Alexandria: The City That Changed the World

Alexandria: The City That Changed the World

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An original, authoritative, and lively cultural history of the first modern city, from pre-Homeric times to the present day.

Islam Issa's father had always told him about their city's magnificence, and as he looked at the new library in Alexandria it finally hit home. This is no ordinary library. And Alexandria is no ordinary city. Combining rigorous research with myth and folklore, Alexandria is an authoritative history of a city that has shaped our modern world. Soon after being founded by Alexander the Great, Alexandria became the crucible of cultural exchange between East and West for millennia and the undisputed global capital of knowledge. It was at the forefront of human progress, but it also witnessed brutal natural disasters, plagues, crusades and violence. Major empires fought over Alexandria, from the Greeks and Romans to the Arabs, Ottomans, French, and British. Key figures shaped the city from its eponymous founder to Aristotle, Cleopatra, Saint Mark the Evangelist, Napoleon Bonaparte and many others, each putting their own stamp on its identity and its fortunes. And millions of people have lived in this bustling seaport on the Mediterranean. From its humble origins to its dizzy heights and its latest incarnation, Islam Issa tells us the rich and gripping story of a city that changed the world.

Black Shakespeare: Reading and Misreading Race

Black Shakespeare: Reading and Misreading Race

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Race may dominate everyday speech, media headlines and public policy, yet still questions of racialized blackness and whiteness in Shakespeare are resisted. In his compelling new book Ian Smith addresses the influence of systemic whiteness on the interpretation of Shakespeare's plays. This far-reaching study shows that significant parts of Shakespeare's texts have been elided, misconstrued or otherwise rendered invisible by readers who have ignored the presence of race in early modern England. Bringing the Black American intellectual tradition into fruitful dialogue with European thought, this urgent interdisciplinary work offers a deep, revealing and incisive analysis of individual plays, including Othello, The Merchant of Venice and Hamlet. Demonstrating how racial illiteracy inhibits critical practice, Ian Smith provides a necessary anti-racist alternative that will transform the way you read Shakespeare.
CHEESE AND THE WORMS

CHEESE AND THE WORMS

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The now-classic tale of a sixteenth-century miller facing the Roman Inquisition.

The Cheese and the Worms is an incisive study of popular culture in the sixteenth century as seen through the eyes of one man, the miller known as Menocchio, who was accused of heresy during the Inquisition and sentenced to death. Carlo Ginzburg uses the trial records to illustrate the religious and social conflicts of the society Menocchio lived in.

For a common miller, Menocchio was surprisingly literate. In his trial testimony he made references to more than a dozen books, including the Bible, Boccaccio's Decameron, Mandeville's Travels, and a "mysterious" book that may have been the Koran. And what he read he recast in terms familiar to him, as in his own version of the creation: "All was chaos, that is earth, air, water, and fire were mixed together; and of that bulk a mass formed--just as cheese is made out of milk--and worms appeared in it, and these were the angels."

Ginzburg's influential book has been widely regarded as an early example of the analytic, case-oriented approach known as microhistory. In a thoughtful new preface, Ginzburg offers his own corollary to Menocchio's story as he considers the discrepancy between the intentions of the writer and what gets written. The Italian miller's story and Ginzburg's work continue to resonate with modern readers because they focus on how oral and written culture are inextricably linked. Menocchio's 500-year-old challenge to authority remains evocative and vital today.

Divine Might: Goddesses in Greek Myth

Divine Might: Goddesses in Greek Myth

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New York Times bestselling author Natalie Haynes returns to the world of ancient Greek myth in this scintillating follow-up to Pandora's Jar.

Few writers today have reshaped our view of the ancient Greek myths more than revered bestselling author Natalie Haynes. Divine Might is a female-centered look at Olympus and the Furies, focusing on the goddesses whose prowess, passions, jealousies, and desires rival those of their male kin, including:

Athene, who sprang fully formed from her father's brow (giving Zeus a killer headache in the process), the goddess of war and provider of wise counsel.Aphrodite, born of the foam (and sperm released from a Titan's castrated testicles), the most beautiful of all the Olympian goddesses, the epitome of love who dispenses desire and inspires longing--yet harbors a fearsome vengeful side, doling out brutal punishments to those who displease her.Hera, Zeus's long-suffering wife, whose jealousy born of his repeated dalliances with mortals, nymphs, and other goddesses, leads her to wreak elaborate and often painful revenge on those she believes have wronged her. (Well, wouldn't you?)Demeter, goddess of the harvest and mother of Persephone; Artemis, the hunter and goddess of wild spaces; the Muses, the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory; and Hestia, goddess of domesticity and sacrificial fire.

Infused with Haynes's engaging charm and irrepressible wit, Divine Might is a refreshing take on the legends and stories we thought we knew.

Dress Diary: Secrets from a Victorian Woman's Wardrobe

Dress Diary: Secrets from a Victorian Woman's Wardrobe

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*A NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW EDITOR'S CHOICE*

A revealing and unique portrait of Victorian life as told through the discovery of one woman's textile scrapbook.

In 1838, a young woman was given a diary on her wedding day. Collecting snippets of fabric from a range of garments - some her own, others donated by family and friends - she carefully annotated each one, creating a unique record of their lives. Her name was Mrs Anne Sykes.

Nearly two hundred years later, the diary fell into the hands of Kate Strasdin, a fashion historian and museum curator. Using her expertise, Strasdin spent the next six years unravelling the secrets contained within the album's pages, and the lives of the people within. Her findings are remarkable. Piece by piece, she charts Anne's journey from the mills of Lancashire to the port of Singapore before tracing her return to England in later years. Fragments of cloth become windows into Victorian life: pirates in Borneo, the complicated etiquette of mourning, poisonous dyes, the British Empire in full swing, rioting over working conditions and the terrible human cost of Britain's cotton industry. This is life writing that celebrates ordinary people: not the grandees of traditional written histories, but the hidden figures, the participants in everyday life. Through the evidence of waistcoats, ball gowns and mourning outfits, Strasdin lays bare the whole of human experience in the most intimate of mediums: the clothes we choose to wear.

Emperor of Rome: Ruling the Ancient Roman World

Emperor of Rome: Ruling the Ancient Roman World

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In her international bestseller SPQR, Mary Beard told the thousand-year story of ancient Rome, from its slightly shabby Iron Age origins to its reign as the undisputed hegemon of the Mediterranean. Now, drawing on more than thirty years of teaching and writing about Roman history, Beard turns to the emperors who ruled the Roman Empire, beginning with Julius Caesar (assassinated 44 BCE) and taking us through the nearly three centuries--and some thirty emperors--that separate him from the boy-king Alexander Severus (assassinated 235 CE).

Yet Emperor of Rome is not your typical chronological account of Roman rulers, one emperor after another: the mad Caligula, the monster Nero, the philosopher Marcus Aurelius. Instead, Beard asks different, often larger and more probing questions: What power did emperors actually have? Was the Roman palace really so bloodstained? What kind of jokes did Augustus tell? And for that matter, what really happened, for example, between the emperor Hadrian and his beloved Antinous? Effortlessly combining the epic with the quotidian, Beard tracks the emperor down at home, at the races, on his travels, even on his way to heaven.

Along the way, Beard explores Roman fictions of imperial power, overturning many of the assumptions that we hold as gospel, not the least of them the perception that emperors one and all were orchestrators of extreme brutality and cruelty. Here Beard introduces us to the emperor's wives and lovers, rivals and slaves, court jesters and soldiers, and the ordinary people who pressed begging letters into his hand--whose chamber pot disputes were adjudicated by Augustus, and whose budgets were approved by Vespasian, himself the son of a tax collector.

With its finely nuanced portrayal of sex, class, and politics, Emperor of Rome goes directly to the heart of Roman fantasies (and our own) about what it was to be Roman at its richest, most luxurious, most extreme, most powerful, and most deadly, offering an account of Roman history as it has never been presented before.

Fool: In Search of Henry VIII's Closest Man

Fool: In Search of Henry VIII's Closest Man

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The first biography of Henry VIII's court fool William Somer, a legendary entertainer and one of the most intriguing figures of the Tudor age

In some portraits of Henry VIII there appears another, striking figure--a gaunt and morose-looking man with a shaved head and, in one case, a monkey on his shoulder. This is William or "Will" Somer, the king's fool, a celebrated wit who reportedly could raise Henry's spirits and spent many hours with him, often alone. Was Somer an "artificial fool," a cunning comic who could speak freely in front of the king, or a "natural fool," someone with intellectual disabilities, like many other members of the profession? And what role did he play in the tumultuous and violent Tudor era? Fool is the first biography of Somer--and perhaps the first of a Renaissance fool.

After his death, Somer disappeared behind his legend, and historians struggled to separate myth from reality. Unearthing as many facts as possible, Peter K. Andersson pieces together the fullest picture yet of an enigmatic and unusual man with a very strange job. Somer's story provides new insights into how fools lived and what exactly they did for a living, how monarchs and courtiers related to commoners and people with disabilities, and whether aspects of the Renaissance fool live on in the modern comedian. But most of all, we learn how a commoner without property or education managed to become the court's chief mascot and a continuous presence at the center of Tudor power from the 1530s to the reign of Elizabeth I.

Looking beyond stereotypes of the man in motley, Fool reveals a little-known world, surprising and disturbing, when comedy was something crueler and more unpleasant than we like to think.

How to Be a Renaissance Woman: The Untold History of Beauty & Female Creativity

How to Be a Renaissance Woman: The Untold History of Beauty & Female Creativity

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An alternative history of the Renaissance--as seen through the emerging literature of beauty tips--focusing on the actresses, authors, and courtesans who rebelled against the misogyny of their era.

Beauty, make-up, art, power: How to Be a Renaissance Woman presents an alternative history of this fascinating period as told by the women behind the paintings, providing a window into their often overlooked or silenced lives.

Can the pressures women feel to look good be traced back to the sixteenth century?

As the Renaissance visual world became populated by female nudes from the likes of Michelangelo and Titian, a vibrant literary scene of beauty tips emerged, fueling debates about cosmetics and adornment. Telling the stories of courtesans, artists, actresses, and writers rebelling against the strictures of their time, when burgeoning colonialism gave rise to increasingly sinister evaluations of bodies and skin color, this book puts beauty culture into the frame.

How to Be a Renaissance Woman will take readers from bustling Italian market squares, the places where the poorest women and immigrant communities influenced cosmetic products and practices, to the highest echelons of Renaissance society, where beauty could be a powerful weapon in securing strategic marriages and family alliances. It will investigate how skin-whitening practices shifted in step with the emerging sub-Saharan African slave trade, how fads for fattening and thinning diets came and went, and how hairstyles and fashion could be a tool for dissent and rebellion--then as now. This surprising and illuminating narrative will make you question your ideas about your own body, and ask: Why are women often so critical of their appearance? What do we stand to lose, but also to gain, from beauty culture? What is the relationship between looks and power?

How to Say Babylon: A Memoir

How to Say Babylon: A Memoir

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A New York Times Notable Book
A Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick!

With echoes of Educated and Born a Crime, How to Say Babylon is the stunning story of the author's struggle to break free of her rigid Rastafarian upbringing, ruled by her father's strict patriarchal views and repressive control of her childhood, to find her own voice as a woman and poet.

Throughout her childhood, Safiya Sinclair's father, a volatile reggae musician and militant adherent to a strict sect of Rastafari, became obsessed with her purity, in particular, with the threat of what Rastas call Babylon, the immoral and corrupting influences of the Western world outside their home. He worried that womanhood would make Safiya and her sisters morally weak and impure, and believed a woman's highest virtue was her obedience.

In an effort to keep Babylon outside the gate, he forbade almost everything. In place of pants, the women in her family were made to wear long skirts and dresses to cover their arms and legs, head wraps to cover their hair, no make-up, no jewelry, no opinions, no friends. Safiya's mother, while loyal to her father, nonetheless gave Safiya and her siblings the gift of books, including poetry, to which Safiya latched on for dear life. And as Safiya watched her mother struggle voicelessly for years under housework and the rigidity of her father's beliefs, she increasingly used her education as a sharp tool with which to find her voice and break free. Inevitably, with her rebellion comes clashes with her father, whose rage and paranoia explodes in increasing violence. As Safiya's voice grows, lyrically and poetically, a collision course is set between them.

How to Say Babylon is Sinclair's reckoning with the culture that initially nourished but ultimately sought to silence her; it is her reckoning with patriarchy and tradition, and the legacy of colonialism in Jamaica. Rich in lyricism and language only a poet could evoke, How to Say Babylon is both a universal story of a woman finding her own power and a unique glimpse into a rarefied world we may know how to name, Rastafari, but one we know little about.

In Search of the Dark Ages: A History of Anglo-Saxon England

In Search of the Dark Ages: A History of Anglo-Saxon England

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From Boudica to William the Conqueror, this is the story of the Early Middle Ages and the hidden history of its people Updated with the latest archaeological research new chapters on the most influential yet widely unrecognized people of the British isles, In Search of the Dark Ages illuminates the fascinating and mysterious centuries between the Romans and the Norman Conquest of 1066. In this new edition, Michael Wood vividly conjures some of the most important people in British history such as Hadrian, a Libyan refugee from the Arab conquests and arguably the most important person of African origin in British history, to Queen Boadicea, the leader of a terrible war of resistance against the Romans. Here too, warts and all, are the Saxon, Viking and Norman kings who laid the political foundations of England: Offa of Mercia, Alfred the Great, Athelstan, and William the Conqueror, whose victory at Hastings in 1066 marked the end of Anglo-Saxon England. Reflecting the latest historical, textual and archaeological research, this revised and updated edition of Michael Wood's classic book overturns preconceptions of the Dark Ages as a shadowy and brutal era, showing them to be a richly exciting and formative period in the history of Britain.