The Black Jacobins (1938) traces the remarkable history of the revolution in the French colony of San Domingo (modern day Haiti). It describes the events that helped the revolution become the first successful slave rebellion in history.
In particular, The Black Jacobins views the events through the prism of the revolution’s greatest figure, Toussaint L’Ouverture. It shows how he, a former slave who was inspired by the ideals of the French Revolution, successfully defeated the European empires and helped to destroy the brutal practice of slavery in San Domingo.
Christopher Clark’s The Sleepwalkers takes a fresh look at the outbreak of the First World War, focusing on the alliances established among Europe’s nations in the years leading up to 1914. In his compelling and masterful account, Clark examines the decisions, both big and small, that led to the outbreak, and investigates the common belief that the war was an inevitability.
In Bloodlands (2010), author Timothy Snyder tells the tragic story of the people caught in the crossfire between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union during World War II. The victims of the “bloodlands,” or territories that after the war became the Eastern Bloc, were pushed and pulled by two ruthless powers and treated like pawns both before the conflict and afterward.
One of Us (2015) tells the story of Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist who killed 77 people on July 22, 2011. Beginning with Breivik’s personal life and detailing the development of his extremist political views and his planning of the massacre, these blinks give you an unflinching look into the mind of the man who carried out this devastating and senseless attack.
World Order (2014) is a guide to the complex mechanisms that have governed international relations throughout history. These blinks explain how different countries conceive of different world orders and how they are held in balance or brought into conflict.
Ukraine Crisis (2014) addresses the peaceful protests and violent conflicts that have rocked Ukraine in recent years. This book take a look at the events surrounding the Maidan uprising, the Russian annexation of Crimea and the ongoing conflict in the Donbas. Importantly, the crisis is put into context not just for the future of Ukraine but also how it affects Russia, the European Union and the world.
The Middle East today is a hotbed of violence and war. Whether the civil war in Syria or the intractable Arab-Israeli conflict, peace in the region seems a far-off dream. Yet how did the Middle East become so unstable? In A Peace to End All Peace (1989), you’ll learn that European colonial ambitions during World War I were the catalyst that led to today’s modern crises.
Jerusalem (2011) tells the story of a city considered holy by three of the world’s major religions, and which is central to some of the greatest conflicts in human history. These blinks detail the history of Jerusalem, the near-constant battles it has inspired and the fundamental role it has played in shaping humankind over the course of millennia.
Nowadays, it’s common knowledge that Britain sees itself as distinct from the rest of Europe. For instance, they use the pound instead of the euro and do not take part in the EU free travel zone. But how did Britain’s relationship with Europe end up like this? That’s what This Blessed Plot (1998) is all about. It explains that, since WWII, Britain has had a conflicted relationship with the European project, filled with negotiations and exemptions. With the “Brexit” now on everyone’s mind, find out more about this complicated history and what it might be able to tell us about Britain’s future.
Russian Roulette (2018) relates the results of an investigation by two journalists into the Russian interference in the 2016 American presidential election. These include details on Trump’s business ties to Russia, the Russian connections of his campaign team, the Russian hacking of Democratic institutions, the disinformation campaigns on social media and what Russian intelligence might have gathered to compromise Trump. The blinks also tell how the American intelligence community and the Obama administration reacted to the Russian hacking.
Killing the Rising Sun (2016) tells the story of the Pacific War, which took place between 1941 and 1945, and its main belligerents, the United States and Japan. From the attack on Pearl Harbor to bloody invasions of Japan to the development of the world’s first atomic bomb, the book portrays the brutality of World War II from a US perspective, and describes how the war was eventually won.
Why The West Rules – For Now (2010) is a treatise on Western rule. It examines what “the West” is and how its current dominance came about. Starting with the earliest development of humankind, it rules out racist genetic beliefs and theories of cultural superiority. It describes how East and West have been locked neck and neck in a race for advancement up to the present day. And, of course, it goes on to address the question: will the West’s dominance last?
Destiny Disrupted (2009) tells history from an Islamic perspective. It begins before the emergence of Muhammad and Islam in the seventh century CE and ends with the decline of the Islamic empires in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. On this epic journey, Tamim Ansary describes the fascinating stories of great Muslim states, scholars and leaders – a perspective on history that is, unfortunately, widely unknown to most Westerners.
A Spy Among Friends (2014) details the life of Kim Philby, a highly respected operative who rose through the ranks of the British secret services during World War II and the Cold War. Though a seeming paragon of British values, he actually spent his career working as a double agent for the Russians.
Our networked lives are often seen as a product of the recent past. After all, didn’t the internet, social media, globalized trade and international terrorist networks first emerge in the late twentieth century? Renowned historian Niall Ferguson begs to differ. Providing a sweeping overview of Western history, from the birth of the printing press to the election of Donald Trump, The Square and the Tower (2018) offers a compelling argument that networks have been a key driver of historical change for a very long time and will only become more important in the future.
Say Nothing (2018) explores a shocking true story of murder during the Northern Ireland Conflict. These blinks are a compelling meditation on one of the darkest chapters of Irish history, and shine a light on some of the key figures in the conflict as well as the period’s most notorious atrocities.
The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951) is a landmark work by Hannah Arendt, in which she traces the anti-Semitic and imperialist roots of modern-day totalitarianism in Europe. Starting with the rise of the nation-state in the seventeenth century, Arendt reveals the prejudices and myths that empowered the Nazism and Stalinism of the early twentieth century, and that can lead to the erosion of free-thinking democracy. She also gives clear warning on how to avoid predatory totalitarian movements in the future.
The Congo from Leopold to Kabila (2002) is the history of the Congolese democratic movement in the twentieth century. The history begins with Belgian colonial rule, working its way through Mobutu’s reign of terror, before looking at the Congo Wars and concluding with the prolific unrest still rampant at the turn of the century. This survey illuminates how exploitative external interests and internal weaknesses have hampered the Congolese democratic movement and proposes how it might still advance.
The Spy and the Traitor (2018) details the real-life spy story of Oleg Gordievsky, the Soviet double-agent whose efforts contributed to the end of the Cold War. These blinks trace Gordievsky’s progress through the KGB and his years spying for MI6, the British secret service, before his final daring escape to the West.
Upheaval (2019) takes us through some of modern history’s biggest national crises to find out how each nation ended up in such trouble, and how they managed to get out of it. Looking at seven different nations, author Jared Diamond reveals how some of the same problems and solutions have emerged time and again, whether we’re looking at Chile and Indonesia in the 1970s, or Australia and Germany after WWII.
A Woman of No Importance (2019) sheds light on the shadowy world of wartime espionage and the career of one of the Allies’ most effective spies in the battle against Nazi Germany – Virginia Hall. In these blinks, we’ll follow Virginia from her Maryland home to the jazz clubs of interwar Paris and the warren-like streets of Lyon, the city in which she learned her trade. Along the way, you’ll discover how the “limping lady” dodged Gestapo agents, martialled the French resistance and revolutionized spycraft.
The Secret Barrister (2019) takes a behind-the-scenes look at the often chaotic and frighteningly disorganized world of England and Wales’ criminal justice system. As revealed by an experienced criminal barrister, the current system is woefully underfunded and suffering from a lack of resources, yet is also under threat from proposed reforms that would impose further cuts. However, there are some reasonable ways for the system to improve.
Nine Pints (2018) explores the rich but neglected story of blood. Taking a panoramic view and approaching the subject from multiple angles, Rose George looks into the science of blood and details some of the institutions, businesses and taboos that have arisen around this vital fluid.
Dark Towers (2020) is a heavily researched look into the ignominious rise and devastating fall of Deutsche Bank. Over the course of 150 years, the bank helped build the American railroad system, funded Nazi genocide, schmoozed Russian oligarchs, and had a hand in the election of President Donald Trump. When Deutsche executive Bill Broeksmit killed himself in 2014, he came to symbolize the destructive power of the bank’s institutional greed.
Figuring (2019) traces the intricate web that connects important figures from human history, from German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and inventor Nikola Tesla to America’s first female astronomer Maria Mitchell and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. These blinks pick up the tapestry of these different lives, trace the impact that they had on the course of history, and reveal the secret driving force that unites them all.
Narrated by Marston York
Music by Federico Coderoni
Queen of Fashion (2006) unveils the untold ways in which Marie Antoinette, with her iconoclastic sense of fashion and rebellious nature, challenged the status quo of 18th century French court. Expressing herself through daring originality, her story reveals a great deal about the revolutionary politics that make up the history of both fashion and France.
Fake Law (2020) examines the truth behind some of Britain’s most infamous crimes and criminal trials. Packed with insights into how the law really works, these blinks explore the disconnect between the reality of the justice system, and how it’s portrayed in the media.
The Diary of a Young Girl (first published 1952; this edition 1977) tells the story of Anne Frank, a Jewish girl who went into hiding with her family during the Second World War. It offers a remarkable portrait of a maturing young woman forced into an unbelievable situation but rising to the occasion. In her diary, Anne shares her thoughts and dreams, revealing a remarkable talent that was tragically taken from the world, along with millions of other lives during the Holocaust.
Empire (2003) offers a compelling overview of the highs and lows of the British Empire, from its late-to-the-game beginnings in the seventeenth century to its ultimate collapse in the twentieth century. Through the many disgraces and unparalleled achievements, you’ll learn how Great Britain came to control close to a quarter of the world, and how we’re still coming to terms with this legacy.
Wagnerism (2020) chronicles how the works of Richard Wagner have influenced thinkers in the years since his death. Exploring the multitude of ways in which people have interpreted his music, it looks beyond his artistic legacy to his political influence – most of all on the Nazi party.
Agent Sonya (2020) is the biography of a respectable housewife, who also just happened to be one of Soviet intelligence’s most intrepid and high-ranking spies. The book traces the life of Ursula Kuczynski, code-name Sonya, from her birth in Berlin, through her radicalization as a communist and her career as a spy who both foiled the Nazis and arguably kicked off the Cold War.
The Light of Days (2021) tells the thrilling and harrowing story of the Jewish women in Nazi-occupied Poland who served as resistance fighters during World War II. These women took up arms in ghetto uprisings and served as important couriers on dangerous missions to transport guns and supplies across a hostile territory.
Flash Crash (2020) tells the story of the “Hound of Hounslow,” Navinder Singh Sarao, a British man accused of triggering the sudden and dramatic stock market crash of 2010. This is a detailed and fast-paced tale of global fraud and quixotic dreams.
The Plantagenets (2012) is a rollicking history of eight generations of English royal rule. From the Crusades through the signing of Magna Carta and up to the start of the Hundred Years’ War, the House of Plantagenet ruled during some of the most thrilling times of English history.
The Twelve Caesars (121 CE) is one of the most colorful biographical works ever written. By turns opinionated, sensational, and dramatic, it documents the lives of the men who wielded absolute power in Rome after its transformation from a republic into an empire in 27 BCE. A one-time private secretary to one of those emperors, Hadrian, Suetonius was intimately familiar with court life. In the Twelve Caesars, he uses that knowledge to shed light on the highs and lows of the empire’s early years, as well as on the virtues and all-too-human failings of its supposedly divine rulers.
All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days (2021) offers a deeply intimate look at individuals who risked their lives by establishing an anti-Nazi resistance movement in Germany. With years of research, and access to letters and declassified documents, this is a detailed story about people who have often been overlooked in the fight against fascism.
Read to you by Karen Cass.
In East Germany, a spy agency called the Stasi built the most sophisticated surveillance network the world has ever seen. For almost 30 years, East Germans were confined physically by the Berlin Wall, but the Stasi’s network of spies and informers was responsible for keeping them in check mentally. It’s hard to imagine what everyday life is like for victims of a surveillance state. Stasiland is their story.
The Happiest Man on Earth (2020) is the true story of one man, who survived inconceivable horrors during the Holocaust, and afterward made it his mission to change the world for the better. Eddie Jaku saw first-hand how a Fascist regime could spark anti-Semitic hatred, and turn former friends and neighbors into killers. In talking about what happened, he shares how love and kindness helped him to survive one of the worst atrocities in human history.
Powers and Thrones (2021) is a comprehensive history of the Middle Ages. Tracing time from the fall of the western Roman Empire to the Protestant Reformation, these blinks reveal how forces such as global networks, climate change, mass migration, pandemics, and technological innovation, as well as political leaders, the clergy, and knights, shaped the medieval world.
The Gates of Europe (2015) offers a compelling overview of the history of Ukraine, a nation which lies between the East and the West. Due to this unique geographic position, Ukraine has been fought over and subjugated by a long line of imperial forces throughout history. Indeed, the history of Ukraine is one of the most important facets in the history of Europe.
Dominion (2021) is a grandiose look at the impact Christianity has had on the development of the Western mind. From its roots in antiquity to the pop singles of the twentieth century, the story follows the dramatic development of Christian thought over three thousand years.
The Forgotten 500 (2007) tells the story of Allied airmen who were trapped behind enemy lines in World War II and the courageous citizens of Yugoslavia who risked everything to help them get home. For political reasons, the story remained classified for decades until the 1980s. But now, the events leading to the largest rescue operation of the war are available to us all.
Elizabeth the Queen (2012) is a brisk yet in-depth exposé of Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. Tracing key moments in her life, big and small, lighthearted and tragic, it pulls back the curtain on a most singular figure. Elizabeth II was at once a woman who struggled to balance her roles as both mother and monarch; a leader who learned to embody dignity and diplomacy; and the calm epicenter of the drama that ever swirled around her closest relations.
The Anglo-Saxons (2021) is a history of the Germanic warriors and settlers whose arrival in Britain in the sixth century changed the course of the island’s history. Beginning with the collapse of Roman rule, it charts the rise of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, their conversion to Christianity, and the gradual unification of the country that became known as England. Along the way, it sheds light on the development of England’s language, culture, cities, and political and religious institutions.
The Nazi Conspiracy (2023) tells the thrilling true story of the first meeting between the leaders of the Allied forces during the height of World War II – and the top-secret Nazi plot that almost changed the course of history. Full of drama, twists, and political intrigue stretching all over the world, it shows how the three leaders – Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin – defied all odds, and arranged one of the most pivotal events in the entire war.
The Nightingale (2015) is a historical novel telling the often-neglected story of those left behind when soldiers go off to war. Set in northwestern France during World War II and told through the eyes of two sisters, this sweeping saga reveals the hidden horrors, and heroism, of the survivors.
The Cold War (2003) provides an overview of the conflict that defined the second half of the twentieth century. Beginning in the immediate aftermath of World War Two, it traces the Cold War’s development through the rest of the century, laying out its underlying causes and overall contours.
Letter to the American Church (2022) is part cautionary tale, part call-to-action to churches in America. It challenges Christians to speak up and be more involved in shaping the state of the country, even if that means getting political.
River of the Gods (2022) follows two audacious individuals as they search for the source of the world’s longest river. At the time, this was a question of mythical proportions, and one which would consume and break the men sent to answer it.
Jane Eyre (1874) is an intense, intimate portrait of a young woman’s search to find her place in Victorian society without compromising her passionate ideals. It follows her as she navigates life’s obstacles – and her developing love for the mysterious Edward Rochester.
Ordinary Men (1992) tells the disturbing tale of how a group of men went from “ordinary” to brutal, hardened killers executing the Nazi mission during the Holocaust. It examines in detail the evolution of these men’s attitudes, from the beginning when most experienced disgust at the gruesome tasks they were asked to carry out, through to the end when almost all had become accustomed to the cruelty and some even came to delight in it. Above all, it is a warning and a reminder of what humanity is capable of in its darkest moments.
Endurance (1959) is the epic saga of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s expedition across the Antarctic continent on foot – a journey that became a race against time, the elements, and the harshest climate on earth to rescue his crew.
The WEIRDest People in the World (2020) describes why Westerners think and behave so differently from most other people. It also explains how the policies of the Western Church in the realms of marriage and kinship have helped cultivate these odd cultural attributes, transforming the world and helping the West flourish in the process.
The Mosquito Bowl (2022) tells the story of American football stars going to war and playing one more game when they get there. It details a nation divided by bigotry but united by sport and a common enemy.
The Pope at War (2022) follows the first years of Eugenio Pacelli’s papacy. Based on documents released by the Vatican in 2020, the book reveals the never-before-told story of the pope’s secret negotiations with Hitler.
War and Peace (1869) is a novel that follows the lives of several aristocratic families during the French invasion of Russia and the Napoleonic Wars. It explores themes of love, war, politics, and the human condition, and is considered one of the great works of literature.
The Things We Make (2023) dispels the myth around some of the greatest and most ordinary inventions. It retells their making as a creative application of the engineering method, a principle that explains how people in ancient times built some of the marvels that still capture our imagination today.
The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905) argues that the work ethic and values of early Protestant sects like Calvinism strongly influenced the development of capitalism in Western Europe. Weber's classic text traces these cultural origins, exploring how religious changes catalyzed the rise of modern economic systems by reshaping mindsets surrounding work, enterprise, and the accumulation of wealth.
A Tale of Two Cities (1859) is a historical novel set against the backdrop of the tumultuous times of the French Revolution and London in the late eighteenth century. The story revolves around the lives of Charles Darnay, a French aristocrat, and Sydney Carton, a dissolute English lawyer, who share a striking physical resemblance. As the novel unfolds, it explores themes of sacrifice, resurrection, and the stark contrast between the two cities of Paris and London, ultimately culminating in a powerful and emotionally charged climax.
The Odyssey (c. eighth century BC) is one of the foundational works of Western literature. The ancient Greek epic chronicles the arduous 10-year journey of hero Odysseus as he strives to return home from the Trojan War. Battling vengeful gods, mythical monsters, and the siren call of temptation, Odysseus's quest is not just for Ithaca, but for identity and meaning in a turbulent world.
The Art Thief (2023) is the remarkable true story of a Europe-wide crime spree that lasted over a decade and netted almost two billion in stolen art. Along the way exposing how an enabling family, and international rules of criminal investigation, led to many of the most important works being destroyed.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984) tells the story of the intertwined lives of two couples navigating love, politics, and existential dilemmas in Soviet-era Czechoslovakia. By exploring the concepts of “lightness” and “weight” it offers reflections on fate, the choices we make in life, and the very nature of existence.