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Ace Cataphract
HG Alumnus
(id: Ace_Cataphract)
posted 26 February 2006 23:12 EDT (US)         
This thread is essentially a place where you can talk about historical books you are presently reading or ask for book recommendations. You can recommend ANY (good) history book.

I put a dollar in one of those change machines. Nothing changed. ~George Carlin

[This message has been edited by Kor (edited 07-26-2008 @ 10:23 AM).]

AuthorReplies:
dsmi1
Legionary
posted 02 January 2007 18:53 EDT (US)     76 / 212       
I am well aware there are some very smart cookies here with vast knowledge of ancient history. I have recently started taking an interest in history of these times and came here to see what you guys recommend.
I was hoping for some ideas about what books were a good place to start off at. I thought id start at the top of the list here and have nearly finished Anabasis by Xenophon.

My knowledge of history would be greater than that of the average person, but I have not undertaken much serious reading (which puts me behind most people here). I thought if anyone have any ideas of some good starting points (Greek, Roman, others) would be great. Otherwise I will continue to look through these lists for guidance. Thank you.

Apollo315
Legionary
posted 02 January 2007 22:20 EDT (US)     77 / 212       
You might want to try Herodotus' Histories; while large it is readable, particularly in the Persian Wars. Get the Penguin Classics edition. Anything by Adrian Goldsworthy is good too. Seager writes a fine, in depth book on Pompey, but it can be rather complex. You may want to find for yourself a general history of Rome to get thoroughly acquainted. If you get your hands on A History of Rome, by Cary and Scullard, then consider yourself fortunate.

His ego nec metas rerum nec tempora pono:
Imperium sine fine dedi.
(P. Vergilius Maro, Aeneid I. 278-79)
We are all, so far as we inherit the civilisation of Europe, still citizens of the Roman Empire, and time has not proved Virgil wrong when he wrote nec tempora pono: imperium sine fine dedi.
(T.S. Eliot)
dsmi1
Legionary
posted 02 January 2007 22:47 EDT (US)     78 / 212       
thanks for the direction Apollo i think a general book like the one mentioned will be a good starting point while i finish the ones i have. thanks mate
rhoops
Legionary
posted 03 January 2007 19:06 EDT (US)     79 / 212       
Here's a good'un!
'The Generalship of Alexander the Great' by JFC Fuller.

Written in the 1950's I think, by an ex soldier who went to most of the essential sites of Alexanders march. It puts a very military point of view to the numerous military questions surrounding Alexander's campaigns. No halfbaked opinions, just logical and clearly thought out possible solutions to Alexanders tactical and logistical problems.

There are numerous debates about Alexander's characteristics, most of which are just so much blather. This book contains NEW imformation, by an author whose military and geographical background gave him as great an insight into Alexander as you are ever likely to find.
If you want quality historical analysis, this book is unmissable.


Pax Romana.. Pax Britannia.. Pax Americana..INTERREGNUM RHOOPSIUM
rhoops
Legionary
posted 03 January 2007 19:31 EDT (US)     80 / 212       
Ummm... 2 books to recommend, one I've read and the other I don't know if it exists!
The first is 'How to Construct a Battleship' or similar written in about 1913. Not readily available! I read it at Bristol's Great Eastern's dockyard library.
It was fascinating, not for the battleship element, but the insight it gives into imperial functionality. Battleships were the ultimate statement of Industrial nations at the time, and only a tiny number of countries had the ability to build them. It gives you an idea of all the other aspects, technology, administration, decision making, strategy, politics, etc involved in creating this massive status symbol. Considering that today we construct nothing of a comparable magnitude, what this book shows is the order of significance of processes involved, which is completely alien to our contemporary mode of thought. Hence its utter usefulness in opening one's mind to Ancient History, where things were done different, but battleships, triumphal arches, irrigation systems, palaces and temples are pretty much interchangeable.

The second book... same concept. I want to read a 'How To' book by an English Political Officer from Africa or India circa 1880 concerning ruling regions with minimal resources.
Basically dealing with the realities of day to day empire running. 'Sanders of the River' for real!


Pax Romana.. Pax Britannia.. Pax Americana..INTERREGNUM RHOOPSIUM
Mechstra
Banned
posted 05 January 2007 16:29 EDT (US)     81 / 212       

Quote:

Here's a good'un!
'The Generalship of Alexander the Great' by JFC Fuller.


Fuller... isn't that the fellow who came up with the revolutionary tank fighting doctrines which would later be adopted by the Germans as 'blitzkrieg', even though his own government (the British) wouldn't listen? And later became a hardcore Nazi apologist and intimate of Hitler and Aleister Crowley?

Interesting character, to say the least.

rhoops
Legionary
posted 06 January 2007 12:54 EDT (US)     82 / 212       
Wow! He must have been a busy bloke!
Didn't know any of that, though his Alexander stuff is is very Terrain influenced as I'd imagine a Tank Prophet would be!
I wonder why somebody as intelligent as that would bother apologising for anything...

Pax Romana.. Pax Britannia.. Pax Americana..INTERREGNUM RHOOPSIUM
Apollo315
Legionary
posted 06 January 2007 15:39 EDT (US)     83 / 212       
And Fuller is a merciless critic of the Roman army, on the grounds that it was not "mobile" enough: that building a camp every night was a waste of time. Try fighting against the Samnites, Fuller, and then deciding if building a camp every night is "a waste of time".

His ego nec metas rerum nec tempora pono:
Imperium sine fine dedi.
(P. Vergilius Maro, Aeneid I. 278-79)
We are all, so far as we inherit the civilisation of Europe, still citizens of the Roman Empire, and time has not proved Virgil wrong when he wrote nec tempora pono: imperium sine fine dedi.
(T.S. Eliot)
D Furius Venator
HG Alumnus
posted 06 January 2007 16:07 EDT (US)     84 / 212       
Yes. Though many of his insights are useful he is far to hampered by his own anachronistic notions of warfare. He saw Caesar as an exponent of siege warfare (bad in Fuller World due to his WWI experience) and Alexander as an exponent of the virtues of rapid movement.

Had he never heard the prhase 'Caesar speed'?

I like most of his books but find they bear reading with some caution.


Civile! Si ergo fortibusis in ero.
Wassis inem causan dux?
Gnossis vile demsis trux!

I suggest that before badgering for a translation you take the time to read it out loud. Thankyou.
Gaius Colinius
Seraph Emeritus
posted 11 January 2007 12:31 EDT (US)     85 / 212       
A few that come to mind:

Spartans by Paul Cartledge
It's a readable account of the history of the city state that came to dominate Greece and it's downfall. Well researched and provides many insights into the famous laconic Spartan wit.

Alexander the Great by Robin Lane Fox
You'll be familiar with this if you have seen Oliver Stone's Alexander as the film is largely based on this book. It's an exhaustive study and is hard going in places. However, Lane is honest enough to mark theories as exactly that, for instance, he is of the belief that Alexander at least had foreknowledge of Philip's murder but he is clear to point out that there is no hard evidence to support this.

A history of the crusades by Robert Payne
A marvellous book even if it centres on Crusader/European sources. His account of the 4th crusade is particularly gripping.

The Arthur triology by Bernard Cornwell
For historical fiction, look no further than these books. Very well written with characters you'll really love.

That's all I can think of for now.


-Love Gaius
TWH Seraph, TWH Grand Zinquisitor & Crazy Gaius the Banstick Kid

Got news regarding Total War games that should be publicised? Then email m2twnews@heavengames.com. My blog.
Nelson was the typical Englishman: hot-headed, impetuous, unreliable, passionate, emotional & boisterous. Wellington was the typical Irishman: cold, reserved, calculating, unsentimental & ruthless" - George Bernard Shaw
Vote for McCain...he's not dead just yet! - HP Lovesauce

dsmi1
Legionary
posted 13 January 2007 02:35 EDT (US)     86 / 212       
thanks for the pointers guys, should keep me busy chasing them down and then reading them for awhile. Thank you =].
Ace Cataphract
HG Alumnus
(id: Ace_Cataphract)
posted 15 January 2007 01:19 EDT (US)     87 / 212       
Nicolás Maquiavelo - El Principe (Comentado Por Nalopeon Bonaparte) Publisher: Clasicos Universales [Spanish]

Bonaparte's personal annotated edition of Machiavelli's The Prince. It was his personal copy, which he annotated at different parts of his life and was one item pillaged by the Prussians at Waterloo. I've only been able to find it in print in Spanish, but it's a brilliant read and it would be absurd that it wouldn't be availible in French. The French Wikipedia article on The Prince mentions an edition by Jean de Bonnot, but I tried a little searching for it and I couldn't find it. I tried looking for it in English to no avail.


I put a dollar in one of those change machines. Nothing changed. ~George Carlin

[This message has been edited by Ace Cataphract (edited 01-15-2007 @ 01:34 AM).]

Titus Labienus
Legionary
posted 17 January 2007 02:41 EDT (US)     88 / 212       
For Roman fans I'd recommend "Imperial Governer" by George Shipway-deals with putting down Boudicca's revolt in Britain. "Legion" by William Altimeri-Romans vs Germans. All of the Simon Scarrow books, set in Roman Britain. All of the Michael Curtis Ford books dealing with Greco-Roman themes.
Lab

[This message has been edited by Titus Labienus (edited 01-17-2007 @ 02:44 AM).]

Gaius Colinius
Seraph Emeritus
posted 29 January 2007 20:12 EDT (US)     89 / 212       
Finished "Pride of Carthage" by David Anthony Durham.
It's a historical fiction novel of the second punic war and centres on the lives & fortunes of the Barcas & Scipios.

It started off very well with some gripping accounts of the characters & big battles but after the brilliantly done Cannae, the quality of the book takes a downturn in a strange imitation of the real life fortunes of the Barcas.
Perhaps Durham was being too ambitious in attempting to tell the story of each of the Barcas as well as an extra fictional brother plus Scipio but Hadsrubal & Mago end up being very under-written and Hannibal himself comes across as a genius but also a rather bland man.
It is a pity that Durham lost control of his subject. He knows how to write a good book but not to finish it.

Reading "the Classical Greeks by Michael Grant at the moment. The chapters are written as mini-biographies of the various personages of classical Greek history. With the likes of Miltiades, Thermistocles & Pausanias kicking off the book, it hits the ground running but now I'm at the playwrights and suddenly the book has become a boring struggle. Reading literature is fine in itself but reading literature about literature is like watching paint dry.


-Love Gaius
TWH Seraph, TWH Grand Zinquisitor & Crazy Gaius the Banstick Kid

Got news regarding Total War games that should be publicised? Then email m2twnews@heavengames.com. My blog.
Nelson was the typical Englishman: hot-headed, impetuous, unreliable, passionate, emotional & boisterous. Wellington was the typical Irishman: cold, reserved, calculating, unsentimental & ruthless" - George Bernard Shaw
Vote for McCain...he's not dead just yet! - HP Lovesauce

MisplacedPope
Legionary
(id: misplacedgeneral)
posted 29 January 2007 20:16 EDT (US)     90 / 212       

Quote:

He knows how to write a good book but not to finish it

Har har

I've started Machiavelli's "Art of War" and I must say it is very good.

Victor Hanson's War Like No Other is also a good exploration of the Peloponnesian War (though nothing replaces the original History by Thukydides)

And though it is not necessarily History, Aristophanes different plays do very well to display the view of the common Athenian during the period of the Peloponnesian War.


"It's not true. Some have great stories, pretty stories that take place at lakes with boats and friends and noodle salad. Just no one in this car. But, a lot of people, that's their story. Good times, noodle salad. What makes it so hard is not that you had it bad, but that you're that pissed that so many others had it good." Jack Nicholson
Legio Yow
Legionary
posted 29 January 2007 21:46 EDT (US)     91 / 212       
The Discourses on Livy is Machiavelli's best. It shows that his genius was not just political, but also involved military theory, and he has perhaps a better grasp on human nature than any other philosopher I have ever read, something that doesn't really come out in The Prince.

"That which we call a nose can still smell!"
-Reduced Shakespeare Company

"Abroad, French transit workers attempt to end a strike, only to discover that they have forgotten how to operate the trains. Everybody enjoys a hearty laugh and returns to the café." -Dave Barry
Barbarian_Prince
Legionary
posted 18 March 2007 16:47 EDT (US)     92 / 212       
Here are my favorite books so far...

Ancient Sources on Alexander the Great & Ancient Warfare
- The Campaigns of Alexander (by Arrian)
- Library of History: Book XVII (by Diodorus Siculus) *
- The Life of Alexander the Great (by Plutarch) **
- The History of Alexander (by Quintus Rufus)
- Stratagems of War (by Polyaenus)

* Diodorus Siculus' Book XVII is available from Loeb Classical Library. My copy has Book XVI through Book XVII. I actually skipped right to Book 17 that deals primarily with Alexander the Great.

** I just want to say that someone needs to rewrite Plutarch's "Life of Alexander the Great." It's written in such a way that some sentences have to be read more than once to comprehend it. I have the translated version of Victor Hansen. The content is awesome, but the writing is atrocious. It actually felt like a chore reading this book. But my love of Alexander the Great pushed me to the very end of this short selection from Plutarch's "Lives."

[You're probably wondering why a lover of Alexander the Great hasn't included Justin's "Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus." That's because I haven't read this book yet]


Ancient & Medieval Epics
- the Iliad (by Homer) ***
- die Nibelungenlied (the German version of "Saga of the Volsungs")
- Saga of the Volsungs (the Nordic version of "die Nibelungenlied")
- Beowulf (this is one of the few books I actually enjoyed reading in highschool)
- The Legendary Adventures of Alexander the Great (it's silly but I love it)

*** "The Iliad" is actually quite difficult to read (due to literary mechanics). But the story is awesome!

I'll add more to this list as I find more excellent books. I still have a dozen books sitting around that I haven't read yet. Plus, I'm always ordering new books.


"It is a lovely thing to live with courage and to die leaving behind an everlasting renown." - ALEXANDER THE GREAT

[This message has been edited by Barbarian_Prince (edited 03-18-2007 @ 05:21 PM).]

Cordyceps
Naphal
(id: ArchDruid)
posted 18 March 2007 17:06 EDT (US)     93 / 212       
The Ian Scott-Kilvert translation of Plutarch is far superior to most others. There's an easily available (and relatively cheap) Penguin publication called 'Age of Alexander' which has his Alexander, Pyrrhus, Demetrius, Dion, Timoleon, Demosthenes, Agesilaus, Pelopidas, and Phocion. It's well worth the $15-$20.

Just as some bodies, from the moment of birth, are endowed with beauty, while on others nature from their very beginning bestows blemishes and wrinkles, so with souls too, some are distinguished at once with extreme grace and attractiveness, while others leave a trail of sombre and deep gloom. ~Michael Psellus, Chronographia
Barbarian_Prince
Legionary
posted 18 March 2007 17:13 EDT (US)     94 / 212       
I'll probably end up ordering that book since I'm also very interested in Pyrrhus and Demosthenes.

"It is a lovely thing to live with courage and to die leaving behind an everlasting renown." - ALEXANDER THE GREAT
Cordyceps
Naphal
(id: ArchDruid)
posted 18 March 2007 19:36 EDT (US)     95 / 212       
Pyrrhus is exceptionally well done actually, I read it periodically just for fun.

Just as some bodies, from the moment of birth, are endowed with beauty, while on others nature from their very beginning bestows blemishes and wrinkles, so with souls too, some are distinguished at once with extreme grace and attractiveness, while others leave a trail of sombre and deep gloom. ~Michael Psellus, Chronographia
Essayons89
Legionary
posted 16 June 2007 22:24 EDT (US)     96 / 212       
I've been enjoying reading a number of history books lately, a few that I would recommend so far are:

The Concise History of the Crusades by Thomas F. Madden
This isn't a large book that can bog you down, it's only few hundred pages and is laid out very well, providing some good insight into the Crusades.

The Punic Wars by Adrian Goldsworthy.
This book was about the struggle between Rome and Carthage, covering the three Punic Wars.

1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and The West by Roger Crowley
This was a very good book. One thing that I loved about reading this book and the one above about the Crusades was that it gave me a lot better understanding of the political and religious structure of the Middle East. Anyway, this book about the final fall of Constantinople to Mehmet in 1453.

Right now I've started reading 1066 The Year of the Three Battles by Frank McLynn which is pretty much about William the Conqueror. Next on my list after that one is Queen Emma and the Vikings by Harriet O'Brien.
Enkidu of Uruk
Legionary
(id: thekid951)
posted 08 October 2007 11:23 EDT (US)     97 / 212       
Can someone recommend me some history books about the Explorations in the 15th and 16th century? I need to write an essay on it, and don't want to use the internet (much).

Kor
Busschof Happertesch
(id: Derfel Cadarn)
posted 13 October 2007 10:18 EDT (US)     98 / 212       
Been reading Philippe Contamine's War in the Middle Ages. A true classic, and I can advise it to anyone who has a deeper background in medieval society and how it was affected by warfare, as well as the art of war in general.

Kor | The Age of Chivalry is upon us!
Wellent ich gugk, so hindert mich / köstlicher ziere sinder,
Der ich e pflag, da für ich sich / Neur kelber, gaiss, böck, rinder,
Und knospot leut, swarz, hässeleich, / Vast rüssig gen dem winder;
Die geben müt als sackwein vich. / Vor angst slach ich mein kinder
Offt hin hinder.
D Furius Venator
HG Alumnus
posted 13 October 2007 11:25 EDT (US)     99 / 212       
It's good that one. I like his stress on the fact that the Roman army was a kind of aspirational model for many states and that 'military progress' (for want of a better term) was progressive - that there was no 'great leap backwards' when Rome fell.

Slightly surprising to me was his pointing out that most states spent about half their resources to war - underlining the fact that the Middle Ages was largely defined by war.

Civile! Si ergo fortibusis in ero.
Wassis inem causan dux?
Gnossis vile demsis trux!

I suggest that before badgering for a translation you take the time to read it out loud. Thankyou.
Kor
Busschof Happertesch
(id: Derfel Cadarn)
posted 13 October 2007 11:35 EDT (US)     100 / 212       
Yes, it's very good. I was also surprised by his ratio of Roman soldiers to citizens (1:100 or 1:400 effectives). That was a bit of a rehash of Delbrück, but still - it's staggering.
I also loved his scientific look at gunpowder and cannons. I'd already read extensively on fortifications and the like, but the way cannons themselves were constructed and evolved is often overlooked, despite being a very important point.

Kor | The Age of Chivalry is upon us!
Wellent ich gugk, so hindert mich / köstlicher ziere sinder,
Der ich e pflag, da für ich sich / Neur kelber, gaiss, böck, rinder,
Und knospot leut, swarz, hässeleich, / Vast rüssig gen dem winder;
Die geben müt als sackwein vich. / Vor angst slach ich mein kinder
Offt hin hinder.
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