It’s early September and I’m still waiting for August to arrive! I have to contend with September (weather) now… but still hoping an Indian summer will surprise us all!
In the bookshop we have been visited by lots of parents searching for ‘something historical’ for their children. Luckily, we have some good books and equipment which will encourage their historical interest. The kings and queens rulers (with chronicled dates of reign) are a hit; or a Magna Carta facsimile (1215 not 1225 edition) for young Barons; and the Tudor Charts, which let young genealogists plot their family tree 5 generations back. Taking history to a different level! And now that the children have gone back to school with bags packed full of memories, they can share that new-found knowledge and experience with friends, maybe?
For me (a long time ago now) it was always a dead cert that at some point in ‘my’ school holidays, a visit (or two, or three) to a great historical venue would take place, and later a lecture on what I could remember… well… humm? Still, looking back, what I didn’t think I liked then, I love now!
My childhood was centred around Hampton Court Palace, near where I lived. It was only a question of time before my obsession with Henry VIII and his six wives took off. If you share my obsession or would like to find out more about Henry, then a good place to start would be the classic Antonia Fraser study on Henry VIII and his six wives, which gives an excellent overview of the life of the much-married monarch. For a different, albeit very partial perspective, Inside the Tudor Court has just been published in paperback. This fascinating read is based on the dispatches sent back by Chapuys, the Spanish Ambassador to the Court. His record of the events leading up to Henry’s divorce from Katherine of Aragon and the rise of Anne Boleyn make riveting reading, although they should be taken with not so much a pinch of salt as a small Siberian salt mine! One more (for adults only!) is The Six Wives and Many Mistresses Of Henry VIII, stories from the viewpoint of the women themselves which give an insight into the king’s love life and games of passion.
Getting back to young historians, for 8-12 years, a perfect read (and supporting the teaching curriculum) is Medieval Life, a European look at the Middle Ages, travelling back in time, illustrated with colour photographs and with it, a free wall chart – a nice change from that One Direction poster!
Leaping ahead in time but for a similar age group, our new National Archives co-branded book, World War II Unclassified, a follow on from World War I Unclassified, is an easy read on espionage, battle tactics, code cracking and heroism and illustrated with lots of intriguing colour photos to set the scene!
And for all those animal lovers who went to see War Horse and were left wanting more, we have Soldier Dog and Blitzcat. These are adventurous, heart-rending stories set during the first and second World Wars, and are a reminder of how animals saved lives in war time. Both are novels, but fiction can of course often reflect fact.