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Recommended History Books

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Recommended History Books
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LaurensSocial EditorUser avatarPosts: 2950Joined: Sat Mar 20, 2010 11:24 pmLocation: Norwich UK Gender: Male

Post Recommended History Books

Hello,

I always felt slightly put off history from the way it was taught at my school - a seemingly endless cycle of Romans, Tudors, Victorians and WW2, not only that but a rather odd inclination to focus on the mundane rather than the interesting. For example we learned an awful lot about the rationing and evacuees during WW2, but very little about the battles fought and all the fascinating espionage stories and such, or we learned how Romans built mosaics, villas and roads and little else that I remember.

So what I'm looking for is books on history that will grip me and spark my interest in history in a similar way that Carl Sagan's 'Cosmos' rekindled my interest in science. I know history is a big topic, but I'm willing to look into any suggestions, and if it narrows things down a little, I am interested in the Enlightenment and 20th Century history from what I've already read about it.

So does anyone have any books that might rekindle the passion of someone who had it all sucked out of them in boring history classes?

Thanks
Laurens
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Sat Mar 17, 2012 10:20 am
DeanBlog EditorUser avatarPosts: 593Joined: Sun May 22, 2011 1:49 pmLocation: United Kingdom Gender: Pinecone

Post Re: Recommended History Books

If you have any particular interest in the 20th century , especially World War II, (e.g. the Nazi 'rise to power') , then why not have a look at the historical dissertations of R. J. Evans, such as his "The Third Reich" trilogy. I found the last book in that series to be particularly fascinating indeed, "The Third Reich At War". Perhaps you'd also like Martin Gilbert's "Second World War", also an intriguing historical and political work, albeit the latter concerns the history of the events of WWII a little more, while the former is a fusion of History and Politics.

Eric Hobsbawm focuses a little more closely on the nineteenth century in his "The Age Of-" series, as I like to call it. I found "The Age of Revolution" to be the most fascinating work of them all, but then there's also "Age of Capital", "Age of Empire", and "Age of Extremes", wherein he discusses the "long nineteenth century" (at term that originated with him) -- e.g. the period of Marxism in the 19th century, and the pro-worker ideologies that were on the rise at the time. Along with associate political activists and historical essayists such as Ludwig Von Mises, and so forth.

John L. Gaddis's "The Cold War: A New History" ,see Amazon page. While his works have been criticized for their evident political biases, he provides a comprehensive account of the Cold War, and the rampant conflicts between the United States and the USSR. There is also a spade of books that have been published by great historians on the history of the Soviet Union.

"Guns, Germs, and Steel", from Jared Diamond, who has written a fairly comprehensive and lengthy tome on the history of the Earth's human civilizations over the past 10 millennia or so, and the attempts of certain societies and armies to conquer others, which ones were effective, etc. As for the enlightenment, I am not entirely sure. I'll get back to you on that. :)
~~L.N

“You ask ‘Is there any Florida?’ I’m inclined to answer ‘No.’ There is no Florida, there’s only this, this England, which nauseates my soul.” – DH Lawrence


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Sat Mar 17, 2012 2:37 pm
LaurensSocial EditorUser avatarPosts: 2950Joined: Sat Mar 20, 2010 11:24 pmLocation: Norwich UK Gender: Male

Post Re: Recommended History Books

Cheers Dean, I'll look into those :)
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Sat Mar 17, 2012 2:44 pm
The Felonius PopePosts: 324Joined: Wed Feb 08, 2012 12:19 amLocation: Arizona

Post Re: Recommended History Books

The Third Reich At War is one of my favorite books as well. I also recommend Asimov's Chronology of The World.
Sat Mar 17, 2012 7:59 pm
theyounghistorian77ContributorUser avatarPosts: 726Joined: Wed Feb 17, 2010 10:43 amLocation: United Kingdom Gender: Male

Post Re: Recommended History Books

if you want a general overview, than "The Outline of History" by HG Wells or Kenneth Clark's "Civilisation: A personal View" could be recommended, although perhaps a little bit of caution is urged as both reflect the times in which they were created.

as for World War II; see Richard Evans' "The Third Reich" trilogy has already been mentioned and i would also place a recommendation on it, well i would seeing as i have already cited Evans more times in this Forum and elsewhere than i care to count :). If you want to be a little more high-minded about the last in the series, than one shold be aware of the "Evans-Snyder dispute" as both historians have subjected each other's works to considerable criticism, especially over the finer points of East-European history and the sufferings of the victims of both the Nazi and Soviet dictatorships. But if you really want an understanding of Hitler; than Ian Kershaw's Two part biography ("Hubris" and "Nemesis") is an absolute must read. I'd also recommend "The Hitler Myth: Image and reality in the third reich" and "The Nazi Dictatorship: Problems and Perspectives of Interpretation" although the latter is not really a book for beginners and in places it assumes the reader has a more advanced knowledge of current acedemic debate. If you're going to get it than try and get the 4th edition as it covers the controversy surrounding Daniel Goldhagen's "Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust"

Another book which shouldn't go amiss here is Michael Burleigh's "The Third Reich: A New History", which explores how the nazis exhibited a "political religion" and how elites and ordinary germans alike ''chose to abdicate their individual critical faculties in favor of a politics based on faith, hope, hatred and sentimental collective self-regard for their own race and nation." (p1.)
"Politics is weird, and creepy, and now I know lacks even the loosest attachment to anything like reality." - Shep Smith
Sun Mar 18, 2012 11:20 am
LaurensSocial EditorUser avatarPosts: 2950Joined: Sat Mar 20, 2010 11:24 pmLocation: Norwich UK Gender: Male

Post Re: Recommended History Books

Thanks everyone :)

As an aside, (whilst I wait until I can afford more books) anyone got any favourite history documentaries they'd like to share?
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Sun Mar 18, 2012 12:24 pm
theyounghistorian77ContributorUser avatarPosts: 726Joined: Wed Feb 17, 2010 10:43 amLocation: United Kingdom Gender: Male

Post Re: Recommended History Books

Laurens wrote:Thanks everyone :)

As an aside, (whilst I wait until I can afford more books) anyone got any favourite history documentaries they'd like to share?


the obvious one is the "world at war" narrated by lawrence olivier :)
"Politics is weird, and creepy, and now I know lacks even the loosest attachment to anything like reality." - Shep Smith
Sun Mar 18, 2012 12:50 pm
LaurensSocial EditorUser avatarPosts: 2950Joined: Sat Mar 20, 2010 11:24 pmLocation: Norwich UK Gender: Male

Post Re: Recommended History Books

theyounghistorian77 wrote:
Laurens wrote:Thanks everyone :)

As an aside, (whilst I wait until I can afford more books) anyone got any favourite history documentaries they'd like to share?


the obvious one is the "world at war" narrated by lawrence olivier :)


Ah yes, I do believe my brother has this on dvd, I'll have to ask if I can borrow it.
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Sun Mar 18, 2012 1:00 pm
Anachronous RexLeague LegendUser avatarPosts: 2008Joined: Mon Jun 07, 2010 4:07 pmLocation: Kansas City, MO Gender: Male

Post Re: Recommended History Books

The Best War Ever can be a refreshing change of pace from the normal WWII literature. Sadly it mostly concerns itself with America, so maybe less interesting for a Brit.

The Perfect Heresy is a good one if your interested in medieval history at all. Actually there's a whole literature of history as written by journalists that is really quite good. Not all historians like it, because journalists tend not to be as rigorous and are sometimes over-simplistic, but they also tend to be far more interesting to read and for most purposes are just as good.
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Sun Mar 18, 2012 2:27 pm
theyounghistorian77ContributorUser avatarPosts: 726Joined: Wed Feb 17, 2010 10:43 amLocation: United Kingdom Gender: Male

Post Re: Recommended History Books

Anachronous Rex wrote:The Best War Ever can be a refreshing change of pace from the normal WWII literature. Sadly it mostly concerns itself with America, so maybe less interesting for a Brit.


As a Brit who also happens to have the complete "why we fight" series (a fine example of well done American propaganda btw) i wouldn't necessarily say that a mere focusing on one aspect of the war somehow diminishes the interestingness of a paticular book (but then i guess i would say this wouldn't i? :P). Im sure if Laurens were to pick up say, "Ivans War" by Catherine Merridale (which focuses on the lives of ordinary Soviet Troops) and/or Antony Beevor's "Stalingrad" (which focuses upon the eponymous battle), he would find the read as easily enjoyable as what you cited :)

---

If one wants another example of a well done propaganda film, than my choice would have to be the soviet film "Alexander Nevsky" which has become fully available on youtube. Even though it tells the tale of the medieval prince holding off a 13th century "German" invasion, the hints to an up and coming Nazi invasion are quite evident; such as the Swastika on the cleric's hat, those Eagles one can see, and those suspicious looking helmets on some of the foot soldiers. Nevsky himself is loaded with Stalinist rhetoric and the score of the film is by none other than Sergei Prokofiev :)

even though one can easily see through the propaganda, its still actually a good action film (with a lengthy battle scene) with good acting anyways so do be sure to check it out. :)


---

Another enjoyable flick (of a different kind) i would recommend is Der Untergang, which is better than what some of the numerous parodies make it out to be.

---

Anachronous Rex wrote:The Perfect Heresy is a good one if your interested in medieval history at all. Actually there's a whole literature of history as written by journalists that is really quite good. Not all historians like it, because journalists tend not to be as rigorous and are sometimes over-simplistic, but they also tend to be far more interesting to read and for most purposes are just as good.



By the way im currently looking for books and studies looking into the strains and development of medieval Anti-semitism, not just in Germany but across Europe too (to bolster a project im currently doing). Im sure you can point me in a useful direction :geek: :P
"Politics is weird, and creepy, and now I know lacks even the loosest attachment to anything like reality." - Shep Smith
Tue Mar 20, 2012 4:55 am
Anachronous RexLeague LegendUser avatarPosts: 2008Joined: Mon Jun 07, 2010 4:07 pmLocation: Kansas City, MO Gender: Male

Post Re: Recommended History Books

theyounghistorian77 wrote:
Anachronous Rex wrote:The Perfect Heresy is a good one if your interested in medieval history at all. Actually there's a whole literature of history as written by journalists that is really quite good. Not all historians like it, because journalists tend not to be as rigorous and are sometimes over-simplistic, but they also tend to be far more interesting to read and for most purposes are just as good.



By the way im currently looking for books and studies looking into the strains and development of medieval Anti-semitism, not just in Germany but across Europe too (to bolster a project im currently doing). Im sure you can point me in a useful direction :geek: :P

One of my favorites, actually:
http://books.google.com/books/about/The_formation_of_a_persecuting_society.html?id=L1eIIRg39sgC
Our prefrontal lobes are too small. Much too small. That's a problem of the birth canal, I'm very sorry to say for those that like their birth canals... tight.
-C. Hitchens.
Tue Mar 20, 2012 12:54 pm
theyounghistorian77ContributorUser avatarPosts: 726Joined: Wed Feb 17, 2010 10:43 amLocation: United Kingdom Gender: Male

Post Re: Recommended History Books

Anachronous Rex wrote:
theyounghistorian77 wrote: By the way im currently looking for books and studies looking into the strains and development of medieval Anti-semitism, not just in Germany but across Europe too (to bolster a project im currently doing). Im sure you can point me in a useful direction :geek: :P

One of my favorites, actually:
http://books.google.com/books/about/The_formation_of_a_persecuting_society.html?id=L1eIIRg39sgC


Thank you very much :)
"Politics is weird, and creepy, and now I know lacks even the loosest attachment to anything like reality." - Shep Smith
Tue Mar 20, 2012 1:24 pm
Dragan GlasContributorUser avatarPosts: 2944Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 1:55 amLocation: Ireland Gender: Male

Post Re: Recommended History Books

Greetings,

It depends on what you consider "interesting", Laurens...

In relation to Moore's books, A History of Medieval Europe is a good introduction to this period.

Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England is a "history book of the year" winner.

It's difficult to find history books on the Enlightenment which aren't simply anthologies of writings of the period - "Enlightenment Readers".

However, if you'd prefer history of science books...

Holmes' The Age of Wonder is a very readable account of the history of science during the Age of Enlightenment. So also Gribbin's, Science: A History 1543 - 2001

Darwin's Armada: Four Voyagers to the Southern Oceans and Their Battle for the Theory of Evolution is a fascinating account of the voyages of Darwin, Wallace, Huxley and Hooker and their contributions to the theory of evolution.

An older book, which is well-worth reading, is Mendeleyev's Dream: The Quest for the Elements,which covers the history of chemistry.

Kindest regards,

James
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Wed Mar 21, 2012 1:56 am
malicious_blokeUser avatarPosts: 305Joined: Tue Feb 28, 2012 10:12 pmLocation: Proper Westcountry Gender: Male

Post Re: Recommended History Books

theyounghistorian77 wrote:
Laurens wrote:Thanks everyone :)

As an aside, (whilst I wait until I can afford more books) anyone got any favourite history documentaries they'd like to share?


the obvious one is the "world at war" narrated by lawrence olivier :)


+1 for this.

Another good one I saw on the military channel is a russian made one that focuses on the eastern front. Plus all the episodes are available on youtube :)

Soviet Storm - WW2 in the east
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Wed Mar 21, 2012 11:35 am
DepricatedZeroChat ModeratorUser avatarPosts: 1333Joined: Fri May 28, 2010 11:43 amLocation: Cincinnati, OH Gender: Pinecone

Post Re: Recommended History Books

http://www.amazon.com/The-Campaigns-Nap ... 46&sr=1-12

The price on this has apparently shot way the hell up since I bought a copy. It's actually a really good read, if you're into that sort of thing. It gets into Napoleon's theories on warfare, how he improvised his battle strategies, and so forth. It's really well written, nothing like a dry textbook. I've gotten lost in it for hours. I don't recommend dropping $250 lightly of course, but if you can find a cheap copy floating around its definitely worth picking up.
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Wed Mar 21, 2012 4:21 pm
nudger1964Posts: 185Joined: Sat Nov 13, 2010 4:02 pm

Post Re: Recommended History Books

there was a UK tv series a few years back( ok, probably 10 yrs or more),
i think it was probably channel 5, but may have been 4.
It was basically explaining how great battles in history were won and lost using the format of board war games. They had experts take each side and run the battle as a war game, and then they showed how the battle was actually conducted.
At the time i thought this was an amazing concept and really enjoyed it. I would love to watch them again if only i could remember what the program was called.
does anyone remeber it?

edit... i think i found it. It wasnt quite as a remember it as i forgot it was also the format of a game show. It (i think) was called "time commanders", and it was actually a bbc 2 show. ok, its a game show of sorts, but if only all game shows were as good as this one.
The reason i liked it was becuase it actually showed how battle tactics worked, or not.
Wed Mar 28, 2012 11:04 am
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