Perhaps no place epitomizes Faulkner’s oft-quoted maxim that “the past is never dead” more than Jerusalem. And there are few other places where there is so little agreement about what the past was, or is. John D Hosler takes a particular slice through this history by focusing on “conquest: those ‘falls’, or moments from the seventh through the thirteenth century when possession of the city passed from adherents of one religious confession to another by way of conflict”—a story, he posits, that “is highly pertinent to its modern controversies.”

Christopher Beckwith likes to shake up the staid world of archeologists, philologists and historians with big claims. In his Empires of the Silk Road, he argued the debt of world civilization to unfamiliar peoples from inner Asia, changing a Euro-centric or Sino-Centric approach to history into steppe-centricity. The Scythian Empire takes this one step forward by attributing many of the contributions from the steppe to a single people, the Scythians. In Beckwith’s telling, the Wusun, the Xiongnu, the Yuezhi, the Tokharians and the Soghdians are all Scythians, as are the Medes.

In 1974, India surprised the world with “Smiling Buddha”: a secret underground nuclear test at Pokhran, Rajasthan. India called it a “peaceful nuclear explosion”—but few outside of India saw it that way. The 1974 nuclear tests became a symbol of India’s ability to help itself, especially given how the country was left out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, an agreement the country argued was colonial.

On 2 September 1945, Japan surrendered to the United States, ending the Second World War. Yet the Japanese invasion had upended the old geopolitical structures of European empires, leaving old imperial powers on the decline and new groups calling for independence on the rise. That unsteady situation sparked a decade of conflict: in Indonesia, in Vietnam, in China and in Korea, as esteemed military historian Professor Ronald Spector writes about in his latest book, A Continent Erupts: Decolonization, Civil War, and Massacre in Postwar Asia, 1945–1955.

China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) did not just appear out of nowhere with China’s rise to military superpower status in the 21st century, though there has been very little written in English about its origins. Until now: Toshi Yoshihara, a former professor at the Naval War College and currently a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, traces the PLAN’s beginnings to the Chinese Civil War and the early years of Mao Zedong’s rule in his new book Mao’s Army Goes to Sea.