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A bit about my own interest - I am currently researching my family history which has led me down all kinds of meandering paths. My main interests are British history from the Victorians into the 20thC but any period has its own little gems to throw up. Because I'm an avid traveller to Greece I am also a bit obsessed with Greek social history too. I find fairly recent history (the past couple of hundred years) especially fascinating, because it is so close to home and touches on things my older relatives actually remember, which makes it seem very human to me. I wish I'd been equally interested when my grandparents were alive - there's so much I've missed out on that I will never know about now so, a word to the rest of you - if you have any really annoying old relatives with whom you don't think you have anything in common, just try and get them talking about 'the old days' - especially regarding what was different then from the world we live in now - I bet you'll suddenly discover what incredibly interesting people they really are and they will love you for it (and maybe leave you all their hidden fortunes - no, no! That's not why we're doing this!).
Maybe it's a good idea to start off with everyone chipping in a bit about their favourite period of history or what it is that interests them about the subject.
I can't believe I am so enthralled by history these days as I hated it at school - but then I do believe we had a particularly boring history teacher - naming no names (oh, blow it, she was Miss Collins, but I'm not telling you teh name of the school, she might sue me.)
My own historical interests lie in books (surprise!). I love a good Victorian mystery or bone chilling horror. The Quincunx by Charles Palliser is probably my favourite book of all time and I'd recommend it to anyone interested in Victorian life.
My own personal history: Italian immigrants who arrived in NYC in one way or another. I have lots of stories but very little hard data. Still, the stories more than make up for that lack.
Currently, I'm reading Cold Mountain set during the Civil War. It's a slow read, but I think I like it so far.
ETA - And isn't it weird that none of our 'most shared' books are social history ones? Time to get swapping details, I think!
Also, I have to say, that a number of my books don't look anything like "social history" but in reality are. It's just that they are focused on one period of time.
I have just posted a petition that desparately needs all the signatures it can get. Thank you so much
For example, there is a debate going on between readers of Matthias Kuntzel (author of Jihad and Jew-Hatred: Islamism, Nazism, and the Roots of 9/11) and Andrew Bostom (author of The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims) and the much anticipated The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, due out by June. If violent jihad is inherent in Islam itself and traces itself through history (Bostom's argument) as opposed to primarily an invention of the Muslim Brotherhood of 20th century, spurred on by Nazism, then there are radical changes that need to be made in the way governments and concerned individuals seek to confront the jihad threat.
But besides the whole jihad issue, I'm also interested in how Islam and the Shia in particular connect with and find common cause with nonMuslim populations in fighting perceived economic and societal oppression and exploitation. This gets into issues such as socialism, capitalism, race relations, and more.
As for Barack Obama's book Dreams from My Father, you are correct that it's not much of a politics book. But it's way more than a family history book--it's an invitation to join Obama's journey through the world, offering observations about societal differences, struggles, with a view to integrating within oneself the parts of one's being that have a place in geographical, cultural, and societal places distinct one from another. He doesn't preach, he's more talking outloud, leaving the reader to reach his own conclusions. One thing for sure, the book shows an Obama very, very different--even opposite--from the one his critics are portraying with excerpts lifted out of context.
Yes, I am into genealogy, my website is www.shawgenealogy.org .
I read extensively in the American Civil War, enough to qualify me as a "buff', I suppose. I think for any American and others who might want to get a clearer understanding of why the US is what it is at the moment, some reading in this area is a must.
Since we're on the theme of social history, I can talk about two books, both of which I've recommended in another thread (so if there's an overlap, forgive me!).
One is Mary Chestnut's Civil War, which is the diary during the Civil War of Mary Chestnut, a South Carolinian member of the plantation aristocracy who was married to a prominent Confederate politician, James Chestnut. The diary is an amazing look at the attitudes and life of the southern aristocracy at that time.
Sherman's rationale for burning his way from Atlanta to Savannah was that the South had to be broken, particularly its women, whom he felt were urging their men on and wouldn't let them quit. If Mary Chestnut was representative (and I think she was of her class), then he was absolutely correct. The initial arrrogance, the uncertainty, then the fear and bitterness--and the increasing difficulty of living--are all there, along with the dramatic recording of trying to escape Sherman's army.
The other book that I still haven't finished but really like is Drew Gilpin Faust's This Republic of Suffering, which talks about the way Americans of that era, from Mary Todd Lincoln to ordinary people on both sides of the war dealt with the carnage. i wasn't impressed with the first chapter which deals with the sheer numbers of military deaths, but that's because I've read so much that I KNOW how many died at Gettyburg, Antietam, etc, and that there were nearly 650,000 deaths--military deaths from the war. I've seen the photographs before and have 3 or 4 books with reproductions from Matthew Brady and others, so again, for me that wasn't a big deal. But for others reading for the first time, she does an excellent job, particularly for those who are aghast at what are--comparatively speaking--the relatively trivial numbers of American war-related military deaths in the Iraq War--about 0.5% of the American Civil War deaths.
She covers what would be to most of us a macabre subject--death and dying, and how it was handled during an extraordinary time. She details the concept of the Good Death in a country that was very religious at the time, how funerals were handled, the difficulty of recovering bodies, the need for and many times lack of closure for grieving families, how grieving was handled in those days. It is an excellent book. Faust is the first female President of Harvard, and quite a scholar in this era. she's written several other books, most notably Mothers of Invention, about women in the slave-holding South that I intend to get one of these years (my TBR shelves--plural, yes--are so crammed right now I've stopped ordering books until my new bookcase is finished--whatever month that will be).
In the meantime, I've noticed a number of comments by members of this group on biographies or memoirs. You may want to consider joining the group called "Biographies, Memoirs, and Autobiographies." It has less action than I'd like to see and your participation would be welcome. There is certainly plenty of overlap between biography and social history.
Speaking of fiction, I have just finished The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (and I know there is another thread devoted entirely to that book too which I plan to aim myself at when I have the time). For those who don't know, the book is set in 12th C England and the story is centred around the building of a cathedral. The middle ages aren't really my period so I felt I'd learnt quite a bit from this book and the story and characters are utterly absorbing. I'd highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys big, fat historical fiction. Has anyone else read it?
I am interested broadly in social history, particularly British.
Currently Victorian and Edwardian working class experiences, but also the English civil war and the Regency periods are latent interests which I hope I can build on over time.
Although others in my family are long term genealogical researchers, I have done a bit of work on 1 part of my family in 2006, and have just started a similar piece of work on a completely different part.
So this group should be helpful in several respects (not the least being a fruitful source of interesting literature - I hope).
I think one of my all-time favourite books about the Victorians was The Victorian House (which was also televised, though I thought the book was way superior). Despite the title, it is much more about the people in the house than the house itself. It goes from room to room discussing the people whose lives revolved around that room - ie, the cook in the kitchen, the scullerymaid in the scullery to the owners of the house up in the drawing room (I believe there is also an Edwardian House too, though I haven't read it yet).
A couple of others you might like are The Victorian Underworld by Donald Thomas and The Table-Rappers; the Victorians and the Occult - both of them rather different from the usual historical fare and focussing on the types of people who are so often overlooked by many historians.
I think I may have read The Victorian Underworld, certainly a book of that title, though not sure of the author.
It is a really interesting subject. I am also fascinated by the underworld slang of the period - any books by Eric Partridge I snap up. He wrote about the english language in general, but wrote fascinatingly about slang, cant, hobson jobson and the like in several of his books.