A Scheme of Heaven
Astrology and the Birth of Science
Data scientist Alexander Boxer is fascinated by astrology, which he calls ‘the ancient world’s most ambitious applied mathematics problem’. Tracing its history from the age of the pharaohs to the modern newspaper horoscope, he introduces exponents including Ptolemy, Kepler and al-Kindi; explains and tests astrological techniques; and shows how ‘the arch-pseudoscience’ still appeals to our tendency to seek patterns in random events and objects and our desire to predict the future.
A Cheesemonger's History of the British Isles
Realizing that some of the artisanal cheeses he was sampling for Neal’s Yard Dairy were similar to those made in the Neolithic era, Ned Palmer set out to explore the history of cheesemaking. Travelling across Britain and Ireland, he uncovers the stories behind long-term favourites such as Cheddar and Stilton and rejoices in the recent ‘Great Cheese Renaissance’ that has seen the revival of farmhouse varieties.
The Secret History of Disinformation and Political Warfare
Beginning with a clever ruse to sow disinformation about emigré Russians opposing the Soviet regime in the 1920s, this study reveals a century of undercover intelligence operations that have sought to exploit political tensions by planting, leaking or forging false stories. The final chapters deal with the emergence of computer hacking, cyber attacks and disinformation campaigns waged through social media.
Turned Out Nice Again
On Living with the Weather
In this exploration of Britain’s whimsical weather and our preoccupation with it, past and present, Richard Mabey looks back to events such as the ‘straunge and terrible Wunder’ of ball lightning in Suffolk in 1577 and Coleridge’s moonbow in 1801; he quotes from the letters of the ‘weather laureate’, Gilbert White; and he describes recent hurricanes and halcyon days as he reflects on how we talk about, respond to and remember the weather.
The Origin of Empire
Rome from the Republic to Hadrian 264 BC–AD 138
David Potter begins by describing Roman dominance in the Italian peninsula in the late summer of 264 BCE, as a Roman army was poised to cross the straits of Messina and begin the invasion of Sicily. His narrative follows Roman expansion through the next three centuries up to 138 CE and the death of the emperor Hadrian, who left a successful multi-ethnic, multi-cultural empire that stretched from northern England to Turkey and westward around the Mediterranean to Morocco.
Escape from Earth
A Secret History of the Space Rocket
After happening upon an old – and still restricted – Cold War rocket testing site in the Outer Hebrides, Fraser MacDonald began to research the technology being tested, the ‘Corporal’ guided missile, and the mystery of the designer Frank J Malina. This book tells the long-buried story of this pioneering rocket scientist, his work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the birth of the space rocket – and how its inventor was written out of history during the McCarthy witch-hunts.
Around the World in Twenty Languages
More than 75 per cent of the world’s population can communicate in one of the 20 most-spoken languages, from Vietnamese and Korean (85 million speakers each) to Mandarin and English (1.3 and 1.5 billion respectively). As he profiles these successful lingua francas, Dorren discusses key features including their origins, scripts and pronunciation. He also analyses how linguistic oddities, such as the different ‘genderlects’ spoken by Japanese men and women, reflect aspects of cultural and political history.
Working with Nature
Saving and Using the World's Wild Places
Combining memoir and travelogue, the botanist and conservationist Jeremy Purseglove describes how nature has long been exploited across our planet, considering issues such as the palm oil trade in Indonesia, land grabs in Africa and peat farming in Britain. He outlines how the earth's precious resources can be harvested more carefully and suggests workable alternatives to what he refers to as 'grim industrialised monocultures'.
A Thousand Miles Along Britain's Canals
Britain’s canals played an essential role in industry for 150 years and despite being superseded by railways remain integral to many people’s lives. In this book, illustrated with black and white photographs, Jasper Winn recalls his year-long tour of the water ways, exploring their history and architecture but also meeting communities of boaters, anglers and walkers that are thriving in a peaceful world away from the bustle of modern life.
The Creation of an Icon
Although her life is poorly documented the beautiful appearance of Akhenaten’s consort Nefertiti has been made familiar by the haunting, colourfully painted bust excavated at Amarna in 1912. This history of the artwork first covers the evidence for its creator, manufacture and purpose during the ‘heretic’ pharaoh’s reign more than three millennia ago, then traces its remarkable (and sometimes controversial) celebrity and cultural influence in the modern world.
The Crimes of Ancient Rome
With their bloodthirsty gladiatorial contests and brutal wars of conquest, not to mention the alleged corruption and sexual depravity of their tyrannical emperors, the Romans have a reputation for violence, excess and immorality. In this book Jerry Toner puts Rome on trial, using historical and legal texts, as well as evidence from surviving papyrus documents, to investigate how Romans thought about crime, whether ordinary citizens were basically law-abiding and what forms of detection and redress were available to victims.
A Farmer's Diary
A Year at High House Farm
Running a farm in Northumberland with 200 sheep, chickens, barley and wheat crops, and a micro-brewery and wedding venue operating from the outbuildings, requires many skills. Recording the work of the farm through the year, Sally Urwin gives an insight into the challenges, amusements and frustrations she encounters, from bringing in the harvest, lambing and sheep shearing to fixing dry stone walls and attending the village talent contest.
Civilisations - 2 Books
Inspired by Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation television series of the 1960s, the 2018 BBC series explored the role of art and the creative imagination in the formation and development of civilizations. These two illustrated studies accompanied four programmes in the series, offering deeper explorations of their themes. The two titles included in this set are: How do we Look, The Eye of Faith (Read more...) First Contact, Cult of Progress (Read more...)
Dispatches from Earth's Most Vital Frontlines
Drawing on decades of campaigning and first-hand experiences, this illustrated book explains the importance of rainforests and how their decline must be managed in the face of the demands of a growing population and the drive for economic development. Spanning the Americas, Africa and Asia, it examines threats including logging and cattle-ranching and uses scientific evidence and local knowledge to set out the measures needed to save what remains of these vital ecosystems.
How Do We Look, The Eye of Faith
In How Do We Look, Mary Beard explores how the human body was portrayed in the earliest art, including the colossal Olmec heads of Central America, Egyptian pharaohs, Chinese warriors and Praxiteles’ Aphrodite in ancient Greece. In Part Two, The Eye of Faith she visits Buddhist temples, Christian art and architecture, and Islamic mosques and calligraphy to explore the relationship between art and religion and the endeavour to make the divine visible.
The Cabaret of Plants
Botany and The Imagination
Challenging the view of plants as passive vegetation, Mabey approaches them as ’authors of their own lives’ and explores our relationship with them, from prehistoric cave painting, through cultivation and exploration to the ‘astonishing revelations of 19th-century botany’. Among the intriguing plants whose lives he discusses are the baobab tree; ginseng, the panacea; the carnivorous tipitiwitchet; an Amazonian giant water lily whose leaves were the model for the Crystal Palace; and the intelligence of mimosa.
Boots on the Ground
Britain and Her Army Since 1945
The British Army has been continuously employed, somewhere in the world, since 1945 – despite diminishing significantly in numbers. In this history of post-war Britain, former Chief of the General Staff Richard Dannatt examines affairs of state through the prism of the army's involvement, from managing the end of empire and the troubles in Northern Ireland to the Cold War, the Middle East and the emerging threats of the 21st century.
The Cabaret of Plants
Botany and the Imagination
Challenging the view of plants as passive vegetation, Mabey approaches them as ’authors of their own lives’ and explores our relationship with them, from prehistoric cave painting, through cultivation and exploration to the ‘astonishing revelations of 19th-century botany’. Among the intriguing plants whose lives he discusses are the baobab tree; ginseng, the panacea; the carnivorous tipitiwitchet; an Amazonian giant water lily whose leaves were the model for the Crystal Place; and the intelligence of mimosa.
Dr Livingstone, I Presume?
Missionaries, Journalists, Explorers and Empire
First reported in 1872, Stanley's famous four words immediately entered popular culture, and the meeting which they recall became much mythologized. But the truth behind the American reporter's discovery of David Livingstone, presumed dead after five years of travelling, is complicated. This book offers an eye-opening glimpse into Livingstone's African expedition, his collaboration with slave-traders, the circumstances of the meeting itself and its influence on British and American culture, from films to jigsaw puzzles.
At The Edge of Uncertainty
11 Discoveries Taking Science by Surprise
While investigating the universe, scientists also discover the broad horizon of their ignorance. As Brooks demonstrates, this uncertainty creates fertile ground for radical theories, such as the Big Bang and natural selection, which are often dismissed out of hand when first proposed. The new perspectives collected here illustrate how this process continues in such thrilling and dangerous ideas as the merging of human and non-human species and the application of quantum physics to biology.