The Handshake: A history of the greeting that transcends cultures and ages

The death of the handshake has been greatly exaggerated, as Ella Al-Shamahi’s lively history of the greeting demonstrates

Martin McGuinness and Queen Elizabeth shake hands in 2012, a gesture Al-Shamahi cheekily suggests compares to chimps brushing fingers after a fight. Photo: Getty


The Handshake: A Gripping History

By Ella Al-Shamahi

Profile Books, €14

Tony Blair was nervous about becoming the first British prime minister in over 70 years to shake a Sinn Féin leader’s hand. He did so with Gerry Adams behind closed doors in 1997, then visited a Belfast shopping centre where furious unionists waved rubber gloves at him.

“They were suggesting I should have worn those to avoid the blood,” Blair later recalled. “But ...