Books on History


This is a, very partial, list of books about history that you might enjoy reading. Every book found here comes from my personal library and is reviewed based on a (yes, full!) reading. So if you read these reviews, you may be able to avoid some duds, and, with a bit of luck, find what is really worth reading for the person interested in history. If you are interested in buying a book, please click the link to or below the review - they are likely to offer the best available price.

Guns, Germs and Steel: A Short History of Everybody for the Last 13,000 Years
Jared Diamond

Jared Diamond became deservedly famous for writing a book on one of those questions everybody always wanted to know the answer to, but was too afraid to ask: why have some peoples, particularly Europeans, been more successful than others? Diamond's background is in science and evolutionary biology, and he considers the ultimate causes behind these different histories, arguing that the answer lies in geography, not biology.As "a short history of everybody", 'Guns, Germs and Steel' also describes the histories of different peoples in detail, from the clash between Europeans and Native Americans, to the spread of Polynesians across the Pacific, to "how Africa became black." This is a book full of fascinating detail.

Buy in UK

The Penguin History of the World
J.M. Roberts

I was feeling a little ambitious when I set out to read the entire history of the world! I have to admit that I have not yet succeeded in reading this book from cover to cover, but in a way that is not the point. J.M. Roberts, a fine historian, provides an account of almost anything you might want to know about, and as such this book is ideal for dipping into. It might seem somewhat ironic for a book which begins in prehistory, but parts of the narrative are now dated. America, Africa and Australia receive a fairly brief treatment before their fates became tangled up with Europe, and Roberts was perhaps a little over-impressed with the Soviet Union. But, those quibbles aside, this book contains mostly sound judgments.

Buy in UK

Revolutionary America 1763-1815: A Political History
Francis D. Cogliano

I hugely enjoyed reading this history in the course of writing an extended school essay, which is immortalized (well, sort of!) on Big Issue Ground here. It is a fine example of gripping narrative history, and examines the causes of the American Revolution. Unlike most books on this period, it also considers the early history of the new nation until 1815, covering the debates over foreign policy and the new Constitution.

Buy in UK

A History of Twentieth-Century Russia
Robert Service

Russia has had a uniquely - and tragically - important history in the twentieth history. Service describes the progression from the autocratic Tsars to the worse days of Lenin and Stalin to the breakdown of the USSR and unsteady Yeltsin years. He does so with great attention to detail, generally good judgment, and a readable narrative.

Buy in UK

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