Peter Wilson's book is a major work, the first new history of the war in a generation, and a fascinating, brilliantly written attempt to explain a compelling series of events. Wilson's great strength is in allowing the reader to understand the tragedy of mixed motives that allowed rulers to gamble their countries' future with such horrifying results. The principal actors in the drama (Wallenstein, Ferdinand II, Gustavus Adolphus, Richelieu) are all here, but so is the experience of the ordinary soldiers and civilians, desperately trying to stay alive under impossible circumstances.
The extraordinary narrative of the war haunted Europe's leaders into the twentieth century (comparisons with 1939-45 were entirely appropriate) and modern Europe cannot be understood without reference to this dreadful conflict.
Challenging the authority and constraints of academic history over the past, this book explores various forms of past-talk, including art, films, activism, memory, nostalgia and archives. Across seven clear chapters, Claire Norton and Mark Donnelly show how activists and campaigners have used forms of past-talk to unsettle ‘common sense’ thinking about political and social problems, how journalists, artists, curators, filmmakers and performers have referenced the past in their practices of advocacy, and how grassroots archivists help to circulate materials that challenge the power of authorised institutional archives to determine what gets to count as a demonstrable feature of the past and whose voices are part of the ‘historical record’.
Written in a lucid, accessible manner, and combining insightful critical analysis and philosophical argument with clear consideration of how different forms of past-talk influence the narration of pasts in a variety of socio-political contexts, Liberating Histories is essential reading for students and scholars with an interest in historiography and the ethical and political dimensions of the historical discipline.