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The Quest for a Moral Compass

In this remarkable and groundbreaking book, Kenan Malik explores the history of moral thought as it has developed over three millennia, from Homer’s Greece to Mao’s China, from ancient India to modern America. It tells the stories of the great philosophers, and breathes life into their ideas, while also challenging many of our most cherished moral beliefs.

Engaging and provocative, The Quest for a Moral Compass confronts some of humanity’s deepest questions. Where do values come from? Is God necessary for moral guidance? Are there absolute moral truths? It also brings morality down to earth, showing how, throughout history, social needs and political desires have shaped moral thinking. It is a history of the world told through the history of moral thought, and a history of moral thought that casts new light on global history.

At a time of great social turbulence and moral uncertainty, there will be few histories more important than this.

The Subterranean Railway

Revised and updated edition of Christian Wolmar’s classic history of the London Underground, with a new chapter on Crossrail.

‘I can think of few better ways to while away those elastic periods awaiting the arrival of the next eastbound Circle Line train than by reading [this book].’ Tom Fort, Sunday Telegraph

Since the Victorian era, London’s Underground has played a vital role in the daily life of generations of Londoners. In The Subterranean Railway, Christian Wolmar celebrates the vision and determination of the nineteenth-century pioneers who made the world’s first, and still the largest, underground passenger railway: one of the most impressive engineering achievements in history. From the early days of steam to electrification, via the Underground’s contribution to twentieth-century industrial design and its role during two world wars, the story comes right up to the present with a new chapter on the sleek and futuristic Crossrail line. The Subterranean Railway reveals London’s hidden wonder in all its glory and shows how the railway beneath the streets helped create the city we know today.

A Bloody Good Rant

‘When I was born in 1935 I grew up, despite depression and World War II, with a primitive sense of being fortunate . . . The Utopian strain was very strong . . . if we weren’t to be a better society, if we were simply serfs designed to support a system of privilege, what was the bloody point?’

Tom Keneally has been observing, reflecting on and writing about Australia and the human condition for well over fifty years. In this deeply personal, passionately drawn and richly tuned collection he draws on a lifetime of engagement with the great issues of our recent history and his own moments of discovery and understanding.

He writes with unbounded joy of being a grandparent, and with intimacy and insight about the prospect of death and the meaning of faith. He is outraged about the treatment of Indigenous Australians and refugees, and argues fiercely against market economics and the cowardice of climate change deniers. And, he introduces us to some of the people, both great and small, who have dappled his life.

Beautifully written, erudite and at times slyly funny, A Bloody Good Rant is an invitation to share the deep humanity of truly great Australian.

The Path of Peace

In August 2021, Anthony Seldon set out on a gruelling 35-day pilgrimage from the Swiss border to the English Channel, following the historic route of the Western Front. From sumptuous towns in the east of France to the haunting trenches of the Somme and Ypres, the walk took in many important sites from World War I as well as some of Europe’s most beautiful scenery.

The Path of Peace is the extraordinary story of Anthony’s epic walk, combining memoir, nature writing and travel, and touching on grief, loss and the legacy of war in a profoundly moving act of remembrance.

El Norte

For reasons of language and history, the United States has prized its Anglo heritage above all others. However, as Carrie Gibson explains with great depth and clarity in El Norte, America has much older Spanish roots – ones that have long been unacknowledged or marginalized. The Hispanic past of the United States predates the arrival of the Pilgrims by a century and has been every bit as important in shaping the nation.

El Norte chronicles the sweeping and dramatic history of Hispanic North America from the arrival of the Spanish to the present – from Ponce de Leon’s initial landing in Florida in 1513 to Spanish control of the vast Louisiana territory in 1762 to the Mexican-American War in 1846 and up to the more recent tragedy of post-hurricane Puerto Rico and the ongoing border acrimony with Mexico. Interwoven in this stirring narrative of events and people are cultural issues that have been there from the start and remain unresolved: language, belonging, community, race and nationality. Seeing them play out over centuries provides vital perspective at a time when it is urgently needed.

In 1883, Walt Whitman wrote ‘to that composite American identity of the future, Spanish character will supply some of the most needed parts.’ That future is here, and El Norte, an emotive and eventful history in its own right, will have a powerful impact on our perception of the United States.

Convict Colony

The British plan to settle Australia was a high-risk venture. We now take it for granted that the first colony was the basis of one of the most successful nations in the world today. But in truth, the New World of the 18th century was dotted with failed colonies, and New South Wales nearly joined them.

The motley crew of unruly marines and bedraggled convicts who arrived at Botany Bay in 1788 in leaky boats nearly starved to death. They could easily have been murdered by hostile locals, been overwhelmed by an attack from French or Spanish expeditions, or brought undone by the Castle Hill uprising of 1804. Yet through fortunate decisions, a few remarkably good leaders, and most of all good luck, Sydney survived and thrived.

Bestselling historian David Hill tells the story of the first three decades of Britain’s earliest colony in Australia in a fresh and compelling way.

‘David Hill captures Australia’s past in a very readable way.’ The Weekly Times

David Hill is the author of eight books, including the bestselling 1788: The Brutal Truth of the First Fleet, The Forgotten Children, The Great Race and The Making of Australia. He has held numerous executive appointments in his long and successful career, including as managing director of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, chairman of the Australian Football Association, and chief executive of the State Rail Authority. Since 2011 he has been the manager of an archaeological study of the ancient Greek city of Troizen.

The Secret Army

It was arguably the greatest fighting force in the entirety of the Great War. They were the very best: hardened, fearless, decorated, cocky fighting men, all veterans of Gallipoli and the Western Front. Yet this elite force secretly assembled in London in late 1917 remains an enigma even today.

Barry Stone tells the story of these British, Australian, New Zealand, Canadian and South African men who were sent to the ethnic powder keg of the Caucasus to preserve British interests. They matched wits with German spies and assassins. They fought the Turks. They dined with sheiks, outraged local mullahs, forged unlikely alliances with Russian Cossacks, helped Armenians flee genocide, and saved the lives of thousands of starving Persians.

This book is a rarity: a story set against the backdrop of war, filled not with bloodshed but with acts of kindness and selflessness; a triumph of the human spirit.

The Great Secret

On the night of December 2, 1943, the Luftwaffe bombed a critical Allied port in Bari, Italy, sinking seventeen ships and killing over a thousand servicemen and hundreds of civilians. Caught in the surprise air raid was the John Harvey,
an American Liberty ship carrying a top-secret cargo of 2,000 mustard bombs to be used in retaliation if the Germans resorted to gas warfare.

After young sailors began suddenly dying with mysterious symptoms, Lieutenant Colonel Stewart Alexander, a doctor and chemical weapons expert, was dispatched to investigate. He quickly diagnosed mustard gas exposure, which Churchill denied. Undaunted, Alexander defied British officials and persevered with his investigation. His final report on the Bari casualties was immediately classified, but not before his breakthrough observations about the toxic effects of mustard on white blood cells caught the attention of Colonel Cornelius P. Rhoads – a pioneering physician and research scientist as brilliant as he was arrogant and self-destructive – who recognized that the poison was both a killer and a cure, and ushered in a new era of cancer research.

Deeply researched and beautifully written, The Great Secret is the remarkable story of how horrific tragedy gave birth to medical triumph.

Blue Mauritius

In September 1847 coloured squares of paper were stuck to envelopes and used to send out admission cards to a fancy-dress ball on the tropical island of Mauritius. No-one at the party would have guessed that the envelopes bearing these stamps would one day be worth more than a million dollars.

When a two pence ‘Blue Mauritius’ surfaced on the fledgling French stamp-collecting market in 1865 it gained instant celebrity. Then in 1903, when a perfect specimen, discovered in a childhood album, was bought at auction by the Prince of Wales, the Blue Mauritius gained super-star status.

Even now, the stamps of ‘Post Office Mauritius’ remain synonymous with fame, wealth and mystery. Helen Morgan tells the fascinating story of the most coveted scraps of paper in existence, from Amuritius’ Port Louis to Bordeaux, India and Great Britain, Switzerland and Japan, into the fantasies and imagination of stamp collectors everywhere.

The Emperor's Shadow

After Napoleon was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo, he was sent into exile on St Helena, arriving in October 1815. For the six years until his death, he was an ‘eagle in a cage’, reduced from the most powerful figure in Europe to a prisoner on a rock in the South Atlantic. But the fallen emperor was charmed and entertained by Betsy Balcombe, the pretty teenage daughter of a local merchant.

Anne Whitehead brings to life Napoleon’s time on St Helena and the web of connections around the globe which framed his last years. Betsy’s father, William Balcombe, was well-connected in London, and he smuggled letters and undertook a clandestine mission to Paris for Napoleon.

Betsy’s friendship with Napoleon cast a shadow over the rest of her colourful life. She married a Regency cad, who soon left her and their daughter, and she travelled to Australia in 1823 with her father, who was appointed the first Colonial Treasurer of New South Wales. After her father was exposed for fraud and the family lost their fortune, she returned to London and published a memoir which turned her into a celebrity.

With her extraordinary connections to royalty in London and to the Bonaparte family and their courtiers, Betsy Balcombe led a life worthy of a Regency romance. This new account reveals Napoleon at his most vulnerable, human and reflective, and a woman caught in some of the most dramatic events of her time.