Annotated bibliography

Tour guides

Tour guides are small books designed to help visitors and tourists find their way around town, select attractions to visit, find places to stay, to eat, and to shop. Because London is a popular destination, a small library of tour guides exists. Here’s three important ones.

  1. Fisher, Robert I.C., ed. Fodor’s London 2012, New York: Fodor’s Travel Guides, 2012. Fodor’s has been something of the standard setter in travel for decades. This book provides a safe, general overview for finding your way around in London. General travel advice, maps, and neighborhood descriptions are among its strengths. Weakness is its superficiality.
  2. Leapman, Michael. DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: London, London: DK Publishing, 2012. This is a beautifully prepared travel guide in direct competition with Fodor’s. Its main mission is “to show what other guides only tell about.” It does a much better job of describing historic landmarks and history in general.
  3. Steves, Rick and Gene Openshaw. Rick Steves’ London 2011. Avalon Travel Books: Berkeley, 2011. This is a no-nonsense travel guide complete with abundant suggestions for how to save money and evaluations of chain restaurants. Not only is this a guide to London, it offers guided tours of major attractions like the National Gallery.
London A-Z map

London A-Z map book

Maps

Because London is such an important center for tourism, trade, and learning, mapmaking for the city is a big business. That is both a blessing a curse for us as visitors. It means we have a number of maps to choose from, but it also means that the choices can be overwhelming. What tends to separate the maps are three things: How much of central London is covered, how much attention they pay to points of interest, and how clearly they mark the various layers of interest we might have. We have singled out some of the better maps to review.

  1. Bensons MapGuidesVisitors’ London Map & Guide. London: Bensons MapGuides, 4e, 2008. ISBN 978-1-898929-33-8. Benson specializes in making maps that are easy to read yet contain important detail. This map includes sightseeing walks, bus routes, shopping guide, tourist information, and short text descriptions (in the margins and on the back) of places of interest. Map gets a B+ for geographical coverage.
  2. Bensons MapGuidesThe Handy London Map & Guide. London: Bensons MapGuides, 16e, 2012. ISBN 978-1-898929-24-6. This map is approximately the same scale as the Visitors’ Map & Guide, but it is bound in a little booklet that will fit in a vest pocket, and does not open into a large, single-page map. It’s most convenient for carrying with you while you are on the ground, but doesn’t open up to give a larger sense of distances and geographical relationships. It also lacks the sightseeing walks of the other Benson guide.
  3. Geographers’ A-Z Map Company, A-Z London Map & Walks. London: Geographers A-Z Map Company Ltd, 2010. ISBN 978-1-84348-029-7. One of the reasons A-Z maps are popular is they are easy to read. Tube stops, landmarks, bus routes, and street names are all clearly marked. This map also shows area walks and groups marginal listings of certain kinds of attractions together. This gets only a C for geographical coverage.
  4. Geographers’ A-Z Map CompanyLondon A-Z Street Atlas. London: Geographers A-Z Map Company Ltd, 2012. ISBN 978-1-84348-883-5. Clue: Cab drivers in London use this book in its spiral-bound version ISBN 978-1-84348-886-1 so that they can find their way around. This 155-page book of continuous maps is the bread and butter for this venerable map company. It features an alphabetical index (hence, A-Z) of all streets, lanes, major businesses and landmarks keyed to map page numbers in the book. This book gets an A+ for geographical coverage, but it does have the context-relationships limitations of a book format.
Jenkins' Short History of England

Jenkins Short History

Histories, general

  1. Fraser, Rebecca. The Story of Britain: From the Romans to the Present: A Narrative History. London: W.W. Norton & Company, 2003. Liberally sprinkled with photos of artifacts, copies of woodcuts and other images, this volume not only tells the political history but includes a good measure of cultural sensibility.
  2. *Jenkins, Simon. A Short History of England: The Glorious Story of a Rowdy Nation. New York: Public Affairs, 2011. This is a beautifully produced book, well-written by a respected author. Its flaw from an academic perspective, is that it lacks citations, scholarly references, or even a bibliography.
  3. Morgan, Kenneth O, ed. The Oxford History of Britain. Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2010. This tome has been around since the 1980s, and like Goldwin Smith’s book has an authoritative air about it. Ten authors, each specialists in their own areas, have contributed. Available in paperback.
  4. Parmele, Mary Platt. A Short History of England, Ireland and Scotland. New York: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2011. Originally published in 1895, and picked up 12 years later by Charles Scribner and Son, this little history is something of a classic. Ms. Parmele is writing near the height of the British Empire, and is somewhat biased (she has little positive to say about Henry VIII), but her short book is very well written. Amazon has a free version of the book for the Kindle.
  5. Smith, Goldwin. A History of England. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1957. For decades this was a standard work for students of British history. It is well documented and thoroughly referenced. Although the book is nearly a half century old, its genealogical charts (family trees) carry through to the current queen, who was put on the throne in 1952.

Histories, focused

  1. Bacon, Francis. The History of the Reign of King Henry The Seventh. London: The Folio Society, 1971. Henry Tudor united the houses of York and Lancaster, ending the Wars of the Roses. His reign launched an era of exploration and renaissance that truly brought Britain out of the Dark Ages. This history is written by an important English scholar who was a contemporary of Henry Tudor’s  grandchildren and who had access to the English court.
  2. Ferguson, Niall. Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power. New York: Perseus Books, 2004. This is a frank examination of the British Empire, asking a simple question: Was the Empire a good thing or bad? The answer, however, is not so simple, and Ferguson explores both the dark side and the benefits of the Empire.
  3. *Howarth, David. 1066: The Year of the Conquest. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1993. This short book is a wonderful piece of historical scholarship. Howarth explains why the primary source for many accounts of the Norman invasion – the Bayeaux Tapestry –  leads to biased and distorted accounts. He points out differences with other accounts. His opening chapters describe life in Medieval England, the laws relating to shared sovereignty and defense of the realm. He contends a “perfect storm” of events and miscues led to the improbable conquest of England.
  4. Melville, James. The Memoirs of Sir James Melville of Halhill. Great Britain: The Folio Society, 1969. A first-hand account of life in 16th century Great Britain. Sir James was an eyewitness to the reigns of Mary, Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I, and James, and was a frequenter of Elizabeth’s court.

British media studies

  1.  Kaul, Chandrika, ed. Media and the British Empire. Hampshire, England: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.
  2. City University Press. Fleet Street: 300 years of Modern Media. London 2012

* = This book has unique features strongly recommending it.