Chusan: The Opium Wars, and the Forgotten Story of Britain’s First Chinese Island

 

ISBN 978-0-9563847-7-5

‘We must religiously observe our engagements with China, but I fear that Hong Kong is a sorry possession and Chusan is a magnificent island admirably placed for our purposes.’

 

So wrote the home secretary Sir James Graham to the prime minister Sir Robert Peel, as British diplomats prepared to return the island of Chusan to Chinese rule during the winter of 1845. For years, this now little-known island off the coast of Zhejiang province had been home to thousands of men, women and children of all classes and backgrounds, of all races and religions, from across the British Empire and beyond. Before the Union Jack ever flew over Hong Kong, it had been raised on Chusan. From a wealth of primary archives, Liam D’Arcy-Brown pieces together the forgotten story of how the British wrested Chusan from the Qing dynasty, only to hand it back for the sake of Queen Victoria’s honour and Britain’s national prestige. At a time when the Chinese Communist Party is inspiring a new brand of patriotism by revisiting the shame inflicted during the Opium Wars, here is a book that puts Britain’s incursions into nineteenth-century China in a fascinating and revealing new light.

When Even the Poets Were Silent: A Jewish Hungarian Holocaust Survivor under Nazism and Communism

 

ISBN 978-0-9563847-5-1

Some of the darkest episodes of twentieth-century European history come vividly to life in this fascinating memoir. George Pogany beautifully portrays a 1930s childhood in the Hungarian town of Oroshaza and the spread of anti-Semitism. He describes life in the town’s Jewish ghetto, his family’s journey in a sealed cattle-wagon to Vienna, and their experiences in a forced labour camp there before being liberated by Soviet troops. Returning home to Hungary on foot, Pogany soon finds himself in a country in which freedom has been savagely curtailed. He offers a stark but often humorous account of what daily life was like under Hungary’s brand of Stalinism, first as a student and then as an industrial chemist. After Moscow’s brutal suppression of the Hungarian Uprising in 1956, Pogany manages to escape one night to the West, right under the noses of the Red Army. When Even The Poets Were Silent is a wry and dispassionate account full of surprises and challenges. It is likely to become one of the last eyewitness accounts of the Holocaust.

A Noble Affair: The Remarkable True Story of the Runaway Wife, the Bigamous Earl, and the Farmer’s Daughter

 

ISBN 978-0-9563847-8-2

Brought up in the stately grandeur of Burghley House as heir to the earldom of Exeter, Henry Cecil seemed to have made a suitable match to the heiress of Hanbury Hall, but their marriage ended in disaster when Emma eloped with Henry’s friend, the local curate. Heartbroken, Henry turned his back on aristocratic life, taking up residence in a remote Shropshire village and marrying a farmer’s daughter - without having divorced his first wife.... The story of Henry Cecil’s matrimonial entanglements became part of the ‘sex panic’ literature of the 1790s before being reinterpreted by the Victorians as a classic Cinderella tale of rags to riches, and even through into the twentieth century it was still being told and retold. A Noble Affair untangles fact from fiction, illustrates just how limited the options once were for those who experienced marital breakdown, and discovers that in some respects Henry did indeed behave nobly.

The Rights & Wrongs of Royal Marriage: how the law has led to heartbreak, farce and confusion, and why it must be changed

 

ISBN 978-0-9563847-3-7

The laws which govern the marriages of the British royal family have led to heartbreak, farce and confusion, and are unfit for the twenty-first century. In an era that values human rights and free choice, there is little certainty over questions as fundamental as the effect of marrying a Roman Catholic, or of marrying without the Queen’s consent. Question marks still hang over the legal basis for royal civil marriage. Obscure acts of Parliament have threatened to render members of the royal family illegitimate and prevented others from following their hearts. Drawing on a wide range of sources including once-secret files in the UK’s National Archives, The Rights & Wrongs of Royal Marriage recounts episodes from the eighteenth century right down to the present day that would not look out of place in Yes, Minister or The Mikado. Professor Rebecca Probert, the leading authority on the marriage law of England and Wales, is as characteristically clear when explaining the complexities of royal marriage law as she is in her other groundbreaking studies. Her prose is concise and elegant, and full of historical anecdotes that will have royalists and republicans alike laughing aloud and wide-eyed with astonishment.

Catherine Exleys Diary

The Life and Times of an Army Wife in the Peninsular War

 

ISBN 978-0-9563847-9-9

Catherine Exley was born in Leeds in 1779. Aged thirty, she boarded a ship and sailed for Portugal. Her memoir of the years she spent following the 34th Regiment is unique, the only first-hand account of the Peninsular War by the wife of a common British soldier. Published shortly after her death as a booklet which has since been lost, Catherine’s Diary survived in a local newspaper of 1923 to be rediscovered by her great-great-great-grandson.

 

It is difficult today to comprehend the hardships Catherine endured: of her twelve children, three died as infants while with her on the march; her clothes, ‘covered with filth and vermin’, often went unchanged for weeks at a time, and she herself more than once almost died from illness and starvation; shocked at the mutilation inflicted by muskets and cannons, she still had the composure to manhandle blackened corpses upon a battlefield in search of her missing husband when hardened soldiers could no longer stomach the task.

 

Her Diary is reproduced here along with chapters which bear upon Catherine’s experiences in Spain and Portugal, and which put her life and writings in their social context.

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