I Wish I’d Been There, Book Two: Western History

Byron Hollinshead, Editor, Theodore K. Rabb, Editor . Doubleday $27.95 (318p) ISBN 978-0-385-51908-3

In this sequel to Hollinshead’s first volume (which focused on America), Renaissance expert Rabb joins him as they ask scholars to choose well-known moments in Western history to inhabit and recreate. Ross King joins 7,000 visitors at the 1863 opening of Paris’s Salon des Refusés, probing what prompted the tradition-loving Edouard Manet to paint a naked woman picnicking with two frock-coated men. As Katherine Duncan-Jones watches an incendiary Globe Theatre performance of Richard II on the eve of Essex’s violent uprising against Elizabeth I, she ponders the similarities between two charismatic monarchs who became remote and unpopular. Katherine Fischer Drew studies the origins of the Magna Carta, honoring the mostly nameless bureaucrats who composed this brilliant compromise restoring good government to rebellious 13th-century England, and John Elliott accompanies Charles, prince of Wales, to Madrid in 1623 as he hopelessly begs Philip IV for his sister’s hand in marriage. Readers will be transported to Alexander the Great’s deathbed in Babylon in 323 B.C.; to 1905 Russia as Nicholas II signs the October Manifesto, giving Russian citizens their first taste of civil liberties; and to Renaissance Florence when it was invaded by 10,000 French soldiers. This sound, quirky and savory offering will kindle the imaginations of armchair historians. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 01/07/2008
Release date: 03/01/2008
Genre: Nonfiction
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