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Ryan

Ryan Somerville, MA, United States Member Since 2005

Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.

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  • "Absorbing, well-researched, not unb..."

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    I found this book a fascinating exploration of the long history of conflict between East and West, and the way the powers in charge of each sphere (whether Greek, Trojan, Roman, Persian, Christian, Muslim, French, Ottoman, British, or Arabic) have often seen themselves as inheritors of all the earlier struggles. Of course, it should be noted right away that by ???The East???, Pagden generally means the near and middle east, the lands from Asia Minor to the region that's modern Iran -- China, India, and Japan don???t figure into the book at all. In fact, his focus is really more on the development of the West and its experience with the East than the reverse.

    It should also be noted that Pagden has a strong bias towards liberal, secular, democratic values, which he feels are the essence of Western culture (he states as much in the forward). Religion, both Christianity and Islam, are portrayed in a dim light, as institutional obstacles to reason, human rights, and progress. Not that I don???t largely agree with this assessment, but some readers might take offense. Still, he seems to be fair-minded about it, giving Muslim societies credit for brief periods of learning and relative tolerance, and indicting the modern West for its more counterproductive forays into the Middle East, which understandably stoked the fires of Muslim distrust and resentment. Indeed, the final chapter warns, convincingly, of continued bloody conflict between an uncompromising pan-Islamic worldview, whose adherents have enjoyed few of the fruits of the West and see little of their value, and countries like the US, whose leaders naively assume that their own democratic attitudes are universally held, and fail to account for a divide with deep historic roots.

    However, I don???t want to place too much emphasis on modern politics, which take a back seat to the fact that this is a comprehensive, well-researched history, outlining many episodes over 2,500 years that I was only dimly aware of (e.g. Napoleon???s adventures in Egypt), and pulling them into a readable, continuous narrative. Especially interesting was reading of the ways in which the West???s often-skewed perception of the East as an "other" to strive against has nonetheless shaped its own attitudes towards freedom, tolerance, and science.

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    Worlds at War: The 2,500-Year Struggle Between East and West

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 35 mins)
    • By Anthony Pagden
    • Narrated By John Lee
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (398)
    Performance
    (171)
    Story
    (168)

    In the tradition of Jared Diamond and Jacques Barzun, prize-winning historian Anthony Pagden presents a sweeping history of the long struggle between East and West, from the Greeks to the present day.

    The relationship between East and West has always been one of turmoil. In this historical tour de force, a renowned historian leads us from the world of classical antiquity, through the Dark Ages, to the Crusades, Europe's resurgence, and the dominance of the Ottoman Empire, which almost shattered Europe entirely. Pagden travels from Napoleon in Egypt to Europe's carving up of the finally moribund Ottomans - creating the modern Middle East along the way - and on to the present struggles in Iraq.

    Tad Davis says: "Great story, with a lot of unfamiliar names"
  • "Narrative history at its best"

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    Ever since I was a kid, I've been fascinated with World War One and the huge transition point it represented in history. Despite knowing a good bit about the subject, I was still very impressed with The Guns of August. Tuchman accomplishes what few history writers pull off, which is to make readers forget what they know about history and see its drama unfold through the eyes of people at the center of events, who didn't know what would happen next. The book’s very detailed, but has the sense of narrative of a novel.

    Tuchman opens, with a fitting sense of moment, at the 1910 funeral of King Edward of Britain, where the heads of future belligerent states gather on still-cordial terms. From there, she sets the stage with a portrait of Europe as it stands in the early 20th century, and the policies, mindsets, histories, and cultural attitudes that shape each country's leaders, as they look towards a war that everyone is certain will come. She captures the relationships and self-fulfilling expectations that drive those leaders towards fateful decisions, like players in a Shakespearian tragedy, and the gears and wheels of military plans inexorably grinding forward while diplomats search in vain for the "halt" button. Then comes the tremendous drama of the war's first weeks, when vast armies are in motion, the fate of nations hangs in the balance, and choices are made that will come back to haunt both sides. While there are probably better "academic" works on the war and books that better capture the horrors of trench warfare, I don't know of any that so well explains the key players and the flow of events, while conveying the excitement, fear, hope, and desperation that gripped each country as the crisis exploded. It was hard not get a little caught up in the emotions of events, such as the brave defense of Belgian forts, even knowing that initial success wouldn’t last against overwhelming forces.

    Is Guns of August a perfect work? Probably not. Like all historical writers, Tuchman has her biases, and seems to put primary blame for the war on Germany. In her version, they’re aggressors who blindly refuse to put aside preset invasion timetables, even when the option of avoiding war with a less menacing France seems at hand. Other historians probably have more subtle pictures. Also, Tuchman covers politics and battles in equal levels of detail and some readers might get bored with the play-by-play descriptions of maneuvers and clashes that fill the latter half of the book (though I enjoyed that part myself).

    However, the positives far outweigh the negatives. As a chronicle of a crucial forty days in human history, The Guns of August remains fresh and alive even half a century after its first publication (when much was still in living memory). On the audiobook experience, I thought that the narrator did a good job with French, German, and Russian accents. Apparently, there’s another audio version out there, but I don’t know how that compares.

    PS. If you enjoy this sort of narrative history, I recommend seeking out Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcast, which is more informal, but driven by a similar enthusiasm for recreating the moment of decision.

    4.5 stars

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    The Guns of August

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Barbara W. Tuchman
    • Narrated By John Lee
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (351)
    Performance
    (296)
    Story
    (299)

    Historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Barbara Tuchman here brought to life again the people and events that led up to World War I. With attention to fascinating detail, and an intense knowledge of her subject and its characters, Ms. Tuchman reveals, for the first time, just how the war started, why, and why it could have been stopped but wasn't. A classic historical survey of a time and a people we all need to know more about, The Guns of August will not be forgotten.

    History says: "Best history on the origins of WWI"
  • "Wouldn't have minded unabridged ver..."

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    The story of the war between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union on the Ostfront is itself so incredible and full of extremes of human experience on a scale that most modern people can't comprehend, that even a dry historic account will still hit you in the gut. Beevor's writing certainly is a bit dry (as is the audiobook narration), but he conveys the triumphant hubris of the the German war machine as it grinds through an ill-prepared Soviet Army hampered by its own paranoid leader, the desperate fight-to-the-death brutality of the siege of Stalingrad, the last Russian stronghold before the Volga, the monstrosity of two totalitarian states willing to sacrifice millions of their own citizens to their authority, and finally, the collapse of the German army before a population that it could kill vast numbers of, but not defeat.

    Beevor is sympathetic enough to soldiers on both sides, and besides the requisite facts and figures, there are plenty of episodes of heroism from individual Russians and Germans, as well as bad decisions and senseless waste of life. All in all, it was a tragic but page-turning reminder to me of just how little we Americans really know about war and the price that's paid for "uncompromising" leaders.

    So far.

    There are probably more detailed and/or engagingly written accounts of World War Two's Eastern Front, but this book contains a perfectly readable history for anyone looking for a place to start. (PS. If you're still hungry for a fantastic, listenable account of the Ostfront, look up Dan Carlin's "Hardcore History" podcast.)

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    Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943

    • ABRIDGED (6 hrs)
    • By Antony Beevor
    • Narrated By George Guidall
    Overall
    (89)
    Performance
    (61)
    Story
    (61)

    Ryan says: "Wouldn't have minded unabridged version"
  1. Worlds at War: The 2,500-...
  2. The Guns of August
  3. Stalingrad: The Fateful S...
  4. .

Margaret

Margaret Alameda, CA, United States 12-23-12 Member Since 2008
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  • "Best download in months!"

    23 of 23 helpful votes

    This is the fourth course by Professor Drout I've listened to and this may be my favorite. He enthusiastically covers the history of the culture, (religion, literature, language) and the politics of the Vikings (which he explains was a word that originally meant "a man who keeps his boat tied up in the creek behind his farm") and also their importance to European history as a whole.

    He touches on a wide variety of subjects. But the lectures fly by and I found myself wishing the course was longer. I was never bored and I will re-listen to it several more times. I highly recommend this course.

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    The Modern Scholar: The Norsemen - Understanding Vikings and Their Culture

    • ORIGINAL (5 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Professor Michael D.C. Drout
    Overall
    (82)
    Performance
    (72)
    Story
    (72)

    Professor Michael D.C. Drout of Wheaton College immerses listeners in the extraordinary legacy of Viking civilization, which developed in what is now Scandinavia during the early Middle Ages. During the course of these lectures, Professor Drout explores how these peoples conquered all of Northern Europe, traveled as far as Byzantium in the East and North America in the West, and left a literary legacy that includes numerous works studied and enjoyed to this day.

    Margaret says: "Best download in months!"

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  • 4.4 (6237 ratings)

    A Short History of Nearly Everything

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 48 mins)
    • By Bill Bryson
    • Narrated By Richard Matthews
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
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    Bill Bryson has been an enormously popular author both for his travel books and for his books on the English language. Now, this beloved comic genius turns his attention to science. Although he doesn't know anything about the subject (at first), he is eager to learn, and takes information that he gets from the world's leading experts and explains it to us in a way that makes it exciting and relevant.

    Corby says: "Very informative, fun to listen to"
  • 4.3 (1433 ratings)

    The Demon Under The Microscope

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 18 mins)
    • By Thomas Hager
    • Narrated By Stephen Hoye
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
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    Performance
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    Story
    (749)

    The Nazis discovered it. The Allies won the war with it. It conquered diseases, changed laws, and single-handedly launched the era of antibiotics. This incredible discovery was sulfa, the first antibiotic medication. In The Demon Under the Microscope, Thomas Hager chronicles the dramatic history of the drug that shaped modern medicine.

    John Mertus says: "A pleasure in listening"
  • 4.3 (1200 ratings)

    The Second World War: Milestones to Disaster

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 42 mins)
    • By Sir Winston Churchill
    • Narrated By Christian Rodska
    Overall
    (1200)
    Performance
    (630)
    Story
    (627)

    Churchill's history of the Second World War is, and will remain, the definitive work. Lucid, dramatic, remarkable for its breadth and sweep and for its sense of personal involvement, it is universally acknowledged as a magnificent reconstruction.

    John M says: "Brilliant! Only Churchill could have done this."
  • 4.4 (1088 ratings)

    The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 23 mins)
    • By Lawrence Wright
    • Narrated By Alan Sklar
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1088)
    Performance
    (383)
    Story
    (380)

    This is a sweeping narrative history of the events leading to 9/11, a groundbreaking look at the people and ideas, the terrorist plans, and the Western intelligence failures that culminated in the assault on America. Lawrence Wright's remarkable book is based on five years of research and hundreds of interviews that he conducted in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sudan, England, France, Germany, Spain, and the United States.

    John says: "Riveting... Sobering... Chilling..."
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  • 4.6 (688 ratings)

    A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 21 mins)
    • By Adam Makos
    • Narrated By Robertson Dean
    Overall
    (688)
    Performance
    (624)
    Story
    (629)

    Four days before Christmas in 1943, a badly damaged American bomber struggled to fly over wartime Germany. At its controls was a 21-year-old pilot. Half his crew lay wounded or dead. It was their first mission. Suddenly a sleek, dark shape pulled up on the bomber’s tail - a German Messerschmitt fighter. Worse, the German pilot was an ace, a man able to destroy the American bomber with the squeeze of a trigger.

    JerryL says: "An Absolutely Incredcredible Audiobook!"
  • 4.5 (590 ratings)

    The Second World War: The Grand Alliance

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 54 mins)
    • By Winston Churchill
    • Narrated By Christian Rodska
    Overall
    (590)
    Performance
    (305)
    Story
    (309)

    This volume of Churchill's history of the Second World War recounts the events of 1941 surrounding America's entry into the War, Hitler's march on Russia, and the alliance between Britain and America.

    John M says: "Fascinating and Insightful"
  • 4.6 (558 ratings)

    The Second World War: Alone

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 4 mins)
    • By Winston Churchill
    • Narrated By Christian Rodska
    Overall
    (558)
    Performance
    (318)
    Story
    (319)

    "After the first forty days we were alone," writes Churchill. This edition is part two of Churchill's own abridgement of his original six-volume history of the Second World War.

    Susanne Jerome says: "the rest of the story"
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 48 mins)
    • By Bill Bryson
    • Narrated By Richard Matthews
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (6237)
    Performance
    (2102)
    Story
    (2109)

    Bill Bryson has been an enormously popular author both for his travel books and for his books on the English language. Now, this beloved comic genius turns his attention to science. Although he doesn't know anything about the subject (at first), he is eager to learn, and takes information that he gets from the world's leading experts and explains it to us in a way that makes it exciting and relevant.

    Corby says: "Very informative, fun to listen to"
  • Battle: The Story of the Bulge

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 44 mins)
    • By John Toland
    • Narrated By Dan Butler
    Overall
    (9)
    Performance
    (9)
    Story
    (8)

    Battle: The Story of the Bulge, John Toland's first work of military history, recounts the saga of beleaguered American troops as they resisted Hitler's deadly counter offensive in World War II's Battle of the Bulge - and turned it into an Allied victory. It is a gripping work, painstakingly researched and imbued with such vivid detail that listeners will feel as though they themselves witnessed these events. This is a book not to be missed by anyone interested in this tumultuous era of our world's history.

    Joseph says: "Wonderful Account"
  • The Decisive Battles of World History

    • ORIGINAL (18 hrs and 29 mins)
    • By The Great Courses
    • Narrated By Professor Gregory S. Aldrete
    Overall
    (2)
    Performance
    (2)
    Story
    (2)

    Throughout history, military engagements have altered the course of historical events. In these 36 dynamic lectures, Professor Aldrete leads you in discovering the military conflicts that have had the greatest impact in shifting the direction of events and defining our world. Across 4,000 years of history, you'll explore nearly 40 key military engagements, from the milestone battles of Western civilization to their counterparts in the Middle East, India, and Asia.

  • Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 20 mins)
    • By Jared Diamond
    • Narrated By Doug Ordunio
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (702)
    Performance
    (532)
    Story
    (543)

    Having done field work in New Guinea for more than 30 years, Jared Diamond presents the geographical and ecological factors that have shaped the modern world. From the viewpoint of an evolutionary biologist, he highlights the broadest movements both literal and conceptual on every continent since the Ice Age, and examines societal advances such as writing, religion, government, and technology.

    Jeremy says: "Informing, Interesting, and Boring all in one"
  •  
  • The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Elizabeth Kolbert
    • Narrated By Anne Twomey
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (103)
    Performance
    (94)
    Story
    (95)

    A major audiobook about the future of the world, blending intellectual and natural history and field reporting into a powerful account of the mass extinction unfolding before our eyes. Over the last half a billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on Earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs.

    Male Perspective says: "Better than expected! Great Book!"
  • The History of Ancient Egypt

    • ORIGINAL (24 hrs and 25 mins)
    • By The Great Courses
    • Narrated By Professor Bob Brier
    Overall
    (144)
    Performance
    (132)
    Story
    (134)

    Ancient Egyptian civilization is so grand our minds sometimes have difficulty adjusting to it. It lasted 3,000 years, longer than any other on the planet. Its Great Pyramid of Cheops was the tallest building in the world until well into the 19th century and remains the only Ancient Wonder still standing. And it was the most technologically advanced of the ancient civilizations, with the medical knowledge that made Egyptian physicians the most famous in the world.

    Nassir says: "Incomprehensibly complete"
  • The Story of Human Language

    • ORIGINAL (18 hrs and 15 mins)
    • By The Great Courses
    • Narrated By Professor John McWhorter
    Overall
    (73)
    Performance
    (70)
    Story
    (70)

    Language defines us as a species, placing humans head and shoulders above even the most proficient animal communicators. But it also beguiles us with its endless mysteries, allowing us to ponder why different languages emerged, why there isn't simply a single language, how languages change over time and whether that's good or bad, and how languages die out and become extinct.

    "unknown" says: "Fascinating!"
  • Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 19 mins)
    • By Jack Weatherford
    • Narrated By Jonathan Davis, Jack Weatherford
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3309)
    Performance
    (1944)
    Story
    (1961)

    The Mongol army led by Genghis Khan subjugated more lands and people in 25 years than the Romans did in 400. In nearly every country the Mongols conquered, they brought an unprecedented rise in cultural communication, expanded trade, and a blossoming of civilization.

    Peter says: "Brilliant, insightful, intriguing."
  •  
  • The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914

    • UNABRIDGED (31 hrs and 57 mins)
    • By Margaret MacMillan
    • Narrated By Richard Burnip
    Overall
    (85)
    Performance
    (79)
    Story
    (76)

    From the best-selling and award-winning author of Paris 1919 comes a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, a fascinating portrait of Europe from 1900 up to the outbreak of World War I.

    Jean says: "A different viewpoint"
  • The Guns of August

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 9 mins)
    • By Barbara W. Tuchman
    • Narrated By Nadia May
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (964)
    Performance
    (420)
    Story
    (405)

    In this Pulitzer Prize-winning classic, historian Barbara Tuchman brings to life the people and events that led up to World War I. This was the last gasp of the Gilded Age, of Kings and Kaisers and Czars, of pointed or plumed hats, colored uniforms, and all the pomp and romance that went along with war. How quickly it all changed...and how horrible it became.

    Mike From Mesa says: "Wonderful"
  • The World Was Never the Same: Events That Changed History

    • ORIGINAL (18 hrs and 16 mins)
    • By The Great Courses
    • Narrated By Professor J. Rufus Fears
    Overall
    (66)
    Performance
    (65)
    Story
    (63)

    History is made and defined by landmark events-moments that irrevocably changed the course of human civilization. They have given us: spiritual and political ideas; catastrophic battles and wars; scientific and technological advances; world leaders both influential and monstrous; and cultural works of unparalleled beauty.

    Quaker says: "Fun course but Professor Fears is not for everyone"
  • The Fall and Rise of China

    • ORIGINAL (24 hrs and 10 mins)
    • By The Great Courses
    • Narrated By Professor Richard Baum
    Overall
    (125)
    Performance
    (116)
    Story
    (118)

    For most of its 5,000-year existence, China has been the largest, most populous, wealthiest, and mightiest nation on Earth. And for us as Westerners, it is essential to understand where China has been in order to anticipate its future. These 36 eye-opening lectures deliver a comprehensive political and historical overview of one of the most fascinating and complex countries in world history.

    Yu-Chin says: "Offers excellent objective perspective!"
  • The Illuminati's Greatest Hits: Deception, Conspiracies, Murders, and Assassinations by the World's Most Powerful Secret Society

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 3 mins)
    • By Frank White
    • Narrated By Mysti Jording
    Overall
    (0)
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    (0)
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    Born through Adam Weishaupt, in 1776, the secret society group known as the Illuminati have been wreaking havoc on the world ever since. They have fomented wars and have manipulated events from behind the shadows to diabolically implement their agenda of a new world order. People have heard of the Illuminati through popular culture, but most brush off their existence as nothing more than some "conspiracy theory" hatched by conspiracy theorists without doing any valid research that would perhaps discount their existence.

  • A History of Iran: Empire of the Mind

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 19 mins)
    • By Michael Axworthy
    • Narrated By Peter Ganim
    Overall
    (0)
    Performance
    (0)
    Story
    (0)

    Although frequently vilified, Iran is a nation of great intellectual variety and depth, and one of the oldest continuing civilizations in the world. Its political impact has been tremendous, not only on its neighbors in the Middle East but also throughout the world. From the time of the prophet Zoroaster, to the powerful ancient Persian Empires, to the revolution of 1979, the hostage crisis, and the current standoff over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Michael Axworthy vividly depicts the nation’s rich history.

  • Vodka Politics: Alcohol, Autocracy, and the Secret History of the Russian State

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By Mark Lawrence Schrad
    • Narrated By Noah Michael Levine
    Overall
    (0)
    Performance
    (0)
    Story
    (0)

    Russia is famous for its vodka, and its culture of extreme intoxication. But just as vodka is central to the lives of many Russians, it is also central to understanding Russian history and politics. In Vodka Politics, Mark Lawrence Schrad argues that debilitating societal alcoholism is not hard-wired into Russians' genetic code, but rather their autocratic political system, which has long wielded vodka as a tool of statecraft. Through a series of historical investigations stretching from Ivan the Terrible through Vladimir Putin, Vodka Politics presents the secret history of the Russian state itself.

  • Supreme Commander: MacArthur's Triumph in Japan

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 11 mins)
    • By Seymour Morris
    • Narrated By Charles Constant
    Overall
    (0)
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    (0)
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    He is the most-decorated general in American history - and the only five-star general to receive the Medal of Honor. Yet Douglas MacArthur’s greatest victory was not in war but in peace. As the uniquely titled Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, he was charged with transforming a defeated, militarist empire into a beacon of peace and democracy - "the greatest gamble ever attempted", he called it.

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  • The Story of the Sixth Battalion Durham Light Infantry 1915-1918

    • UNABRIDGED (2 hrs and 7 mins)
    • By R. B. Ainsworth
    • Narrated By Felbrigg Napoleon Herriot
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    (0)
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    (0)
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    FNH Audio presents this unabridged reading of the heroic story of a territorial battalion mobilised and sent overseas into the bloodiest conflict the world has ever known. They fought with distinction at the Somme and Arras through some of the most terrible and wasteful of battles. In one three month period this battalion alone lost 1,200 men and sixty officers. That it survived until the end of the war was nothing short of a miracle.This history was written by the battalions Adjutant in 1919.

  • Farewell, Titanic: Her Final Legacy

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 3 mins)
    • By Charles Pellegrino
    • Narrated By Bronson Pinchot
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    On the 100th anniversary of the Titanic's sinking, a prominent Titanic researcher offers a final chance to see the ship before it disappears forever. The Titanic was the biggest, most luxurious passenger ship the world had ever seen; the ads proclaimed it to be unsinkable. When it sank in April 1912 after hitting an iceberg, killing more than 1,500 people, the world was forever changed and the public has been spellbound ever since. Now, a century later, the Titanic is about to disappear again: its infrastructure is set to collapse in the next few years.

  • Red Dusk and the Morrow: Adventures & Investigations in Soviet Russia

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 45 mins)
    • By Paul Dukes
    • Narrated By Peter Owen
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    Paul Dukes was sent into Russia in 1918, shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution, by ‘C’ (the mysterious head of the British secret service). His mission: to pull together the British spy networks operating against the new regime. With its spies and diplomats thrown out at the start of the Red Terror, Britain’s espionage efforts were left to a British businessman with no previous experience as a spy. Dukes operated under a variety of covers, the most daring of which was as a member of the Cheka secret police.

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