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John Withington  

Books by John Withington

Floods Flood: Nature and Culture

Reaktion Books
ISBN 9781780231969

From the ancient story of Noah’s deluge through the China floods of 1931 that killed more than 3 million people, to the inundations making life a misery for millions today, floods have many causes: rain, melting ice, storms, tsunamis and the failures of dams and dikes.

They have been used as deliberate acts of war causing thousands of casualties and have often been seen as punishments visited by vengeful gods. Flooding kills more people than any other type of natural disaster. This cultural and natural history of floods tells of the deadliest floods the world has seen while also exploring the role of the deluge in religion, mythology, literature and art.

John also relates how some of the most ambitious structures ever built by humans have been designed to protect us against floods, and discusses the increasing danger they pose in a future beset by the effects of climate change. Lavishly illustrated.


Britain’s 20 Worst Military Disasters: from the Roman Conquest to the Fall of Singapore

The History Press

ISBN: 9780752461977

Crecy, Agincourt, Blenheim, Trafalgar, El Alamein – the names trip off the tongue and echo through our history.
Great British military victories, often won against the odds. But what of the defeats and disasters – from our conquest by Roman armies to the fall of Singapore in 1942, described by Churchill as the ‘worst disaster’ in our military history?

This is the story of those disasters, and the ones in between. From famous battles like Hastings and Yorktown, to those that are less well-known but had far-reaching consequences, such as Castillon, the last battle of the Hundred Years War. Others, like the Battle of the Medway in 1667, had little long-term impact, but were still deeply shameful – ‘a dishonour never to be wiped off’.

Here is Cartagena de Indias - the ‘Defeat of the British Armada’, Britain’s first disaster in Afghanistan, Gordon’s last stand, and the ‘Castlebar Races’. Sometimes, a brilliant retreat helped prevent an even greater calamity, as at Gallipoli and Dunkirk.

It is an epic story following British armies and navies across the world to France, Africa, North and South America and the Far East. It is a tale of bungling, miscalculation, and heroism.


"Marvellously ambitious in scope"
Daily Telegraph

disasters, world, history, book, John Withington

Disastrous History of the World
ISBN 978-0-7499-0978-9

Mankind has always lived with disasters. They might be natural, as with diseases, hurricanes or volcanic eruptions; accidental, such as fires and shipwrecks; or deliberately inflicted, like wars or massacres. Indeed, the human race
had barely got going before it was almost wiped out by a volcanic eruption 74,000 years ago.

John’s new book contains the story of the attempt to burn an unlucky kimono that destroyed one of the world’s
great cities, the Boxing Day tsunami and the Myanmar cyclone, and the ageing emperor whose love for a beautiful maiden would bring civil war and the deaths of 36 million.

Here are the mass murderers – Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Attila and Genghis Khan, the epidemics of plague, cholera and flu, the world’s worst air crash (that actually happened on the ground), the deadliest road accident, and the mysterious rail disaster in which 500 people were suffocated in a tunnel. The horror and the way in which the human spirit triumphs over it conjure up a compulsively readable and entertaining book.

"An absorbing, disturbing read for everyone" Family History Monthly

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"highly entertaining"


"a fast and entertaining read"

"a compulsively readable
collection of the nastiest things
that have happened in Britain"



A Disastrous History of Britain
Sutton Publishing Ltd
ISBN 0 7509 3321 6

From the maruading hordes of Boudicca to the suicide bombs of the 21st century, Britain has been buffeted by foreign
invasion, government repression, and terrorism. It has had to withstand natural disasters like disease, famine, flood, and storms. Then there have been the accidents - fires, explosions, crushes and collapses, shipwrecks, and train and air
crashes. A Disastrous History of Britain details each one through the eyes of those caught up in them, and those who
had to pick up the pieces.

Here is the story of the disaster that carried off the biggest proportion of the population and of the one that produced the
most widespread destruction. Here is the worst pit disaster, train crash, air crash, shipwreck, storm flood, famine,
air raid, and terrorist outrage.

The book reveals that one of the deadliest fires of modern times came when a theatrical performance went horribly wrong,
and that the most fatal crush was caused by children who feared they might miss out on the gift of a free toy.

There are extraordinary stories of a ship blown to smithereens by a gunner illicitly salting away gunpowder, of a fire that
claimed 50 lives caused by schoolboys sneaking a furtive cigarette, and of the fearful civil war that reduced the country
to a home fit "only for the hedgehog."









"will leave you wondering how
on earth the city has lasted this long"


'a compelling trove of death and destruction'


London's Disasters: From Boudicca to the Banking Crises
The History Press
ISBN 978075247475

From AD61, when Queen Boudicca - outraged at her treatment at the hands of the Romans - marched on the city
and burned it to the ground, London has been hit by wave upon wave of destruction.

This fascinating and unique book tells the story of 2000 years of disaster - fire, water, disease, pollution, accident,
storm, riot, terrorism, and enemy action. It chronicles well-known disasters like the Great Plague of 1665 and the
Blitz, as well as lesser-known events such as whirlwinds and earthquakes. It also includes the human stories
behind the catastrophes.

The book ultimately celebrates the spirit of people who have risen above it all and for whom London is still a great
city in which to live and work.

'takes a fond but hair-rasing look at London and its people over many centuries. A tale of epic proportions.'





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The Anatomy of a Shipyard Closure
Bedford Square Press
ISBN 0-7199-1230-X

The story of what happened to the people who worked at
a shipyard in the north-east of England after its closure.



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