Latest Book Reviews

Latest Book Reviews

Topics in this month's books include: London’s industrial past, the life of Mabel Lucie Attwell, strange & entertaining facts about death, & discovering more about your family via their death records.

Books, Discover Your Ancestors


Discover Your Ancestors

London’s Industrial Heritage

Geoff Marshall • £16.99
The History Press

London’s Industrial Heritage

When we think of the Industrial Revolution, the image usually conjured is of grimy mills in the Midlands of England or perhaps the mines of the north and of South Wales. It is easy to overlook the capital city’s industrial heritage. Thanks to Geoff Marshall, this book redresses the balance.

Marshall is well placed for such a study: he has combined a career as a research scientist for the electricity supply industry with a passion for London history, with two previous books and Blue Badge tourist guide status to his name.

Appropriately, he begins this accessible guide with a survey of the electricity industry: even today, the former power stations of Battersea and Bankside form major London landmarks. Gas works, too, were a feature of industrial London from Georgian times as the need for improved street lighting grew.

From the late 18th century, Boulton and Watt used gas to light the factories and mills of the Midlands – we learn in this book that the greatest concentration of their steam engines outside Lancashire was in fact in London.

In the second part of the book, Marshall delves chapter by chapter into the many different faces of manufacturing in the capital, from big industries such as shipbuilding and engineering to more specific trades such as bell founding and candle making. Part three then looks at the infrastructure of canals, docks and railways which connected industries to one another, the rest of the country and indeed the world.

This is the first book of its kind to focus exclusively on industrial London, and the result is a rich insight into what made London tick – and of course what helped to create the city’s famed ‘pea soupers’.

Mabel Keeps Calm and Carries On

Edited by Vicki Thomas• £9.99
The History Press

Mabel Lucie Attwell (1879-1964) was one of Britain’s best-loved artists over a long career. She first came to fame in the Edwardian era with a series of illustrations of children’s classics, most notably Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies. She painted prolifically throughout the two world wars, with many postcards featuring her cute, child-like characters and tongue-in-cheek captions.

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Despite suffering loss and hardship herself during the wars she continued to encourage people to ‘smile through the tears’, understanding the beneficial effect of a warm slogan and home comfort.

This enchanting collection brings together many of Attwell’s wartime postcards for the first time, with design historian Vicki Thomas carefully curating them to detail the poignant history and inspiration behind each postcard. A donation from the sale of each book goes to Help for Heroes.

The Little Book of Death

Neil R Storey • £9.99
The History Press

Neil R Storey has contributed articles on military history to both printed editions of Discover Your Ancestors. He is also a respected historian of crime. In this grisly but highly entertaining volume, he uses his knowledge from both fields and others to provide a “repository of intriguing, fascinating, obscure, strange and entertaining facts and trivia” about death. Where can you still find the body parts of the famous, from Albert Einstein’s eyes to Thomas Hardy’s heart? Which king died from eating too many melons? How were two women killed by their bras in 1999?

Like a lively mixture of Horrible Histories and the Fortean Times, this would make an excellent gift for anyone interested in history’s darker corners.

Tracing Your Ancestors through Death Records

Celia Heritage • £12.99
Pen & Sword

Of all family history sources, death records are probably the least used by researchers. They can, however, be the most revealing of records, giving a greater insight into our ancestors’ lives and personalities than records created during their lifetime.

Professional genealogist Celia Heritage leads readers through the various types of death records, showing how they can be found, read and interpreted – and how to glean as much information as possible from them.

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