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Historical Ponderings Society - Reading List

(27 Posts)
RustyBear Sat 26-Nov-16 16:56:56

A reading/watching listening list hastily compiled from references in the threads and

Please feel free to add/correct anything I've missed or misunderstood, as well as adding to the list!

Historical Ponderings Society Reading List

Women’s issues, medical & social

'Flow' by Elissa Stein & Susan Kim

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

Sara Read: Maids, Wives, Widows: Exploring Early Modern Women's Lives 1540 – 1714

A Midwife's Tale: the Life of Martha Ballard Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 (Vintage)Paperback

Dream Babies by Christina Hardyment

Therese O’Neill: Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners

Antonia Fraser: The Weaker Vessel: Woman's Lot in Seventeenth-century England (Menstruation)

Jennifer Worth: Call the midwife (Prehistoric motherhood) (Fanny Burney’s mastectomy)

Ann Baer: Down the Common: A Year in the Life of a Medieval Woman

Thomas Hardy: Tess of the D'Urbervilles (novel)

[Not identified -Description of the progress of breast cancer in Philip Gosse's memorial to his mother, Emily Gosse]

Domestic/Everyday life in various times

Bill Bryson: At Home: A short history of private life

The Victorian Kitchen (TV series)

Margaret Powell: Below Stairs (and Climbing the Stairs)

Lena Cowan Orlin: Locating Privacy In Tudor England

Ruth Goodman: How to be a Tudor

Ruth Goodman: How to be a Victorian

Ian Mortimer: The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England

Roger Ekirch: At Day’s Close; A History of Nighttime

Peter Ackroyd: London; The Biography (Medieval homes) and (History of household/craft stuff) (Knocker-uppers)

Life in Early/Prehistoric Times or primitive conditions (Living Wild)

Halldor Laxness: Independent People (novel about a family of subsistence farmers living in an Icelandic croft at the beginning of the 20th century)


E. Jane Burns: Courtly Love Undressed- Reading through Clothes in Medieval French Culture and others (Medieval underwear) (600 year old bras) (18th century pins) (Fastenings in Regency times) (Knitting) (Nalbinding) (Reproducing period clothing)

[Unidentified : ‘Dead Gorgeous’ ‘The history of underwear’]

Food (Tudor Food) (Milk)

GM food (GM food)

George Orwell: The Road to Wigan Pier (cites the role of chips in sustaining the physical and emotional wellbeing of mining communities)

Sickness & Health

Roy Porter: Blood and Guts: A Short History of Medicine

Roy Porter: Disease, Medicine and Society in England, 1550-1860

Roy Porter: Bodies Politic: Disease, Doctors and Death in Britain, 1650-1900

Marie-Christine Pouchelle: The body and surgery in the Middle Ages (Sweating sickness) (Haemophilia) (Porphyria) (Scurvy) (Genome)

Fairy tales (Red Riding Hood) (Stories behind Disney) (Radio programme)


Tim Marshall: Prisoners of Geography: ten maps explain everything about the world

Prof EA Wrigley et al: English Population History from 1580 to 1837

English/British Eras

Iron Age

Living in the Past – iron age village (TV series)

Norman & Pre-Norman

Harriet O'Brien: Queen Emma and the Vikings.

Robert Lacey & Danny Danziger: The Year 1000: An Englishman’s Year


Ian Mortimer: The Perfect King; The Life of Edward III

E.L. Konigsberg: A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver (novel- Eleanor of Aquitaine)

Sharon Penman: The Sunne In Splendour (novel – House of York)

Cynthia Harnett The Wool Pack (novel – 15th Century)


Alison Weir: Henry VIII King and Court

Eric Ives: The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn book Anne Boleyn

Alison Weir: The Lady in the Tower; the fall of Anne Boleyn (Fall of Anne Boleyn)

Ruth Goodman: How to be a Tudor

Katherine Longshore: Tarnish ( novel - Anne Boleyn)

Alison Weir: Innocent Traitor (novel- Lady Jane Grey)


Ophelia Field: Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough

Anne Somerset: Queen Anne; the Politics of Passion (Battle of the Boyne) (William & Mary) (The First Churchills TV series) (Horrible Histories - The Restoration)

Neal Stephenson: The System Of The World (trilogy of novels from Interregnum to the accession of George II)


Ruth Goodman: How to be a Victorian (gay marriage)

Twentieth Century

The Crown (Netflix series)

Speech & Language

Bill Bryson: Mother Tongue (Prehistoric languages) (Feminist perspective) (Language similarities) (Oldest English Words)
(Proto Indo European) (Caxton’s ‘Eggs’ story) (English accents) (Yorkshire dialect)

Science, inventions & discoveries and (Developing Bows) (Sidesaddle) (Weaving) (Combs) (Spectacles) (Women Inventors - podcast)

James Burke: The Day the Universe Changed

James Burke: Connections (book & TV series) and

David Bodanis: E = mc2; the biography of the most famous equation.

Engineering/Building/Industry and (The Wheel) (Sheffield Steel)

Peter Ginn and Ruth Goodman: Full Steam Ahead: How the Railways Made Britain (Book & TV series)

Building the Panama Canal (TV series) (London Underground) (TV series about building a Roman villa)

Religion (Historical Jesus)

Soviet history (Soviet famine )

Esther Hautzig The Endless Steppe Amazon


Jung Chang: Wild Swans

Gavin Menzies: 1421:The Year China Discovered the World

Michael Wood:The Story of China (TV series) (Terracotta Army)

Archeology & Anthropology (Satellite photography)

Alice Roberts: Lost tribes of humanity (BBC series)

Little known events

The Act of Killing (genocide in Indonesia)

The Rabbit-Proof Fence

Miscellaneous/ other references (Modern epoch) (Regnal names)

Byzantium, the surprising life of a medieval empire, by Judith Herren.

Jared Diamond: Guns, Germs And Steel: A Short History of Everybody for the Last 13000 Years Amazon

W.C Sellar & R.J. Yeatman: 1066 and all that (All the History you can remember)

Wendy Northcutt: The Darwin Awards

Christian Jacq: Novels set in Ancient Egypt

Hysteria – Film about the invention of the vibrator Samuel Pepys (Medieval manuscripts) (Hogarth Gin Lane) (Genesis Ch 38 - onanism) (Gerald of Wales, including foot-washing reference) (Lloyds bank turd)

Historical Fiction – recommended writers

(see also various subjects for specific recommended novels)
Antonia Fraser
Alison Weir
Diana Norman/Ariana Franklin
Jean Plaidy
Sharon Penman
Elizabeth Chadwick
Norah Lofts
Katherine Longshore

Time Travel/Historical Fantasy

John Dickson Carr: The Devil in Velvet

Deborah Harkness: All Souls’ Trilogy

Susan Price: The Sterkarm Handshake

E. Nesbit: The Story of the Amulet

TheExecutionerQueenMortificado Sat 26-Nov-16 18:32:07

Epic work, Rusty!

BestIsWest Sat 26-Nov-16 18:59:52

Great list, thank you. I have linked the 50 bookers thread to this as well.

RemusLupinsBiggestGroupie Sat 26-Nov-16 19:11:48

I loved Blood and Guts.

EverySongbirdSays Sat 26-Nov-16 20:52:53



You just made my night, and joined my internal Mumsnet Favourites list

IveAlreadyPaid Sat 26-Nov-16 21:17:09

Wow thank you smile

OrlandaFuriosa Mon 28-Nov-16 00:37:30

Rusty, brilliant. A few extra suggestions...

For Gosse, I recall there bring some stuff in both Father and Son, by Edmund Gosse, and the original of that, his biography of his father.

For people in England - because I don't think they were so true for the devolved nations- the Time Travellers guide to eg the Tudors are excellent.

Another gripping book is Graham Robb's The discovery of France , some of which is contentious, but is hugely readable, masses of fascinating detail.

I also v much enjoyed Stephen Winder's Germania.

And now v old, 1987' Schama's embarrassment of riches, in effect the Dutch republic's way of living. Details such as Dutch housewives not only insisted which were the top and bottom ends of the sheet ( as do I, taught by my DM) but embroidered feet on their sheets to indicate more easily which end was which ( as do I not).

The person who started the popularising of the social history side v kings and queens in many ways was Eileen Power, the economic historian, even older than the schama... her mediaeval people, 1924, has of course been overtaken but is still eminently readable ( and short!) and got people thinking about history in a different way. I'm always pleased that she got recognition and professorships, first at LSE and then Cambridge.

OrlandaFuriosa Mon 28-Nov-16 02:35:29

Oh, and on what people wore, there's a brilliant description in Period Piece of the little Gwen Raverat watching a grown up undressing, something like 6/7 layers.

EBearhug Mon 28-Nov-16 02:55:32

The Neal Stephenson trilogy mentioned is also known as the Baroque Cycle.

BlanketSky Mon 28-Nov-16 13:10:46

This seems very thorough on nightwear

Thank you for the list, brilliant!

SurelyYoureJokingMrFeynman Mon 28-Nov-16 13:11:56

Oh my. Thank you!

SurelyYoureJokingMrFeynman Mon 28-Nov-16 13:30:48

C19th social history
– Kate Summerscale: The Suspicions of Mr Whicher (about a Victorian murder which became a sensation, and the emergence of the detective service)
– Kate Summerscale: Mrs Robinson's Disgrace (Victorian scandal)

C20th social history
– Helen Forrester: Twopence to Cross the Mersey (autobiography, Great Depression on Merseyside)
– Vera Brittain: Testament of Youth (autobiography, covers WWI)
– Winifred Holtby: South Riding (novel about 1930s Yorkshire. Holtby was Brittain's friend & had similar social interests)

Napoleonic Wars
– Patrick O'Brien: Master and Commander series (novels, v well researched)
– James Anton: Retrospect of a Military Life (autobiography of a QM Sergeant in the 42nd Regt of Foot - very readable and as much about daily life as about big battles)

– Siegfried Sasson: Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man and Memoirs of an Infantry Officer (autobiography)
– Robert Graves: Goodbye to All That (autobiography... ish)

Science and technology
– Dava Sobel: Longitude

SurelyYoureJokingMrFeynman Mon 28-Nov-16 13:41:48

Anything from The Stationery Office's "Uncovered Editions" series.

These are books created from historical official papers in the archive of The Stationery Office in London. They're a real mix of subjects but all I've seen are fascinating reads.

Eg The Loss of the 'Titanic', 1912
Letters of Henry VIII, 1526-29
Mr Hosie's Journey to Tibet, 1904

Some now out of print again, so I tend to find them on AbeBooks

SurelyYoureJokingMrFeynman Mon 28-Nov-16 14:02:19

More Dutch housewives & husbands in Lisa Jardine's Worldly Goods, about consumer culture in the Renaissance.

Rather fun analysing the product placement in artworks of, say, the Madonna and Child or The Arnolfi Marriage: this is not just a red turban, it's a Venetian-made, cochineal-beetle-dyed, cosmopolitan merchant's red turban.

workshyfop Mon 28-Nov-16 20:13:38

Thank-you so much Rusty and everyone else who has added stuff. This is fantastic! So much to read...

Sellotapewillfixit Mon 28-Nov-16 21:56:16

Can I recommend 'ask sir James' by M Reid - complied from letters/autobiography of Queen Victoria's physician.
Also royal Escape by Georgette Heyer about Charles II fleeing England. And 'Boscobel Tracts' which I think is reprinted by the Bodleian, for the source material.

annandale Mon 28-Nov-16 22:07:18

Wow, fantastic.

For women's lives, I can really recommend The Prospect Before Her by Olwen Hufton. It's supposed to have been Part 1 of a history of women's lives in Western Europe and covers 1500 - 1800. Either she's still writing Part 2 20 years later or I've just never found it. It was a wonderful read.

Also, Robert Caro's The Years of Lyndon Johnson. Usually presented as a politico's dream series - and I love it for that - but the first book The Path To Power contains a truly amazing chapter on what electricity meant to rural women in the early 20th century.

OrlandaFuriosa Mon 28-Nov-16 23:07:49

The other series which is excellent is M Vivian Hughes' A London Child of the... and then its sequels. Growing up a Victorian girl with four older brothers.

lemonpoppyseed Mon 28-Nov-16 23:17:01

This will keep me busy for a while wink

Thanks, OP!

SurelyYoureJokingMrFeynman Mon 28-Nov-16 23:55:45

Oh, and a wonderful paper a MNer pointed me at: "The Urban Blood and Guts Economy".

Which could just as well have been titled "101 C19th uses for a dead horse/cow/pig".

(Peak Horse in UK towns was about 1.5 million in 1900, with 300,000 in London alone. And you know the Victorians: waste not, want not...)

SurelyYoureJokingMrFeynman Tue 29-Nov-16 13:20:49

(Should mention, James Anton took his wife on the Napoleonic campaign trail with him. So his memoir includes her experiences as a camp follower. Memorable moments include the time her baggage donkey got The Fear in the middle of a very narrow, very busy bridge in the Pyrenees; and the tent she decorated with coloured glass when they were encamped outside Paris after Waterloo.)

HeartsTrumpDiamonds Fri 02-Dec-16 02:32:36

That must have taken you hours and hours! Thank you. flowers

SenecaFalls Fri 02-Dec-16 03:19:20

Another one for clothes:

The History of Underclothes

oldlaundbooth Sat 03-Dec-16 01:24:11

Hurrah! Great list fgrin

Brillig Thu 08-Dec-16 04:59:03

Fantastic list, thank you, Rusty.

Just to add a title I mentioned on the other thread - two, actually, both by Judith Flanders: 'The Victorian City' examines London in the 19thc and 'The Victorian Home' is a completely absorbing history of domestic life in fascinating detail which held me spellbound.

For similarly gripping writing about daily life in Shakespeare's London I can highly recommend Charles Nicholls' 'The Lodger'. Each chapter looks at a different aspect of how Shakespeare might have spent his time there, all inspired by the known fact that he lodged in a house in Silver Street for a time (many years ago a pair of researchers found his signature on court documents and discovered that he'd been a witness in a breach of promise case - a fascinating story in itself).

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