Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Monday 3 March 2014

Buying books for the Oxford Union

I am a long standing member of the Library committee at the Oxford Union - almost fifteen years in two sessions - and I was asked recently to prepare a list of suggested books for the History list which we were to recommend for purchase to the membership this week.

My aim was to fill gaps in the collection. This was partly based on my recent teaching work this term, on what I felt would complete or continue series we already have and with the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War some relevant books about that. I also aimed for what would appeal to both students and to the the more general readers among the membership.  For these latter reasons I thought I would share it  with readers and recommend the books to them in case they are interestedin the topics covered. Apart from replacement copy of the text of a medieval chronicle the books I suggested - and which were accepted - are:   

J.F. Webb and D.H.Farmer (eds) The Age of Bede  Penguin Classics  
A valuable set of saints' lives in translation - including those of St Cuthbert and St Wilfrid


Michelle P. Brown  The Lindisfarne Gospels and the Early Medieval World  British Museum Publications   
This places the Gospels in their historic context of seventh and eighth century Britain.

Sarah Foot  Athelstan: The First King of England  Yale UP 
We collect the biographies in this established series, and this is an important book for historians working on the period; the other year I heard a wonderful lecture from the author, who is Regius Professor at of Ecclesiastical History at Christ Church, on the life of the King.

Edmund King King Stephen  Yale UP  

In the same series , and again an important work for understanding the Anarchy and twelfth century England.

David Abulafia The Western Mediterranean Kingdoms: The struggle for dominion 1200-1500 Routledge
A useful text book by a leading historian of the region and the period

Malcolm Vale The Origins of the Hundred Years War: The Angevin Legacy 1250-1340  OUP
It turned out I had missed this book which was already on the Union catalogue - I think I probably recommended it years ago. An excellent interpretive account . 

Christopher Fletcher Richard II: manhood, youth and politics 1377-1399  OUP
A potentially interesting reinterpretation of the reign in the light of the clash between the King and an older political elite, and questioning the depiction of him as effeminate.

Giles Tremlett Catherine of Aragon: Henry's Spanish Queen  Faber and Faber

The most recent biography of the Queen, by a British journalist based in Madrid.

Derek Beales  Joseph II:  Against the World 1780-1790  CUP  
We already have volume I of this major biography covering his life up to the death of his mother the Empress Maria Theresa in 1780.

Piers Paul Read The Dreyfus Affair   Bloomsbury 
I was given this as a birthday present the other year - a comprehensive account of one of the most divisive and significant events if the history of France since 1870.
Muriel E Chamberlain Pax Britannica? Britain's Foreign Policy 1789-1914  Pearson reprint
This ties in with some of the teaching I have been doing this term, and links foreign policy to domestic political and social dvelopments. 

R.J.W.Evans and H. Pogge van Strandmann (eds) The Coming of the First World War   OUP
A well established classic account by distingushed experts of the events leading up to 1914 

H. Afflerbach and D. Stevenson (eds) An Improbable War?: The Outbreak of World War I and European Political culture before 1914  Berghalen NY
Highly recommended by a student the book questions many received ideas about the war's causes, especially the notion of "inevitability."    

Greg King and Sue Woolmans The Assassination of the Archduke: Sarajevo 1914 and the murder that changed the World  Macmillan  
A new biography of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, and of the fate of their family after the murders in 1914.Well illustrated and with new material from the Hohenburg family

I had hoped to include a secondhand copy of J.R.Strayer's The Reign of Philip the Fair, published by Princeton UP in 1980, but the affordable copy I found online had disappeared before I could submit the list to the Libraraian-in- charge. I shall have to keep looking out for this as it is the standard work in English on this very important figure and reign.

In addition I had been asked last week to look at Alec Ryrie Being Protestant in Reformation Britain  OUP and to advise on its possible purchase, it having been recommended by a member. This looks a very valuable contribution to our understanding of the mindset of the era. Prof Ryrie draws on English and Scottish sources for the period 1540-1640, and I can see this becoming a counterpart to Eamon Duffy's The Stripping of the Altars. We agreed to buy this as well, so all in all a good number of additions to the Library were proposed by the Committee.


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