Lucy Worsley concludes her history of the Romanov dynasty by investigating how the family's grip on Russia unravelled in their final century. The years between 1825 and 1918 were bloody and traumatic, a period when four tsars tried and failed to deal with the growing pressure for constitutional reform and revolution.
Lucy Worsley examines the extraordinary reign of Catherine the Great, and the traumatic conflict with Napoleonic France that provdes the setting for the novel War and Peace. She begins in the 18th century, when the great palaces of the Romanovs were built. Built in Romanov Russia, blood was always intermingled with gold - these splendid interiors were the backdrop to affairs, coups and murder.
The Romanovs were the most powerful monarchs since the Middle Ages, wielding absolute power into the 20th century. Their demise was shocking and brutal, yet for most they are distant, barely understood figures. Lucy Worsley applies her characteristic insight and wit to the Romanov dynasty to create a fresh and compelling account of this most extraordinary royal family.
To some Chaim Rumkowski was a man of immense courage. To others he is simply a traitor; a Jew who worked with the Nazis and assisted them in the Final Solution. When the Nazis began herding Polish Jews into ghettos, the Jews faced a terrible reality. Rumkowski firmly believed that there was hope and felt he could turn the Lodz Ghetto into a haven of Jewish culture. It could, he thought, become a thriving community with businesses, factories, social services, even schools. He did a deal in which his people would provide labour to the Nazis in exchange for food and it worked. But inevitably there was a price. Rumkowski had to confiscate all property and coerce the able bodied into forced labour. Many grew to hate him. The result though was that the Lodz Ghetto lasted two years longer than had been expected. Undoubtedly some owe their lives to its prolonged existence.
At the start of 1933, Hitler is the chancellor of Germany but he does not have absolute power - there is still a democratic parliament beneath him, a head of state above him and the rule of law hanging over him. Hitler sets his sights on dismantling the German state. When Hitler calls a general election to increase Nazi representation in the Reichstag, Hermann Goring sees an opportunity to impress by taking out the left-wing opposition.
As the 20th century continues, America faces perhaps its most daunting challenges yet. The 1930s brings the greatest economic crisis in its history; FDR offers the troubled nation a New Deal, but there are clouds on the horizon; Pearl Harbor is a lightning bolt to the American soul, and in command of the allied invasion, General Dwight D Eisenhower; the US elects its youngest commander-in-chief, 46-year-old John F Kennedy; and on a bridge over the Alabama river, Martin Luther King's fight for equal rights will face its fiercest test. Then, on a bright September morning in 2001, America faces a new crisis: sudden, overwhelming and deadly.