Stephens Lyne Stephens, the richest commoner in England, to marry her. When he died, leaving her an annual income worth £6 million in today’s terms, his will was challenged in the Court of Chancery. But Yolande wasn’t beaten yet…
Hitler Was My Friend
As official 'court' photographer, Heinrich Hoffmann played a critical role in cultivating the Führer's public image; he was also a close personal friend of Hitler, with intimate access to his inner circle from 1923 to April 1945. First published in 1955, Hoffmann's memoirs, illustrated here with a selection of his informal photographs, offer a remarkable behind-the-scenes account of Hitler and the rise and fall of the Third Reich. With a new introduction by Roger Moorhouse. Translated by RH Stevens.
What Happened, Miss Simone?
Complementing an Oscar-nominated documentary, this biography of Nina Simone (1933–2003) draws on previously unpublished material from her private diaries and the reflections of those who knew her best. It traces the legendary soul singer's struggles and successes, from her frustrated hopes of becoming a classical pianist to groundbreaking appearances at Carnegie Hall, her activities as a civil-rights activist and periodic visits to Africa in search of her 'secret self that is very black'.
Sylvia, Queen of the Headhunters
An Eccentric Englishwoman and her Lost Kingdom
In one of the most bizarre episodes in British colonial history, the kingdom of Sarawak was ruled for generations by ‘white Rajas’, the Brooke family, with power of life and death over their Malay, Chinese and Dyak headhunter subjects. Philip Eade’s biography offers a glimpse into the wild and decadent world of Sylvia, the last Ranee, an extravagant writer and socialite who defied convention as she struggled to cling to power in the dying days of empire.
Lawson Lies Still in The Thames
The Extraordinary Life of Vice-Admiral Sir John Lawson
On 13 December 1659, Vice-Admiral Sir John Lawson (1615–1665) led 22 warships into the Thames and threatened to blockade London in defence of Parliament: in January 1660, Pepys began his diary, ‘Lawson lies still in the river’. This biography charts Lawson’s central role in the English Civil Wars and the Dutch wars, for which he received a gold chain from Oliver Cromwell, but also his vital contribution to the Restoration, rewarded by a pension from Charles II.
Setting the World on Fire
The Brief, Astonishing Life of St Catherine of Siena
St Catherine of Siena was Italy’s answer to Joan of Arc. Amid the war, plague and social unrest of the 14th century, she struggled with feckless clergy, rival popes and conniving cardinals to bring peace to warring factions. Blending meticulous research and vivid storytelling, this first modern, secular biography offers an intimate portrait of the fascinating and revolutionary woman who offered moral guidance to kings, queens and popes, and remains an inspiration to Catholics and feminists alike.
The Enlightened Mr Parkinson
The Pioneering Life of a Forgotten English Surgeon
In 1817, James Parkinson defined the disease that bears his name so precisely that it is still diagnosed today by recognizing the symptoms he identified. In this study, the story of Parkinson’s significant contributions to the Age of Enlightenment is told through his three passions – medicine, radical politics and fossils. The book restores a neglected pioneer to his rightful place in history and creates a vivid portrait of life as an ‘apothecary surgeon’ in Georgian London.
The Wright Brothers
In 1878, Wilbur and Orville Wright's father brought his sons home a toy helicopter powered by a twisted rubber band. The invention, by French engineer Alphonse Pénaud, was to have a profound effect on the brothers and set them on course to make their breakthroughs in aviation. This biography, supported by personal diaries, notebooks and letters, traces the background to their achievements and describes how they developed their historic prototypes and the disputes and controversies that surrounded the first flights. Felt-tip mark on lower trimmed edge.
Peter Mundy was a 17th-century trader whose journeys took him to Istanbul, India, China, Danzig, Russia and the Arctic. His account of his remarkable travels, illustrated with his own lively drawings of the strange people and animals he encountered, survives in a single manuscript. This edited selection provides a vivid and fascinating account of the Ottoman, Mughal, Chinese and Russian empires, as well as events in London following the coronation of Charles II in 1661.
South African Pioneer, Poet and Abolitionist
The remarkable career of Thomas Pringle (1789–1834) began in Enlightenment Edinburgh, where he established himself as a poet and founding editor of Blackwood’s Magazine. This lively, authoritative biography tells how, in 1820, he led a party of settlers to South Africa, where he co-edited the Cape’s first independent newspaper and became a staunch champion of the rights of both settlers and dispossessed indigenous people, before returning to Britain to become Secretary of the Anti-Slavery Society.
Columbus and the Conquest of the Impossible
Columbus is widely credited as the creator of the transatlantic imperium that dominates the world today. This highly readable biography presents the explorer in a new and surprising light: as a religious mystic and primitive celestial navigator whose inability to use modern instruments so infuriated his crew that they threatened to throw him overboard. A new introduction by the author assesses the findings of the latest research.
The Life and Art of a Garden Designer
Norah Lindsay was a major influence on English garden design between the wars. Having developed her skills in her own Oxfordshire garden, she turned professional in 1924 when the collapse of her marriage left her penniless. This magnificent book, lavishly illustrated with historic and modern photographs, celebrates her life and work creating gardens for Nancy Astor, the Prince of Wales and royalty across Europe. It includes a directory of all her clients and the work she undertook for them.
The Barefoot Lawyer
The Remarkable Memoir of China's Bravest Political Activist
Blinded by a childhood illness, Chen Guangcheng overcame disability to become a lawyer. His fearless campaigning on behalf of his country’s poor brought him into conflict with the Chinese authorities, leading to harassment and house arrest. With a foreword by the Dalai Lama, this riveting memoir records his fight for justice and his dramatic escape, and presents a revealing picture of life in modern China.
Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey
The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle
Almina Wombwell married the 5th Earl of Carnarvon in 1895. She brought with her a large dowry, as the daughter of banking tycoon Alfred de Rothschild. This is the story of her life at Highclere Castle, where Downton Abbey was filmed, and especially the ways in which the First World War affected the fates of the family and staff alike. The author, the current countess, draws on the extensive family archive to write this engaging and personal history.
The French Resistance Heroine Who Defied the Gestapo
For carrying out an audacious ambush to free her husband and other prisoners from a Gestapo van in 1943, Lucie Aubrac (1912–2007) is still hailed as a heroine of the French Resistance. This first full English-language biography tells her compelling story but also analyses the Aubracs' defence of inconsistencies in her account, which were exposed when the former head of the Gestapo claimed that the couple had become informers and betrayed their comrades.
Lady Constance Lytton
Aristocrat, Suffragette, Martyr
Raised amid the grandeur of Knebworth House, Lady Constance Lytton was an unlikely radical. Drawing on unpublished family papers, this biography tells her story for the first time: how, witnessing the trial of Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst, she became convinced that women must win the right to vote; and how, in jail, she discovered that her status afforded her preferential treatment, and on release disguised herself to discover the horrors that other suffragettes were forced to endure.
Houdini and Conan Doyle
The Great Magician and the Inventor of Sherlock Holmes
In 1920, following a courteous correspondence, ardent Spiritualist Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and sceptical showman Harry Houdini met for the first time. Two of the era’s most famous men, they became the public faces of debate about the possibility of bridging the gap between living and dead. Sandford draws on previously unpublished material in this account of the two men’s unlikely friendship, which turned to increasingly bitter enmity.
Liberty or Death!
The Life and Campaigns of Richard L Vowell
Inspired to fight against the Spanish Empire in South America in 1817, Englishman Richard Vowell distinguished himself in Simón Bolívar's war of liberation in Venezuela as part of a British Legion of volunteers. This book tells the story of the adventurer from his English childhood to his part in Bolívar's South American campaigns, service as Commander of Marines in the Chilean Navy and later years in Australia, where he was discharged from his job as a convict-camp administrator under strange circumstances.
The Life of Sir William Davenant
Sir William Davenant (1606–68), England’s second Poet Laureate and an influential impresario, narrowly escaped execution for Royalist activities during the Civil War and dared to revive theatrical performances in Cromwell’s London. He was also widely rumoured to be Shakespeare’s illegitimate son and said he wrote ‘with the very spirit’ of the Bard. This biography tells the story of Davenant’s eventful life backwards, culminating with a fresh examination of the evidence for his paternity.
Britain's Liberal Imperialist
Thomas Macaulay has always inspired both admiration and hostility. One of the towering intellects of Victorian Britain, he played a major role in passing the 1832 Reform Act, and introduced English education to India. This insightful biography charts his rise from child prodigy to elder statesman, assesses his lasting influence as the architect of British 'soft power' and advocate of liberal interventionism, and goes beyond the stereotypes to reveal a difficult, complicated and very human man.
The Buccaneer King
The Story of Captain Henry Morgan
Henry Morgan (1635–1688) was the most successful of all the pirates of the Caribbean, amassing a fortune by pillaging towns on the Spanish Main and eventually becoming governor of Jamaica. This lively biography charts his colourful career, unpicking fact from fiction and addressing questions that perplex historians to this day: to what extent were his activities sanctioned by the government, was he driven by patriotism or by greed, and was he responsible for the torture of Spanish prisoners?
Harold and Jack
The Remarkable Friendship of Prime Minister Macmillan and President Kennedy
They seemed unlikely friends: the patrician English Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and the bullish, charismatic US President John F Kennedy. Yet their friendship, which survived disagreements and estrangements, would shape the world. Based on previously unquoted papers and private letters between the leaders and their families, this insightful, informative book charts the emotional undercurrents of their relationship through such epochal events as the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion, the building of the Berlin Wall and the Cuban Missile Crisis.
A Voice from the Holocaust
In 1943, Rutka Laskier, a 14-year-old Jewish girl in the Polish town of Bedzin, hid her diary before she was deported to Auschwitz. Concealed for more than 60 years, her account – often compared to that of Anne Frank – offers a moving portrait of everyday adolescent joys and sorrows amid the horrors of Nazi occupation. Contemporary photographs of Bedzin and its ghettos bring to life Rutka’s world of hunger and fear of following neighbours and friends to the concentration camps.
1517, Printing, and the Making of the Reformation
Martin Luther’s revolutionary ideas spread across Europe within just a few years of the day in 1517 when he posted his ‘theses’ on a church door. As this book shows, Luther’s success was far from accidental: a skilled communicator, he worked closely with Wittenberg’s printers to craft the distinctive pamphlets that made him the world’s first mass-media figure, boosted the newly emerging publishing industry and inspired others to disseminate their own writings. Felt-tip mark on lower trimmed edge.
Weimar's Fallen Statesman
The achievements of Walther Rathenau (1867-1922), as a German and a Jew, were unprecedented. Having risen to leadership in the War Ministry during the First World War, Rathenau became Foreign Minister in the new Weimar Republic; but however successful, he was a Jew and a Republican and his assassination seemed inevitable. Volkov tells the story of Rathenau’s remarkable life in Imperial and Weimar Germany, in Berlin’s intellectual elite and in the complex world of German Jewry in the pre-Nazi era. American cut pages.
A Life of Spinoza
Margaret Gullan-Whur Expelled from the Jewish community of Amsterdam for heresy, Spinoza (1632-77) was eventually reviled by all religious authorities for holding fast to his conviction that reason, not revelation, was the way to find the truth of God or nature. Gullan-Whur shows how Spinoza’s central philosophical beliefs developed within the context of his life and focuses on the philosopher’s attempt to act solely through reason in the face of personal and national crises.
Treachery, Tyranny and the Road to Magna Carta
The youngest son of Henry II, John (1166–1216) became king on the death of his brother, Richard I, in 1199. He inherited a vast and possibly ungovernable dominion, extending across the Angevin empire in France as well as England, Ireland and Wales. In this biography, Morris draws on contemporary sources to describe a tyrannical and murderous reign that saw the loss of the French lands, the rebellion of the English barons and, despite the signing of Magna Carta, civil war.
The Scandalous Lives of Courtesans, Concubines, and Royal Mistresses
From the hetaerae of ancient Greece to the demimondaines of 19th-century France, professional mistresses enjoyed freedom and power unknown to most women. This book explores their colourful lives, including Ninon de L'Enclos, who accepted 50,000 crowns to spend the night with Cardinal Richelieu – then sent another courtesan in her place; Marie Duplessis, inspiration to Dumas and Verdi; and La Belle Otero, mistress of Edward VII, Kaiser Wilhelm II and Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia. Off-mint and felt-tip mark on upper trimmed edge.
Soldier, Diplomat, Ideologue of British India
Sir John Malcolm (1769-1833) is still highly regarded in India, which was his home for half a century and where he helped to transform the East India Company into an agent of imperial government. This biography by his modern-day kinsman explores Malcolm's humble Scottish origins, his years of military service, his influential books and the leading role he played in missions to Persia during the early years of the Great Game of diplomatic rivalry between Britain and Russia.