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THE BACKGROUND TO HISTORY, PART 4

Bit by bit, book by book, we’re coming to understand the British Empire for what it was: decades or centuries of terror and death for so many invaded and occupied peoples. Ferdinand Mount attacks those who still attempt to whitewash the Amritsar Massacre perpetrated by the British in 1919, but insists it was atypical of Britain’s evolving imperial sensibility in India. Empress at 12, teenage ruler of northern Italy, Matilda would have been the best-qualified heir ever to inherit the English throne, but it was not to be.

While we’re on historians, there’s a new book on “isolationist” historian Charles Beard, who rapidly went from prominent US public intellectual to pariah for his claims that FDR lied to Americans over its entry into WW2. A modern defender of Beard takes a look at his 1930s and 1940s arguments and legacy