Nixon, Kissinger and the Shah: The United States and Iran in the Cold War, by Roham Alvandi, Oxford University Press, RRP£35.99/$55

Knowledge of the 1970s, when Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was one of Washington’s closest global allies, is essential for anyone wishing to understand why it is so difficult for the US and Iran to overcome their differences. Alvandi throws new light on the period by showing that Iran’s last shah was more than just President Richard Nixon’s cat’s paw in the Middle East.

God’s Traitors: Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England, by Jessie Childs, Bodley Head, RRP£25/$29.95

In her fast-paced and well-researched book, Childs focuses on one family, the Vaux of Northamptonshire, to recount the broader story of England’s Catholic minority from Elizabeth I’s accession in 1558 to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

Revolutionary Russia, 1891-1991, by Orlando Figes, Pelican, RRPO£7.99/ Metropolitan Books, RRP$28

A stimulating introduction to late Tsarist and Soviet history from one of Britain’s foremost historians of Russia. Figes deftly analyses how the revolutionary tides that swept the Bolsheviks to power in 1917 affected the outlook of the Kremlin’s rulers right up to Mikhail Gorbachev and the Soviet Union’s demise in 1991.

Revolutionary Ideas: An Intellectual History of the French Revolution from the Rights of Man to Robespierre, by Jonathan Israel, Princeton, RRP£27.95/$39.95

Israel, a professor of modern European history at Princeton, is a world authority on the 18th-century Enlightenment. Here he constructs a bold and brilliantly argued case that the 1789 French Revolution was propelled by the clash of innovative political doctrines that supported or contested Enlightenment values.

Let God Arise: The War and Rebellion of the Camisards, by W Gregory Monahan, Oxford University Press, RRP£75/$115

In 1702 the Protestant Camisards of the remote Cévennes region of southern France rose up against the crown and the Catholic authorities. Monahan, professor emeritus at Eastern Oregon university, is the first English-language historian to devote an entire book to this often overlooked episode of early modern French history, and he tells the story with great verve and erudition.

The Transformation of the World: A Global History of the Nineteenth Century, by Jürgen Osterhammel translated by Patrick Camiller, Princeton RRP£27.95/$39.95

The 19th century was an age marked by dramatic scientific progress, the rise of capitalism, the expansion of European empires, revolutionary nationalism and other recognisably modern trends. Osterhammel, a professor at the University of Konstanz in Germany, has written a work of panoramic scope and rare historical imagination.

The Bill of the Century: The Epic Battle for the Civil Rights Act, by Clay Risen, Bloomsbury, RRP£18.99/$28

Risen, a New York Times editor, provides a gripping account of the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, a monument of 20th-century liberal US legislation. What emerges from his studiously documented book is how much the bill’s success depended on backroom dealmaking in Congress as well as the support of President Lyndon Johnson and civil rights leader Martin Luther King.

The Deluge: The Great War and the Remaking of Global Order, 1916-1931, by Adam Tooze, Allen Lane, RRP£30

Tooze, a Yale-based historian, made his name with The Wages of Destruction, a superb 2006 study of the Nazi German economy. His study of the post-1918 era is equally impressive, explaining why the US and its allies, having defeated Germany, were unable to stabilise the world economy and build a collective security system in Europe.

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