4. Book you wish you had written

Laura Beers:  Charles S. Maier, Recasting Bourgeois Europe: Stabilization in France, Germany and Italy in the Decade after World War I (1975)

Matthew Francis: Jenny Andersson, The Library and the Workshop: Social Democracy and Capitalism in the Knowledge Age (2009)

Among the most subtle and insightful works yet produced on New Labour and contemporary social democracy, which challenges the idea that ‘the Third Way’ was simply a neoliberal phenomenon.  This is also a miracle of brevity: barely one hundred and fifty pages of often beautiful prose.

David Gange: Matthew Kneale’s novel ‘English Passengers’ (2000)

Tempted to just think about the REF, and say my next book even if it’s rubbish – that would make life easier. But the real answer to this can’t be a history monograph can it? It’ll have to be either a freakishly ambitious theoretical work or, more desirable still, some actual ‘litrichur’ like this one.

Vanessa Heggie:

I wish I had written Higher, Further, Colder: a History of Extreme Physiology and Exploration, but I haven’t and I should get on with it.

Matthew Hilton: James Ferguson’s The Anti-Politics Machine: “Development”, Depoliticization, and Bureaucratic Power in Lesotho (1990)

Matt Houlbrook: Seth Koven, Slumming: Sexual and Social Politics in Victorian London (2004)

This is the best piece of British social and cultural history I’ve ever read. It’s a beautifully written demonstration of the historian’s craft that somehow manages to combine theoretical sophistication, meticulous research, and compelling emotional power. It’s the kind of book I’ll never be able to write.

Chris Moores:

I find this a really difficult question. Like David – it probably would not be a history book. But if I had to choose one of those I might be tempted to say one of Peter Bailey’s. They read like he enjoyed writing and researching them.

Sadiah Qureshi: Matthew Kneale, English Passengers (2000)

David pipped me to the post in many ways, but this is the literary equivalent to what I want to do for my book on human endangerment. The research that went into the book is truly remarkable.

Jonathan Reinarz: Roy Porter, English Society in the Eighteenth Century (1982)

Bold, sweeping synthesis of eighteenth-century society, written by a young Porter, who managed to weave every existing study, the best anecdotes and bon mots into a narrative that appealed to both academics and general readers.

Kate Smith: Carolyn Steedman’s, Master and Servant: Love and Labour in the English Industrial Age (2007), particularly chapter ten.

For more MBS ‘Desert Island’ posts:

  • Book you have referred to most
  • Most thought provoking book
  • Most Controversial Book
  • Favourite Article
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