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Historical Books - Non-Fiction

Discussion in 'Historical Fiction' started by Switchback, Mar 3, 2008.

  1.  
    Switchback

    Switchback Well-Known Member

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    What are your favorites? I love Ambrose, especially Undaunted Courage and Nothing Like It in the World, also a fan of Nathanial Philbrick. Sea of Glory and Mayflower are great.

    Give me some other good historical books. I've heard Devil in the White City is good, also want to someday read all of Shelby Foote's Civil War series. Almost picked up a history of mapmakers today that sounded great, but i'm way behind in my to read pile....
     
  2.  
    Montero

    Montero Senior Member

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    Alice Clark - The Working Lives of Women in the Seventeenth Century - actually written as a thesis, very readable as well as thoroughly researched and detailed. The working lives of women then were a lot more varied than you'd think in the post Victorian age - basically, as she explains, in the era of crafts and working at home, many women either worked in the family business, or sometimes had their own separate trade. In smallholding they were an essential part of the working group. This continued after childbirth and into child rearing. Also the husband would be working at or near the home, so also could look after/train the children. Once you get to industrialisation, there is a workplace/home split and women's contributions to the family income, particularly post child birth tended to plummet and so did their status.

    CV Wedgewood's trilogy on Charles I - basically the origins of the English Civil War, the war itself and the aftermath. Again readable and comprehensive.
     
  3.  
    Lacedaemonian

    Lacedaemonian A Plume of Smoke

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    Switchback that is a massive question you are asking. Which histories interest you?
     
  4.  
    Switchback

    Switchback Well-Known Member

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    Lacedaemonian, I'm a fan of American history, from the finding (not founding) all the way through the Civil War. I also love the period from the Dark ages through the high middle ages in Europe. The Crusades are a particular favorite...
     
  5.  
    Lacedaemonian

    Lacedaemonian A Plume of Smoke

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  6.  
    Gav

    Gav Well-Known Member

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    "Self Deprecation is just ONE of my many fine poin
    I don't understand the question.

    Do you mean hisorical fiction based on real events? e.g. Sharpe
    Or do you mean fiction about real events? (not sure on examples...)
    Or do you mean ficion set in a particular section of history but not necessarily about that section of history?

    All of the above?

    I like Sharpe (because I love swashbuckling stuff) and I like the Aubrey-Maturin books because they bring considerably more to the table than a simple tale of action. I also enjoyed Cryptonomicon because, although it is a novel, you can feel that you are actually learning something while you read it.
     
  7.  
    Switchback

    Switchback Well-Known Member

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    Gav, I'm talkin' non-fiction. Lac, that book looks interesting...
     
  8.  
    Gav

    Gav Well-Known Member

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    "Self Deprecation is just ONE of my many fine poin
    Ok. Bit dumb there. Shows what happens when you are not paying attention.

    I've read a fair few history books so it depends on what you are looking for. I've been through fads on lots of topics.

    I really enjoyed Gheghis Khan by John Man. And also Atilla the Hun.
    And First Crusade (though I forget who wrote it).
    Then there's the pelopnesian War: Thucydides or Donald Kagan. Both are excellent.
    Mark Urban wrote the excellent "Rifles!" which is an excellent account of the Greenjackets in the Napoleonic war.

    At the moment I am really into ancient history. So I've just been reading Xenophon and the like.
     
  9.  
    Switchback

    Switchback Well-Known Member

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    Just picked up at lunch today "A Distant Mirror - The Calamitous 14th Century" by Barbara W. Tuchman. Sounds great. Anyone read this???
     
  10.  
    Switchback

    Switchback Well-Known Member

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    Some other personal favorites: 1776 and John Adams by McCullough. Team of Rivals my Doris Kearns Goodwin. The First Crusade by Asbridge.
     
  11.  
    clovis-man

    clovis-man Prehistoric Irish Cynic

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    Yes. Anything by Barbara Tuchman is worthwhile reading. Her absolute best is The Guns of August, all about the first fateful month of WW I. See also, Stilwell and the American Experience in China and The March of Folly. All her books are exhaustively researched and documented. So they can be challenging reads, but well worth the effort.

    Now that she has passed on, I have found a new author that seems to be a worthy successor: Margaret Macmillan. Her recent book, Paris 1919, is a revelation. It concerns the monumental decisions that went into the creation of the Versailes treaty and the inevitable impact on subsequent world affairs, right down to what's going on in the middle east now. Hard to put it down.

    Jim
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2008
  12.  
    Switchback

    Switchback Well-Known Member

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    Thanks clovis, I'm excited about this book. I have heard of Guns of August. Won a pulitzer, didn't it???
     
  13.  
    ghost8772

    ghost8772 Well-Known Member

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    only historical I ever got into was Carry on Mr. Bowditch. biography of 18th century American Mathemetician. haven't found a copy in 20 years though.
     
  14.  
    littlemissattitude

    littlemissattitude Super Moderator

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    How about this: 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, by Charles C. Mann.

    Here's the review I wrote on my blog after I read it:

     
  15.  
    Musky

    Musky Well-Known Member

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    I'm about halfway through the 1491.... Mann book littleissattitude mentioned, and really like it.

    David McCullough was mentioned above. His books The Great Bridge, and The Path Between the Seas were both very good reads. The first recounts the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. The second the building of the Panama Canal.
     
  16.  
    clovis-man

    clovis-man Prehistoric Irish Cynic

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    Taking a portion of the quote:

    "He even presents new evidence that the Amazon region, long thought to have been sparsely settled by small and unsophisticated groups, never extensively farmed due to the unsuitability of the soil, was actually was one of those highly managed areas that for thousands of years supported large, fairly advanced cultures that subsisted mostly by farming rather than by hunting and gathering. Some of this information has not been welcomed, especially by environmentalists, including the idea that part of the management of the Amazon was done through what he calls a “slash and char” process that allowed the inhabitants to add charcoal to the soil and enhanced its suitability for farming."

    As opposed to "Swidden" or "slash & burn", I suppose. Not being critical and not trying to fuel a separate discussion, but I am curious: What evidence does the author present to support his conclusions?

    Jim
     
  17.  
    Switchback

    Switchback Well-Known Member

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    I actually had 1491 in my hands the other day at the book shop but ended up leaving it at the store. After reading your review, I think I'll head back soon. Thanks....
     
  18.  
    littlemissattitude

    littlemissattitude Super Moderator

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    Gosh, Jim...it's been almost a year since I read the book, so I can't tell you offhand exactly what his evidence was. I'm off to lunch right now, but I'll take a look later. Anyone else who is reading or has read this want to chime in...perhaps over on the history board?

    And, yes, Switchback, I would encourage you to read this one. Aside from being an interesting book, I also found it immensely readable...not dry or dull at all, which it could very easily have been.
     
  19.  
    Snowdog

    Snowdog Well-Known Member

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    Here are a few I've read and have no hesitation in recommending:

    John Julius Norwich's 3-part history of Byzantium. A thoroughly entertaining breeze through more than a thousand years of glory and, ultimately, tragedy and betrayal.

    Norwich also wrote a history of the Normans in Sicily, another two-parter. Try and get them sparately, unless you're a weightlifter.

    I also have his history of Venice but have yet to read it.

    Xenophon's Retreat By Robin Waterfield - about Xenophon's march after the battle of Cunaxa. But also tries to give a wider view of the Greek and Persian world of the time.

    The Great Seige: Malta 1565 by Ernle Bradford - an totally gripping account of the seige of Malta by the Ottoman Empire and the heroic defence of the Hospitallers and people of Malta.

    Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee - by Dee Brown. A series of tales of the last days of the American Indians as they gradually lose their lands to the white settlers. Dee Brown also wrote a history of the settlers but I haven't read it yet.

    Quite frankly, these books usually beat novels about the same events, if well-written.
     
  20.  
    Montero

    Montero Senior Member

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    Julius Caesar - Commentaries on the Gallic War (de Bello Gallico).

    Can't remember the edition/translation I read, but it was gripping. The notes and explanation of the political arena that Caesar was playing to was a useful frame for the picture. The prose was crisp and the pace brisk.
     
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