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review 2018-05-24 01:56
Agricola and Germany
Agricola and Germany (Oxford World's Classics) - Anthony Richard Birley,Tacitus

Every one of Roman’s greatest historians began their writing career with some piece, for one such man it was a biography of his father-in-law and an ethnographic work about Germanic tribes.  Agricola and Germany are the first written works by Cornelius Tacitus, which are both the shortest and the only complete pieces that he wrote.

 

Tacitus’ first work was a biography of his father-in-law, Gnaeus Julius Agricola, who was the governor of Britain and the man who completed the conquest of the rest of the island before it was abandoned by the emperor Domitian after he recalled Agricola and most likely poisoned him.  The biography not only covered the life of Agricola but also was a history of the Roman conquest of Britain climaxed by the life of the piece’s hero.  While Agricola focused mostly one man’s career, Tacitus did give brief ethnographic descriptions of the tribes of Britain which was just a small precursor of his Germany.  This short work focused on all the Germanic tribes from the east bank of the Rhine to the shores of the North and Baltic Seas in the north to the Danube to the south and as far as rumor took them to the east.  Building upon the work of others and using some of the information he gathered while stationed near the border, Tacitus draws an image of various tribes comparing them to the Romans in unique turn of phrases that shows their barbarianism to Roman civilization but greater freedom compared to Tacitus’ imperial audience.

 

Though there are some issues with Tacitus’ writing, most of the issues I had with this book is with the decisions made in putting this Oxford World’s Classics edition together.  Namely it was the decision to put the Notes section after both pieces of writing.  Because of this, one had to have a figure or bookmark in either Agricola or Germany and another in the Notes section.  It became tiresome to go back and forth, which made keeping things straight hard to do and the main reason why I rate this book as low as I did.

 

Before the Annals and the Histories were written, Tacitus began his writing with a biography of his father-in-law and Roman’s northern barbarian neighbors.  These early works show the style that Tacitus would perfect for his history of the first century Caesars that dramatically changed the culture of Roman.

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review 2018-04-27 14:38
My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan
My Oxford Year - Julia Whelan

This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books.

Honestly, this was fantastic! I just really loved everything about this delightful story. I know Julia Whelan from her work as a narrator so I was really curious about this book as soon as I saw it. I decided to give it a try simply because of my curiosity and didn't really know much about the book beyond my guess that it would be about someone spending a year at Oxford (nothing gets past me). This book is really so much more than that and I must say that I had such a good time reading this book.

Ella is at the center of this story. Ella is from Ohio and has just made it to England to study at Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship. To make things even better, she gets a call offering her a position to work on a presidential campaign just as she makes it to England. Things are looking up for Ella. She soon realizes that things are a little different at Oxford than she expects but she is making friends. One of her classes is being taught by the same man she had a run-in with at the fish shop on her first day in town. I do think that this a book that will really be best to go in as blindly as possible so I am going to be careful not to include any spoilers in this reviews.

I really liked Ella. She is so driven to do well with everything she attempts but it quickly becomes obvious that she will have to make a few adjustments to succeed at Oxford. She was just such a strong character and I found her very easy to relate to. I really liked her more and more as the book progressed and thought that she grew dramatically as a character. Jamie was also great. He was more of a mystery to me at the start of the book but as I continued reading, I really fell in love with him. He was such a great guy and I thought he compliments Ella very well. 

This story made me think, it made me feel, and it even made me laugh. This book was such a joy to read. When I started reading, I thought that this was going to be one kind of story and then things changed and by the end of the book I was reading something totally different. I loved the fact that this book went in such an unexpected direction kind of like life tends to do. 

I would highly recommend this book to others. Julia Whelan has proven that she is not only great narrator but that she is also a wonderful writer. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to read this story and can't wait to read more of her work in the future.

I received a digital review copy of this book from William Morrow Paperbacks via Edelweiss.

Initial Thoughts
I loved this this. Not really sure on the final rating right now. It is either 4 or 5 stars from me but I will need to think about it a bit so I will go with 4 for now. I really didn't know a lot about this book before reading it besides the fact that it would be about someone spending a year at Oxford (nothing gets past me). It was so much more than that. It was a delight in the end. I have loved Julia Whelan's narration in the past and it looks like I enjoy her writing just as much.

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review 2018-03-28 16:22
An outstanding survey of 18th century England
A Polite And Commercial People: England 1727 1783 - Paul Langford

In 1934, Oxford University Press published the first volume in the “Oxford History of England” series.  As subsequent volumes came out over the next 31 years, they came to serve as indispensable surveys of English history, the natural starting point for anyone interested in England’s past and a powerful force influencing our understanding of it.  Yet as the state of historical scholarship evolved, gradually the volumes became outdated in terms of their presentation and interpretation of the past.  In response, Oxford launched a “New Oxford History of England” series, of which Paul Langford’s book was the inaugural title.

 

In it Langford presents a wide-ranging history of England from the accession of George II to the loss of the American colonies.  He presents the era as a chaotic one, with the country still coping with the consequences of the Glorious Revolution, which let a deep impression upon politics and society.  Though the aristocracy remained the dominant group in many respects, the author sees the middle class increasingly coming to play a vital role in English life as the century progressed.  In an age of commercial prosperity, their”polite” values increasingly contested with those of the upper class, setting the stage for their gradual assertion as the dominant segment of society in the century that followed.

 

Langford’s book is an outstanding survey of Hanoverian England, one that draws upon an impressive range of scholarship.  Though his main focus is on the politics and society of the period, very little escapes his coverage, as economics, art, and literature also are addressed within its pages. Though he presumes that his readers possess some prior knowledge of his subject (the mini biographies of people offered in footnotes in the old series are absent here), his analysis and arguments are clear and forcefully made.  The understanding he provides of the era makes his book a critical resource on the subject, and a worthy successor volume to those from the venerable old series.

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review 2018-03-28 05:04
An exceptional study of England in the high Middle Ages
England Under The Norman And Angevin Kings, 1075-1225 - Robert Bartlett

Robert Bartlett’s contribution to the New Oxford History of England series is about a kingdom in transition.  In 1075, England was a newly conquered realm of William of Normandy, who was transforming the sleepy monarchy of the Anglo-Saxons into a powerful feudal state.  A century and a half later, his great-great-great grandson, Henry III, issued a modified Magna Charta that served as the foundation of English common law, establishing the right of the English aristocracy against the king.  How this evolution took place forms just one aspect of this exceptional book, which addresses nearly every aspect of England’s politics, culture, and society during this period.

 

In doing this, Bartlett adopts an analytical rather than narrative approach.  Events are studied within the context of the broader patterns and developments of the era.  This makes for a more challenging read but also a much more rewarding one, with insights contained on every page.  Readers unfamiliar with the period should start with a survey such as David Carpenter’s The Struggle for Mastery, but even knowledgeable students of the period will learn much from Bartlett’s clear writing and perceptive analysis.

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review 2018-03-28 04:48
A disappointing addition to a great series
A Mad, Bad, and Dangerous People?: England, 1783-1846 - Boyd Hilton

All too many surveys of history start with soaring language that stresses how the period being examined was one of great change. Refreshingly, Boyd Hilton’s contribution to the New Oxford History of England series does not do this, focusing instead on the continuities of English history from the late eighteenth to the mid nineteenth century. While acknowledging the dramatic demographic growth of this period and the economic transformations it spawned, he argues that the political revolutions of the late eighteenth century fueled an embrace of neo‑conservative ideologies that proved remarkably enduring throughout the period.

 

Hilton's argument shapes not just his interpretation of these decades, but his presentation of it as well. Arguing that a "politicization of society" took place during this period, he provides more political narrative than previous authors in the series have for their volumes. These chapters provide an insightful analysis of the period, particularly with regards to the political ideologies of the period. He supplements this with a superb bibliography at the end, one that offers a stimulating analysis of the historiography on the period.

 

Yet judged by the standard of the series, the book is something of a disappointment. The predominance of the political narratives crowds out other aspects of the era, most notably the dramatic technological changes so critical to it; these are usually addressed only in their consequences, and incompletely even then. A more persistent problem, however, is the author's presentation of historical arguments in the text. Often Hilton presents the varying interpretations of a topic or a personage with little sense as to his own opinion on the issue. While some may value the opportunity to make their own assessments, his effort at even‑handedness deprives the reader of the sort of informed judgments that have made the series such a valuable tool for understanding English history.

 

These flaws do not detract from the book’s many strengths so much as contrast them in stark relief.  Boyd’s sections on politics and (especially) political ideology make this book an essential study of the period.  It is only when compared to the other volumes in the New Oxford History of England series that its deficiencies become apparent.

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