Studying for College History, Book recommendations?

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Studying for College History, Book recommendations?

Post by gerbilownage » Wed Jun 05, 2013 12:30 am

I'm mostly a history player, and was looking for some good books to study college history for over the summer. Most of my history knowledge right now comes from The Cartoon History of the Universe Vol. 1/2/3/4/5, which has served me well as a source of survey knowledge.
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Re: Studying for College History, Book reccomendations?

Post by Eddie » Wed Jun 05, 2013 12:46 am

If you look through this thread, there's a ton of (not all history-related) book recommendations.
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Re: Studying for College History, Book recommendations?

Post by Schmidt Sting Pain Index » Wed Jun 05, 2013 10:23 am

While the Cartoon History books are pretty great, they don't give enough of a comprehensive overview of world history. For that, I would recommend World Civilizations by Philip J. Adler for world history and The American Pageant for USH. The Encyclopedia of World History by Stearns is also another great book that covers pretty much everything in great depth and detail. After getting a solid overview, I would read specialized history books. Currently, I'm reading The Penguin History of Latin America, A Concise History of Asia by Cotterell, The Ottoman Centuries by Lord Kinross, and The Story of Britain by Fraser. I also have a bunch of other specialized books I have bought that I will be reading later this summer. For USH, I am not really sure what books to use, as you cant really specialize based on regions. So if anyone has any recommendations on that, please share. Also, does anyone have any recommendations for books on Roman history or French history?
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Re: Studying for College History, Book recommendations?

Post by fett0001 » Wed Jun 05, 2013 11:08 am

The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire - Gibbon
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Re: Studying for College History, Book recommendations?

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Wed Jun 05, 2013 11:40 am

Livius.org is a great resource for Roman history, although there are gaps. I have previously recommended "Alexander to Actium" for the Hellenistic period. I don't really know much about pre-Alexander Greece so I can't make any recommendations there. Subash once gave me a copy of the historical fiction novel "The First Man in Rome", about Marius and Sulla, telling me it would spark my love affair with Roman history: it did, though only for that period of time, and I read it cover to cover and bought the sequel with my own money. I left a lot of book recommendations in that other thread somebody linked to, and I will let those speak for themselves.

One more thing on ancient history: books are cool and all, but ancient history seems to be especially blessed with many good podcasts. I can no longer keep track of them all, but there are several highly regarded podcasts for both Ancient Rome and Byzantium. One of the best and most thorough Byzantine podcasts is done by a guy whose other major podcast is an encyclopedic treatment of the TV show "Friends", which is a detail I find particularly amusing.
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Re: Studying for College History, Book recommendations?

Post by Sniper, No Sniping! » Wed Jun 05, 2013 12:59 pm

If you do like podcasts, I recommend 12 Great Byzantine Rulers by Lars Brownworth as well as Mark Duncan's "History of Rome". Mark Schauss (sp?) also has a very enjoyable and thorough series on Russia.
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Re: Studying for College History, Book recommendations?

Post by kievanrustic » Wed Jun 05, 2013 2:20 pm

For Roman History, Gibbon is great. Also, A Brief History of the Romansby Mary T. Boatwright et al. is quite decent for an overview. It's about 300 pages and a 10 hour read, and it covers everything from the first Latin city-states to the barbarian invasions of Western Rome.
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Re: Studying for College History, Book recommendations?

Post by Kilroy Was Here » Wed Jun 05, 2013 8:08 pm

Parallel Lives is a very nice text for Roman and Greek history, and it has the added bonus of letting you know who's paired with who for those obnoxious "Politician X is paired with Y in Parallel Lives," clues. For Byzantine history I highly recommend the work Lost to the West, it's a really easy to read overview of the empire's existence and had good information in it. If you're looking for something more difficult, The Alexiad and pretty much anything by Procopius are great for anything involving the time they were alive (which happens to be two of the three most tossed up periods of Byzantine History.)
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Re: Studying for College History, Book recommendations?

Post by Tees-Exe Line » Wed Jun 05, 2013 8:13 pm

This thread is a bit troubling to me. Although I don't doubt everyone is right that their recommendations are good for quizbowl purposes, it's unfortunate because the books are on the whole not very good as history.

In that vein, let me recommend two books that are both excellent and good for quizbowl: Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution by Eric Foner, and The Origins of the New South, by C. Vann Woodward. The latter is pretty old but remains authoritative, and the writer is a legendary stylist. Essentially anything by Foner is going to be the last word on the subject; the book I named is also the most comprehensive.
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Re: Studying for College History, Book recommendations?

Post by Tees-Exe Line » Wed Jun 05, 2013 8:33 pm

Weighted Companion Cube wrote:Parallel Lives is a very nice text for Roman and Greek history, and it has the added bonus of letting you know who's paired with who for those obnoxious "Politician X is paired with Y in Parallel Lives," clues. For Byzantine history I highly recommend the work Lost to the West, it's a really easy to read overview of the empire's existence and had good information in it. If you're looking for something more difficult, The Alexiad and pretty much anything by Procopius are great for anything involving the time they were alive (which happens to be two of the three most tossed up periods of Byzantine History.)
This is a good example of what may be good for quizbowl but bad history. Plutarch is undeniably GREAT for quizbowl, but that's terrible because he made up most of the "illustrative," moralizing anecdotes that are QB-famous and he was functionally no closer to or more knowledgeable about the events he wrote on than we are. In many cases, quite the opposite. I haven't read the Alexiad, but its reputation is as extremely subjective. And "The Secret History" is hilarious but totally unreliable, unless what you really want to know is who stuck what in which orifice, and even that's invented.
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Re: Studying for College History, Book recommendations?

Post by Kilroy Was Here » Thu Jun 06, 2013 9:43 am

This is a good example of what may be good for quizbowl but bad history. Plutarch is undeniably GREAT for quizbowl, but that's terrible because he made up most of the "illustrative," moralizing anecdotes that are QB-famous and he was functionally no closer to or more knowledgeable about the events he wrote on than we are
Although I haven't come across much in Plutarch that isn't accurate (outside of things like troop numbers), I'm not going to defend him. I will say you have to remember that the point of his Parallel Lives was to show the same ethics and morals of the two people he compares, so having moralizing anecdotes isn't totally
I haven't read the Alexiad, but its reputation is as extremely subjective
As someone who has read a great deal on Alexius (including the Alexiad) I will defend the repuation of its accuracy of historical events. As a biography it is embellished a bit in it's descriptions of Alexius and his seemingly altruistic motivations to want to conquer everything in sight, but as a chronicle of events as they happened it has been more or less spot on. One could argue about the discrepancies between what it says and what the Latin Chronicle says, but to my knowledge most prominent historians take the Alexiad as accurate.
"The Secret History" is hilarious but totally unreliable, unless what you really want to know is who stuck what in which orifice, and even that's invented.
I'm not going to argue the accuracy of that particular work due to my not having read anything else about the court life of Justinian. If it is indeed accurate (outside of obvious things like dissapearing heads and experiences with geese), knowing things like who was having sex with who is a big part of the court life of any monarch as it shows who might be allied with whom and against whom, and much of a monarch's live is his court life, so it's vital to have an accurate description of that. I guess when I said Procopius was good for history though I was referring more to his Wars and Buildings, which are to my knowledge the only primary sources of their respective subjects outside of archaeology work, so their accuracy is difficult to dispute outside of placements of battles and troop numbers.
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Re: Studying for College History, Book recommendations?

Post by Tees-Exe Line » Thu Jun 06, 2013 10:54 am

You're absolutely right that just because the Alexiad (or any primary source) is biased toward the regime it was drafted to glorify does not mean there's nothing useful in there; quite the contrary. Indeed, I would say it's impossible to write good history without a point of view, and both of the books I cited above are open about a defining argument and point of view. But you have to recognize what of the material is baseless propaganda (or impossible to evaluate given the absence of other sources) and what is valuable. Furthermore, there's the danger that a flawed work of history (or, like Plutarch, something that's not even really intended as history) includes random, trivial information that finds its way into quizbowl clues. You're right that court history is important and has its place, but random, invented stories about people's sex lives should not appear in quiz questions even though the writer imagines they will make people laugh and/or be memorable.

Then you get to clues like the type you referred to above: "this person is compared to X in Parallel Lives," where the fact that someone appears in that book is itself a notable feature of his life, and the player (if he's not familiar with Plutarch) is thinking "which ancient Roman is sort of like a contrived, embellished version of such and such ancient Greek?" More generally, it appears to me that there's an argument abroad to the effect that the presentation of certain historical events or people in flawed-but-notable works of history is itself knowledge worthy of treatment in quizbowl, and that strikes me as a dangerous point of view because it leads to the type of trivial clue I'm criticizing: "they said I can use Plutarch for clues because It's Important; therefore I will use this memorable-but-unverifiable detail from Plutarch as my lead-in."
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Re: Studying for College History, Book recommendations?

Post by at your pleasure » Thu Jun 06, 2013 11:49 pm

In the interest of giving good suggestions,Trevor Bryce's The Kingdom of Hittites is an engaging overview of Hittite history(and probably one of the most readable books on Near Eastern history out there period) and also gives a remarkably clear and concise overview of second millennium history in that region generally. I also suggest as the standard work on the Achaemenids From Cyrus to Alexander by Pierre Briant.
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Re: Studying for College History, Book recommendations?

Post by gerbilownage » Fri Jun 07, 2013 4:13 am

Thanks for the great suggestions guys, I will be sure to add most if not all of the suggested books to my summer reading list. Also, Battles that Changed Warfare is another one of my favorite history books. Great overview of important battles/military innovations
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