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Recommended Reading

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    Closed Accounts Posts: 3,161 ozt9vdujny3srf

    Historical literature is abundant in Irish Bookstores, however its really tough to know which is the best one to get on a topic you are interested in/studying.This is a recommended reading list based on the submissions of users, as well as book reviews, for those who enjoy writing them as well as those who enjoy reading them!

    Example :
    I recently bought a book written by Geoffrey Roberts called Victory at Stalingrad, apart from being quite a good read, its great for research purposes due to its well structured layout. It also has an extensive recommended reading section. Which is nice.

    (please sticky)



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    Anything by A.J.P. Taylor

    Historical period is 1870s to ~1960s

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    Ill also recommend AJP Taylor, Antony Beevor too. Beevor's books on Stalingrad / Berlin / The Spanish civil war are very readable. Alan Moorehead's books on Gallipoli & the Russian revolution also :)

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    Anything by Eric Said and Eric Hobsbawm.

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    If you like history and stories about ordinary people, there is a brilliant book called "The Last of The Name" by Charles McGlinchey. He lived in Donegal around the end of the 1800s/start of the 1900s, and his stories were taken down and published by a local schoolteacher (whose name escapes me now - he was Kavanagh anyway). It is a real insight into the life of ordinary Irish people during the late 1800s - their traditions and customs and the way of life in rural Ireland.

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    Neil Gaiman's "Neverwhere" takes an interesting look at the underbelly of a London of the past, while Diana Gabaldon's series of books (starting with "Cross Stitch" - aka "Outlander" in the US) tell of a fascinating and eerily (she hadn't been to Scotland before) accurately portrayed adventure through the wilds of wild Scotland, set a few hundred years ago.

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    I would start off reccomending the following three.(as pimped on feedback/suggestions)

    One Palestine Complete,by Tom Sergev

    The Taliban by Ahmed Rashid

    "Backfire: A History of How American Culture Led Us into Vietnam and Made Us Fight the Way We Did" by Loren Baritz

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    From a rather conservative and pessimistic view of human nature:
    3 tips:
    Modern Times - Paul Johnson, from 1920 to present era, on how the growth of totalitatism had made the 20th Century of the bloodiest.
    The 30 year war - CV Wedgewood, the stupidites that kept this German Civil war going for so long and the human cost.
    The Western Way of War - Victor Hanson, how Greek Hoplite battles set the template on how Western Armies seek to fight a descive battle, see Iraq today.

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    Heres a few more

    "Eye Witness Bloody Sunday" by Don Mullen.

    "Babi-Yar" By A Anatoli. First hand account of Life in Nazi Occupied Kiev where the occupiers executed 200,000 enemies of the state.

    "Saddam's War" By John Bulloch and Harvey Morris

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    Someone mentioned the Spanish Civil War. Hugh Thomas's book on this war is an excellent and very readable overview with the right balance of interesting annecdotes and general analysis.
    Another very good account of the pre war period is Gerald Brennan's South From Granada.

    I read Eithne MacDermot's history of Clann na Poblachta a while back (it was published in 1998) - it's very well written and brings Irish politics in the 1940's alive. Along with characters like Seán MacBride and Noël Browne (both of whom she treats fairly evenhandedly, but does give MacBride more of a bashing) there are also colourful political players of the time whom I'd never heard of like Captain P Cowan.

    Finally, I've had The Oxford Companion To Irish History now for a few years and still find dipping into it enormously satisfying. The internal referencing system brings you off to corners of Irish history you may never have really thought about before.

    Btw, I see History Ireland is back in action again after quite a long gap. Do any of you read it?

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    I read that Berlin book really and I found it kinda boring tbh.

    He keep it interesting by refering to an interesting political development and then went back to the mass rape, then after another 50 pages, one page of really interesting politics at Yalta, then back to the mass rape for another 50 pages.
    Course Hitlers death was, as always, very interesting.

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    I dont think the book was meant as a political analysis really - more so an account of what happened to the ordinary civilians / soldiers during the last days of the battle for Berlin. I thought it was very well written and easy to get into / interesting at any rate. Plus I think your obsession with the politics of history skews your view somewhat dave :P

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    Politics and economics is what its all about :)

    I suppose if you want to take the book as that well then it would be fairly good, but its not the most interesting read, but its fairly horrific stuff in some cases.

    Steer clear of Russian history people unless you want to be incredibly depressed!!!!
    Rich will claim otherwise

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    PHB said

    Politics and economics is what its all about

    Absolutely not . People is what it's all about. Politics and economics are made by people. They best recent history combines all these elements.

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    Personally I find reading about Stalin and Roosevelt and Yalta a million times more interesting than the

    "Young girl then hid here for the night"
    "Young girl then saw her best friend get raped" and then here it repeated about 20 times.

    or the really interesting

    "Bill the soldier at 11am went to place A" "Bill the soldier then went to place B where he say for 4 hrs and 37 minutes"

    Personal taste though

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    I suppose it is personal taste, yeah. But you can go too far to one extreme. I haven't read that Berlin book, but I've read about it - it seems like a neccesary contribution to literature about the war. A few years ago history books wouldn't have talked about that sort of thing so as not to offend people.

    Conservatives in Britain have complained that History teaching there has moved too far away from the "1066 and all that" style of teaching, but I think it's good it has opened up to historical experience on every level.

    Of course if all you're getting is young girls hiding and nothing else that's not good history either.

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    Without dragging the topic totally into a debate over one book - I still think that Berlin managed to strike a nice balance between Hitlers insane workings and the ordinary people's lives at the end of the war.

    And dont listen to dave, Russian history is in fact very interesting. In the 20th century alone the country has gone from centuries old Romanov absolute monarchy -> revolution and civil war -> totalitarian communist state -> emerging capitalist state. :)

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    The ending was indeed a nice one I agree.

    The reason I dont like russian history is because while it went from old Romanov absolute monarchy -> revolution and civil war -> totalitarian communist state -> emerging capitalist state EVERYBODY DIES!!!!
    No matter what period there is in Russian history, everybody just keeps dying, so its kinda depressing.
    The reason they keep changing state is because everybody is dying so nobody is ever happy, hence why its interesting yet incredibly depressing

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    I have recently bought Mein Kampf by Hitler
    Has anyone else here read it? I am only 3 chapters into it, but i think this is a fascinating book and am looking forward to reading the rest of it. It is an interesting insight into his mind and way of thinking.

  • #2
    Originally posted by PHB
    The ending was indeed a nice one I agree.

    The reason I dont like russian history is because while it went from old Romanov absolute monarchy -> revolution and civil war -> totalitarian communist state -> emerging capitalist state EVERYBODY DIES!!!!
    No matter what period there is in Russian history, everybody just keeps dying, so its kinda depressing.
    The reason they keep changing state is because everybody is dying so nobody is ever happy, hence why its interesting yet incredibly depressing

    uhuh..whereas if u live in Ireland or anywhere else in the world? U dont die, or to add insult to injury KEEP dying!....simple really! huh PHB? lol sorry could resist :)

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    I must say I loved Beevor's Berlin it made an interesting change from the more holistic treatments I'd read on WWII, having one large book devoted to one battle really allowed you to see the nitty gritty of battle and it's effect on the populus. Fascinating stuff.

    Other recomendations:


    A Bright Shining Lie by Neil Sheehan. Hugely readable account of the hows and whys of the conflict in Vietnam wrapped up in the story of one of it's main protagonists John Paul Vann.

    Chickenhawk by Robert Mason. A helicopter pilot's memoirs of his time in Vietnam and it's effect on him. Funny and depressing.

    World War Two:

    Stalingrad by Anthony Beevor

    The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire by John Toland. Not that easy to read but a wonderful book about WWII from the Japanese perspective and the reasons for their involvement.


    Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre. The story of India's independance and the partitioning of the Indian subcontinent. It's a little too starry eyed at the British and particularily Mountbatten but one of the finest books I've ever read nonetheless.

    Isreal: A History by Martin Gilbert.

    The Scramble for Africa by Thomas Packenham. Africa and colonialism.

    The Beor War by Thomas Packenham

    Historical Fiction:

    The Covenant by James A. Michener. Fictional characters experiencing the history of South Africa.

    Carribean by James A. Michener. Same as above but for the Carribean. With loads of pirates.

    Shogun by James Clavell. English ship pilot washes up on the shore of fuedal Japan. A classic.

    Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson. Well half of it anyway. Neal Stephenson's best and thats saying a lot.

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    Wildes Last Stand by Phillip Hoare

    Outlining Maude Allens unsuccessful attempt to clear her name in court for Lewd and Immoral Behaviour,made against her by Independant MP,Self Publicist and Newspaper Proprietor Noel Pemberton 1918

    The Previous Year,The Dancer Mata Hari had been shot by the french as a spy.This maybe helped ferment the anti-decadence sentiment that swept through europe and characterised the final years of the war and helped the rise of fascism both in Germany,Italy and the flegling British Union of Fascists headed by Mosley with their hatred of the Avant Garde in music,art and theatre.

    Maude Allen unwittingly became the victim of Billings Conspiricy theory known as the "Cult Of Wilde" that accused 47,000 members of the establishment and armed forces of Treason,Sodomy and Lesbian Acts which jepodised Britains War Effort.

    Maude Allens reputation was ruined by unsubstantiated rumours of a lesbian relationsip with Wife of former primeminister Asquith made during the trial and the whole of her action was overshadowed by questions over the Morality of Oscar Wilde whose play salome she was appearing in,thus the deliniation between Actress and Character became blurred to the point of indistinction.So much so that the infamous "Bosie" Lord Alfred Douglas,Wildes former Lover and instrument of his downfall was called to testify about Wildes morality or alleged lack of it and the alledged nature of the play and its authors intent.

    A good read and a fascinating snapshot of voxpop wartime britain
    which has echoes in todays modern society with its own preoccupations with Decadence,immorality,the influence of Homosexuals in government (aka Tabloid "Gay Mafia" accusations) and Prohibitions on openly gay members of the Military.

    Brief Synopsis of Allen V Billing

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    The Minister and the Massacres.By Nickoli Tolstoy

    Follow up to N.Tolstoys critically acclaimed "the Victims Of Yalta" which specifically details the tragic history of the 40.000 Don Cossacks that fled into exile , after fighting for the White Russians during the Civil War. They were handed over to Stalin as part of the yalta agreement which formalised the return of all soviet citizens,though the cossacks had never been citizens,having fled before the creation of the soviet state

    Their fate was to die in stalins Gulags and workcamps,among the 2 million other P.O.W,exiles and refugees forcibly repatriated by the allies at the end of the 2nd world war.

    A brief precis by the author can be found on this sitehere

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    my reccomendations would be ....

    A Collection of Essays & the road to wigan pier by orwell for a good introduction to socialism/anarchism and ww2

    The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, William Shirer
    Inside the Third Reich, Albert Speer -> ww2

    Politics Among Nations , Hans Morgenthau -> international political theory

    also is quite essential.

    Someone previously mentioned Hobsbawm, personally I find his unding attachemnt to stalin and soviet expirement to be a little off putting

    In general terms The wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Das Kapital by Marx, and On War by
    Von Clausewitz (if you can struggle through it good www stie at are good as a background to current thinking

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    I advise to read "Mussolini" written by R.J.B. Bosworth

    Next thing you will do once you have finished reading it, is going to the shop and buy "Risk" (a well know war boardgame) :)

  • #2

    I advise to read "Mussolini" written by R.J.B. Bosworth

    Next thing you will do once you have finished reading it, is going to the shop and buy "Risk" (a well know war boardgame) :)

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    Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War

    Plutarch's Fall of the Roman Republic (useless for history value but absolutely chock full of scandalous material on affairs and so on)

    Michael Nicholson's International Relations.

    I add my vote to Beevor's Stalingrad and Berlin but I disliked his Spanish Civil War.

    Hobbes' Leviathan

    J.K. Davies Classical Democracy

    Last and to me, most important of all is de St. Croix's Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War - the most definitive and masterful account of that era in Greek History.

    If your looking for something related to modern society, Sir M.I. Finley's Greece and Modern Society is excellent.

    For reading I suppose it really begs the question, what are you after?

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    And I agree with deadcat on Hans Morgenthau - very interesting introduction to structuralism / structural realism / thematic realism.

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    Some books that I like:

    On Northern Ireland:

    The IRA, Loyalists, Brits - by Peter Taylor

    The Troubles, The IRA - by Tim Pat Coogan

    On WW2:

    Bridge Too Far, The Longest Day - Cornelius Ryan

    (For easy WW2 reading) - Anything by Stephan Ambrose

    Enemy At The Gates (nice alternative to Beevors Stalingrad) - William Craig

    On WW1

    History Of WW1 - Liddell Hart

    On Napoleon

    Rise And Fall Of NB - Robert Asprey

    Napoleon - David Chandler

    Roman Emperors

    Lives Of The 12 Caesars - Suetonius (An absolute classic)

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    Suetonius is very dry and boring except regarding Julius Caesar where his approach is of incredible historical importance in comparison with the information in Plutarch's Life of Caesar. IMO.

  • #2 - Fantastic resource of classical texts, secondary texts, articles maps and features of general historical interest

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