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Old 06-29-2012, 04:13 PM   #1
taosaur
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Great History Books?

Does anyone have recommendations for some non-fiction history books? A couple that I've really enjoyed were Montaillou (detailed account of life in a 13th century heretical French village, based on Inquisition records) and Son of the Morning Star (dense, well-written account of Custer and the historical context of Little Bighorn). I'm not attached to any particular time period, though I'm not much interested in the 20th century, so say anything pre-industrial.

I'm not really looking for breezy historical biography, but something with a little more scholarly meat on its bones. Any suggestions?
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Old 06-29-2012, 04:26 PM   #2
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If you are interested in the history of science, I highly recommend Science: A History 1543 - 2001 by John Gribbin.
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Old 06-29-2012, 04:31 PM   #3
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Interesting coincidence.. Just picked up three historical non-fictions that were recommended to me.

Life in a Medieval Village - Frances Gies and Joseph Gies
I'm finding this a very interesting look at an English medieval village

The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Big Horn - by Nathaniel Philbrick
Haven't started yet, but for the most part the reviewers on Goodreads like it

Empire of the Summer Moon - by S.C. Gwynne
Again haven't started it yet, but lots of good reviews.
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Old 06-29-2012, 05:45 PM   #4
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Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy by Ian W. Toll.
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Old 06-29-2012, 07:29 PM   #5
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Since you want "scholarly" and "pre-industrial", here are some that I've enjoyed and found interesting through the years:

* Byzantium (3 volumes: The Early Centuries, The Apogee, The Decline and Fall) and Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy by John Julius Norwich

* A History of Venice and The Middle Sea: A History of the Mediterranean by John Julius Norwich

* The Civil War: A Narrative by Shelby Foote (3 volumes: Fort Sumter to Perryville, Fredericksburg to Meridian and Red River to Appomattox)

* The Ottoman Centuries by Lord Kinross

* Istanbul: The Imperial City by John Freely

* A History of Scotland by J. D. Mackie

* The Lion in the North: One Thousand Years of Scotland's History by John Prebble

* Kosovo: A Short History and Bosnia: A Short History by Noel Malcolm

* The Spartans: An Epic History and Sparta and Lakonia: A Regional History 1300 to 362 BC by Paul Cartledge

* Thermopylae: The Battle That Changed the World and Alexander the Great by Paul Cartledge

* On Sparta by Plutarch

* The Enemy at the Gate: Habsburgs, Ottomans, and the Battle for Europe by Andrew Wheatcroft

* Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire by Jason Goodwin

* The Ottoman Empire: The Classical Age 1300-1600 by Halil Inalcik

* Inside Central Asia: A Political and Cultural History of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Iran by Dilip Hiro

* The Arabs: A History by Eugene Rogan

* A History of Iran: Empire of the Mind by Michael Axworthy

* The Crusades Through Arab Eyes by Amin Maalouf

* The Baburnama: Memoirs of Babur, Prince and Emperor by W.M. Thackston Jr.

* A History of Inner Asia by Svat Soucek

* The Empire of the Steppes: A History of Central Asia by René Grousset

* Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise to Western Power by Victor Hanson

* The Histories by Herodotus and George Rawlinson

I'm sure several of these lack ebook editions; I didn't really pay any attention to that when collecting the links. Many or most will have them though. These are mainly "short" and readable works, rather than monumental, comprehensive, multi-volume works spanning multiple feet of shelf space (mine are mainly paper editions), but if you want tips on those you can always return later.

Edit: typo

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Old 06-29-2012, 07:45 PM   #6
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Books by David Hackett Fischer might hit your sweet spot for a combination of scholarship with readability. See:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Hackett_Fischer
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Old 06-29-2012, 08:34 PM   #7
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Montaillou is one of my favorite books of all time. That being said, dare I suggest a 20th century tome, The Great War and Modern Memory, also from my all-time list? This is an interesting question and I have to give it more thought.
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Old 06-29-2012, 09:15 PM   #8
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So far I've added Life in a Medieval Village and Albion's Seed (DH Fischer--looks very interesting) to my list. I guess I'm not much interested in overviews, either, like "History of X from yyyy to zzzz." I prefer either a detailed look at a single event, person or location, or something with a thesis. Although, "Inside Central Asia" looks interesting. My interest in the region stems from a love of yurts


(some creations from my long ago stint in Second Life)
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Old 06-29-2012, 09:27 PM   #9
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I'm not sure if they're scholarly enough, but I really enjoyed "The Great Siege: Malta 1565" by Ernle Bradford, and "Death in Hamburg: Society and Politics in the Cholera Years 1830-1910" by Richard J. Evans. They both provide a window into past cultures during times of great crisis.
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Old 06-29-2012, 10:27 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by taosaur View Post
I prefer either a detailed look at a single event, person or location, or something with a thesis.
Well darn, you should'a said right away. Now I've gotta go look all over again.
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Old 06-29-2012, 10:29 PM   #11
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Well darn, you should'a said right away. Now I've gotta go look all over again.
I didn't figure it out myself until I saw some of the recommendations
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Old 06-29-2012, 10:32 PM   #12
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I second the David Hackett Fischer recommendation--I especially like _Paul Revere's Ride_. Another good US history book is Melton McLaurin, _Celia, A Slave_, a true story of a slave who murdered her master.
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Old 06-30-2012, 11:41 AM   #13
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I didn't figure it out myself until I saw some of the recommendations
It turns out I'm much, much more of a "just give me an overview, will you?" than a "dammit, I want every trifling detail!" kind of guy, so I'm not having a lot of luck digging up what you want so far. It also doesn't help a lot that 80% of my books are in storage... I'll keep checking though.
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Old 07-03-2012, 10:20 AM   #14
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Barbara Tuchman: A Distant Mirror. From Wikipedia:

A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century is a narrative history book by the American historian Barbara Tuchman, first published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1978. It won a 1980 U.S. National Book Award in History[1][a] The main title, A Distant Mirror, conveys Tuchman's idea that the death and suffering of the 14th century reflect that of the 20th century, especially the horrors of World War I.
The book's focus is the Crisis of the Late Middle Ages suffered by Europe in the 14th century: the Hundred Years' War, the Black Plague, the Papal Schism, pillaging mercenaries, anti-Semitism, popular revolts including the Jacquerie in France, the liberation of Switzerland, the Battle of the Golden Spurs, and peasant uprisings against laws that enforced the use of hops in beer. She also discusses the advance of the Islamic Ottoman Empire into Europe, ending in the disastrous Battle of Nicopolis. Yet Tuchman's scope is not limited to political and religious events. She begins with a discussion of the Little Ice Age, a change in climate that reduced the average temperature of Europe until the 18th century, and takes care to describe the lives of the people, from nobles and clergymen, right down to the peasantry.
Tuchman relies much on Froissart's Chronicles.
Much of the narrative is woven around the French nobleman Enguerrand de Coucy. Tuchman chose him as a central figure partly because he lived a relatively long life and could therefore stay in the story during most of the 14th century. (Coucy was born in 1340, seven years before the Black Death began in southern Italy. He died in 1397.) He was also close to much of the action, tied to both France and England. (Coucy was a French noble, but he married Isabella, the eldest daughter of Edward III of England. He and his contemporaries ruthlessly suppressed the Jacquerie.)
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Old 07-03-2012, 12:57 PM   #15
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Rubicon by Tom Holland. A very visceral Roman history.
He has also written Persian Fire and The Forge of Christendom (I think the latter was published as Millennium in the UK.)
I haven't read his latest: In the Shadow of the Sword.

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