1. Dissolution (The Shardlake Series) by
The first in the Shardlake books is the third I have read and it is another great historical detective novel. Shardlake is sent as Cromwell's commissioner to investigate a Sussex monastery where the previous commissioner has been murdered. It is the time when minor monastic houses have been dissolved but dissolution is temporarily stayed due to the rebellion in the north. The monastic life and the progress of reform are well described as is Shardlake's growing dissolution with the behaviour of his master. As in all this series one gets a real feel for the times.
2. British in Northern Nigeria by
A fascinating account of the British colonial rule of Northern Nigeria from 1900 to independence in 1960. This is a fine history of the British policy of indirect rule through the traditional emirs and chiefs. This is how a very small number of colonial officers ruled millions of Nigerians in a vast undeveloped land. It was a benign partnership, self financing by local taxation. The barriers to government were a deeply traditional and largely Islamic society with endemic nepotism and corruption. District officers had a largely free hand in how they governed but there was always a huge social gulf between the races and usually a strong insistence on protocol. The author confesses there are few Nigerian sources as to how the British were viewed so the book is written almost exclusively from British sources. My one criticism is that there is almost no reference to Christian missions and their exclusion from areas deemed to be under Muslim rule. This exclusion had an adverse effect on the development of the North for schools and hospitals that Christian missions could have brought were excluded from Muslim sensibilities. It is also the case that areas that were hardly Muslim were brought under Muslim rule.
3. Sovereign: 3 (The Shardlake Series) by
This third Shardlake novel is set in York, Hull and London as our lawyer detective is given a commission by archbishop Cranmer to go to York ahead of a huge royal progress and see to the welfare of a very special prisoner. When a glazier is murdered Shardlake finds papers hidden in his house which relate in some way to a plot against King Henry. But before he can study the papers they are violently stolen and there occur several attempts on Shardlake's life as well as against the special prisoner. The denouement of the story came as a real surprise. One again Sansom really gives the reader a feel for the Tudor times, this time it is set in the days before the fall of Catherine Howard.
4.Revelation (The Shardlake Series) by
The fourth Shardlake novel is set in London at the time King Henry is wooing a reluctant Catherine Parr. Our lawyer detective is shocked by the brutal killing of a colleague and having promised the widow to help find the killer he is perplexed when the inquest is adjourned. Cue a summons from Archbishop Cranmer for Shardlake to quietly investigate this and a similar killing. More murders follow and Shardlake realises the killer is imitating the seven bowls of judgement poured out in Revelation 16. At this point I beg to differ from the author who gives a wholly negative view of the last book of the Bible when in fact it is a book of great encouragement to suffering Christians. But there are many wild interpretations like that of the killer. Shardlake himself has moved away form being a reformer . Now he seems a sceptic as to reform and the only reformer painted in a good light is Cranmer.
5. Descent from the hills by Stanhope White
This novel is set in the Gwoza hills where Boko Haram now fight. It tells the history from before the Europeans came until after the end of WWII. The history is related as seen by several generations of local hill tribes. The author was an assistant district office in the area around eigthy years ago. This reviewer lived there forty years ago. I met the late author in his native Yorkshire. He was full of great anecdotes about life in Gwoza, This book shows a remarkable understanding of the local people.
6. Teenage: The Creation of Youth: 1875-1945 by
An interesting history of the idea of teenage as a distinct phenomenon. We read of the commercial exploitation of this age group and the cultural currents affecting them. The most disturbing part of the book is how the Nazis used youth movements to promote National Socialism.
Labels: historical fiction, Nigeria