Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The day Parliament burned down and other history books for Christmas 2012

In common with most people who find their way to the Chartist Ancestors blog, I will be looking for some good new history books to read come Christmas 2012.

Looking through what’s new and coming up for publication in the run up to Christmas, I have found a few potential good reads, and have included these on a Christmas 2012 page for the History Bookshop. If you fancy buying any of them yourself, please do consider going via this page as a small sum comes to me to spend on the site every time you buy a book.

The book which appeals most to me is The Day Parliament Burned Down by Caroline Shenton. This is already available to buy and recounts the events of 16 October 1834 when “a huge ball of fire exploded through the roof of the Houses of Parliament, creating a blaze so enormous that it could be seen by the King and Queen at Windsor, and from stagecoaches on top of the South Downs”.

Written by Parliament’s chief archivist, this is the first full-length account of the fire and events surrounding it. The fire destroyed almost all of the 800-year-old Palace of Westminster, leaving only Westminster Hall still standing today, and rocked the nation at a crucial time in the development of our democratic history, midway between the passing of the Great Reform Act of 1832 and the beginning of the Chartist movement.

Yet today, memory of the fire has largely been obliterated, and Barry and Pugin’s new Parliament, with the Big Ben clocktower, appears always to have been there. Many visitors must assume that the mock gothic architecture is in fact genuinely medieval in origin.

Other history books out in time for Christmas include Andrew Marr’s A History of World, associated with Marr’s current BBC television series of the same name, and Vikings – again a television series spin-off from Neil Oliver.

 There are currently 12 books in my Christmas history books selection for 2012, but if others catch my eye I will add them as we go along.

No comments: