Thursday, 20 December 2012

Christmas books and Radio Shows

I'm probably a little late to be suggesting Christmas reading given that today is the 20th December, but now that I have made it to the end of term and emerged relatively unscathed, here are some ideas as to how you might spend your book tokens in the new year. Also here, a few words about the BBC Radio 4 series 'The Invention of Spain' which featured lots of the contributors to the event I organised on  'Britain and the Bolivarian Republics'. (note: we are halfway through translating the transcriptions into Spanish: they should be here on the blog by mid-February 2013 at the latest)

First, the log-rolling: my book on the Battle of El Santuario came out this summer. The Struggle for Power in Post-Independence Colombia and Venezuela tells the story of the veterans of one battle in the Colombian Andes from 1829. Its protagonists include Irishmen, Englishmen, Italians and Germans as well as the several hundred Colombian officers, slaves, recruits and campesinos who joined a rebellion led by General José María Córdova. (Apologies for the cheap plug!).


Next,  a great new collection of historical sources about Latin America's independence period. John Charles Chasteen and Sarah Chambers have pulled together a brilliant, diverse body of contemporary accounts about the independence period from across the continent. All the documents are in English, often for the first time. I can't recommend it highly enough to people who want to get a sense of what all the fuss about independence was about, but are anxious that all the best sources are in Spanish or Portuguese. Thanks to Latin American Independence: An Anthology of Sources, that is no longer the case.

Latin American Independence

Third, for those of you looking for an Olympic-themed historical  book , I can't quite offer anything closely-tied enough to Latin American independence. But Matt Rendell's Olympic Gangster: The Legend of José Beyaert is a cracking story of many of the same themes: the European who seeks adventure and riches in the New World (in this case, the French cycling gold-medallist from the 1948 games, who travels to Colombia) but ends up finding fulfilment, adventure, family and life in the places where he least expected it. Highly-recommended.

Finally, a word about The Invention of Spain, a wonderful three-part series produced by the BBC in Bristol on the construction of Spain as a nation, which put the American colonies, their conquest, colonisation and loss, at the heart of the story. I was privileged to contribute to the series alongside much more distinguished historians including Sir John Elliott and Felipe Fernández Armesto, and two of the speakers from our Canning House event back in September: Samuel Moncada and Karen Racine. Each episode, presented by Misha Glenny, is half-an-hour long, and provides a brilliant introduction to this complex subject. I heartily recommend downloading from the BBC website on the link above (free, and probably forever, at least within the UK) and settling down to listen to it with a cup of something warm next to a roaring fire. Merry Christmas!