This week, delve into an intense historical read with one of these picks on British and American history. From Bill Bryson’s look at the history of private life to a study of Victorian crime and detection, these detailed and exhaustively researched books will keep you riveted for hundreds of pages.
Still want more cultural history? Explore a fun podcast on British history or check out NPR’s interview with author Lucy Worsley, the Chief Curator of Kensington Palace and the Tower of London.
On Your Kindle
When you think of Victorian London, what do you imagine? Fog and shadows? Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper? Those images and individuals haunt our collective imagination and continue to fascinate readers today. Flanders’ recent book examines the rise of lurid media coverage of shocking crimes in the Victorian era and the development of modern policing to address the frightening headlines that drifted out of London’s fog.
On Your Smartphone
This interview with Lucy Worsley is a fascinating look at bedrooms, closets, and toilets. Worsley’s recent book, If These Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home, describes quirky aspects of household history. As she tells NPR about closets: "It's not a room type that we recognize anymore. We have freestanding pieces of furniture called wardrobes that might be used for storing clothes. But those little square, dark, walk-in rooms don't exist in the U.K. That's a little piece of history that you've got that we haven't."
On a Podcast
"The British History Podcast," by Jamie Jeffers
This entertaining podcast is a chronological look at British history. Beginning in the Ice Age, host Jamie Jeffers looks at the vast differences within the British Isles during the Anglo-Saxon period of history. The Dark Ages in Britain, Jeffers says, were “incredibly fragmented” and diverse, with various ethnic groups and communities that don’t mirror the more homogenous Great Britain of today.
At Home: A Short History of Private Life, by Bill Bryson
I’m currently reading At Home, the massively readable history from nonfiction writer Bill Bryson. Bryson, an American living in England, uses his centuries-old home—a parsonage built by a clergyman—to explore the fascinating history of everyday objects in our houses. From the glass in our windows to the salt and pepper on our tables, Bryson roams around the typical parts of our houses to discover forgotten aspects of history. At Home will make you think about simple things like turning off your lights or running the dishwasher.