What are you reading? – October 2021

A look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

October 11, 2021
A woman reading in an armchair illustrating book reviews, best books of the month
Source: iStock

James Rogers, DIAS assistant professor in war studies at the University of Southern Denmark, is reading Klaus Dodds’ Border Wars: The Conflicts That Will Define Our Future (Ebury Press, 2021). “Borders divide us and yet they define us. Walls may fall and curtains will be drawn back, but new national boundaries and lines of social division are inevitably erected in their place. As Klaus Dodds writes in his masterful new study: ‘Borders have taken on a new salience in the last 15 years, with militarism, terrorism, climate change, migration and, most recently, pandemics fuelling this resurgence of interest.’ From Trump’s border wall and Israel’s Iron Dome to vaccine borders and online political divides, we live in a time when the physical manifestations of power and politics mix with virtual and viral hierarchies. Dodds powerfully argues that ‘we need to unpack the dangerous myths of exclusive sovereignty and the fixed border’, while cultivating a ‘radically different view of borders that is alive to the complex realities of earthly change’.”


John Anchor, professor of international strategy at the University of Huddersfield, is reading Andrew Marr’s Elizabethans: How Modern Britain Was Forged (Collins, 2020). “Marr demonstrates how Britain has changed since Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953 by examining the lives of some of her subjects – some famous and some less familiar, but still influential. Some of these vignettes also appeared in his three-part television series of the same name. Although this is a book made for television and one that does not offer a thematic analysis, the direction of travel is clear. In 1953, an overwhelmingly white Britain was much more class conscious than now. People went to church regularly and dressed more formally. Now we live in a much more secular society, one whose cities and towns have been subject to major industrial and demographic changes. Despite this, Marr concludes that Christian values continue to underpin our notions of fairness, decency and mutual respect. If he is correct, for how much longer – and are we living on borrowed time?”


R. C. Richardson, emeritus professor of history at the University of Winchester, is reading Flora Thompson’s A Country Calendar and Other Writings (selected and edited by Margaret Lane; Oxford, 1984). “Flora Thompson is best, and often only, known for her famous rural trilogy, Lark Rise to Candleford (1939-43). But she wrote much more, and here is a well-chosen selection of her nature journalism, poetry – not too much of that, fortunately – and the quasi-autobiographical Heatherley, a sequel to Lark Rise that fictionalised her years spent in Grayshott, Hampshire. Thompson’s prose is vivid, affectionate and gently paced with no trace of self-advertising. Like Jane Austen, she made a virtue of writing about the places and people she knew best. But hers was a world – rarely idealised – in which rural labourers, village shopkeepers and postmistresses, tinkers and gypsies occupied uncontested space.”

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