Friday, 11 December 2009

Juliet Gardiner's top history moments of 2009

Continuing our series of 'advent favourites', former History Today editor and reviews editor, Juliet Gardiner, shares her top history moments of the past year.

The best films of 2009
Winstanley – ‘A welcome BFI reissue of Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo's 1976 film about the 'Diggers' started by Gerrard Winstanley. One of a number of non conformist groups that emerged during Oliver Cromwell's Interregnum, the 'Diggers', a group of agrarian communists, aimed to 'level' distinctions of wealth and property. Stunning images, if an occasionally young man's manifesto masquerading as dialogue.’
An Education – ‘An enchanting debut for Carey Mulligan playing Jenny (aka the journalist Lynn Barber) in an autobiopic of Barber's lower middle class suburban teen years, which beautifully - if chillingly - captures early 1960s Britain pre feminism. Fantastic performances from Mulligan and Rosalind Pike, but the dark side of those years (Barber's con man seducer worked for the notorious slum landlord Peter Rachman) does not figure very much.’

Waste by Harley Granville Barker at the Almeida
‘A prescient, lyrically written, serious play banned by the Lord Chamberlain for 30 years, Waste deals with a man of high ideals, Henry Trebell, and his affair with a married woman which society is prepared to condone until it is made public and Trebell insisted on a woman's right to choose - abortion.’

Wild Thing: Epstein, Gaudier-Brzeska, Gill, Royal Academy (on show until January 24th, 2010)
‘A key moment in modernism - and Vorticism - in which three young men transformed the form of sculpture on the eve of the Great War - and ways of seeing the world, particularly its ruptures, violence and disjunctions.’
Surburbia, London Transport Museum (on show until March 31st, 2010)
‘There is a recent growing appreciation for the suburbs as the people's choice, nests tailored for humanity rather than 'machines for living' and this exhibition recreates the golden years of the Tudorbethan and beyond, and, unsurprisingly, given the venue, the key role that London Transport played in suburban development - think Metroland - and more.’

Family Britain, David Kynaston (Bloomsbury)
‘The second instalment of 'Tales of a New Jerusalem' a compelling evocation and interrogation of British society between 1951 and 1957 - years when Britain came to affluence but didn't change much about its class structure or fixed and narrow view of the world - smog and formica along with Angel Delight, homophobia and capital punishment.’

TV programme
A History of Christianity (BBC4)
- ‘The series told me so much that I didn't know with quiet erudition and wit - and peerless locations.’
Mad Men (BBC4) - ‘Sheer pleasure - a wallow in the 1960s US - crisp, sharp, glamourous and deeply perceptive about a culture that would spread across the Western world - for a time.’

The Royal Historical Society Bibliography

‘An invaluable tool for historians, at present a resource for the public - celebrate it now because in January, it will no be longer free for those in search of the past.’

History Today articles
'It seems particularly hard to choose among so many first rate articles and I certainly wasn't able to select just one. But I found three particularly interesting. There was Michael Hunter's timely rescue of Robert Boyle and his Air Pump from the oppressive weight of Newton in Genius Eclipsed: The Fate of Robert Boyle (November). Whatever Eamon Duffy writes is illuminating and The Queen and the Cardinal: Mary I and Reginald Pole (May) was no exception, plotting the tangled revival of the Roman Catholic 'true church' engineered by Mary I and her Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal Pole. While Richard Overy's Parting with Pacifism in the 1930s (August) added an important dimension to our understanding of the 1930s and the sometimes confused impetus to appeasement and resistance to fascism.'

Top history moment
‘The death of Harry Patch, the last British veteran from the First World War and an independent, clear eyed man who made easy sentimentality about the carnage of war hard to sustain.’

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