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Polity has a strong and rapidly expanding list in the field of history. We publish the work of many internationally respected scholars and our list includes translations of works by some of the most distinguished European historians.
Our authors include Georges Duby, Roger Chartier, Norbert Elias, Alain Corbin, Piero Camporesi, Frank Lestringant, Natalie Zemon Davis, Catherine Hall, Robert Darnton, Peter Burke, Anton Blok, Asa Briggs, Mary Fulbrook, David Vincent, Peter Coates, M. L. Bush, Barry Reay, Keith Wrightson, Roy Porter, Serge Gruzinski, Bronisaw Geremek, Martine Segalen, Leonore Davidoff, Christian Meier, and Pierre Vidal-Naquet.
Visit our highlights page for more information on our new and forthcoming general interest titles.
Toner: Roman Disasters
"Accessible in style, wide-ranging in scope, and innovative in its combination of ancient sources and relevant modern scholarship, Toner's book constitutes an excellent and long-overdue survey of Roman disasters generally, as well as offering insightful analyses of an array of topics, from Roman attitudes towards maritime risk to early Christian notions of divine causation."
Greg Aldrete, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay
This book looks at how the Romans coped with, thought about, and used disasters for their own ends. Rome has been famous for its great triumphs. Yet Rome also suffered colossal disasters. From the battle of Cannae, to the destruction of Pompeii, to the first appearance of the bubonic plague, the Romans experienced large scale calamities. This insightful book is the first to treat such disasters as a conceptual unity. It shows that vulnerability to disasters was affected by politics, social status, ideology and economics. Above all, it illustrates how the resilience of their political and cultural system allowed the Romans to survive the impact of these life-threatening events.
"In this remarkable tour-de-force Peter Burke paints a big picture of the history of knowledge in the West since 1750. His expert synthesis includes many kinds of general facts and figures but also delves with nuance into counter-trends as well as trends and highlights a wealth of telling examples from a vast range of places and fields of academic and government inquiry. An invaluable guide for expert and novice alike"
Ann Blair, Harvard University
Peter Burke follows up his magisterial Social History of Knowledge, picking up where the first volume left off around 1750 at the publication of the French Encyclopédie and following the story through to Wikipedia. Like the previous volume, it offers a social history (or a retrospective sociology of knowledge) in the sense that it focuses not on individuals but on groups, institutions, collective practices and general trends.
"Science in the Twentieth Century and Beyond is the book historians of modern science have been waiting for. It offers an ambitious yet masterly synthesis of the vast historical literature on twentieth century and contemporary science. Through the concept of the “working worlds” of science, it provides a unified and compelling analytical framework within which to interpret and illuminate this ever-expanding literature and the development of the sciences from 1900 to the present. Jon Agar is a sure-footed and informative guide over this complex terrain; what results is a clear and comprehensive work of breadth and vision that few other scholars could have produced. Superbly crafted, elegantly written, inventive and thought-provoking, the book makes an absolutely invaluable contribution to the history of science. It will be indispensable to anyone who teaches, researches or is just interested in the history of modern science and the contemporary world."
Jeff Hughes, University of Manchester
Jackson Pollock and Family: American Letters 1927-1947
"These letters are extraordinary, not only because of the events to which they so pointedly bear witness or the remarkable bond they manifest between all the members of this family, scattered as they are across the US while in search of a job, but for the relentless cultural and artistic aspirations of their authors throughout times of extreme financial distress. There are moments of anger, or despair at the political situation, but overall it is a shared conviction that the world could be made a better place both by art and by political activism, or by the joining of the two, that lies at the core of this amazingly rich correspondence. This vast trove gives us a detailed picture of what it was to be an aspiring artist in poverty-stricken America during the 1930s. It should be a must-read for anyone interested in the socio-political context from which American modernism emerged."
Yves-Alain Bois, Institute for Advanced Study, New Jersey
"Beyond simply recounting the biographical journey, Antonio Forcellino also seamlessly incorporates analyses of Raphael’s works in this lively study. Painter, architect, set designer: all facets of Raphael are discussed with the consummate art of the storyteller."
Tout Pour Les Femmes
In this major new biography Antonio Forcellino retraces the meteoric arc of Raphael’s career by re-examining contemporary documents and accounts and interpreting the artist’s works with the eye of an expert art restorer. Raphael’s paintings are vividly described and placed in their historical context.
Gerhardt and Karlauf: The Night of Broken Glass
"There are few more powerful or moving collections of testimonies from the Jewish victims of the Nazi pogrom of 9-10 November 1938. This is an extraordinary collection that conveys the full extent of Nazi brutality towards Jews even before the 'Final Solution' had begun."
Richard J. Evans, University of Cambridge
In 1939 the Harvard sociologist Edward Hartshorne gathered eyewitness accounts of the Kristallnacht from hundreds of Jews who had fled. These eyewitness testimonies – published here for the first time with a Foreword by Saul Friedländer, paint a harrowing picture of everyday violence in one of Europe’s darkest moments.
Doron Rabinovici: Eichmann’s Jews
"A unique and candid account of the internal workings of the Jewish Community Vienna during the war. Doron Rabinovici has the courage and the gall to address directly the question of how much the Eichmann's Jews facilitated the Holocaust."
Peter Goodrich, Cardozo School of Law, New York
Joachim Radkau: Wood: A History
"Joachim Radkau has set the agenda in German forest history for a generation. At last, one of his major works on this theme is available in translation. English-speaking historians should sit up and take notice: their world will look different after reading Radkau's work."
Paul Warde, University of East Anglia
Etkind, Finnin et al: Remembering Katyn
"This book, a rare example of collective scholarship, is more than path-breaking. It manages to move around the furniture in an entire field, that of memory studies, one that is shared by literary scholars, linguists, anthropologists, psychologists, historians and others. This exploration of memory events is essential reading for all students in the social sciences and the humanities."
Jay Winter, Yale University
Katyn – the Soviet massacre of over 21,000 Polish prisoners in 1940 – has come to be remembered as Stalin’s emblematic mass murder, an event obscured by one of the most extensive cover-ups in history. This book traces the legacy of Katyn through the interconnected memory cultures of Belarus, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, and the Baltic States.
Morillo with Pavkovic: What is Military History, 2nd edition
"The second edition of What is Military History? is a fast-paced, authoritative introduction to what is possibly the oldest and still the most popular > form of historical writing. The innovations of the past 50 years that reinvigorated military history and transformed it into one of the strongest sub-fields in the historical discipline are skillfully highlighted. Snooty academics who dismiss military history as a simple narrative concerning battles and generals need to read this book to discover the rich scholarship they have been missing. Serious military historians seeking new arguments to justify their specialty will also benefit from this informative and witty survey."
Gregory J. W. Urwin, Temple University
This clear, readable introduction to the popular field of military history is now available in a refreshed and updated second edition. It shows that military history encompasses not just accounts of campaigns and battles but includes a wide range of perspectives on all aspects of past military organization and activity.
Sonya Rose: What is Gender History?
"Sonya Rose has written a wide-ranging survey of an important and rapidly changing field of historical study. Notable for its clarity, its sophistication, and its generous appreciation of diverse approaches, this book provides a splendid introduction to the study of gender dynamics in history."
Raewyn Connell, University of Sydney
Withington: Society in Early Modern England
"A rigorous and persuasive charting of key concepts and discourses which not only reformulates the significance of the 'early modern' period but also gives that period a new shape."
Keith Wrightson, Yale University
This book traces the coinage of 'early modern' as a category of historical analysis to Victorian debates about the origins of modern society. It then moves back in time to consider when and why words like ‘modern’ and ‘society’ were first introduced into English in the 16th and 17th centuries and who it was that used them. In so doing it unpicks the connections between linguistic and social change and how the consequences of those processes still resonate today.
A major contribution to our understanding of European history before 1700, the book will interest anybody concerned with the historical antecedents of contemporary culture and the interconnections between the past and the present.
Burke: What is Cultural History? 2nd Edition
"There is no clearer, more erudite, more humane voice in the field of cultural history than that of Peter Burke. This book is a delight, a tour in the company of a sure and steady guide to the ways men and women in the past have tried to make sense of the world in which they live."
Jay Winter, Yale University
Andrew Leach: What is Architectural History?
"In this remarkable book, Andrew Leach makes the complex topic of historical knowledge in architecture accessible to a wide audience. He examines the discipline from multiple perspectives, considering the shifts in theoretical and methodological positions and situating them in their historic contexts. He reveals the richness of the field by highlighting its strategies, ambiguities, engagements with other disciplines, negotiations between polarities (high culture/low culture and the general /the particular), and relationship to architectural practice. Through a careful analysis of key texts, Leach leads the reader to the ultimate question of the meaning of architectural history today."
Zeynep Celik, New Jersey Institute of Technology
Black: War and the Cultural Turn
"This work fills an intellectual niche: it is the only one establishing culture as a flexible, malleable concept. Key themes, above all the flexible nature of culture and the limits and prospects of its use as a tool for analyzing war,are clearly demonstrated. The book’s thesis is also effectively contextualized with alternative analytical matrices, such as technology as a key determinant. Jeremy Black is one of the few scholars of war who commands the sources and goes beyond them."
Dennis Showalter, Colorado College
In this stimulating new text, renowned military historian Jeremy Black unpacks the concept of culture as a descriptive and analytical approach to the history of warfare. Black takes the reader through the limits and prospects of culture as a tool for analyzing war.
"This book is timely, well-written, and of high quality. It fills a significant gap in the discipline – there are currently no histories of the subject which match this book’s breadth in such a thorough, unbiased way."
Gregory Miller, University of Oklahoma
Terrorism is one of the forces defining our age, but it has also been around since some of the earliest civilizations. This one-of-a-kind study of the history of terrorism - from ancient Assyria to the post-9/11 War on Terror - puts terrorism into broad historical, political, religious and social context. The book leads the reader through the shifting understandings and definitions of terrorism through the ages, and its continuous development of themes allows for a fuller understanding of the uses of and responses to terrorism.
Arnold: What is Medieval History?
‘This stimulating and nuanced book should be required reading for, at the very least, all of those taking Master and Doctoral degrees in the period and it will give those already “in the field” at schools and universities much to reflect upon.’
BBC History Magazine
Harzig and Hoerder: What is Migration History?
The study of migration is and always has been an interdisciplinary field of study, vast and vibrant in nature. This short introduction to the field, written by leading historians of migration for student readers, offers an acute analysis of key issues across several disciplines. It takes in its scope an overview of migrations through history, how classic theories have interpreted such movements, and contemporary topics and debates including transnational and transcultural lives, access to citizenship, and migrant entrepreneurship. Key concepts and theories, such as systems, networks, and gender, are explained and historicized to produce a complex picture of the interaction of migrants, scholars, and disciplinary cultures in a globalized world.
Briggs and Burke: A Social History of the Media 3rd Edition
Written by two leading social and cultural historians, A Social History of the Media provides a masterful overview of communication media and the social and cultural contexts within which they emerged and evolved. This third edition has been thoroughly revised to bring the text up to date with the very latest developments in the field.
Knight: The Making of Modern Science
"David Knight has long delighted his readers with books on the history of science that have been both instructive and entertaining. Here he draws on a lifetime's study to explain how science - as a practical, intellectually challenging, and socially diverse activity - gained its cultural importance in the long nineteenth-century. Warmly recommended."
John Hedley Brooke, University of Oxford
Of all the inventions of the nineteenth century, the scientist is one of the most striking. Men of science rivalled clerics and critics as sages; they were honoured as national treasures, and buried in state funerals. Their new ideas invigorated the life of the mind. Peripatetic congresses, great exhibitions, museums, technical colleges and laboratories blossomed; and new industries based on chemistry and electricity brought prosperity and power, economic and military. The ideas, discoveries and inventions of scientists transformed the world: lives were longer and healthier, cities and empires grew, societies became urban rather than agrarian, the local became global.
Gruzinski: What Time is it There?
"Serge Gruzinski offers a brilliant multi-sited comparative study for an alternative history of modernity and globalization. Goa, Istambul, and Mexico City displace Amsterdam, London, and Paris."
Jose Rabasa, Harvard University
In this remarkable book, the author takes us to the early modern period and examines two testimonies that require us to navigate between America and the Islamic world long before the images of 9/11 had entered our heads. One is a chronicle of the New World compiled in Istanbul in 1580, the other a Repertory of the Times written in Mexico in 1606.
Ferro: Resentment in History
"Marc Ferro's account of the dark force of resentment and revenge in modern times is a salutary reminder how much history of a high order can contribute to an understanding of our turbulent world. If you think fundamentalist Islam came out of the blue, then read this book and think again."
Jay Winter, Yale University
Most people in the Roman world did not belong to the elite. Much ancient history, however, has focused on the lives, politics and culture of the minority elite. This book helps redress the balance by focusing on the non-elite in the Roman world. It builds a vivid account of the everyday lives of the masses, including their social and family life, health, leisure and religious beliefs, and the ways in which their popular culture resisted the domination of the ruling elite.
Bringmann: A History of the Roman Republic
This book is chronologically organized, giving the reader a clear sense of the historical progress and dynamics of Roman republic history, it also offers a coherent and authoritative overview of the culture, economics, religion and military might of the Roman empire, presented in an original and stimulating new way and will be essential reading for upper-level undergraduates in history and classical studies.
Livi Bacci: Migration
"The appearance of any book by demographic historian Massimo Livi-Bacci is cause for celebration and one on migration especially welcome. Migration, more than most issues, is best understood in the context of long-term patterns. This book, drawing on research in several languages, deftly puts the European experience of both emigration and immigration into long-term historical perspective, distilling six centuries into fewer than 100 pages."
J.R. McNeill, Georgetown University
This short book provides a succinct and masterly overview of the history of migration, from the earliest movements of human beings out of Africa into Asia and Europe to the present day, exploring along the way those factors that contribute to the successes and failures of migratory groups.
Heywood: A History of Childhood
"Even-handed, accurate and well-crafted, this admirable survey strikes the right balance: simple enough for a first-year student, sophisticated enough to do justice to the material."
Roy Porter, Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine
This series will provide accessible guides for undergraduate students of history, introducing students to the different eras and types of historical study. The books mark out the territory covered by each sub-discipline (whether chronological or intellectual), setting out how each came to be established as a distinct field of study. They will outline areas of contention and debate, providing students with the tools to discuss the texts that they read and to engage in their own work.
This major new series is designed to provide an up-to-date and coherent group of textbooks on the history of science. The series consists of period-based volumes which taken as a whole will provide a coherent narrative from ancient times to the present day. Written with students and non-specialist readers in mind, the series takes full account of new directions in the field, while setting the analysis within wider cultural history.
This series is comparative in character and includes books by well-established scholars who are leaders in their field. The books have been written in a way that is suitable for non-specialists, and the series will provide ideal introductory texts, especially for students who are being encouraged to think about historical problems in a conceptual and comparative way.