The History Press is publishing a new series of 100 concise biographies of “people who
changed the world”.
The Pocket Giants series, which starts publishing titles next year, consists of 128-page paperback titles on Jane Austen, Winston Churchill, Jesus and Hitler, among other people who made an impact on world history.
The first titles in the series, out in February 2014, are Brunel by Eugene Byrne, Jane Austen by Caroline Sanderson, Pope John Paul II by Hugh Costello, Henry V by A J Pollard and Giuseppe Verdi by Daniel Snowman. They will be followed by titles on Abraham Lincoln, Buddha, Charles Darwin, William the Conqueror and Robert the Bruce in August—the last, to be penned by historian Fiona Watson, is scheduled to tie in with the referendum on Scottish independence.
The following year, 2015, will see scheduled titles on the Duke of Wellington, Horatio Nelson, Joan of Arc, Jesus, Anne Frank, Alfred the Great, Hannibal and Scipio, Shakespeare, Elizabeth I and Winston Churchill.
All titles will be published as £6.99 paperbacks and £1.99 e-books.
“I want to build [the books] into a series of 100 lives that changed the world,” series editor Tony Morris said. “There have been lots of biographies of famous people, but that’s because everybody’s interested in lives, and lives are a great way of opening up a series
“It had to be big and ambitious and broad-ranging to have any real purchase, and also, thinking about it commercially, I want this to be a worldwide series. Some of these look very British, some key closely into subjects people do at school—although they’re not textbooks—and some will have great international rights potential.
“I was struck when Margaret Thatcher died, because having grown up in that period and
knowing the way people were talking about her, if you’d written a biography of Margaret Thatcher in 1980 it would be very different from one written when she died. But it’s blindingly obvious that when you set up a perception it changes all the time. When people say, ‘do we need another little biographies series?’, my argument is yes, we always do, provided it’s framed in another way.”
The writers of the Pocket Giants series were “challenged” into addressing why their subject was a “giant”. “These aren’t just flat pocket lives,” Morris said, “I wanted to challenge the authors to say, ‘why is this person a giant? Why should I care about Joan of Arc, for example?’, and I wanted the author to say why that person is important. I didn’t want them to be particularly praising or hatchet jobs, I wanted them to be books that people had a point of view in.”