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I Wish I'd Been There, Book Two: European History
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I Wish I'd Been There, Book Two: European History

3.15 of 5 stars 3.15  ·  rating details  ·  62 ratings  ·  16 reviews
“What is the scene or incident in European history that you would like to have witnessed-and why?”

In this companion to I Wish I'd Been There: Twenty Historians Bring to Life the Dramatic Events that Changed America, some of our finest historical writers now turn their attention to Europe, with lively and detailed accounts of some of the most dramatic events in history. Gui
ebook, 210 pages
Published June 9th 2009 by Anchor (first published May 13th 2008)
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Dec 16, 2008 Terence rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Amateur history buffs
Shelves: history-general
This is a collection of 20 essays where noted historians discuss pivotal moments in European history that they would have liked to witness. Fully half, however, deal with British history and none dealt with Scandinavia, Central or Southern Europe; only one came out of Russia. And some are pretty weak; the worst being Paul Kennedy's contribution, "The Battle of the Nile," supposedly told from the point of view of an Arab Egyptian family watching the fighting from the shore.

On the plus side, there
A collection of essays whose only connecting thread is that they all involve Europe in some way. That's it. Some are art history, others detail revolutions. Some are written in a dry academic style, while others read like pop history, and one, Paul Kennedy's "The Battle of the Nile," is written from the perspective of a fictional Egyptian fisherman (and manages to be actually offensive in how artificial, unconvincing, and Orientalist the fiction is). Some essays relate controversies or mysteries ...more
Maia B.
In a book full of essays by twenty different historians, there's bound to be some vital differences in the writing style and interesting-ness of all twenty essays. I was prepared for this (and prepared to skip several pages if I was bored half to death. I only had to do this twice, which I suppose is a good thing). But the first essay, about the death of Alexander the Great, was so good - evocative, interesting, full of imagery instead of a bland recital of facts - that I really did expect the n ...more
Mike Clinton
This book is great for picking up, reading through a piece, then putting down to return to a week or even a month later. It's similar to the "What If?" series of historical essays by serious, accomplished but accessible historians, the conceit in this case being less methodologically problematic - the authors of each of these twenty essays present an episode in history that they'd have liked to witness to learn more about. The authors suggest questions and problems that they might be better able ...more
This book is an often fascinating read because it recreates a wide range of topics from several different historical eras. While I really liked this book, I found the writing to be somewhat uneven, not surprising since each chapter is written by a different historian on his/her subject of choice. The drier chapters merely recounted specific events, but the best chapters really explained why the writer "wished I'd been there." If this was done, it didn't matter if the original subject matter inte ...more
I have a reading system: devotional reading in the morning, good-for-me reading over lunch if I'm awake enough, and escapist reading at night when I'm wiped out. Treating this as a good-for-me book, I enjoyed each chapter's peek at some vivid moment in European history, but read pretty slowly, until I got so intrigued I had to move it into the "escapist" category. Too bad it was due before I could finish, because by the end I was flying through. I did learn a lot of history though, including wha ...more
Gary Land
This is the first volume that I have read from this series. I found the essays interesting and particularly liked the various ways the authors took on their assignments. Because I am an American historian, I did not bring a lot of background knowledge to these essays and thus some were more interesting and understandable than others. I especially appreciated that some of the essays dealt with cultural matters. Probably my favorite was the one on the Parade ballet that was first performed in Pari ...more
The premise is fascinating; the execution, not so much.

Some of the essays I wasn't expecting much from, and was pleasantly surprised. I was really looking forward to the last two (by Sir John Keegan and Freeman Dyson) but they were complete non-starters. Much more interesting were the middle essays, by Fischer Drew (on the Magna Carta), Parker (on the near-surrender of the Spanish Armada), and Feingold (in the origins of Newton's Principia).

If you pick-and-choose, this book might be worth your w
I will have to find the first book. I am almost done this book, really enjoyable. Historians write (typically about 20 pages each) on events in history that they wish they could have seen in person. Some are well known, like the death of Alexander the Great, others are not sell well known, like when Charles, Prince of Wales, went to spain (no, not that Charles, the first one).

The all seem to be well written, and very much bring the incidents to life. I am quite enjoying the book.

Dan Burke
I enjoyed most of the essays in this book. The first one discussed the death bed of Alexander the Great. It really provided a new dimension to his contribution that I have never considered. I found the chapter concerning treaties at the end of WWI to be very informative. The last chapter provided great insight into Montgomery's character. Most of the historical accounts were accurate but also introduced a personal touch not found in textbooks.
Tamsin Barlow
I made the assumption that by reading these essays I would deepen my understanding of European history, but the authors were assuming I had more basic knowledge than I did. I plowed through them all and genuinely enjoyed learning about how the potato changed the face of Europe or how Manet scandalized France by painting the first naked, rather than nude, woman. But many were too esoteric.
A grab bag, as designed. It was a pleasant book to flip through. The early European history moments were well chosen and I liked most of the essays, just a few that didn't get my attention. This is a series, I may look for the others when in need of some historical snacking.
Big Mike
I couldn't get into this. It was just too much like wading through mud. Probably fascinating if you're into history, but between my physics and how it sits so comfortably with sci-fi.
This was a great book - a good cross-section of European history that provided an excellent overview. Very easy to read, too - 20 chapters in all, about 15 pages each.
Interesting. I wasn't always on board or interested in the aspects of events with which historians were fascinated, but still it was a great new perspective.
These essays and events weren't nearly as interesting as the American history ones. Disappointing.
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I Wish I'd Been There: Twenty Historians Bring to Life Dramatic Events That Changed America

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