Social & Industrial History
The Old Boys
The Decline and Rise of the Public School
To many, public schools are an anachronistic bastion of privilege. This book charts a colourful history of schoolboy revolts, eccentric heads, scandal, decline and renewal, to argue that, on balance, their contribution to national life is a positive one. Slightly off-mint.
The Last Shepherds
A Vanishing Way of Life on Britain's Traditional Hill Farms
Shepherds were ubiquitous from pre-biblical times, their occupation a way of life – some even had their own language for counting sheep. Today, among other things, fewer sheep and quad bikes contribute to dwindling shepherd numbers. First published in 2004, this account follows three shepherds through their year, witnessing lambing, haymaking, sheep fairs and the training of a puppy to become a working sheepdog; it describes age-old traditions that are fast becoming things of the past.
The Last Horsemen
A Year at Sillywrea, Britain's Only Horse-Powered Farm
First published in 2001, this study of a disappearing way of life took place over three years, on the last farm in Britain still reliant on horse power rather than machinery. Sillywrea Farm has belonged to the same family for over 150 years, and the book follows two of the family’s recent farmers and their five Clydesdale horses through four seasons, ploughing, haymaking and training a young foal.
The Life of Two Countries, England and Germany, in Many Stories
Two world wars have all but erased the memory that Britain and Germany were once the best of friends. This history charts three centuries of cooperation between allies bonded by blood, religion and culture. Wide-ranging and richly anecdotal, it also recounts the stories of individuals – from the royal family through writers and musicians to ordinary people working abroad – whose lives straddled two nations, and how their loyalties were put to the test after 1914.
Love and Madness in the Eighteenth Century
Here is an enduring tale with 'a heady combination of sex, murder and celebrity stalking': in April 1779 a young soldier, James Hackman, murdered the Earl of Sandwich's mistress before attempting suicide. John Brewer investigates the facts of the case and examines the great variety of interpretations of them - prurient, moralizing, gothic, political and romantic - in the ensuing centuries.
School Songs and Gymslips
Grammar Schools in the 1950s and 1960s
With tales from the days of indoor sandals and navy knickers, Latin verbs and transistor radios, semolina pudding and O Levels, this light-hearted social history is based on the experiences of pupils from 18 schools around the country and describes how things were for grammar school girls – at school and at home – between about 1955 and 1965.
Crime, Death and Debauchery
Combining macabre, shocking and entertaining stories, this is a history of the darker side of London in the years from the Restoration to the early 19th century, when Thief Takers were corrupt, the Bow Street Runners attempted to keep order and Hogarth and Gilray produced their artworks satirizing the capital's excess and debauchery. It uncovers the lives of those who acquired notoriety, whether through their crimes, capture and punishment or their untimely demise at the hands of quacks or ruffians.
Digging in the Dark
A History of the Yorkshire Resurrectionists
‘It is nature that teaches us to use the bodies of the dead to preserve the bodies of the living,’ argued a solicitor’s clerk found guilty of body snatching in 1831. He is just one of the Yorkshire grave-robbers, from many walks of life, who appear in this compendium of grim tales. Johnson vividly describes the resurrectionists’ macabre methods, the violent public protests against their activities and the private anguish of their victims’ families.
An Italian Immigrant's Search for Respectability in Victorian Bath
Colin Fisher tells the story of Stefan Vallerio Pieroni (1819–1900), a seller of plaster figurines who came to England from Tuscany in 1837. Eventually, he settled in Bath, where he became prominent in the city’s social, cultural and political life.