Verso's History Bookshelf


A round-up of some of our history reading, from new to old.

The Leveller Revolution: Radical Political Organisation in England, 1640–1650 by John Rees

The gripping story of the Levellers, the radical movement at the heart of the English Revolution.

Revolutionary Yiddishland: A History of Jewish Radicalism by Alain Brossat and Sylvia Klingberg. Translated by David Fernbach

Jewish radicals manned the barricades on the avenues of Petrograd and the alleys of the Warsaw ghetto; they were in the vanguard of those resisting Franco and the Nazis. They originated in Yiddishland, a vast expanse of Eastern Europe that, before the Holocaust, ran from the Baltic Sea to the western edge of Russia and incorporated hundreds of Jewish communities with a combined population of some 11 million people. 

Today, the world from which they came has disappeared, dismantled and destroyed by the Nazi genocide. This book traces the struggles of these militants, their singular trajectories, their oscillation between great hope and doubt, their lost illusions—a red and Jewish gaze on the history of the twentieth century.

A Civil War: A History of the Italian Resistance by Claudio Pavone. Translated by Peter Levy. Introduction by Stanislao Pugliese

“Among the few indisputable masterpieces of contemporary history.” —Financial Times

Communal Luxury: The Political Imaginary of the Paris Commune by Kristin Ross

“Ross’s vision of the Commune extends beyond the 72 days, and beyond the space of Paris (and indeed of France), to encompass its echoes throughout the rest of the 19th century” – Financial Times

“No work specifies more fully Marx’s claim that, the greatest achievement of the Paris Commune was its ‘actual working existence.’” – Jacobin

Rebel Crossings: New Women, Free Lovers, and Radicals in Britain and the United States 
by Sheila Rowbotham

The transatlantic story of six radical pioneers at the turn of the twentieth century.

My First Life by Hugo Chávez. Translated by Ann Wright. With Ignacio Ramonet

Hugo Chávez’s extraordinary story—in his own words.

A History of the Barricade 
by Eric Hazan

How the French invented the barricade, and its symbolic impact on popular protests throughout history.

No God But Gain: The Untold Story of Cuban Slavery, the Monroe Doctrine, and the Making of the United States by Stephen Chambers

“Stephen Chambers brings a bright searchlight to a dark corner of history: the illegal slave trade that was so central to the rise of American capitalism. The book is especially valuable in a historical moment when the legacy of race and slavery haunts American politics.” – Marcus Rediker, author of The Amistad Rebellion: An Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom

Passages from Antiquity to Feudalism
and Lineages of the Absolutist State by Perry Anderson

“A complex, beautifully interwoven account of Europe from the ancient Greeks to modern absolutist monarchies…Exhilarating.” – Guardian 

Passages from Antiquity to Feudalism is a sustained exercise in historical sociology that shows how the slave-based societies of Ancient Greece and Rome eventually became the feudal societies of the Middle Ages. Through this work and its companion volume, Lineages of the Absolutist State, Anderson presents a Marxist history of Western political development that takes readers from the first stirrings of political consciousness in the classical world to the rise of absolutist monarchies in Europe and the birth of the modern epoch.

The American Crucible: Slavery, Emancipation and Human Rights by Robin Blackburn

The American Crucible furnishes a vivid and authoritative history of the rise and fall of slavery in the Americas.

The Origin of Capitalism: A Longer View
by Ellen Meiksins Wood

In this original and provocative book Ellen Meiksins Wood reminds us that capitalism is not a natural and inevitable consequence of human nature, nor is it simply an extension of age-old practices of trade and commerce. Rather, it is a late and localized product of very specific historical conditions, which required great transformations in social relations and in the human interaction with nature.

Fire and Blood: The European Civil War, 1914–1945
by Enzo Traverso

Fire and Blood looks at the European crisis of the two world wars as a single historical sequence: the age of the European Civil War (1914–1945)

The Last Communard: Adrien Lejeune, the Unexpected Life of a Revolutionary by Gavin Bowd

The Last Communard offers a brilliant, striking portrait of revolutionary Europe through a remarkable personal story.

The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power and the Origins of Our Times by Giovanni Arrighi

Traces the relationship between capital accumulation and state formation over a 700-year period. 

The Verso Book of Dissent: Revolutionary Words from Three Millennia of Rebellion and Resistance, edited by Andrew Hsiao and Audrea Lim. Preface by Tariq Ali

Fully updated compendium of revolt and resistance.

The Dignity of Chartism by Dorothy Thompson. Edited by Stephen Roberts

Groundbreaking studies of Britain’s first major working-class movement.

The Darkest Days: The Truth Behind Britain’s Rush to War, 1914 by Douglas Newton

A radical re-examination of the events surrounding Britain’s entry into the Great War.

Outlaws of the Atlantic: Sailors, Pirates, and Motley Crews in the Age of Sail by Marcus Rediker

Gripping maritime history from below with pirates and escaped slaves.

The Amistad Rebellion: An Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom by Marcus Rediker

The Amistad Rebellion shows how rebels captured the popular imagination and helped to inspire and build a movement that was part of a grand global struggle for emancipation.

Dreamers of a New Day: The Women Who Invented the Twentieth Century 
by Sheila Rowbotham

“Fascinating ... As the 21st century falters forward with faith wars and economic collapse, women need to be at the forefront of reimagining our world. This book is a timely reminder that we have been here before.” – Jeanette Winterson

The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South by Vijay Prashad 

“It is startling how insulated the West has remained from the thinking, achievements, and struggles of the great majority of the world’s people. This lucid and well-informed study reveals how much there is to learn from this rich and vibrant record.”– Noam Chomsky 

A People's History of the World: From the Stone Age to the New Millennium
 by Chris Harman 

Chris Harman describes the shape and course of human history as a narrative of ordinary people forming and re-forming complex societies in pursuit of common human goals. Interacting with the forces of technological change as well as the impact of powerful individuals and revolutionary ideas, these societies have engendered events familiar to every schoolchild—from the empires of antiquity to the world wars of the twentieth century.

Liberalism: A Counter-History  by Domenico Losurdo 

“A brilliant exercise in unmasking liberal pretensions.” – Financial Times 

In this definitive historical investigation, Italian author and philosopher Domenico Losurdo argues that from the outset liberalism, as a philosophical position and ideology, has been bound up with the most illiberal of policies: slavery, colonialism, genocide, racism and snobbery.

A People's History of the French Revolution by Eric Hazan

A bold new history of the French Revolution from the standpoint of the peasants, workers, women and sans culottes.

Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil by Timothy Mitchell 

Does oil wealth lead to political poverty? It often looks that way, but Carbon Democracytells a more complex story. In this magisterial study, Timothy Mitchell rethinks the history of energy, bringing into his grasp as he does so environmental politics, the struggle for democracy, and the place of the Middle East in the modern world.

China’s Twentieth Century: Revolution, Retreat and the Road to Equality by Wang Hui. Edited by Saul Thomas

An examination of the shifts in politics and revolution in China over the last century.            

The History of the Paris Commune of 1871 by Prosper-Olivier Lissagaray 

The classic history of the Paris Commune.

The Prophet: The Life of Leon Trotsky 
by Isaac Deutscher

Classic biography of Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky, now collected in a single volume.

In Defence of the Terror: Liberty or Death in the French Revolution 
by Sophie Wahnich

Provocative reassessment of the Great Terror as a price worth paying.

Peasant-Citizen and Slave: The Foundations of Athenian Democracy and The Pristine Culture of Capitalism: A Historical Essay on Old Regimes and Modern States by Ellen Meiksins Wood

These two works by the hugely influential historian of political thought Ellen Meiksins Wood demonstrate the range and breadth of her learning. Ranging from the social and economic background to the Classical Athenian democracy and the social history of democratic thought in Ancient Greece, to the development of the modern state system and the decline of British industry in the twenty-first century. Essential reading.