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Interpret the facts;Secondary;Reviews;History;Books

LONGMAN ADVANCED HISTORY SERIES. THE DEVELOPMENT OF EARLY MODERN EUROPE 1480-1648. Geoffrey Woodward. TUDOR BRITAIN 1485-1603. Roger Lockyer and Dan O'Sullivan.

STUART ENGLAND 1603-1714. Barry CowardLongman pound;13.99 each.

My experience of second-hand booksellers is that there are books and there are textbooks, the latter being an unloved genre supposedly with neither market nor value.

In practice there are many textbooks which represent the best modern writing in history; Longman's latest A-level titles continue to meet that standard.

Built around the new core and with a high level of support through time charts and a tightly structured approach, each chapter has a focus which may be the close examination of a particular topic such as Philip II's foreign policy or a question - "Was Mary I a failure?" The term "case study" is applied somewhat inconsist-ently; in The Development of Early Modern Europe it describes a study of an individual such as Erasmus or William the Silent, whereas in Tudor Britain such chapters cover broad subjects such as the Pre-Reformation Church and the Dissolution. Profiles of individuals appear in each text with names helpfully listed alongside key terms in the excellent index.

Each author raises not only the questions asked by examiners such as "Why did a revolt break out in the Netherlands in 1572?" but also the issues that fuel controversy such as theso-called "mid-century crisis" in Britain - "a period of stagnation and failure" between the reigns of "a sickly boy" and "a bigoted female".

Barry Coward's Stuart England shows particular skill with vigorous and provocative writing across several chapters on Cromwell, challenging students to question the inevitability of the restoration of the monarchy and providing material for lively debate.

Tasks based on examination questions are provided at the end of each chapter together with practical advice on note-making - "Take six sheets of paper" - and it is good to see argument used as a learning tool.

The writers recognise that evidence, particularly on the 15th century, can be incomplete and that interpretation is at the heart of the process.

These texts treat students as serious historians and will give an added value to work at this level.

Mark Williamson is general adviser for humanities and religious education in the London Borough of Hounslow Earlier titles in the Longman Advanced History series ('Modern Europe', 'The Birth of Modern Britain' and 'Contemporary Britain') were reviewed in The TES on June 20, 1997

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