What history do you find interesting? Inspire me!(122 Posts)
I have a pretty good general knowledge, and retain "stories" better than "facts". However my historical knowledge is very low. I'm not sure why this is- I did history at gcse but remember studying Arab/Israeli conflict, history of medicine and the American west - all of which I found dull.
As an adult I've read books about Bletchley park and found that really interesting but that's about it. I have no knowledge of anything pre 1914 except the bare bones (ie Henry's wives).
I'd really like to know more, and wondered if you could tell me what area of history you enjoy or books you've read/places you've been that might inspire me.
The Plantagenet - Tudor period of history is one I find very interesting.
Also Ancient Egypt. Truly fascinating. From age 6-16 I wanted to be an Egptyologist. Then I realised I burn terribly, I don't like sand, insects, intense heat or enclosed spaces. I decided to do law instead -- because I'm a fool--. Obviously didn't consider the alternatives to field work in my childhood dream hard enough. Huge regret.
Ancient Greece and Rome are also incredibly interesting.
Victorians? All that squalor amid the massive boom post ind revolution and empire building, with long-standing wueen at the helm?
Tudors are great, agree.
Georgian england, v varisble monarchs, great houses/art.
Ancient Greece, Rome?egyot and rheir gods/empires/cubilisations?
The turn of the 20th century leading to the WWI period leading right through WWII to about the 60's is also very interesting. Absolutely massive social changes, I don't think there has ever been anything like it in UK history in terms of social change.
I enjoy reading about the Plantagenets-Tudors as well.
The Crusades, Richard the Lionheart, etc
Also the First World War, and the lead up to World War II, including the Abdication.
Is it better to focus on one person or thing (food, housing etc) or be more general?
Have you thought about African history? I hadn't, but then I read Richard Dowden's book 'Africa: altered states, ordinary miracles' and it's changed the way I think about a whole continent. Not only is it interesting, personal and authoritative - it is also really engaging and extremely well written. I'd recommend it to anyone with an interest in history and/or politics.
Just pick an area that interests you and go from there. Choosing people is often a good way because others will be mentioned and that sparks further interest.
I have a fantastic biography of Anne Boleyn, as she is a person of particular interest to me. My dp was
patronisingly impressed that it was by a proper historian (he is one himself though doesn't specialise in the areas I find interesting).
Vanished Kingdoms - The History of Half-Forgotten Europe by Norman Davies is a fantastic read. Really interesting.
I read an amazing book about the history of Africa (sub-Saharan) but can't for the life of me remember the name <annoying>
I prefer watching documentaries on history easy than reading books on the matter as I find it hard to picture it in my head. I like Egyptian,ancient greek and history on early civilisation. I also like learning about biblical scholars etc
Religious history is my thing, the development of major religions and what could be based on real life events.
This is really helpful. Thanks everyone. It's so interesting to see what other people like.
I've recently completed a degree in History and the bits I found the most interesting were the growth of protest movements during the late 18th/early 19th century. So trades unions, anti-slavery, the fight for an extension to the franchise etc. I also enjoyed looking at all the social and political change associated with the Industrial Revolution.
I wrote my dissertation on women between the wars which I loved. It really opened my eyes to some of the things that we, as women, take for granted today but our grandmothers had to fight for like keeping your job on marriage, free access to maternity care and safe childbirth and reliable contraception.
Nazi Germany and the Second World War has always fascinated me. I'm lucky that my grandparents lived through it and my grandad served in the army so I've heard lots of stories about it. How Hitler and the Nazis managed to rise to power brainwash an entire nation in the first place is a warning from history, it could quite easily happen again if the conditions were right.
Wars of the roses, plantagenets etc. I got into this when the white queen was on TV last year, read all the books and then started on more factual books.
Also love early 20th century - ww1, 1920s. I enjoy biographies etc of "society" people eg the Mitford s. Currently reading a biography of the Countess of Carnarvon.
Sport history is another interest, I'm reading a good book by John Major of all people about the social history of cricket. It's about the ordinary men that played the game and how the leagues grew rather than the top bids at Lords.
Bit dry in places but very interesting.
I have a bit of a passion for doomed monarchies , have recently read books on the last romanovs and Marie antoinette
Ooh doomed monarchies sounds fun.
I enjoyed watching 'The White Queen' series on TV (War of the Roses / Cousins War) so bought the books. Very interesting and readable. Phillipa Gregory has also written books about the wives of Henry VIII and other stuff.
Rather hoping DD1 will do Early History for A level.
If you're after stories, there's a book called 'She Wolves - The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth' by Helen Castor. It's about various women who have exercised royal power from 1100's onwards. Eleanor of Aquitaine, Matilda (of Steven and Matilda civil war) and others, on to Mary I and Elizabeth I. It's really good, she's a proper historian but tells a good story (nothing made up though, and gaps in knowledge are noted). Be careful with other Helen Castor books tho - blood and roses is very...intellectual I guess but dry as a bone.
Also a great book is The Time Travellers Guide to Medeival England by Ian Mortimer. Written as a guide book (the past is another country...) it's fascinating and talks about ordinary people and places in Medeival times.
Other brill history books I have on my shelves that tell a good story, in no particular order, are:
Byzantium - the surprising life of a medieval empire by Judith Herren
Queen Emma of the Vikings by Harriet O'Brien (married to two kings of England and saw two sons crowned as king, very interesting woman)
Eleanor of Aquitaine - by the wrath of god, queen of England by Alison Weir, btw you can't go wrong with anything written by Alison Weir, she's a great read
The Perfect King, the Life of Edward III father of the English nation by Ian Mortimer
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman
Anything by Lucy Worsley is an easy read - Cavalier, the tale of a 16th century playboy is a rollicking read!
Also, read Wild Swans by Jung Chang. She's not a historian and it's a personal family history account, but it's one of the best books ever written IMHO. It's the story of three generations of women in China, from her grandmother who was a warlords concubine, her mother who was a Communist official and the authors own escape from China. It's just amazing to read.
Oh and if you read any Philippa Gregory - I agree they are an easy read but they're not proper history books. For example, in the White Queen she is an actual witch. OK, stories were spread about her being a witch in her lifetime but the interesting history surrounding why these stories were spread, what the perceptions of witchcraft were at the time, etc etc are not discussed, she's just casting spells for a convenient plot twist. Sometimes she plays very fast and loose with the known truth - and the gaps - in order to write what she thinks is a good story. IMHO the history is fascinating enough that she shouldn't have to, but that's just me.
Put it this way - you couldn't rely on what you would glean from Philippa Gregory books to sound knowledgable at a dinner party! And if you don't do any other reading around the period she could leave you with some major misconceptions.
I've just had a look in water stones. I loved Downton and a book about the Kennedy family. There seem to be quite a lot set around that time so maybe something then.
The things about monarchs sounds interesting. My have big gaps between the Vikings and the Tudors and then between the Tudors and queen Victoria so maybe that is where I should start.
I grew up in an area with a huge amount of history, late monarchs home etc and then moved to a fairly dull city only known for its chocolate. I think I took the castles/forts/houses for granted and now don't live near anything!
I like 'social history' - biographies, one person's story, how one family was affected by a World event, the impact, etc.
Loved the Romans & Greeks but have more interest in European history.
Peter & Catherine the Great of Russia, Frederick the Great of Prussia, the whole balance of power between France, Britain, Prussia, Russia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the alliances they made to keep it. Napoleonic era was also very interesting,
However, my most fascinating period was finding out there was a whole massive Swedish Empire that stretched across most of Northern Europe. Who knew?
Russia from about 1800 to the fall of Tsarism is my favourite, I like Lenin as well.
I did Britain between the wars in AS Level history and the politics of that period were interesting too.
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