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HISTORY

My first history book was First Class, published in 2012. This used postage stamps to look at the history of Britain since 1840. My next book did the same for the USA. For writing about Europe, I used a different way in, the wonderful Eurovision Song Contest, which I've always enjoyed. My most recent book is Landslide!, a look at UK politics since 1906, and the rise and fall of the great administrative programmes such as Attleean Socialism, Thatcherism and New Labour.

Eurovision!
A History of Modern Europe through
the World's Greatest Song Contest

The first Eurovision Song Contest was held back in 1956, when an audience in lounge suits or twinsets and pearls sat in a theatre and politely applauded songs from seven countries (the UK wasn't one of them). Now, Eurovision is the biggest live music competition in the world, where a stadium full of partying fans roar approval of songs from nearly 40 nations (including Australia).

 

Europe has changed, too. In 1956, it was a deferential place, where people did their duty and fitted in. Many people had never left their native countries, and still believed those countries had a right to an Empire. Part of Europe was in an empire: the Soviet one, curtained off behind walls and barbed wire. Now, we believe in the power of authenticity. Many European nations have joined together to form a supra-national body where people can trade and travel freely. The 'Iron Curtain' is long gone...

 

How did all these changes come about? It's all here, in a book that is a perfect gift for every Eurovision fan - or for anyone wanting to understand how modern Europe came to be the way it is.

New 2023 edition now available!

"A feast for every Eurovision fan."  Graham Norton

"Surprisingly erudite on Europe... A timely, readable and fun book."

Tim Judah, author, The Serbs

 

“This book definitely gets douze points from me.” Mel Giedroyc

"Witty, entertaining, wise and informative."

Sir Stephen Wall, UK Permanent Representative to the EU, 1995 - 2000

"A cornucopia of information and everything I never knew I wanted to know about modern history and the Eurovision Song Contest."

Katrina Leskanich, Katrina and the Waves, the UK's last winner back in 1997

First Class
A History of Britain in 36 Postage Stamps

In 2011, I was clearing an attic and found the old stamp album that I had (partially) filled as a boy. I decided to fill in some of the gaps - and became ever more fascinated in the stamps and the stories behind them. What was Britain like when this stamp was produced? What messages is it trying to convey and why? I found that my burgeoning collection told Britain's story from 1840, when Britain led the world by producing the first stamp (the Penny Black), to the present day. 

 

"Irresistible!"

Daily Telegraph

 

"Clever, quirky...This is a lovely book. And not just for philatelists."

The Cleveland (US) Plain Dealer

 

"I wanted to thank you for the breadth of knowledge, the humour, the even-handedness and the gentle humanity with which you organized, selected and presented your story. You found a marvellous balance between caring about the subject but never taking the cheap shot or glib generalization...  I'm now going to find that old album from my childhood."

Ron Wilson, Reader

A History of America in 36 Postage Stamps

 

After the success of First Class, I was commissioned to do the same about the USA. This required a lot more research, as I had large gaps in my knowledge of both American history and American philately. This turned into a fascinating journey of discovery.  The US has produced some of the most beautiful stamps in the world (as well as some of the funniest), and the story of how 13 colonies clinging to the coast of a vast continent became the most powerful nation on earth is mesmerizing.

 

"Thrumming with the patriotic drumbeat of a military march, this enjoyable history is presented with a true collector's exuberance."

Bridget Thoreson, Booklist

"This engaging survey will appeal to both history buffs and stamp enthusiasts." Pamela Toler, History in the Margins

From my Old Stamp Album cover.jpg

From my Old Stamp Album

This is a fun book based on the premise that if you find an old stamp album in your attic, it will be full of places you have never heard of. Travancore, Cundinamarca, Danish West Indies, Stellaland, Fernando Poo... So where are these places, and what are their stories? They turn out to be fascinating. I co-authored it with Stuart Laycock, author of the bestselling 'All the Countries we've ever Invaded'.

"A genuinely enjoyable read."

Amazon reviewer

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