A Few of Our Biographies:
Our emphasis with these lists is on readability and overlooked gems. We don't reach for comprehensiveness; rather, we focus on a few works that we find especially good.
We link our choices with Amazon.com because of its abundance of reader commentary and also for the features "Click to Look Inside" and "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought." Other good online booksellers are Powell's Books, Barnes & Noble, AlLibris, AbeBooks, Borders, Books-A-Million, and Tower. For hard-to-find DVDs, consult Docurama.com, GreenCine.com, and ShopPBS.org. And, needless to say, bricks-and-mortar bookstores are wonderful places worthy of support; check out the Independent Online Booksellers Association.
A comprehensive history bibliography aimed at students is included in "A History of the Modern World" by R.R. Palmer, Joel Colton, and Lloyd Kramer (2007, tenth edition). (See here for a HistoryAccess.com Q-and-A interview with Kramer.) For a wealth of reading suggestions in many fields, slightly dated, see "The Reader's Catalog: An Annotated Listing of the 40,000 Best Books in Print in Over 300 Categories" edited by Geoffrey O'Brien (1997, second edition).
Charles Matthews, a noted book reviewer, contributes reviews of histories and biographies to this site. See here for a list of his stuff.
These lists will be updated regularly. If you have a suggestion that you would like us to consider please send it in. Additional reading and viewing suggestions are interspersed throughout this Website with many at "Fifty Important Battles of Modern History."
2. If you're interested in a history topic, find out if an encyclopedia has been compiled about it. The world is full of decent history encyclopedias often available through public libraries - for example, "Encyclopedia of the American Civil War," "Encyclopedia of Modern Dictators," "The Encyclopedia of Trains and Locomotives," "The Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace and Conflict," "The International Encyclopedia of Women and Sports," "Macmillan Encyclopedia of Death and Dying," "The Encyclopedia of the Industrial Revolution in World History," etc. (Note: If you're searching at Amazon try both spellings - "encyclopedia" and "encyclopaedia.")
3. The New York Review of Books offers thousands of archived history and biography book reviews at its Website, dating to the 1960s, available for a modest fee. Here is a search box.
5. At Historum.com you will find good history discussion forums. Members will often answer homework questions if you demonstrate you've done considerable work and are merely stuck on some point or need a bit of fresh perspective. Here is another site with potential along these lines if you're doing military research. For additional history chat rooms see Wilibrord's History Chat Sites. For additional homework help, see this site; click on "Social Studies."
(See also individual historical categories, below.)
"Voice of the Shuttle" (VoS), published by the Universitiy of California-Santa Barbara, edited by Alan Liu, is an annotated portal to many hundreds of Websites, with a strong history section.
"The Internet History Sourcebooks Project" from Fordham University, edited by Paul Halsall, has lots of original source material in well-organized categories.
"Teacher Oz's Kingdom of History" is a portal to history sites - comprehensive, well-laid-out, friendly, fun. It's run by Tracey Oz, a high school history teacher in the Dallas area.
Google Books offers many history books free of charge along with a number of useful book previews. It also has magazine collections, including Life, New York, and Ancestry.
"The Historical Atlas of the Twentieth Century," published by Matthew White, is a map-rich site with a pretty spectacular array of information.
WorldHistoryMatters.org is a portal to world history sites, with links and critiques, organized by regions and time periods.
HistoryMatters.gmu.edu includes a major portal to U.S. history sites.
BestHistorySites.net rates hundreds of U.S. and world history sites.
Great Web Sites for Kids is run by the American Library Association; the link will take you to its World History page.
GilderLehrman.org, published by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, features an excellent search engine for access to a wealth of primary source documents. See here for a Q-and-A interview with the institute's executive director.
Historum.com, noted in the previous section, has good discussion forums.
Xenophon Group International offers a vast array of resources related to military history.
HistoryNet.com offers articles from history magazines published by the Weider History Group; the site is fully searchable and includes many book reviews.
ThinkQuest.org offers links to thousands of Websites created by students on many topics including history.
History News Network, published by George Mason University, is aimed at history teachers. It includes book reviews, feature pieces, and "Hot Topics"; the latter allows teachers to "build an entire class around almost any event in the news."
HistoryGuide.org, aimed at high school and college students, features lectures on European history (in written form) and a good annotated list of history resources on the Web.
AnimatedAtlas.com. Cool stuff including "The Civil War in Four Minutes."
The Online Books Page, a project of the University of Pennsylvania, lists tens of thousands of books available on the Web including some interesting history works.
The OAH Magazine of History is solid and wide-ranging.
BBCHistoryMagazine.com is the Website of the Beeb's excellent history monthly. In addition, the following BBC site offers hundreds of brief, authoritative biographies, alphabetized, from John Adams to Gen. Georgi Zhukov: bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/.
AmericanHeritage.com, "History's Homepage," features dozens of fine articles on American history.
The History Channel Club publishes The History Channel Magazine.
Complete-Review.com. Well-chosen books; summaries of reviews.
Snopes.com offers well-researched discussions of rumors, urban legends, superstitions, gossip, and fabrications. It has a good history section and features historical material in many entries.
BigThink.com has tons of videotaped interviews including a fair number with historians.
Google Videos has a very nice history section, drawing on the BBC, among other sources.
HistoryLearningSite.co.uk. A very ambitious site; particularly strong on British history.
Britannica Online has many free articles and offers a no-cost trial of its premium service.
HistoryWorld.net. Published in Great Britain.
HyperHistory.com. Features a cool wall chart for sale.
A Website run by Hudson High School in Hudson, Florida, has a good article on the history of world history writing.
Lisa's History Room. Lisa Waller Rogers offers a friendly, open-hearted, non-pedantic perspective on history and biography.
PowellHistory.com includes a gallery of history paintings.
ALdaily.com. Arts & Letters Daily publishes three articles every day (six days a week) gleaned from newspapers and magazines, generally worth reading, frequently history-related.
The "American Memory" site published by the Library of Congress offers lots of great stuff.
HistoryCommons.org. An impressive repository of user-generated material.
The Website of the ALOUD speaker series of the Library Foundation of Los Angeles features podcasts of interviews with authors, including many historians.
MillerCenter.org, operated by the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, has a wealth of archived material on American government including many historical video and audio tapes.
Joan's Mad Monarch Series chronicles the personal lives of history's wacky royal personages. The site includes bibliographies and Web links.
MoreOrLess.au.com has short, useful biographies of heroes and villains of the last 100 years. It's run by an Australian named Bruce Harris. It includes sources for more information.
These two Websites offer a wealth of historically interesting speeches, letters, maps, constitutions, newspaper articles, etc., from the American and European past respectively: "AMDOCS: Documents for the Study of American History" and "EuroDocs: Online Sources for European History." For speeches, sermons, lectures, and debates from American history, see americanrhetoric.com. See also gilderlehrman.org and eyewitnesstohistory.com.
LibraryThing.com says it's the world's largest book club and that it "connects you to people who read what you do."
AudioFile, the online version of the print magazine, offers useful reviews of recorded books, paying plenty of attention to history and biography. The Website LibriVox offers free audiobooks of books in the public domain including works by such historians as Gibbon, Beard, Chesterton, and Macaulay.
"A Brief History of the Human Race" by Michael Cook (2005).
"Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History" by David Christian (2004).
"The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal" by Jared Diamond (1992).
"A Short History of the World" by J.M. Roberts (1993).
"The Illustrated History of the World" by J.M. Roberts (2000, 11 volumes).
"Ideas: A History of Thought and Invention, From Fire to Freud" by Peter Watson (2005). See also "A History of Knowledge: Past, Present, and Future" by Charles Van Doren (1991).
"The Times Complete History of the World: The Ultimate Work of Historical Reference" by Richard Overy (2007, seventh edition; an atlas, formerly titled "The Times Atlas of World History"). "If you were allowed only one history book in the whole of your life," writes historian Niall Ferguson, "'The Times Complete History of the World' would be hard to beat because it conveys a sense not only of time, but also of place."
"A History of the Modern World" by R.R. Palmer, Joel Colton, and Lloyd Kramer (2006, tenth edition). One of the few textbooks that deserves the appellation "great." See here for a HistoryAccess.com interview with Kramer.
"The Human Web: A Bird's Eye View of World History" by J.R. McNeill and William H. McNeill (2003). See also William H. McNeill's classic work "The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community" (1963).
"The Classical World: An Epic History From Homer to Hadrian" by Robin Lane Fox (2006). A hefty, wide-ranging, readable survey.
"Egypt, Greece and Rome: Civilizations of the Ancient Mediterranean" by Charles Freeman (2004, second edition).
"Ancient Greece: From Prehistoric to Hellenistic Times" by Thomas R. Martin (1996). The best short introduction to its topic.
"The Ancient Greeks: A Critical History" by John V.A. Fine (1983).
"Greece in the Bronze Age" by Emily Vermeule (1972).
"The Ancient World at War: A Global History" edited by Philip de Souza (2008).
"The New Penguin Atlas of Ancient History: Revised Edition" by Colin McEvedy and John Woodcock (2003). See also "The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Civilizations" by John Haywood (2005).
"Alexander of Macedon, 356-323 B.C." by Peter Green (1992).
"Into the Land of Bones: Alexander the Great in Afghanistan" by Frank L. Holt (2005).
"Achilles" by Elizabeth Cook (2002). A novel.
"300" by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley (1999). A graphic novel; inspiration for the movie.
"The Trial of Socrates" by I.F. Stone (1989).
"The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War" by Thucydides, edited by Robert B. Strassler, with an introduction by Victor Davis Hanson (1996). See also "A Commentary on Thucydides" by Simon Hornblower (1997 to 2009, three volumes).
"The Ancient Economy" by M.I. Finley (1973). A ground-breaking scholarly study, arguing that status and social concerns drove economic decision-making in antiquity. Moses Finley (1912-1986) was hounded out of the U.S. by McCarthyism. He found employment at Cambridge University and became the finest historian of ancient history of his generation.
"The Rise and Fall of Alexandria: Birthplace of the Modern Mind" by Justin Pollard and Howard Reid (2006). A snapshot of the ancient world by way of a great city; very well written.
"The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome's Deadliest Enemy" by Adrienne Mayor (2010).
"The Beginings of Rome: Italy and Rome From the Bronze Age to the Punic Wars (c. 1000-264 BC)" by T. J. Cornell (1995).
"Greek and Roman Slavery" by Thomas Wiedemann (1989). English translations of primary source materials from the Greek and Latin.
"Spartacus and the Slave Wars: A Brief History With Documents" edited by Lynn Hunt et al. (2001). A massive reference work with translations and background information.
"The Gladiators" by Arthur Koestler (1939; a historical novel about Spartacus; see here for an excerpt). See also the novels "Spartacus" by Lewis Grassic Gibbon (1933) and "Spartacus" by Howard Fast (1951) and the film "Spartacus" directed by Stanley Kubrick (1960).
"The Roman Revolution" by Ronald Syme (1939). Syme has had an enormous impact on scholarship of the ancient world.
"The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians" by Peter Heather (2006). An excellent, recent, very well-written study; one of its strengths is its examination of how historical scholarship gets done. A substantial preview is available from Google Books here.
"The Romans" by Kathryn Welch (1998).
"Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic" by Tom Holland (2003).
"Cleopatra" by Michael Grant (1972). See also "Cleopatra: A Biography" by Duane W. Roller (2010) and the novel "The Memoirs of Cleopatra" by Margaret George (1997). See here for a profile of the queen.
"Pontius Pilate: The Biography of an Invented Man" by Ann Wroe (1999).
"Augustus: The Life of Rome’s First Emperor" by Anthony Everitt (2006). Recommended by historical novelist Michelle Moran, this book is a useful companion to two excellent TV series about ancient Rome, the HBO/BBC-produced "Rome" and the BBC-produced "I, Claudius." Everitt includes a good bibliography. See also his "Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome’s Greatest Politician" (2001).
"The Fall of the Roman Empire: A Reappraisal" by Michael Grant (1982). An accessible work by a major scholar; the introduction offers a succinct overview of the empire.
"The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found" by Mary Beard (2008; British title "Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town). See also "The Natural History of Pompeii" edited by Wilhelmina Feemster Jashemski and Frederick G. Meyer (2002).
"Sexuality in Greek and Roman Culture" by Marilyn Skinner (2007).
Historical Novels: "Memoirs of Hadrian" by Marguerite Yourcenar (1954). "Pompeii" by Robert Harris (2004). "A Pillar of Iron" by Taylor Caldwell (1965). "Roman Blood" by Steven Saylor (1991). "Ben-Hur" by Lew Wallace (1880).
DVDs: "What the Ancients Did For Us" presented by Adam Hart-Davis (2006). "The Greeks: Crucible of Civilization" directed by Cassian Harrison (1999). "Colosseum: A Gladiator’s Story" produced by the BBC (2003). "Rome and Pompeii" (2002, part of the PBS Ancient Civilizations series). "The Roman Empire in the First Century" (2001, part of the PBS Empires series). "Rome" produced by HBO (2005, fiction). "Rome: Engineering an Empire" directed by Chris Cassel (2005).
"A History of the Byzantine State and Society" by Warren Treadgold (1997). A major work of scholarship.
"Forgotten Power: Byzantium - Bulwark of Christianity" by Roger Michael Kean (2006). Includes 70-plus maps.
Podcasts: "12 Byzantine Emperors" by Lars Brownworth; highly accessible 20-minute podcasts. See also Brownworth's book "Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire That Rescued Western Civilization" (2009), an outstanding introduction to the field.
"The New Penguin Atlas of Ancient History: Revised Edition" by Colin McEvedy and John Woodcock (2003).
"Is the Bible True?: How Modern Debates and Discoveries Affirm the Essence of the Scriptures" by Jeffery Sheler (1999).
"Who Wrote the Bible?" by Richard Friedman (1997, second edition).
"How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now" by James L. Kugel (2007).
"The Routledge Companion to Christian History" by Chris Cook (2007).
"The Five Books of Moses" by Robert Alter (2007).
"When God Was a Woman" by Merlin Stone (1978).
"Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels" by Craig A. Evans (2006). This book, and the next three, deal with issues surrounding the study of Jesus of Nazareth from a historical perspective.
"Jesus Before Christianity" by Albert Nolan (1976). A groundbreaking work regarded in some circles as a classic.
"The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition" by Paul Rhodes Eddy and Gregory A. Boyd (2007).
"Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium" by Bart D. Ehrman (2001).
"No God But God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam" by Reza Aslan (2005).
"Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes" by Tamim Ansary (2009).
"The Prophet Muhammad: A Biography" by Barnaby Rogerson (2003). See also Rogerson's "Heirs of the Prophet Muhammad: Islam's First Century and the Origins of the Sunni-Shia Split" (2006).
"Europe and the Mystique of Islam" by Maxime Rodinson (1987).
"1001 Inventions: Muslim Heritage in Our World" by Salim T.S. Al-Hassani and the Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilisation (2007, second edition).
"The Camel and the Wheel" by Richard W. Bulliet (1975).
"Osman's Dream: The History of the Ottoman Empire" by Caroline Finkel (2005).
"Islam and the Secular State" by Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im (2008).
DVD: "Islam: Empire of Faith" produced by PBS (2001).
"The Rise of Western Christendom" by Peter Brown (2003, second editon).
"Medieval Panorama" edited by Robert Bartlett (2001).
"The New Penguin Atlas of Medieval History: Revised Edition" by Colin McEvedy (1992). See also "Atlas of the Medieval World" by Rosamond McKittrick (2004).
"The Twelfth Century Renaissance" by Christopher Brooke (1973). Brief and elegant.
"Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages" by Norman Cohn (1970, revised edition). "Full of historical facts which are passed over in silence in most histories," writes Bertrand Russell.
"Agincourt" by Juliet Barker (2006).
"On the Medieval Origins of the Modern State" by Joseph Strayer (1970).
"The Spanish Inquisition" by Cecil Roth (1964). See also "God's Jury: The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World" by Cullen Murphy (2012).
"What is Medieval History?" by John Arnold (2007). What do medieval historians do? What are the current debates in the field?
"The Art of War in the Middle Ages" by Charles Oman (1885). A classic work.
Historical Novel: "Wolf Hall" by Hilary Mantel (2009).
Websites: snowcrest.net/jmike/medieval.html. fordham.edu/halsall/sbook.html. personal.linkline.com/rwreed/hclinks.html#medref. medievalcrusades.com (includes book reviews). the-orb.net is of special interest.
"The Cross and the Crescent: Christianity and Islam From Muhammad to the Reformation" by Richard Fletcher (2003).
"Western Warfare in the Age of the Crusades, 1000 to 1300" by John France (1999). Not just the Crusades - exemplary scholarly examinations of, for example, the castle and the knight.
"A History of the Crusades" by Steven Runciman (1951, etc.). The seminal, classic work of modern scholarship on the topic; three volumes.
DVD: "Crusades" produced by The History Channel and the BBC, written and presented by Terry Jones (1995).
Historical Novella: "Crusade" by Amos Oz (1971).
Websites: medievalcrusades.com (includes book reviews). the-orb.net/encyclop/religion/crusades/crusade.html.
"The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy" by Jacob Burckhardt (1878) and "The Italian Renaissance" by J.H. Plumb (1961). Two classic works, well worth reading but somewhat dated in terms of scholarship. See here for a sample of Burckhardt's work.
"Renaissance" by George Holmes (1997). Beautifully illustrated.
"Niccolo’s Smile: A Biography of Machiavelli" by Maurizio Viroli (1998).
"April Blood: Florence and the Plot Against the Medici" by Lauro Martines (2003).
Historical Novels: "Secrets of the Gonzaga" by Maria Bellonci (1947); one of the great historical novels; "A Prince of Mantua" is the title given to an English translation of part of the book.
"The Reformation: A History" by Diarmaid MacCulloch (2003).
"The German Reformation and the Peasants' War: A Brief History With Documents" by Michael G. Baylor (2012).
"Luther: A Life" by John M. Todd (1982).
"Luther: Right or Wrong?" by Harry J. McSorley (1969).
(The Enlightenment, writes the scholar Jonathan I. Israel, has become in recent years "the single most important topic, internationally, in modern historical studies, and one of crucial significance also in our politics, cultural studies and philosophy." Not every historian agrees with Israel's assessment of the importance of the period [roughly 1690-1790] but his observation is certainly food for thought. See here for a brief mention of how the Enlightenment fits into the concept of modern progress.)
"The Enlightenment: A Brief History With Documents" by Margaret C. Jacob (2001). A good introduction. Part of the Bedford Series in History and Culture.
"The Pursuit of Glory: Europe 1648-1815" by Tim Blanning (2007).
"The Enlightenment" by Roy Porter (2001, revised edition). A succinct overview. See also Porter's "Flesh in the Age of Reason: How the Enlightenment Transformed the Way We See Our Bodies and Souls" (2003).
"The Roads to Modernity: The British, French and American Enlightenments" by Gertrude Himmelfarb (2004).
"Radical Enlightenment" by Jonathan I. Israel (2001). The first volume of a trilogy completed in 2011.
Historical Novel: "The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation, Volume I - The Pox Party" by M.T. Anderson (2007).
Website: wsu.edu/~dee/ENLIGHT/ENLIGHT.HTM. Includes links.
"Twelve Who Ruled: The Year of the Terror in the French Revolution" by R.R. Palmer (1941).
"Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution" by Simon Schama (1989).