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Calamities & Catastrophes

Calamities & Catastrophes

The Ten Absolutely Worst Years in History

They say that history is written by the winners. Not according to Derek Wilson.

In this fascinating, revelatory book, Wilson tells the story from the point of view of the losers – collating a catalogue of calamities and catastrophes that have shaped our world more than historians tend to let on.

In ten lucid and entertaining chapters, the author identifies the very worst years of human history, from the destruction of the Roman Empire in 541 to the immediate aftermath of the American Civil War in 1865, from the march on Leningrad in 1942 to the Vietnam War of 1968. Condensing two thousand years of war, plague, misrule and political villainy, he identifies the traitors, scumbags and villains, whose lust for power – and sometimes, sheer incompetence – brought such terror to their times. He delves into the natural forces beyond human control that have wiped out whole peoples. And, most of all, he shows how history has a horrible habit of repeating itself.
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  • Atria Books/Marble Arch Press | 
  • 288 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781476718828 | 
  • December 2012
List Price $15.00
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

541–2

Human societies may disintegrate for any one of a number of reasons – conquest, pestilence, internal strife or government incompetence. The tragedy which befell the civilisations of the Mediterranean world in 541–2 and undermined its two dominant empires was that all these woes fell upon them at the same time.

The empires in question were Rome and Persia. Both these mighty states could look back on a long and glorious past. They had increased their boundaries, built fine cities and established peace and firm government over their subject peoples. By the sixth century such... see more

About the Author

Derek Wilson

Derek Wilson is one of Britain’s leading popular historians. Since leaving Cambridge, where he took the archbishop Cranmer Prize for post-graduate research, he has written more than fifty books, including Britain’s Rottenest Years, Rothschild: A Story of Wealth and Power, and Hans Holbein: Portrait of an Unknown Man. He has made numerous radio and TV appearances.

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