Anne Somerset

The Heat is On

One Hot Summer: Dickens, Darwin, Disraeli, and the Great Stink of 1858

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Yale University Press 338pp £25 order from our bookshop

So-called microhistory – examining a tightly defined area of the past – is currently all the rage. Rosemary Ashton’s study of the stifling summer of 1858 demonstrates its attractions. The formula does not prove overly constricting because events took place during these few months the importance of which long outlasted the summer itself. Confining her scrutiny to a narrow time frame enables Ashton to uncover ‘connections, patterns, and structures’ that might have been overlooked in broader-brushed depictions.

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