Must Read Historical Books

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Must Read Historical Books

maj 31, 2007, 7:58 pm

If you had to suggest 5 books that taken together could give a somewhat broad (and compelling) view of the last couple thousand years... Which ones would they be?

jun 5, 2007, 11:08 am

5 books for two thousand years is a very difficult task. The only books that give that type of coverage are reference which are not compelling reading. Some suggestions, The Rise of the West by William McNeil. It covers about 1500 years and was a forerunner to Guns, Germs and Steel in the way it handled the interaction of history and geography. East Asia the Great Tradition a college textbook for pre-industrial Asia. I get a lot of information from volumes 1 and 2 of the Penguin Atlas of World History, maps on one side and text on the other. The World History Atlas by DK publishing also is a great reference. The Encyclopedia of World History by Peter N. Stearns covers the material but is not compelling reading. J. M. Roberts has a one volume world history and a similar volume on modern Europe. I have not been impressed with the information in Mr. Roberts volumes and they are only mentioned because they do cover the material.
Not what I feel is a real good answer but in the first two books and the Penguin Atlases there is a lot of information. The McNeil I read 30 years ago and it is still a favorite.

jun 5, 2007, 11:18 am

Reference books aren't compelling reading? Uh oh, I've been doing it wrong all these years. ;)

jun 5, 2007, 1:00 pm

Kennneth Clark'sCivilisation is a well received history of the West from the fall of Rome to the present. it was also a series on PBS.
Another long-range history is Mankind & Mother earth by Arnold Toynbee which begins with the biosphere & covers all civilizations that have arison on our planet from the first agricultual settlements in China & the middle-east to our world today (pub. date 1976)
For coverage of the last 500 years, Jacques Barzun has written From dawn to decadence to chronicle cultural life in the West from 1500 to the present.
These are all "good reads" & are more in the style of pepular non-fiction than reference books.

jun 6, 2007, 1:57 pm

#3 fleela
I just meant not compelling for most people. I have read large portions of the reference books I listed. I have also been known to sit down and read the Encyclopedia Britannica. I am glad to see I am not alone.

okt 26, 2020, 1:49 pm

Trying to revive this group!
Top 5 history musts for the last 2000 years:

1. Sapiens
2. 1968
3. The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers
4. Black's Law Dictionary
5. The Bible