Tag: Academics: History


Review: Marie Antoinette’s Head + Giveaway

Posted 6 February, 2014 by Lianne in Books / 7 Comments



Marie Antoinette’s Head: The Royal Hairdresser, The Queen, And The Revolution
By: Will Bashor
Format/Source: Hardback courtesy of the author

Marie Antoinette has remained atop the popular cultural landscape for centuries for the daring in style and fashion that she brought to 18th century France. For the better part of the queen’s reign, one man was entrusted with the sole responsibility of ensuring that her coiffure was at its most ostentatious best. Who was this minister of fashion who wielded such tremendous influence over the queen’s affairs? Marie Antoinette’s Head: The Royal Hairdresser, The Queen, and the Revolution charts the rise of Leonard Autié from humble origins as a country barber in the south of France to the inventor of the Pouf and premier hairdresser to Queen Marie-Antoinette.

By unearthing a variety of sources from the 18th and 19th centuries, including memoirs (including Léonard’s own), court documents, and archived periodicals the author, Professor Will Bashor, tells Autié’s mostly unknown story. He chronicles Leonard’s story, the role he played in the life of his most famous client, and the chaotic and history-making world in which he rose to prominence. Besides his proximity to the queen, Leonard also had a most fascinating life filled with sex (he was the only man in a female dominated court), seduction, intrigue, espionage, theft, exile, treason, and possibly, execution. The French press reported that Léonard was convicted of treason and executed in Paris in 1793. However, it was also recorded that Léonard, after receiving a pension from the new King Louis XVIII, died in Paris in March 1820. Granted, Leonard was known as the magician of Marie-Antoinette’s court, but how was it possible that he managed to die twice?

Be sure to stick around as at the end of the post, I am also hosting a book giveaway for a chance to win a copy of this book! (open to US/Canada only; sorry international readers!) Also, be sure to drop by tomorrow, 7 February, as the author will be featured in a guest post related to the topic of his book. See you then!

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Review: Elizabeth of York

Posted 26 November, 2013 by Lianne in Books / 1 Comment

Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and Her World
By: Alison Weir
Format/Source: galley courtesy of Ballantine Books via NetGalley

Many are familiar with the story of the much-married King Henry VIII of England and the celebrated reign of his daughter, Elizabeth I. But it is often forgotten that the life of the first Tudor queen, Elizabeth of York, Henry’s mother and Elizabeth’s grandmother, spanned one of England’s most dramatic and perilous periods. Now New York Times bestselling author and acclaimed historian Alison Weir presents the first modern biography of this extraordinary woman, whose very existence united the realm and ensured the survival of the Plantagenet bloodline.

Her birth was greeted with as much pomp and ceremony as that of a male heir. The first child of King Edward IV, Elizabeth enjoyed all the glittering trappings of royalty. But after the death of her father; the disappearance and probable murder of her brothers—the Princes in the Tower; and the usurpation of the throne by her calculating uncle Richard III, Elizabeth found her world turned upside-down: She and her siblings were declared bastards.

As Richard’s wife, Anne Neville, was dying, there were murmurs that the king sought to marry his niece Elizabeth, knowing that most people believed her to be England’s rightful queen. Weir addresses Elizabeth’s possible role in this and her covert support for Henry Tudor, the exiled pretender who defeated Richard at the Battle of Bosworth and was crowned Henry VII, first sovereign of the House of Tudor. Elizabeth’s subsequent marriage to Henry united the houses of York and Lancaster and signaled the end of the Wars of the Roses. For centuries historians have asserted that, as queen, she was kept under Henry’s firm grasp, but Weir shows that Elizabeth proved to be a model consort—pious and generous—who enjoyed the confidence of her husband, exerted a tangible and beneficial influence, and was revered by her son, the future King Henry VIII.

Drawing from a rich trove of historical records, Weir gives a long overdue and much-deserved look at this unforgettable princess whose line descends to today’s British monarch—a woman who overcame tragedy and danger to become one of England’s most beloved consorts.

Alison Weir’s quite an awesome and thorough historian, having written many history books about medieval and early modern English kings, queens and families. Her book The War of the Roses actually helped me wade through all of the families and figures involved in the fighting so naturally I was curious about her latest title. Seemed timely too as Elizabeth of York’s parents were Edward IV and Elizabeth of Wydeville, the two principal characters of the recent series The White Queen that aired on Starz. I was approved of an ARC of this title from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This book will be available on 3 December.

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Review: The King’s Grave

Posted 27 October, 2013 by Lianne in Books / 2 Comments

The King’s Grave
By: Philippa Langley, Michael Jones
Format/Source: galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley

The first full-length book about the discover of Richard III’s remains by the person who led the team and the historian whose book spurred her on

The mystery of who Richard III really was has fascinated historians, readers and audiences familiar with Shakespeare’s dastardly portrait of a hunchback monster for centuries. Earlier this year, the remains of a man with a curving spine, who possible was killed in battle, were discovered underneath the paving of a parking lot in Leicester, England. Phillipa Langley, head of The Richard III Society, spurred on by the work of the historian Michael Jones, led the team of who uncovered the remains, certain that she had found the bones of the monarch. When DNA verification later confirmed that the skeleton was, indeed, that of King Richard III, the discovery ranks among the great stories of passionate intuition and perseverance against the odds. The news of the discovery of Richard’s remains has been widely reported worldwide and was front page news for both the New York Times and The Washington Post. Many believe that now, with King Richard III’s skeleton in hand, historians will finally begin to understand what happened to him following the Battle of Bosworth Field (twenty miles or so from Leicester) and, ultimately, to know whether he was the hateful, unscrupulous monarch of Shakespeare’s drama or a much more benevolent king interested in the common man. Written in alternating chapters, with Richard’s 15th century life told by historian Michael Jones (author of the critically acclaimed Bosworth – 1485) contrasting with the 21st century eyewitness account of the search and discovery of the body by Philippa Langley.

The King’s Grave will be both an extraordinary portrait of the last Plantagenet monarch and the inspiring story of the archaeological dig that finally brings the real King Richard III into the light of day.

Given the news in the past two years or so about Richard III and the discovery of his remains, I thought the premise of this book was rather interesting. I was approved of a galley copy of this novel from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. This book will be available on October 29.

Reading the modern day chapters on the dig, it was really interesting how the team eventually came to uncover Richard III’s final resting place. A lot of work obviously went into verifying and protecting the bones and the reader learns a lot about what it’s like to go through the process of digging and discovery and the meticulous process of recovering.

As someone who studied history though and worked on literary works as part of her thesis, it was the historical chapters that interested me more. Michael Jones’ chapters is an interesting exercise in balancing out public preconceptions about Richard III, to see if the ideas we associate with him was the result of a radical campaign on the Tudors’ part to slander his image (culminating in the play written by William Shakespeare). It’s tricky work to sort through this material and while I’m not very familiar with this part of British history, the questions he raises throughout the book are interesting ones to consider.

I’m not entirely sure who the target audience is for this book given the overlap of academic fields involved in the endeavour. Nonetheless students and lovers of British history, particularly the period of the War of the Roses, would likely be interested to check out The King’s Grave.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Read more about the author from the Richard III society website || Order this book from the Book Depository

Review: Tudors – The History of England (Volume 2)

Posted 8 October, 2013 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

Tudors (A History of England, Vol. 2)
By: Peter Ackroyd
Format/Source: galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley

Peter Ackroyd, one of Britain’s most acclaimed writers, brings the age of the Tudors to vivid life in his monumental History of England, charting the course of English history from Henry VIII’s cataclysmic break with Rome to the epic rule of Elizabeth I.

Rich in detail and atmosphere, Tudors is the story of Henry VIII’s relentless pursuit of both the perfect wife and the perfect heir; of how the brief reign of the teenage king, Edward VI, gave way to the violent reimposition of Catholicism and the stench of bonfires under “Bloody Mary.” It tells, too, of the long reign of Elizabeth I, which, though marked by civil strife, plots against her, and even an invasion force, finally brought stability.

Above all, it is the story of the English Reformation and the making of the Anglican Church. At the beginning of the sixteenth century, England was still largely feudal and looked to Rome for direction; at its end, it was a country where good governance was the duty of the state, not the church, and where men and women began to look to themselves for answers rather than to those who ruled them.

I came across this title on NetGalley and was immediately curious about this book for two reasons: 1) I had heard of Peter Ackroyd in passing and 2) it’s been a while since I’ve read any non-fiction history titles set in the Tudor period and I was wondering if there was something different that he would bring to the table. I was approved of a galley copy of this novel from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. This book will be available on October 8.

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Review: Across the Aisle

Posted 28 June, 2013 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

Across the Aisle: Opposition in Canadian Politics
By: David E. Smith
Format/Source: galley courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

How do parties with official opposition status influence Canadian politics? Across the Aisle is an innovative examination of the theory and practice of opposition in Canada, both in Parliament and in provincial legislatures. Extending from the pre-Confederation era to the present day, it focuses on whether Canada has developed a coherent tradition of parliamentary opposition.

David E. Smith argues that Canada has in fact failed to develop such a tradition. He investigates several possible reasons for this failure, including the long dominance of the Liberal party, which arrested the tradition of viewing the opposition as an alternative government; periods of minority government induced by the proliferation of parties; the role of the news media, which have largely displaced Parliament as a forum for commentary on government policy; and, finally, the increasing popularity of calls for direct action in politics.

Readers of Across the Aisle will gain a renewed understanding of official opposition that goes beyond Stornoway and shadow cabinets, illuminating both the historical evolution and recent developments of opposition politics in Canada.

I came across this title on NetGalley. I was intrigued by it because of its timeliness; in recent times, the official Opposition here in Canada has been pretty uninspiring and divided, enabling the Conservative party to consolidate their authority over policy and the direction of the country. It is frustrating so I was interested to see how Smith argues about this situation.

What I appreciated the most about this book was how in-depth Smith’s analysis and presentation of the official Opposition was in relation to parliamentary politics and Canadian politics. He draws in a lot of material through its history, spanning back to the early days of the country, which is a nice refresher on Canadian history. All of the factors mentioned in the book blurb above were discussed in great detail, supporting his premise regarding the nature and role of the official Opposition.

Across the Aisle is an illuminating and well-researched piece. Apologies that this review is so short; it’s been a while since I’ve read it and alas, the galley copy has been archived since I’ve started this review. Regardless, I highly recommend this title if you are interesting in Canadian history and Canadian politics.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Read the author’s profile from The University of Saskatchewan Researchers Page || Order this book from The University of Toronto Press