Whether it’s coming up to that time of the year again, or you just need a decent birthday present (for yourself maybe?), what better way to treat yourself or someone you love than to pick something from the stuff below. Of course, you could also buy something for the historian in your life, but who’s gonna know?
These are the easiest things to recommend, because everyone loves a good history book, and there are so many out there! These are the ones I like the most:
Liverpool 800: Culture, Character and History, edited by John Belchem
This book’s easy to love: it’s a massive tome, a one-stop shop for all the history of Liverpool in its first 800 years. It’s packed with colour paintings, maps, diagrams and tonnes of… words. It’s thematic, covering everything from the Welsh builders of the terraced housing to maritime successes and Merseyside’s sporting and cultural legends. And it’s fifteen quid on Amazon in paperback. The second best Liverpool history book out there.
Liverpool: A People’s History, by Peter Aughton
Being a discerning historian, you want a rounded view of Liverpool’s past. Peter Aughton’s book brings the social side to you in the form of a comprehensive coverage of the great and good of Liverpool (which in practice means the people like you and me who have made the city what it is today). There’s also the odd mention of Lords Derby and Sefton, a mayor or two, and great industrialists. But when we’re talking about Margaret Bevan, Kitty Wilkinson and Father James Nugent, who can argue? The third best book on Liverpool history.
Liverpool: A Landscape History, by Martin Greaney
In case you thought this blog post was just an excuse to flog my own book, I’ve put it four paragraphs in to throw you off the scent. But seriously, it’s the best book on Liverpool history. Why? Because I wrote it, spent two years slaving over each word, and therefore am massively biased. Other advantages include the fact that you can buy it direct from the author, signed and messaged if you’d like, with free postage over on Historic Liverpool. I’ll save space here and let you read the description on the Liverpool History Bookshop page.
Not a Guide to: Liverpool and Wirral
Dan Longman’s Not a Guide to Wirral has just been released, and is a companion to his Not a Guide to Liverpool which I reviewed a little while ago. These aren’t so much history books as sideways glances at everything that makes up Liverpool and Wirral as places. So you have your architecture, and your famous politicians, Letters to the Press and Wartime photos, but also macabre murders, galleries, freak weather events and much more. It’s not a guide, but much more of a snapshot of a place, and perfect for both sides of the river.
If you’re looking for something a bit different, either to ask Santa or to buy for a friend, how about membership of a local history society? They’re run by local people passionate about history, and you’ll no doubt be helping conserve some local part of the past. Here are some for your delectation:
Merseyside Archaeological Society
The MAS was founded in 1976 to gather resources for excavations and other projects in Merseyside. They meet regularly with some fantastic speakers, and their Christmas party is second to none! Individual membership is only £15 for a year, and you get the peerless Journal, which gives high quality coverage of archaeological activity in the region. http://merseysidearchsoc.weebly.com
Friends of Williamson’s Tunnels
Williamson’s Tunnels are a gem of Liverpool’s history. They’re unique as far as I know, a mystery in their creation and a seemingly never-ending labyrinth for dedicated volunteers to uncover layer by layer. They’re as close to ‘classic’ archaeology as a tourist attraction can get, and they’re under threat. All the more reason to get an annual subscription (a mere £5!) which includes a list of benefits. They also sell merchandise in the shop, so if you visit why not pick something up? https://williamsontunnels.com/get-involved/membership/
Liverpool History Society
Another of our city’s local interest groups, the Liverpool History Society costs £10 per year, and like the Merseyside Archaeological Society they have regular talks. They’re more history than archaeology, but this means you get articles in their journal about the sales of buildings, or the life stories of shipping line owners like Alfred Holt. http://www.liverpoolhistorysociety.org.uk/membership/
A Landscape History of Liverpool (1840-1924)
This boxed set of three maps is a brilliant visual depiction of the history of Liverpool and Merseyside in a smart set for your bookshelf. They are reproductions of Ordnance Survey publications, and are therefore beautiful works of art as well as essential research tools for the local historian. Cassini do a lot of different maps like this, so check out their website for a more comprehensive look at what they offer.
Old Boys Groups
If you’re an esteemed former pupil at the likes of the Blue Coat School or the Liverpool Collegiate, then there might be an Old Boys’ network. From a historical perspective, even if you’re not too interested in meeting up with the lads you escaped from when you left then you’ll be helping preserve the buildings and memories embedded in the schools’ histories. A quick Google finds:
- Blue Coat School Old Blues (The Liverpool Blue Coat Brotherly Society) http://liverpoololdblues.com/
- The Liobians (Liverpool Institute High School for Boys) http://www.liobians.org/
- Liverpool Collegiate Old Boys’ Association http://www.liverpool-collegiate.org.uk/
Rather unfortunately I’ve not been able to find any Old Girls’ groups (as it were) so if you know of any do chip in in the comments section below and tell everyone about it.
Image: Blacklers at Christmas, from the Liverpool Record Office