Books to Look out for in May 2023

The sword as a cultural artefact; the control of labour in Western Europe; the commodification of nature; a study of the turbulent period of the English and British civil wars and their aftermath. This month our list of books to look out for is varied. Read a snapshot of some of the titles we urge you to look out for this month!

Stephen K Roberts

Nine volumes of 1,800 MP biographies, accounts of elections in each constituency, details of the work of parliament’s committees and a narrative and analysis of it all. Covers the time when a political crisis became a civil war in which the Westminster Parliament confronted, and ultimately defeated King Charles I, putting him on trial and executing him in 1649. Includes substantial reinterpretations of the lives of all of the major figures – Cromwell, Pym, Hampden and many others. There are also accounts of the politics and elections of each constituency that returned members to the House of Commons – including the Scottish and Irish counties and towns that did so under the short-lived union constitution of 1653.

Power, Piety and Play
Robert W Jones

Uncovering the breadth of the sword’s place within the culture of high medieval Europe, and encompassing swords both real and imagined, this book shows them as a powerful symbol of authority and legitimacy. It looks at the practicalities of the sword, including its production, as well as challenging our preconceptions about when and where it was used. In doing so, it reveals a far less familiar culture of swordsmanship. The book also considers how our modern attempts to reconstruct medieval swordsmanship on screen, and in re-enactment and Historical European Martial Arts, shape, and have been shaped by, our preconceptions of the sword. As a whole, the weapon is shown to be at once far more mundane, and yet just as special, as we imagine it.

Commodifying the ‘Wild’
Edited by Michael Bollig, Alfons Wabahe Mosimane, Romie Vonkie Nghitevelekwa and Selma Mekondjo Lendelvo

At a time of profound anxiety about the effects of human activity on nature, climate change, the “sixth mass extinction”, invasive species and rapidly expanding zoonotic diseases, this volume highlights the practices, discourses, and materialities surrounding the commodification of “the wild”. Focusing on commodification’s newer iterations such as wildlife-park tourism, trophy hunting, and trade in herbal medicines, perfumes and luxury exotic food items, the contributors examine the relationship between commodification and wilderness. Investigating a broad range of cases, it discusses and reveals the pitfalls and challenges of commodification, and what this means for the continent and globally.

OPEN ACCESS: This title is available under the Creative Commons license CC-BY-NC-ND

The Coercion and Regulation of Wage Labour, c.1350-1850
Edited by Jane Whittle and Thijs Lambrecht

The assumption that labour in Western Europe was ‘free’ after the end of serfdom in the fifteenth century is increasingly being questioned. After the Black Death, when labour was scarce in rural economies, regional authorities attempted to regulate work and labour. In some places, regulations amounted to wishful thinking; elsewhere they could impose severe limitations on individual freedoms. Covering social, political, economic and legal history, this interdisciplinary collection introduces a range of approaches to labour regulation and the very idea of labour across Europe, including a unique look at the impact of labour laws on everyday social relations.

This title is available as Open Access.

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