Once in a long while a work of such scope and magnitude is published that our assumptions about history - its events, its causes, its effects - are fundamentally challenged.
This is not such a work.
Despite over ten years of research on the German Democratic Republic since the fall of the Wall, there has been remarkably little work on 'ordinary East Germans', and so Mark Allinson of Bristol University is to be congratulated on his pioneering contribution.
It is one of the unfortunate realities of the twentieth century that the list of defining world political leaders is shared between those whose actions resulted directly in the greatest number of deaths and those who led the defence when their actions impinged on the rest of the world.
The Economists are peculiar people. They all recognise the importance of consumption, but most seem loath to discuss the details.
The history of public health has been a flourishing field in the last three decades. Yet despite a spate of excellent monographs about various epidemic diseases and many good collections about health and disease in Africa, Asia, The Middle East, Latin America, as well as Europe and North America, the most recent textbook on the history of public health is four decades old.
Why attempt the history of suicide? Leaving aside the rare episodes of mass self-destruction by such people as sect members and warriors determined to die rather than fall into the hands of their enemies, suicides have never made up more than a tiny m inority of any known human population. A rate of 25 per 100,000, or one in four thousand, counts as high in the late twentieth century.
The social history of madness is a vibrant area of intellectual enquiry which in the past 20 years has generated an impressive series of monographs and essay collections. This volume is a scholarly addition to the literature.
This book began life some years ago as a doctoral thesis, prepared under the direction of John Merriman. It is an investigation of conflicting nineteenth-century theories on contagion. Some experts thought that illness was brought in from outside society, particularly by immigrants, others that disease arose from within through a combination of physical and moral imperfections.
This is an admirable feat of constructive compression. It achieves synthesis without sacrificing clarity, a feature that has become one of the author's hallmarks. What makes this book the more impressive is that within small confines it argues so effectively against reductionism in the study of national identity.
How does one define widowhood? In spite of its widespread acceptance, the classic definition of widowhood as the phase of marriage following the death of one of the partners is never entirely satisfactory.