Our Top Pick History Books

Become an armchair historian with our range of fascinating history books. Discover amazing stories of times long gone by and immerse yourself in the past. In amongst our picks of the best history books, we have a bit of everything, from gripping stories of monarchs and writers to the history of cities and art. See what you can find in our top pick history books...

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1. Globe: Life in Shakespeare's London

Catharine Arnold

Historian Catharine Arnold's book is a fascinating exploration of the life of William Shakespeare and the impact the city of London had on him and his works. Focusing on the history of the city at the time, Catharine shows you how plague, riots and rebellion affected and influenced English theatre. Discover how Shakespeare came to be the world's best-loved playwright and the Globe Playhouse, the most popular venue in London in this brilliant history book.

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2. The Crown

Robert Lacey

Robert Lacey's biography of Queen Elizabeth II is the perfect companion to the award-winning Netflix original, The Crown. The Queen has had an interesting reign, after her father died young she was thrown into the role of monarch when she was only 25 and has now become the longest reigning monarch of England. This biography examines her life through her role as queen, wife, mother and daughter, giving a unique insight into all sides of this incredible ruler.

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3. Richard III

Chris Skidmore

Delve into the story of one of the most interesting rulers in British history with Chris Skidmore's biography of Richard III. Though only king for two years, his reign proved to be controversial from the start after infamously trapping his nephews in The Tower of London. Chris's brilliant book considers how Richard III's actions represent how power was gained and kept during the tumultuous medieval period.

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4. Art Deco

Judith Miller

Judith Miller is a top antiques expert and in this book she describes the origins and key designers of one of the most recognisable art styles in history, Art Deco. She also shows you how you can become a collector of authentic 1920s and 1930s pieces in this quirky style yourself. With over 700 photographs and lots of information on the pieces and people that defined this style in the height of the Jazz Age, this book is a must for all fans of art history.

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5. The Cold War

Bridget Kendall

Bridget Kendall's book is a companion to the BBC Radio 4 series The Cold War: Stories from the Big Freeze and focuses on bringing you an unbiased account of the events of this world-changing conflict. Taking you through how the Cold War began, what countries were involved and the lasting impact it has had on world politics, this book provides a gripping look into one of the biggest and longest wars in military history.

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6. Liza Picard History Collection - 3 Books

Liza Picard

This three-book collection focuses on life in London in the Elizabethan and Victorian eras, as well as the Dr Johnson years (1740-1770). Through Liza Picard's books you'll become completely immersed and feel as though you are on the old streets imagining the busy lives of the people of the past around you. Discover the jobs, clothes, houses, hobbies and more of past centuries with these fantastic history books.

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7. Black and British: A Forgotten History

David Olusoga

This gripping read is inspired by BBC2's Black and British: A Forgotten History and sees historian David Olugosga look back over the history of black people in Britain. Starting with the Roman times and moving through various time periods, including a focus on the impact of William Shakespeare's Othello, and featuring records, interviews and more, this book is an eye-opening account of the history of being black and British.

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8. Victoria & Albert

Daisy Goodwin & Sara Sheridan

Daisy Goodwin and Sara Sheridan's book acts as a tie-in to the second series of ITV's Victoria and focuses on the relationship between Victoria and Albert. Taking reference from the couple's letters and diaries, Daisy and Sara show how it was Victoria and Albert's differences that made them a successful couple. With character profiles and interviews with the actors, this book is great for history buffs and fans of the show alike.

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9. The Last of the Tsars

Robert Service

This captivating book marks the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, which forced Nicholas II to abdicate and become known to history as the last ever tsar of Russia. Historian Robert Service looks back over the last year of Nicholas's time in power and the final few months before his death. Using information from diaries, forensic research and recorded conversations, Robert has pieced together the story of how the last tsar fell so far.

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10. The Secret Library

Oliver Tearle

Oliver Teale takes a look at the curiosities of history through the works of literature that have been produced over the last 3,000 years. Oliver focuses on the best known works of literature, from the Illiad to Sherlock Holmes, plus lesser known books and figures, such as a Victorian novelist who outsold Charles Dickens! This fun history book is great for book-lovers who want to explore the history of literature.

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If you're a history buff who still needs more options, check out our full range of history books, plus if there's a specific area you're interested in then take a look through our art history books, military history books and world history books.

  • TESL
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    With its die-cut paper jacket, Oliver Tearle's The Secret Library takes book lovers on an incredible journey through the curiosities of history via literature.

    The author leafs through the well-known books that have helped shape the world in which we live, while also giving focus to more neglected works. There's the forgotten Victorian novelist who outsold Dickens, the woman who became the first published poet in America and the tale of an eccentric traveller who introduced the table-fork to England.

    Featuring novels, travel books, cookbooks and even sports almanacs, Tearle examines and explores the intersections between books of all kinds and the last 3,000 years of Western history. He also highlights some of the links between various works and historical figures - including those between Homer's Iliad and Aesop's Fables and the Wisden Cricketers' Almanack and the creator of Sherlock Holmes.
  • BHOB
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    Inspired by a landmark BBC Two programme, David Olusoga's Black and British: An Untold Story is a vital re-examination of the extraordinarily long relationship between the British Isles and the people of Africa.

    Drawing on new genetic and genealogical research, original records, expert testimony and contemporary interviews, this book provides an unflinching history of black and white Britons and how they have been intimately entwined for centuries.

    From Roman Britain to Shakespeare's Othello and how black people were regarded during the medieval times, this book confronts taboos and reveals some previously unknown scandals.
  • TSAR
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    Nicholas II, the last Tsar of All the Russias, abdicated in March 1917 and the dynasty that had ruled the country's empire for 300 years was forced from power by revolution.

    To mark the hundredth anniversary of the revolution, eminent historian Robert Service examines Nicholas' reign in the year before his abdication and the months between this hugely important date and his death the following year in The Last of the Tsars.

    Making use of unparalleled research and forensic examination of hitherto untapped sources, Service sheds new light on the way Nicholas worked and even gathered access to his diaries and recorded conversations. He reveals Nicholas was actually the kind of ruler he believed himself to be - until the disastrous ending...
  • GLBE
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    A compelling portrait of both William Shakespeare and the history of London during his lifetime, this book reveals just how much the Bard's life was affected by the great city.

    From triumphs including the opening of the Globe playhouse in 1599 to the tragic lives of Shakespeare's contemporaries and the ever-present threat of riots, rebellions and even the plague, this book covers a fascinating era in London's history.

    An acclaimed historian, Catharine Arnold also reveals how acting came of age during Shakespeare's lifetime. Using his own plays and contemporary sources, this is a unique and revealing insight into the development of both London and English theatre.
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    Art Deco is one of the most iconic and impressive design styles of all time and this book provides a celebration of the glamour of the Jazz Age.

    Classic yet contemporary, Art Deco remains a popular theme today and this stylish book looks at how designers and craftsmen used natural and man-made materials in innovative ways to produce the elegant pieces that defined the 1920s and 1930s.

    Judith Miller, an antiques expert, explores the key makers and pieces from the Art Deco era and explains what you should be looking for as a collector. From furniture to sculptures and prints to rugs, it's illustrated with over 700 stunning photographs.
  • RCHD
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    Written by historian Chris Skidmore, Richard III reveals how the last Plantagenet king was one of the most significant figures from medieval times and how his actions and behaviour underlined the true nature of power during this era.

    Richard III is one of the most famous and controversial monarchs of all time. A loyal and dedicated nobleman, his personality was forged by experiences in exile and in combat. He was ambitious and successful and stunned the nation when he seized the throne and disinherited his nephews following the death of his brother, Edward IV.

    His two-year reign would end up being tumultuous and terrifying, culminating in his death on the battlefield at Bosworth. This extensively researched biography highlights Richard III as his contemporaries knew him...
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    Starring Claire Foy and Matt Smith, Netflix's The Crown is one of the streaming services most critically acclaimed and popular (not to mention, most expensive!) Originals and this companion hardback follows the journey of Britain's longest-reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.

    Written by royal biographer Robert Lacey, this book looks back at the Queen's reign, explaining how, after the sudden death of her father, she had to learn her duties very quickly. She was already a wife and mother when she had her coronation and there were also wider issues throughout Britain as the country tried to lift itself after the end of the war.

    Elizabeth also had various personal issues to deal with: her mother doubted her marriage; her husband resented the sacrifice of his career and family name; and her sister had an affair that threatened to destroy the close bond between the church and the crown. Despite all this, she always made sure she came out on top. Fully researched, this is an intimate and informative account of Elizabeth II ? both as a private person and as a public figure.
  • Liza Picard History Collection - 3 Books - Collection - 9781407250991
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    Covering the Victorian and Elizabethan eras alongside Dr. Johnson's time, these three books from Liza Picard provide a vivid social history of London through the ages.

    Victorian London covers everything from rag-gatherers to royalty and fish knives to freemasons as it explains how ordinary people lived in this important time; Elizabeth's London starts by focusing on the River Thames and its role in the city's history. It then moves on to describe the streets, houses and gardens that were popular during this time.

    Dr. Johnson's London focuses on the years between 1740 and 1770, when the gin craze was just starting to gain ground. She also looks back at the clothes, hobbies, houses and etiquette of the era.

    Format: Paperback
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    Tying in with the second series of ITV's hit drama series, Victoria, this book provides an in-depth look at the passionate and complicated relationship the Queen embarked on with Prince Albert.

    Both Victoria and Albert were both strong-willed and although they were brought together by an arranged marriage, this did not dampen the spark between them. They were first cousins but could not have had more different personalities - she was impulsive and emotional while he was cautious and logical. They were a very successful couple and this book looks at the differences between their public persona and their private lives.

    Based on the couple's letters and diaries, this book provides a tantalising glimpse into the life of the couple . It's full of rich historical detail and gives insight into this incredible relationship.

    There are also character profiles, interviews with actors and an overview of the production, costumes and props of the show.
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    Accompanying the landmark BBC Radio 4 series, former BBC correspondent Bridget Kendall's The Cold War: Stories from the Big Freeze is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand how the tensions of the last century have shaped the modern world - and what it has been like to live through them.

    Combining meticulous historical research with personal testimonies from those who lived through the conflict, the series has presented a unique and unbiased history of the Cold War - one of the furthest reaching and longest lasting conflicts in modern history. This book provides even more insight and explains how the war, which lasted over half a century, spanned all over the globe from Greece to China and Hungary to Cuba and has shaped political relations to this day.

    This war also managed to draw new physical and ideological boundaries between East and West and affected all kinds of ordinary people. This captivating read offers a captivating and all-encompassing account of just how far this major historical event reached and its lasting impact.