2021 Preview: History and Current Affairs

  22 Jan '21   |  Posted by: Birlinn

From books exploring the interwoven history of tea and Scotland to the rise of China’s surveillance state, we have a range of brilliantly incisive history and current affairs books being published in 2021. Find out more about our upcoming titles below:

Current Affairs

  • Every Breath You Take: China’s New Tyranny, Ian Williams (April)
    This book is a chilling, important and timely take on the rise of the surveillance state in China, with bigger questions about digital tracking technologies. Award-winning journalist Ian Williams examines the extraordinary rise of the Chinese surveillance state, and supporting interviews and first-hand accounts highlight the ruthless efficiency with which the government can now act. There are implications too for the rest of the world: how to deal with an increasingly strident, aggressive Beijing as is one of the biggest and most urgent challenges facing the West in what has become a technological Cold War.
  • Hey America!, Stuart Cosgrove (October)
    Stuart Cosgrove, author of the prizewinning Sixties Soul Trilogy, has Hey! America!: Black Music and the White House coming out in October. This is the untold story of how successive presidents recruited pop, rock and soul
    musicians to campaign in elections or shape and present public policy. It’s full of previously unseen photos and combines music with dynamic social history. From Eisenhower’s spat with Louis Armstrong to Obama’s tribute to Prince
    and Trump’s standoff with Black Lives matter, it’ll be a deep dive into music and social change and compulsively readable.
  • The Great Tapestry of Scotland, Alistair Moffat (May)
    The Great Tapestry of Scotland is an outstanding celebration of thousands of years of Scottish history and achievement,
    from the end of the last Ice Age to Dolly the Sheep and Andy Murry’s Wimbledon victory of 2013. The 1000+ stitches
    spent a total of 55, 000 sewing hours on the 160 panels that make up this extraordinary work of art. This book shows in full colour all the finished panels of the tapestry – one of the biggest community arts projects ever to take place in Scotland – together with descriptive and explanatory material on each panel and lists of all the stitchers involved.
  • Moscow Calling, Angus Roxburgh (new edition, February)
    Next month we are publishing a new edition of this personal and revealing perspective of Russia by the acclaimed former BBC and Sunday Times Moscow correspondent, who worked in Russia for over 30 years and who witnessed first-hand the darkest days of communism and the rise of Putin Moscow Calling features the human stories behind the big political events that have shaped Russia over the last four decades at a time when the Kremlin is once more making headlines and intimidating the West with not just military but technological threats, this insight into the character of the land and the people of Russia couldn’t be more opportune.
  • The Lockerbie Bombing: A Father’s Search for Justice, Jim Swire and Peter Biddulph (May)
    The destruction of Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in December 1988 was the largest attack on
    Britain since World War Two. 259 passengers and 11 townsfolk of Lockerbie were murdered. Libyan Abdelbaset alMegrahi was convicted of the crime. He maintained his innocence until his death in 2012. Among the passengers was Flora, beloved daughter of Dr Jim Swire. Jim accepted American claims that Libya was responsible, but during the Lockerbie Trial he began to distrust key witnesses and supposed firm evidence. Since then it has been revealed that the USA paid millions of dollars to two central identification witnesses, and the only forensic evidence central to the prosecution has been discredited. The book takes us along Dr. Swire’s journey as his initial grief and loss becomes a campaign to uncover the truth behind not only a personal tragedy but one of the modern world’s most shocking events.


  • Homecoming: The Scottish Years of Mary Queen of Scots, Rosemary Goring (August)
    Mary Queen of Scots lived in Scotland for only 12 years, first as a child and then returning as a nineteen-­‐year-­‐old widow to take control of a faction-­‐riven kingdom. Her experience profoundly influenced who she was and her famous
    fate. Rosemary Goring explores the locations and settings where Mary lived, fought and fled: from Linlithgow Palace to Borthwick Castle, to Carberry Hill. This evocative retelling of her life will show Scotland’s most famous queen
    for who she really was.
  • The Appin Murder, The Killing that Shook a Nation, James Hunter (July)
    In the summer we are publishing a new edition of a classic book by one of Scotland’s most eminent historians, telling
    the tragic story of one of Scotland’s most notorious murders and miscarriages of justice, which inspired Robert Louis
    Stevenson’s Kidnapped. On a hillside near Ballachulish in the Scottish Highlands in May 1752 a rider is assassinated by a gunman. The murdered man is Colin Campbell, a government agent travelling to nearby Duror where he’s evicting farm tenants to make way for his relatives. Campbell’s killer evades capture, but Britain’s rulers insist this challenge to their authority must result in a hanging. The sacrificial victim is James Stewart, who is organising resistance to Campbell’s takeover of lands long held by his clan, the Appin Stewarts. Introducing this new and edition of his account of what came to be called the Appin Murder, historian James Hunter tells how his own Duror upbringing introduced him to the tragic story of James Stewart.
  • Putting the Tea in Britain, Les Wilson (June)
    From the Indian Mutiny to the London Blitz, offering a ‘nice cup of tea’ has been a stock British response to a crisis. But
    tea itself has a dramatic, and often violent, history. That history is inextricably interwoven with the story of Scotland.
    Scots were overwhelmingly responsible for the introduction and development of the UK’s national drink, and were the
    foremost pioneers in the development of tea as an international commodity. Putting the Tea in Britain is the story of the Scots who made Britain’s national drink, from Saltire-­‐winning Les Wilson. Les tells the whole story,
    bringing it bang up to date with a look at Scotland’s new tea plantations.
  • The Star Drive: A Genius, An Engine, Our Future, Pip Hills (August)
    An extraordinary story of a 19th century Scottish invention that has only just been perfected by NASA. Told here for the first time is the story of Robert Stirling’s eponymous heat-­‐exchange engine, which is essentially self-­‐powering. Enticing in theory, making it work in practice has taken 200 years. Stirling was a minister, an amateur working as an amateur at the fringe of science, but his invention is now on its way to the stars.
  • The Soul of the Journey, Diana Ambache (October)
    Felix Mendelssohn and his sister Fanny were intimate companions, travelling together and sharing and commenting on each other’s musical compositions. Their travels produced great music: Felix’s Hebrides Overture and Scottish Symphony were inspired by an 1829 journey to Scotland; Fanny’s innovative piano cycle, Das Jahr, was a response to an Italian tour in 1839-­‐40. Pianist and music critic Diana Ambache tells the story of these journeys through the siblings’ correspondence and drawings, producing a wonderful celebration of their music and the countries they travelled through.
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