Books

2019

Britain in the Wider World, 1603-1800

Burnard, Trevor. Britain in the Wider World, 1603-1800. Routledge, 2019.

Britain in the Wider World traces the remarkable transformation of Britain between 1603 and 1800 as it developed into a world power. At the accession of James VI and I to the throne of England in 1603, the kingdoms of England / Wales, Scotland and Ireland were united only by having a monarch in common. They had little presence in the world and were fraught with violence. Two centuries later, the consolidated state of the United Kingdom, established in 1801, was an economic powerhouse and increasingly geopolitically important, with an empire that stretched from the Americas, to Asia and to the Pacific. The book offers a fresh approach to assessing Britain's evolution, situating Britain within both imperial and Atlantic history, and examining how Britain came together politically and socially throughout the eighteenth century.

Jacques Derrida and the Challenge of History

Gaston, Sean. Jacques Derrida and the Challenge of History. Rowman and Littlefield, 2019.

This important new book argues that Jacques Derrida's work can be treated as the basis for a distinctive historiography. The possibility of seeing Derrida not as a philosopher of language but as a philosopher of history has become more apparent with the recent publication of Derrida's 1964-1965 seminar Heidegger: The Question of Being and History. We now know that the problem of history was at the heart of Derrida's writing in the mid-1960s, prior to the publication of his best-known work, Of Grammatology (1967).

Arguing that Derrida's scholarship in the 1960s and early 1970s on historicism, historicity and the problem of history can be treated as the basis for a philosophy of history, Sean Gaston focuses on Derrida's work from the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s and his relentless questioning of contextmemory and narrative as the delineation of a deconstructive historiography.

2018

Henry Smeathman, the Flycatcher: Natural History, Slavery, and Empire in the Late Eighteenth Century

Coleman, Deirdre. Henry Smeathman, the Flycatcher: Natural History, Slavery, and Empire in the Late Eighteenth Century. Liverpool University Press, 2018.

In 1771 Joseph Banks and other wealthy collectors sent a talented, self-taught naturalist to Sierra Leone to collect all things rare and curious, from moths to monkeys. Henry Smeathman's expedition to the West African coast, which coincided with a steep rise in British slave trading in this area, lasted four years during which time he built a house on the Banana Islands, married into the coast's ruling dynasties, and managed to negotiate the tricky life of a 'stranger' bound to his landlord and local customs. In this book, which draws on a rich and little-known archive of journals and letters, Coleman retraces Smeathman's life as he shuttled between his home on the Bananas and two key Liverpool trading forts - Bunce Island and the Isles de Los.

Wordsworth and the Poetics of Air

Ford, Thomas H. Wordsworth and the Poetics of Air. Cambridge University Press, 2018.

Before the ideas we now define as Romanticism took hold the word 'atmosphere' meant only the physical stuff of air; afterwards, it could mean almost anything, from a historical mood or spirit to the character or style of an artwork. Thomas H. Ford traces this shift of meaning, which he sees as first occurring in the poetry of William Wordsworth. Gradually 'air' and 'atmosphere' took on the new status of metaphor as Wordsworth and other poets re-imagined poetry as a textual area of aerial communication - conveying the breath of a transitory moment to other times and places via the printed page. Reading Romantic poetry through this ecological and ecocritical lens Ford goes on to ask what the poems of the Romantic period mean for us in a new age of climate change, when the relationship between physical climates and cultural, political and literary atmospheres is once again being transformed.