2. Most thought provoking book

Laura Beers: Carolyn Steedman, Landscape for a Good Woman: A Story of Two Lives (1987)

Matthew Francis: Reinhart Koselleck, Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time (2004)

I first came across Koselleck through reading around conceptual history but there is so much else besides in this collection of essays: historical time, war memorials, the Third Reich in dreams…

David Gange: Adam Kuper, Incest and Influence: The Private Life of Bourgeois England (2009)

This is an anthropology of the role incest (well, cousin marriage) played in sustaining the elite (Wedgewoods & Darwins).

Vanessa Heggie: Carolyn Steedman, Landscape for a Good Woman (1987)

Not discovered through work, this was given to me by my mum.

Matthew Hilton: Pierre Bourdieu, The Logic of Practice (1980)

Not necessarily a book but a sentence I keep returning to more than anything: ‘systems of durable, transposable dispositions, structured structures predisposed to function as structuring structures’

Matt Houlbrook: Vic Gatrell, The Hanging Tree: Execution and the English People, 1770-1868 (1986)

This was the book that made me want to be a historian. It’s impassioned, angry, and humane. It shows how it is possible to interweave social, cultural, and political histories, and to move between the minutiae of everyday life and far-reaching processes of historical change.

Chris Moores: Carolyn Steedman, Landscape for a Good Woman (1987)

I would also like to add a non-history book: Stuart Hall, Chas Chritcher, Tony Jefferson, John Clarke & Brian Roberts’, Policing the Crisis (1978).  I don’t agree with everything in it but I still keep coming back to its analysis as a way of thinking through late 20th century Britain. It is also a great example of collaborative work in practice.

Sadiah Qureshi: Alison Winter’s Mesmerized: Powers of Mind in Victorian England (1998)

It changed my outlook on how science is demarcated from other disciplines in the nineteenth century and helped lay the ground for some of the most important claims I wanted to make about exhibitions as spaces for the production of anthropological knowledge.

Jonathan Reinarz: James Huzel, The Popularization of Malthus in Early Nineteenth Century England (2006)

Written by the then unusually democratic undergraduate History tutor at UBC who introduced me to British History and whose stimulating lectures and encouraging comments echo in its pages.

Kate Smith: Dorothy Ko, Cinderella’s Sisters: A Revisionist History of Footbinding (2005)

Not Modern British Studies I’m afraid but this remains one of the most thought-provoking books I’ve ever read. Not only because of its findings but also for the way it plays with structure and method.

More MBS Desert Island posts:

  • Book you have referred to most
  • Most Controversial Book
  • Book you wish you had written
  • Favourite Article
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