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I Wish I'd Been There, Book Two: European…
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I Wish I'd Been There, Book Two: European History

by Byron Hollinshead (Editor), Theodore K. Rabb (Editor)

Other authors: Katherine Fischer Drew (Contributor), Katherine Duncan-Jones (Contributor), Freeman Dyson (Contributor), John H. Elliott (Contributor), Mordechai Feingold (Contributor)14 more, Barbara A. Hanawalt (Contributor), Ellen T. Harris (Contributor), Tom Holland (Contributor), John Keegan (Contributor), Paul Kennedy (Contributor), Ross King (Contributor), Margaret MacMillan (Contributor), Lauro Martines (Contributor), William H. McNeill (Contributor), John Julius Norwich (Contributor), Josiah Ober (Contributor), Geoffrey Parker (Contributor), Richard Pipes (Contributor), Charles A. Riley, II (Contributor)

Series: I Wish I'd Been There (2)

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The premise is fascinating; the execution, not so much.

Some of the essays I wasn't expecting much from, and was pleasantly surprised. I was really looking forward to the last two (by Sir John Keegan and Freeman Dyson) but they were complete non-starters. Much more interesting were the middle essays, by Fischer Drew (on the Magna Carta), Parker (on the near-surrender of the Spanish Armada), and Feingold (in the origins of Newton's Principia).

If you pick-and-choose, this book might be worth your while. Not a cover-to-cover read. ( )
  Kwarizmi | Aug 28, 2013 |
I Wish I’d Been There, Book 2: European History. If I were an aspiring or published historical mystery writer searching for new story ideas, then this is a must read book. Twenty academic historians are asked to write an essay on the one moment in European History they wish they could have attended. Although the majority of moments are political in nature (beginning with Alexander the Great’s death and ending with Germany’s surrender in WWII), there are also essays about critical points in art, music, theatre and science. As with any multi-authored collection, some contributors do a better job than others at explaining the background of each moment, its importance in time and what questions they hope could be answered by being present at the scene, but there are far more successes than failures.
Without a doubt I can see talented mystery writers creating new works surrounding these moments from the book: Hannibal crossing the Alps, the Spanish Armada commanders conferring after their first disastrous day in the English Channel, or the backstage drama as Picasso works with the Ballet Russes. And it’s no stretch to see the natural progression from Margaret MacMillan’s essay on meetings in 1918-19 between the French and English prior to the Paris Peace Conference to Mary Doria Russell’s historical novel, Dreamers of the Day, about the 1921 Cairo Peace Conference to the delegation meeting in post-war Egypt in Michael Pearce’s latest, The Mark of the Pasha.
For those that prefer American history to that of Europe, Book 1 in the series should be your choice.
For all my book and movie reviews, please visit my blog at http://unsetalarmclock.wordpress.com/
  grmachine | Jul 14, 2008 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hollinshead, ByronEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rabb, Theodore K.Editormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Drew, Katherine FischerContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Duncan-Jones, KatherineContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dyson, FreemanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Elliott, John H.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Feingold, MordechaiContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hanawalt, Barbara A.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Harris, Ellen T.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Holland, TomContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Keegan, JohnContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kennedy, PaulContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
King, RossContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
MacMillan, MargaretContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Martines, LauroContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
McNeill, William H.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Norwich, John JuliusContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ober, JosiahContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Parker, GeoffreyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pipes, RichardContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Riley, Charles A., IIContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385519087, Hardcover)

The Authors and Essays in I Wish I’d Been There®, Book Two
Josiah Ober ·At the Deathbed of Alexander the Great
Tom Holland · Hannibal Crosses the Alps
Theodore K. Rabb · Christmas Day in the Year 800
John Julius Norwich · Venice, July 24, 1177
Katherine Fischer Drew · Magna Carta and the King’s Men
Barbara A. Hanawalt · Rebel Leader Confronts King at Smithfield in 1381
Lauro Martines · Ten Thousand Brutes in Renaissance Florence
Geoffrey Parker · August 9, 1588: The Spanish Armada (almost) Surrenders
Katherine Duncan-Jones · The Globe Theatre, February 7, 1601
John H. Elliott · With the Prince of Wales in Madrid, 1623
Mordechai Feingold · By Fits and Starts: The Making of Isaac Newton’s Principia
Ellen T. Harris · Handel Is Fired
William McNeill · Frederick the Great and the Propagation of Potatoes
Paul Kennedy · The Battle of the Nile
Ross King · The “Uncouth Riddle” of Édouard Manet: Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe at the 1863 Salon des Refusés
Richard Pipes · Nicholas II Signs the October Manifesto
Margaret MacMillan · Tunnels, Territory, and Broken Promises: France Betrayed by the Anglo-Saxons?
Charles A. Riley II · Backstage at the Ballets Russes with Picasso
Freeman Dyson · Exorcising Aristotle’s Ghost
John Keegan · The German Surrender to Montgomery at Lüneburg Heath, May 1945

What is the scene or incident in European history that you would like to have witnessed—and why? This is the question that the editors posed to twenty superb historians, who each wrote a personal essay in response. The result is this engrossing book, a worthy sequel to the acclaimed volume on American history, I Wish I’d Been There. From the death of Alexander the Great to the German surrender ending World War II, these essays move across a wide geography for over two millennia and deal with politics, law, religion, peace and war, science and the arts, rebellion, and social change. In addition to adding immediacy, color, and vibrancy to well-known events, they also provide fresh illuminations and interpretations of vital moments in the history of Europe.


I Wish I’d Been There®, Book Two is a marvelous idea, wonderfully and imaginatively executed. It offers a sense of the excitement, the passion, the drama, and the joys and tragedies that are the essence of history.

See the back cover for a list of contributors and the events described.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:47:08 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

What is the scene or incident in European history that you would like to have witnessed--and why? This is the question that the editors posed to twenty superb historians, who each wrote a personal essay in response. The result is this engrossing book, a worthy sequel to the acclaimed volume on American history, I Wish I'd Been There. From the death of Alexander the Great to the German surrender ending World War II, these essays move across a wide geography for over two millennia and deal with politics, law, religion, peace and war, science and the arts, rebellion, and social change. In addition to adding immediacy, color, and vibrancy to well-known events, they also provide fresh illuminations and interpretations of vital moments in the history of Europe.--From publisher description.… (more)

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