Pen & Sword Books

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

A History of Insanity and the Asylum

The History of Insanity and the Asylum written by Julianna Cummings and published by Pen & Sword Books - £25 - Hardback - Pages 232

The iconic image of the lunatic asylum is one that often leaves us wondering

what went on inside these imposing buildings.

In this new book, Juliana Cummings first questions what behaviours and characteristics define insanity and leads us through a comprehensive history of insanity and the asylum from the early treatment and care of mental illness in the Middle Ages and early modern period through to the closure of mental institutions in the twentieth century.

Throughout the years, we learn of how the treatments and institutional structures for caring for the mentally ill-developedand changed. The Age of Enlightenment and the rise of humanitarian reform was followed by the emergence of the insane asylum in the 1800s, which saw the beginning of the widespread construction of asylums.

We explore the different reasons for admittance, as well as the vast array of treatments. It shows that your treatment as an inmate of an asylum could vary depending on your gender and your social class.

Although once thought of as criminals, the mentally ill were gradually treated with care. Juliana discusses the different treatments used over time as attitudes towards the mentally ill changed, such as drug use, psychosurgery and insulin therapy. We learn of the regulations and reforms that led to the closure of asylums, how their closure affected society and consider how the mentally ill are treated today.

This insightful new history helps us to better understand the haunting past of the asylum and leads us down a fascinating road to where we come to an understanding of a time in history that is often mistaken.

This was a fascinating book in which we look at the history of the asylum system, looking at the buildings, the treatments of insanity and reasons for putting people in asylums. Also the book goes back in time to the early Middle Ages time in history, and the book goes right through to the late 20th century when thankfully society has decided to leave the days of the asylum go by.

What emerges from the book is the number of reasons for going into an asylum, often without choice for the person deemed mad. Plus some of the reasons why they were in there are so lose if not criminal, the book also covers the subject of treatment, and along with the introduction of drugs some treatments could vary from being completely spaced out to more sinister things like electric shock treatment or cases where humans were just experimented on. Luckily, society has a more grown up attitude to mental health these days and we have moved on from such draconian ways. This was a really fascinating book, in which there was lots of research and the book was well written and easy to understand, so compliments to the author Julianna Cummings. An ideal book if your are interested in mental health, and might be a bit surprising for those who know little about this subject.

Monday, February 27, 2023

Transforming Hitler's Germany

Transforming Hitler’s Germany written by Tim Heath & Annmarie Vickers and published by Pen & Sword Books - £25 - Hardback - Pages 272

As the last flames of the Second World War flickered and died, Germany emerged into

an apocalyptic wasteland, where the Hitler Youth generation would be cursed with the

running sore of National Socialism. With the uncaged bear of the Soviet Union flexing

its muscles and the escalating tensions between East and West providing some

distraction from the funeral pyre of the Third Reich, those living in West Germany soon

understood that they were the geological bulkhead, a component in the prevention of

communism spreading throughout the infantile peace of post-Second World War Europe.

Despite all the destruction and political tensions which surrounded them, the young men and women of Germany were keen to experience the world beyond their own precarious borders. In August 1945, Tia Schuster and Lisa Kraus were two fourteen-year-old Berliners, and - like many - they found themselves shoehorned into what was to be the second ‘new era’ of their young lives. The first had brought about only death and destruction, yet this second had a cold unfamiliarity about it.

As the late 1940s gave way to the 1950s and ‘60s, a series of new decadent eras - of rock-n-roll, fashion, flower power and sexual revolution - was on the horizon, which posed a threat to the traditional German way of life championed by the Nazi regime and post-Second World War German government. With this heady mixture of new-found freedom, the youth of Germany unwittingly became a feature of everything that both fascism and communism despised.

This unique work tells the story of the tentative steps taken by young men and women into the ‘afterlife of Nazi Germany’. Encompassing memoirs along the way, it presents a quirky portrayal of charm, humour, mischief and personal accomplishment along with a vitally important slice of (West) Germany’s social history, which has remained hidden from the literary world for decades. 

Transforming Hitler’s Germany is a book that follows the lives of a number of young people but particularly  Tia Schuster, Lisa Kraus and friends. The book follows how they saw life whilst living under the Nazi party, but then life in Germany after WW2 in Berlin. The book through notes and letters, looks at their beliefs about life post-war ranging on a number of subjects such as music, love, relationships, sexuality, education, work, growing up and also social influences that were filtering through from the west. I believe that this is an important book that looks at the social history of young people in Germany, which I know from reading I think, five previous Tim Heath books, and I personally think that the addition of Annmarie Vickers, gives an extra balance and maybe a little more female influence to the book. I always enjoy a Tim Heath book as he often concentrates on the social side or the lives and views of women and children living through WW2 Germany, something we don’t hear much about.

I would like to say finally, that being a Dad to teenage boys 18 & 19, they could learn a lot from this book, as I got a lot out of reading this first-class book. A fine book I would highly recommend to anyone interested in social history or the lives and thoughts of young people. An early contender for one of my top ten books of the year already.

Saturday, February 25, 2023

A History & Guide to Scottish History

A History & Guide to Scottish Castles written by Jenna Maxwell and published by Pen & Sword Books - £22.00 - Hardback - Pages 220

At one time, Scotland was home to more than 4,000 castles. It’s an extraordinary

number for such a small country and today, around 3,000 still stand.

Some are world famous, others have inspired great works of literature, while others have lit up the silver screen.

There are grand, ticketed visitor attractions but there are others which are unassuming structures so tucked away that only the locals seem to know about them.

From the triangular-shaped Caerlaverock Castle in Dumfries and Galloway to the imposing New Slains Castle in Aberdeenshire, and from the magnificent fortress that dominates the Edinburgh skyline to the haunting battlements that stand on the banks of Loch Ness, each tower tells a story, every turret holds a secret and, together, they span centuries of fascinating Scottish history.

A History and Guide to Scottish Castles explores the history, architecture, and legends of some of these fascinating fortresses and looks at why they are so appealing to visitors today.

A History & Guide to Scottish is a fantastic little book that explores all the castles in Scotland, from the forgotten and neglected to the immaculate and well-known. Having spent 10 years of my childhood living in the fair Scottish land, I have visited a few of these castles. An excellent book that separates the castles into regions and then supplies great local history connected to the castles and provided with the excellent little stories of history and suspense. Visiting Crathes Castle as a child always amused me with the story of the ghost in the window, and finding it in this book, only for the ghost to move to the fireplace in the book. An excellent book with lots of information contained within, a really interesting read and ideal as a guide.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Railways of Southern California

Railways of Southern California written by Colin J. Marsden and published

by Key Publishing - £30.00 - Hardback - Pages 160

Passing through some of the most picturesque scenery in the world, several main

routes traverse Southern California. Most are freight corridors, but there are a handful

of long-distance passenger services, primarily worked by Amtrak. Some of the long-

distance and heavy freight services can be powered by up to ten locomotives, equating

to around 50,000hp. One of the most scenic routes is on the Union Pacific-owned track

between Mojave and Bakersfield, which climbs over the Tehachapi Mountains, reaching

a height of over 4,000ft above sea level, requiring locos to work hard on the climb either

side of the line’s summit. The route over Cajon, one of the busiest freight routes in the

world, is also covered, as well as the routes between Barstow and Needles, the central

California line, and the highly photogenic Pacific “Surfliner” route between Los Angeles

and San Diego. Lavishly illustrated with 200 images, this book is divided into the main

routes in the area, showing the diversity in scenery and train types found. With informative

captions explaining the locos, their routes, and the best places for rail enthusiasts to

see these trains for themselves, this is the ultimate guide to the railways of Southern


I jumped at the chance of reading and reviewing this book mainly because I love anything American, trains and landscape photography and this book combines all of those. The sight of American trains moving along against the back drop of the American wilderness just in my opinion looks glorious and picturesque. This book look at all different kinds of rail transport from freight to Amtrak passenger train transport to industrial rail transport working in industry. So the book has around 200 photos with an image of a train in movement with the backdrop of the train going through a town, landscape or working in an industrial scene. So you have the beautiful picture but there is a couple of paragraphs accompanying each picture usually setting the scene or a few details about the locomotive in the picture. But what I enjoy is the fact that there isn’t too much info, the balance has been struck with picture and info, so it doesn’t get too technical. A thoroughly good, interesting and beautiful book, most definitely a book to recommend to others, ideal for the model maker, photographer or train fan.

Friday, February 17, 2023

100 Greatest Battles

100 Greatest Battles written by Angus Konstam and published by

Osprey Publishing - Hardback - £14.99 - Pages 223

A highly illustrated introduction to some of the greatest battles in world history, from

the iconic encounters of the Ancient World such as Thermopylae and Cannae,

through to the major clashes of the 20th century epitomized by Stalingrad and Khe


This concise study by renowned military historian Angus Konstam examines one hundred of the most famous battles from world history. It includes great naval engagements such as Salamis, Trafalgar, Jutland and Midway; pivotal land battles that decided the fate of nations, such as Hastings, Yorktown, Gettysburg and the Somme; and the impact of the new dimension of aerial warfare in the 20th century at Pearl Harbor, in the Battle of Britain and in the skies over Hiroshima.

This highly illustrated book features 100 full-colour battle scene artworks from Osprey's comprehensive archive and is the ideal introduction to the battles that changed the course of history.

To pinch an advertising slogan from television, this book does exactly what it says on the tin, its 100 Greatest Battles from history. The battles range from the Ancient World with the battle at Marathon all the way up to Desert Storm in 1991. With everything in between such as the Thermopylae, Bannockburn, Hastings, Trafalgar, Medway and Stalingrad. The book chooses 100 battles from history and each double page explains about the battle accompanied by some nice artwork of each battle. The book feels informative and a good little book, although it aimed at those wanting to learn about military history or maybe a student looking to get into history. Which is all perfectly fine and there is a market out there for it but if you wanted lots of detail and information it might not be the book for you. A really good book that serves its purpose.


Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Junkers Ju 88

Junkers Ju 88 written by Malcolm V. Lowe and published by Key Publishing - £15.99 - Softcover - Pages 128

The Junkers Ju 88 was one of the most important tactical bombers of the World War

Two era. Its beginnings went back to the mid-1930s, and it flew in Luftwaffe operational

service from late 1939 until the latter stages of the war. Built in a number of specific

versions and sub-types, the Ju 88 proved to be a versatile multi-purpose design that

fulfilled the bombing role with distinction and was also successfully adapted for other

unrelated tasks. These included use as a long-range fighter, night fighting and

reconnaissance. Some examples were even used in the late-war period as explosives

-equipped flying bombs. With radar installed, the type became one of the most significant

nocturnal fighters of the conflict. Underlining its importance, the Ju 88 served on all fronts

where the Luftwaffe was operational during World War Two and was built in significant

numbers. The type also flew with a number of export customers. Containing over 150

photographs, this book tells the fascinating story of the Ju 88, from its creation through

to the end of its operational service.

You could call the Junkers JU 88 German plane the swiss army penknife of bomber planes in that the JU 88 plane, it was a plane that could be changed and developed to fulfil a number of roles and attacking advantages. The multi-designed plane of the mid-1930s as a so-called fast bomber that would be too fast for fighters of its era to intercept. It became one of the most versatile combat aircraft of the war. Like a number of other German bombers, it served as a bomber, dive bomber, night fighter, torpedo bomber, reconnaissance aircraft, heavy fighter and at the end of the war, as a flying bomb.

I’m really enjoying these Key Publishing books because they look at individual aircraft, machines, vehicles and men in great detail from start to finish. But the photography, pictures, diagrams and maps are just brilliant, lovely and clear, concise and interesting. I could see these book being of use to a number of people such as the person who likes his information in depth to the person who enjoys model making. I would certainly recommend this book to hose who want their history with more detail.

Friday, February 10, 2023

Voices of the Georgian Era - 100 Remarkable Years, In Their Own Words

Voices of the Georgian Era - 100 Remarkable Years, In Their Own Words

written by James Hobson and published by Pen & Sword Books - £22 -

Hardback - Pages 224

Voices of the Georgian Age is the story of seventeen witnesses to the remarkably

diverse Georgian century after 1720. While being very different in many ways, the

voices have two things in common: they have an outstanding story to tell, and that

story is available to all for free on the internet.

Despite the obvious constraints of surviving evidence, men and woman, rich and poor and respectable and criminal are all covered. Some wrote out their life story with deliberation, knowing that it would be read in future, while others simply put their private thoughts to paper for their own benefit. All are witnesses to their age.

This book guides you through their diaries, memoirs and travelogues, providing an entertaining insight in their lives, and a personal history of the period. It is also a preparatory guide for those wishing to read the original documents themselves.

This was a very interesting and insightful book that looked at the Georgian Period of 100 years through the words and lives of a good number of people. What was good was the wide range of people the book covers, you could say the stereotypical view of the Georgian Age is men and women dressed to the nines in big fancy clothes and covered in make up, usually socialising or taking part in leisure activities.(or maybe that’s just me) But the book covers a wide range of people from well to do, creatives, farm workers and even criminals. It reveals a lot about people, their thoughts and viewpoints and paints an excellent picture of the people rather than the events. I have read a few of James Hobson’s books and he always writes in an informative but relaxed way which is easy to read and very enjoyable. Certainly, if you want a close up view of the Georgian Era, this would be an excellent book. Highly recommended.

Monday, February 6, 2023

Sign Here for Sacrifice - The Untold Story of the Third Battalion, 506th Airborne, Vietnam 1968

Sign Here for Sacrifice - The Untold Story of the Third Battalion,

506th Airborne, Vietnam 1968 written by Ian Gardner and published

by Osprey Publishing - £25 - Hardback - Pages 304

 A hard-hitting history of the U.S. airborne unit that made a name for

themselves in the unforgiving jungles of South Vietnam.

“It was easier killing than living.” Third Battalion 506th Airborne veteran

Drawing on interviews with veterans, many of whom have never gone on the record before, Ian Gardner follows up his epic trilogy about the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment in World War II with the story of the unit's reactivation at the height of the Vietnam War. This is the dramatic history of a band of brothers who served together in Vietnam and who against the odds lived up to the reputation of their World War II forefathers.

Brigadier General Salve Matheson's idea was to create an 800-strong battalion of airborne volunteers in the same legendary “Currahee” spirit that had defined the volunteers of 1942. The man he chose to lead them was John Geraci, who would mold this young brotherhood into a highly cohesive and motivated force.

In December 1967, the battalion was sent into the Central Highlands of Lam Dong Province. Geraci and his men began their Search and Destroy patrols, which coincided with the North Vietnamese build-up to the Tet Offensive and was a brutal introduction to the reality of a dirty, bloody war. Gardner reveals how it was here that the tenacious volunteers made their mark, just like their predecessors had done in Normandy, and the battalion was ultimately awarded a Valorous Unit Citation. This book shows how and why this unit was deserving of that award, recounting their daily sanguinary struggle in the face of a hostile environment and a determined enemy.

Through countless interviews and rare personal photographs, Sign Here for Sacrifice shows the action, leadership, humor and bravery displayed by these airborne warriors.

Sign Here for Sacrifice is a book that follows the 506th Airbourne, as they enter the Vietnam War, the book follows various characters throughout the unit, their exploits, challenges, raids, skirmishes and fighting the Vietnamese. This unit of men are a mixed group of various backgrounds and characteristics but the book does feature predominantly the leadership roles. The operations and events are very described and it does give you that feeling of being a part of the action and conflict, the book feels very well researched by the author Ian Gardner.

As someone who usually reads about WWII rather than the Vietnam war, I found it to be a good book about the conflict and I found it being a newbie to the subject quite revealing, although in my opinion not quite as good a good WWII book. I would most certainly recommend this book and if you bag is the Vietnam War you’ll really enjoy this book.

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Battle for the Bocage, Normandy 1944 - Point 103, Tilly-sur-Seulles and Villers Bocage

Battle for the Bocage, Normandy 1944 - Point 103, Tilly-sur-Seulles and

Villers Bocage written by Tim Saunders and published by Pen & Sword

Books - £25 - Hardback - Pages 376

This is the story of the fighting in Normandy by the veteran desert formations brought

back by Montgomery from the Mediterranean in order to spearhead the invasion;

50th Infantry and 7th Armoured divisions, plus 4th Armoured Brigade. Heavily

reinforced by individuals and fresh units, their task beyond the beaches was to push

south to Villers Bocage with armour on the evening of D-Day in order to disrupt

German counter-attacks on the beachhead.

Difficulties on 50th Division’s beaches and lost opportunities allowed time for the 12th Hitlerjugend SS Panzer Division and the equally elite 130th Panzer Lehr Division to arrive in Normandy, despite delays of their own caused by allied fighter bombers. The result was 4th Armoured Brigade’s thrust south encountered opposition from the start and was firmly blocked just south of Point 103 after an advance of less than 5 miles.

A major counter-attack by Panzer Lehr failed, as did a renewed British attempt, this time by the vaunted 7th Armoured Division, which was halted at Tilly sur Seulles. From here the fighting became a progressively attritional struggle in the hedgerows of the Bocage country south of Bayeux. More and more units were drawn into the fighting, which steadily extended west. Finally, an opportunity, via the Caumont Gap, to outflank the German defences was taken and 7th Armoured Division reached Villers Bocage. Here the County of London Yeomanry encountered the newly arrived Tigers of Michael Wittmann, with disastrous results. The Desert Rats were forced to withdraw having lost much of their reputation.

There then followed what the battalions of 50th Division describe as their ‘most unpleasant period of the war’, in bitter fighting, at often very close quarters, for the ‘next hedgerow’.

This is an excellent book if you're into detailed, and comprehensive descriptive writing that easily details the fighting battle of almost hand to hand combat. If you enjoy reading about the war around the Normandy area, this will definitely be a book for you. The book mainly centres around Point 103 and the area around Bocage, these hard-fought battles are well written and bring the heat of the battle and fear to the book. The book is also well divided up in its chapters, so your not overwhelmed by the knowledge and combat which some could find a little confusing. Certainly a well written book by the author Tim Saunders. I really enjoyed reading this book and would think it would most certainly appeal to fans of the fighting in the Normandy area of France in WWII.

The Battle of Reichswald - Rhineland - February 1945

The Battle of the Reichswald Rhineland - February 1945 written by Tim Saunders and published by Pen & Sword Books - £22 - Hardback - Pag...