My sister laughs at my enthusiasm for words. She is gently amused by my delight in their history, the way they sound, they way they work together. But words are fascinating things and they are powerful things. Once they’ve been released, they are out in the wild forever and, although they can be amended, apologised for, excused or embroidered, their moment of impact cannot be undone.

Speech-writers know all this better than I do. They use words very carefully to create an impact, to hide a truth, to rouse a nation. Talking History, published by Templar Books, presents us with some examples of speeches that have made a difference thanks to those who have written and delivered them. There are some obvious choices: Emmeline Pankhurst, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela. Others are less well-known. But all are significant.

Joan Lennon and Joan Haig have placed the speeches in their historical context and explained the references in them. They also point out the links in subject matter between some of the speeches, showing how some of the same issues were being raised in different countries. The book is illustrated by Andre Ducci in carefully selected colours, different for each speech and relevant to them. Pearl Gibbs’ declaration that ‘I am an Australian’ uses the green and gold of the country, Barack Obama’s speech on the fiftieth anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery Marches is full of the red, white and blue of the US flag which is also liberally sprinkled across the pages.

All in all it’s a fascinating and engaging book. The text and illustrations complement each other and both bring something to the overall success of the book. And I was pleased to see something from Templar for the first time in ages. I’m happy to tell you that their design and production values remain excellent!


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