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Thread: Best history books ever?

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    Best history books ever?

    What do you think are the best history books ever? Mention them! and their authors!

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    Neo-Scriblerus Modest Proposal's Avatar
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    If I had to say a single work... Moby Dick.

    I know it has parts not incredibly exciting, but at its best it is the best of all time.

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    Bibliophile Drkshadow03's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Modest Proposal View Post
    If I had to say a single work... Moby Dick.

    I know it has parts not incredibly exciting, but at its best it is the best of all time.
    How's that a history book?
    "You understand well enough what slavery is, but freedom you have never experienced, so you do not know if it tastes sweet or bitter. If you ever did come to experience it, you would advise us to fight for it not with spears only, but with axes too." - Herodotus

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    Neo-Scriblerus Modest Proposal's Avatar
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    Oh wow, I didn't even see that word.

    Sorry, I just thought it said book. In some slight defense of myself, this is the general literature forum... that doesn't really change the fact that I cannot read...

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    Registered User Granny5's Avatar
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    Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown. Tells the truth about the story of American Natives and how they were treated by settlers of North America.
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    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    Gibbon's- Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
    Beware of the man with just one book. -Ovid
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    Alea iacta est. mortalterror's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stlukesguild View Post
    Gibbon's- Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
    Agreed. Although, I am no history buff. Some people recommend starting at the beginning with Herodotus and Thucydides, but since I hated both of their books, I am not one of that number. Gibbon's prose style is enthralling. I was just reading a bit more of him the other day, after I finished my Herodotus, and he is as fresh and winsome as ever. I find I like his narrative better than I do the works of Livy, Tacitus, Polybius, Macaulay, Prescott, or Toynbee.
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    Like Montaigne, I prefer my history in the form of biography. He recommends reading Plutrach's lives. My favourites include Montaigne (Essays), J.S. Mill (Autobiography), Bryan Magee (Confessions of a philosopher). Also - Shakespeare's history plays.

    Straight history books are often just that - too straight - too dry, too boring, too many dates, too little psychological depth, too many lists of non-entities & non-events. (Gibbon, Herodotus, and Thucydides might be exceptions! I must get round to reading them sometime... after Plutarch.)

    I tend to pursue history and geography 'as needed', if absolutely necessary. For instance in reading Ellman's (superb) biography of Joyce I had to look up where Trieste was. But, from context, I learned all I needed to know about the struggle between Austria and Italy over Trieste. Also that struggle seen through the eyes of Ellman & Joyce was made very interesting and very memorable, no straight history book could compete in providing such a "useful" and "pleasurable" overview.

    Which are the best historical/geographical reference works providing good "as needed" support? I'm tempted to buy the Times History of the World (there's an amazing offer on at W.H.Smiths at the moment).

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    Registered User sixsmith's Avatar
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    I can offer a few that i've enjoyed. 'The making of the English working class' by EP Thompson provides a frequently compelling, sometimes controversial account, of how a working class emerged in England in the late 18th early 19th century. His historiography is based in historical Marxism, but it's an approach which, despite its flaws, lends itself to a uniquely revealing view of English society.

    I'll also proffer another Marxist history. 'Roll Jordan Roll' by Eugene Genovese. I read it as an undergrad, however, so it's possible i was just impressed by the attempt to understand the antebellum south in a way which had not been considered previously (I don't think it had).

    I'd probably cop flak from the capital H Historians for saying so, but Robert Hughes' 'The Fatal Shore' is one of the best historical reads around, and certainly one of the best treatments of Australia's formative years.
    Last edited by sixsmith; 11-03-2009 at 07:30 AM.

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    Clinging to Douvres rocks Gilliatt Gurgle's Avatar
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    Here are a few from the Gurgle library:

    Sir Bannister Fletcher’s “A History of Architecture” My copy happens to be the 19th edition.

    “The Story of Civilization” by Will and Ariel Durant. This is an exhaustive ten part series of books that begins with Part I-“Our Oriental Heritage” and ends with Part X – “The Age of Rousseau and Revolution”

    “The Second World War” – Another series covering the history of the second world war by Winston S. Churchill.

    I’ll second St. Luke’s; Gibbons- “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”

    “The Centennial History of the Civil War” series by Bruce Catton
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    Registered User Night_Lamp's Avatar
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    If you're interested in the French revolution, When The King Took Flight
    by Timothy Tackett is a great read. It follows the failed flight of Louis XVI and its social and political implications. The book reads like one of Scott's historical
    fiction novel, but is true. Not at all like a history text.

    Highly enjoyable

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    Registered User Etienne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stlukesguild View Post
    Gibbon's- Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
    There's always the problem that the historical part is a bit dated, and thus should be the basis for further explorations.
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    Exiled Pre-Raphaelite Gustavo L.'s Avatar
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    On Middle Ages:
    The Sorceress and Joan of Arc by Jules Michelet; quite dated but superbly written.
    George Duby’s The Age of the Cathedrals, on art and society between the Xth and XVth centuries.

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    Macaulay's History of England
    S R Gardiner's History of the English Civil War
    Christopher Hill's The World Turned Upside Down / Century of Revolution
    Keith Thomas's Religion and the Decline of Magic
    Norman Cohn's The Pursuit of the Millenium
    Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy

    More recently

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    Jonathan Glover's Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century
    Sven Lindqvist's History of Bombing
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    Of more recent
    Faith is believing what you know ain't so - Mark Twain

    The preachers deal with men of straw, as they are men of straw themselves - Henry David Thoreau

    The way to see faith is to shut the eye of reason - Benjamin Franklin

    The teaching of the church, theoretically astute, is a lie in practice and a compound of vulgar superstitions and sorcery - Leo Tolstoy

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