In this series members of the Defence Studies Department share the books they are reading this summer. This instalment is from a recent addition to the Department, Dr Aimée Fox-Godden. You can read more posts from Aimée here and here.
While the redrafting and reading of my own forthcoming monograph has dominated my summer vacation, I have managed to carve out much needed time to revisit old favourites, catch up with recent purchases, and begin essential reading for my next project. So, without further ado, here are my three summer reads:
- Jean Bou (ed.), The AIF in Battle: How the Australian Imperial Force Fought 1914-1918 (Carlton VIC: Melbourne University Press, 2016)
Australia’s commemoration of the First World War centenary has proved somewhat contentious. Costing over $500m, the majority of this taxpayer’s money, it has resulted in a number of raised eyebrows. 2015 saw the hundredth anniversary of the failed Gallipoli campaign, while 2016 marked one hundred years since Fromelles. These two engagements, particularly the former, have shaped popular perceptions of Australia’s role in the conflict where ‘diggers’ were willingly slaughtered by their incompetent imperial overlords. The AIF in Battle offers a necessary corrective. Edited by Jean Bou, an authority on the Australian contribution in the Palestine theatre, this excellent edited collection examines the AIF’s stature as a fighting force. It includes chapters from the next generation of Australian military historians largely clustered in and around Canberra, which really is marking itself out as a hub for outstanding military history. While still working my way through this volume, stand out chapters thus far include Michael Molkentin’s examination of air power and the AIF, Aaron Pegram’s discussion of trench raiding, and Meleah Hampton’s incisive discussion of the AIF’s initial engagements on the Western Front in 1916-17.
- Amy Milne-Smith, London Clubland: A Cultural History of Gender and Class in Late Victorian Britain (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011)
I first encountered Amy Milne-Smith’s work during my doctoral research. Her excellent article dealing with male gossip, social control and masculinity had me hooked. I finally got hold of her book, London Clubland, earlier this year, and I finished it in a single sitting. Milne-Smith uses clubland to explore the shifting boundaries of class, contested urban spaces, and interrogates our understanding of the ‘gentleman’ in Victorian England. Drawing on an extensive range of source material, notably the archives and records of numerous London clubs, the product is a beautifully written analysis, packed to the rafters with amusing anecdotes that will make you smirk and cringe in equal measure. A must read.
- Claire Langhamer, The English in Love: The Intimate Story of an Emotional Revolution (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013)
As an intrigued newcomer, furtively dipping her toes into the burgeoning history of emotions, I must confess to feeling rather comforted by the front cover of Langhamer’s The English in Love: a photograph of a serviceman presumably saying farewell to his wife or lover. Considering the period between 1920 and 1970, Langhamer focuses on how the English made sense of love and marriage, using the voices of ordinary people to analyse shifting understandings of love, sexual desire, and commitment. While only a quarter of the way through this book (which I am enjoying immensely), it has challenged me as a historian, opening my eyes to new possibilities in terms of methodologies and source material.
Image via flickr.