Ample offerings for AS-level

23rd March 2001 at 00:00

CAMBRIDGE PERSPECTIVES IN HISTORY. Lancastrians to Tudors England, 1450-1509. By Andrew Pickering.

EXPANSION, WAR AND REBELLION. Europe 1598-1661. By Quentin Deakin

REVOLUTIONS AND NATIONALITIES. Europe 1825-1890. By Peter Browning

Cambridge University Press pound;10.95 each

EUROPE 1783-1914. By William Simpson and Martin Jones. Routledge pound;15.99

AN INTRODUCTION TO MODERN EUROPEAN HISTORY 1890-1990. By Alan Farmer. pound;11.99

AN INTRODUCTION TO EARLY MODERN EUROPEAN HISTORY, 1450-1610. By Tony Imperato. pound;10.99. Hodder amp; Stoughton

Educational publishers have responded to the advent of AS-levels with a mixture of traditional material and purpose-built volumes displaying a design-frenzy more commonly associated with the wizards of website creation.

In the Cambridge Perspectives in History series, Andrew Pickering's Lancastrians to Tudors places 1485, that landmark of British dynastic and constitutional history, in a wider narrative. It supplies a substantial background to Bosworth Field and there is a clear identification of those elements of continuity and kingship which we have been encouraged to seek out for a scholastic generation.

All late-medievalists, and students of the Wars of the Roses in particular, will derive equal value from the monograph, which is generously endowed with timelines, family trees and relevant illustrations. A map of England, as detailed as the map of France provided, would be a useful addition.

An "historical interpretation" conclusion to each chapter briefly examines current thinking on the material studied. The document study, the "Wars of the Roses, 1450-1485", provides ample material for those finishing a medieval course and stimulating exercises for those embarking on a Tudor voyage.

Quentin Deakin's Expansion, War and Rebellion, in the same series, examines Europe in the first half of the 17th century. The opening chapters set peoples and dynasties in context before a more traditional fare of Richelieu, Mazarin, the decline of Spain and the Thirty Years' War. The volume concludes with two excellent sections on witchcraft and the scientific revolution, relief to the hard-pressed history teacher trying to maintain student interest in the subject following the complexities of the War of 1618-48.

The book is richly provided with maps; marginal notes are usefully employed to explain technical terms (absolutism), alien terms (hidalgo, Paulette tax) etc, or to introduce lesser players in the great game. The bibliography is surprisingly thin in a volume otherwise so carefully constructed.

Revolutions and Nationalities by Peter Browning examines Europe in the "short 19th century", omitting the immediate Napoleonic legacy and the decline into war after 1890. Chapters on the unification of Italy, France 1848-75, Russia to 1881 and Germany to 1890 stand alone and will satisfy the needs of te most ardent A-level students of these topics. Louis-Philippe and the July Monarchy needs fuller attention in a volume commencing chronologically in 1825.

The document study on Italian unification presents long extracts and questions in the style of the OCR, including its favourites - reliability and utility. Not a lot is offered in terms of aid in assessing these twin monsters. The volume bears the OCR stamp of approval.

Peter Browning has produced a full bibliography with useful comments on most volumes. Perhaps Cambridge's series editors need to bring some standardisation to maps and bibliographies in these otherwise excellent texts for the discerning student, a series that would not look out of place on the shelves of the university bookshop.

The history department of Cheltenham College, past and present, has produced Europe 1783-1914. I will not argue with the authors, William Simpson and Martin Jones, who lay claim this is "an essential and invaluable introduction to this turbulent and formative period of European history". It is user-friendly, with the contents of each chapter clearly identified, key dates presented immediately and a concluding section of further reading with critical comments. Source material accompanies each chapter. Hoorah for chapters on Industrialisation of Europe and its Effects, The Age of Imperialism and Marxism and the Growth of Working Class Organisations, ideally complementary material to the standard sections on German and Italian unification and the other old favourites. Teachers of 19th-century Europe must take a look at this.

An Introduction to Modern European History, 1890-1990 by Alan Farmer occasionally baffles the eye with its plethora of boxes - issue boxes, "Q-boxes", activity boxes. There is a useful map around every corner, and enough source material, including complex statistical tables, to provide stimulating lessons for the duration of the course. It is a mine of useful information and activity and unashamedly guides the reader towards that final exam.

The book reflects, of course, the heavy bias towards the period up to 1945. The last few pages cover the key 40 years after the Second World War as a brief post-script, concentrating on the Cold War and collapse of Communism.

Introduction to Early Modern European History, 1450-1610 is perhaps more intellectually stimulating to the teacher brought up on more traditional chapter divisions . Tony Imperato examines the Europeness of Europe in a much more direct manner than we have had before. There are thematic examinations of exploration, religion, the Renaissance and its impact; warfare and diplomacy. You would not use the book to trace a chronology of France, Spain or the United Netherlands. It is more rewarding than that. Again, information galore and an emphasis on activity.

Michael Weaver is head of history at Woodbridge School, Suffolk

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