Innocence and War
Mark Twain's Holy Land Revisited
In 1867 Mark Twain joined a six-month tour of the Middle East amid a company of Presbyterians committed to bringing Christianity to the Ottoman Empire. Following in his footsteps, Ian Strathcarron travels through Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank to Jerusalem. He finds many parallels between the troubled region then and now, and rich ironies to match Twain’s observations of his travelling companions.
The Indian Equator
Mark Twain's India Revisited
Mark Twain’s two-month sojourn in India formed the most absorbing part of a round-the-world tour he undertook in 1895–6. Retracing the American humorist’s itinerary, Strathcarron travels from Mumbai to the Himalayas, visiting Jaipur, Delhi, Varanasi and – in what is now Pakistan – Lahore. He stays in the same clubs, rides the same railways and, like his predecessor, meets both the mighty and the meek.
A Cultural Guide
Ian Campbell Ross traces the history of Umbria from the Umbri people living there 1,000 years before Christ, to the present day, and offers an in-depth guide to the region’s cities and hill-towns, its ancient monuments and Renaissance art, and the glorious landscapes of ‘the green heart of Italy’.
How Britain Has Been Forged by the Wind
The menacing low-pressure system (dubbed Low Z by the meteorological community), gale-force winds and resulting storm surge of 31 January 1953 took 307 lives around the coast of Britain, inundating Canvey Island and its 10,000 inhabitants and sinking the Princess Victoria car ferry off Stranraer, along with 105 passengers. Beattie’s account draws on meteorology, literature and social history to describe how the wind, with its storms and prevailing breezes, has affected Britain’s landscapes and people.
Innercities Cultural Guides
Martin Garrett traces Oxford’s history from Anglo-Saxon ‘oxen-ford’ to the present, with chapters on its architecture, ‘town and gown’, and writers and religion; and goes beyond the city to surrounding places of interest including Blenheim Palace and White Horse Hill.
Into the Kazakh Steppe
John Castle's Mission to Khan Abulkhayir (1736)
John Castle, an artist and adventurer of mixed English and Prussian descent, was commissioned by the Russian Empire to join an expedition to secure the region north of what is now Kazakhstan. His diary, translated here for the first time, recounts his perilous journey and contains descriptions of the peoples, places and customs he encountered. Castle’s own drawings depict the Khan, his yurt, and life on the steppe.
The Fortune Hunter
A German Prince in Regency England
Happily married, but insolvent, Prince Hermann von Pückler-Muskau (1785–1871) and his wife Lucie devised a plan to save their beloved estate: they would divorce and Pückler would go to England to marry an heiress. Based on the prince’s letters reporting his progress to Lucie, this book is a blow-by-blow account of Pückler’s courtships, but also a portrait of Regency England through the eyes of an intelligent, observant and, at one point, lovesick fortune hunter.
Celebrated as the ‘Pearl of the Mediterranean’ and reviled as ‘a nest of corsairs’, the Libyan capital is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the region. Blending personal experience, extensive research and accounts by residents and visitors, this lively, accessible book charts Tripoli’s 2,500-year history from the Phoenician traders to the anarchy that followed the fall of Colonel Gaddafi, revealing the rich and complex nature of this vibrant city.
The Revolutionary Life of Richard Doll
By the late 1940s, lung cancer had reached an unprecedented level in Britain; in 1950, the number of deaths (13,000) exceeded those from tuberculosis. That same year, a research paper by Richard Doll (1912–2005) concluded that smoking cigarettes was ‘a cause and an important cause’ of lung cancer. This biography describes Doll’s life and politics, his work in wartime, his immense contribution to epidemiology, and his long crusade against premature death and the tobacco industry.
The Scottish Highlands
A Cultural History
Beginning with the natural formation of the landscape and brief surveys of its flora and fauna, Beattie's cultural history traces the history of the Scottish Highlands as ‘characterized by a struggle against grinding poverty and savage political repression’ rather than the romantic glosses of Victorian ‘mythologizers’. He goes on to discuss the novels set in this ‘elemental landscape’, the poetry that the Highlands and its people have inspired, and the responses of visitors from Samuel Johnson to Paul Theroux.
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 biography charts his Catholic upbringing, his friendships with Cyril Connolly, Iris Murdoch, Patrick Leigh Fermor and Bruce Chatwin, his often contentious membership of the Jesuit order (which he left to marry Connolly’s widow), and his tenure as Professor of Poetry at Oxford.