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Favortie historian; what's yours?

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message 1: by Meirav (new)

Meirav Rath | 3 comments I've just recently discovered the delightful to read Lawrence James who writes very informatively yet manages to show a clear and objective picture of the historical events he's covering.
I also enjoy Winston Churchill's style of writing in his world war 2 autobiography books, very poetic and humorous though a bit navy-obsessed.

What about you? Who did you just discover and who's your favorite?

message 2: by Patrick (new)

Patrick | 13 comments Great question, Meirav!

I have many favorites...but initially my vote is for Ron Chernow, author of my favorite book Titan: the Life of John D. Rockefeller.

His latest book was about Alexander Hamilton, and word is that he is writing a book about George Washington.

I always find Chernow witty and fun to read, and i enjoy his insights into the people and the subjects he writes about. His books are usually very long, but it is clear that he has researched his suject exhaustively, and provides the reader with plenty of footnotes and sources for us to check out his assertions.

I also am a huge fan of Stephen Sears, who write about the Eastern Theater campaigns of the American Civil War. He's covered McClellan's Peninsula campaign, Antietam, Chancellorsvile (my personal favorite for Sears), and came out with Gettysburg in 2003. Looking forward to see his next book (or books), when he finally starts to write about Grant.

message 3: by Jeff (new)

Jeff | 2 comments Hi! I'm new to this group. I see that this discussion is rather old, but here goes! My most favorite is Barbara W. Tuchman, but I have many others also. Anyone else!?

message 4: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Collins (jamie_goodreads) Most recently I've enjoyed a couple of books by Joseph J. Ellis about the American founding fathers.

Two of my longtime favorites are Alison Weir and Antonia Fraser, who have written biographies about the English royal family, particularly the Tudors.

I have a couple of Barabara Tuchman books, and I recently bought the Chernow book on Hamilton, but I haven't gotten around to reading them yet.

message 5: by Laura (new)

Laura Do not forget the books by Edward Rutherfurd such as The Princes of Ireland

message 6: by Karen (new)

Karen The inimitable William Lee Miller is my favorite historian. But I also very much enjoy reading books by Daniel Boorstin, who was a former Librarian of Congress, and David McCullough.

message 7: by Larry (new)

Larry (blue_key) | 6 comments Gordon Wood, James Flexner (great bio of George Washington), Philip McFarland, Craig Nelson.

message 8: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Lopez | 5 comments Wow -- great question. Where to begin? David McCullough, Robert Caro, Simon Schama...

message 9: by Terence (new)

Terence (spocksbro) I don't believe I have a "favorite" historian. I'm drawn to the subject matter more than to a particular author.

I suppose I do have a fondness for Barbara Tuchman as I discovered her (in "A Distant Mirror") when I was in high school and she greatly influenced my love of the subject and probably my getting two degrees in it.

And now that the detritus in my skull has been stirred, let's throw in Garry Wills as both brilliant author and historian.

Recently, however, I will admit to a enjoying not only the subject but the writing in Simon Montefiore's "The Court of the Red Tsar" and I'm looking forward to reading "Young Stalin" as soon as I clear the library books off of my to-read list.

message 10: by Donald (new)

Donald (donroc) | 15 comments Definitely Simon Schama and Barbara Tuchman.

message 11: by Jim (new)


message 12: by Donald (new)

Donald (donroc) | 15 comments Yes, Shirer. How could I forget him? I enjoyed his COLLAPSE OF THE THIRD REPUBLIC as well.

message 13: by Stefan (new)

Stefan (stefan44) Ian Kershaw is an excellent historian who wrote three of my favorite books:

1. Hitler: Hubris
2. Hitler: Nemesis
3. Fateful Choices

I also enjoy Charles Whiting who wrote a large number of excellent books on the Second World War.

Stephen B. Oates wrote several of my favorite historical biographies:

1. With malice toward none was an outstanding biography of Abraham Lincoln

2. Let the trumpets sound was one of the best biographies of Martin Luther King Jr. I have ever read.

message 14: by Terence (new)

Terence (spocksbro) Kershaw is good but I could have kicked myself when I got home the other night and saw that portion of my shelf devoted to one of the most literate and erudite:

Steven Runciman.

message 15: by Donald (new)

Donald (donroc) | 15 comments Haven't read Runciman since college. Another good one.

message 16: by David (new)

David | 2 comments I don’t know if I have a favorite, but in the past couple of years I’ve read more or less everything by Joseph Ellis, and no one writes better about the Revolutionary and Federalist periods.

message 17: by Jenna (new)

Jenna | 12 comments Like Terence, I am drawn more to subject matter, but a few of my favourite historians (that I would probably at least try even if they wrote something in a wildly different area than they are known for:)

Jay M. Winter -- British WWI historian
Barbara W. Tuchman
Alison Weir - mostly Tudor royal history
Laurence Senelick - theatre historian

message 18: by Matt (new)

Matt Great question! I don't have a degree in history, so most of my reading is for the general public, which limits the pool of authors to draw from, I'm sure.

But I have really enjoyed the 3 or 4 books by David McCullough that I've read (both histories and biographies), the 2 by Joseph Ellis, and the couple by Barbara Tuchman (she seems to be popular among the group).

I just finished Gordon Wood's "The Purpose of the Past" which is a collection of reviews he has written. This exposed me to a lot of new names and their works. Gives some unique insights into the quality of historians' writing.

message 19: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Lopez | 5 comments Hi Matt - I, too, have learned a lot from Gordon Wood. I'd definitely recommend his book "The Radicalism of the American Revolution" since you seem to be interested in American history. It's been very influential in the field, and is cited by Joseph Ellis and others named below. - Jonathan

message 20: by Steve (new)

Steve Peter Brown (The Rise of Western Christendom), Barbara Tuchman. Sometimes I think in terms of the books themselves. Like Gibbons & Rome. Burkhardt & Renaissance. Huizienga & Waning of Middle Ages. Recently, I liked War historian Max Hastings' book on the fall of Japan.

message 21: by Donald (new)

Donald (donroc) | 15 comments John Toland for WWII.

message 22: by ☼Bookish (new)

☼Bookish pam in Virginia☼  (ren_t) For Gaul and the transition from Roman to Germanic control I like E.A. Thompson and Gregory of Tours.

For early Medieval you can't beat Marc Bloch and Snorri Sturlason.

For the ancients, I personally like Tacitus and Herodotus.

message 23: by Hotspur (last edited Sep 04, 2008 06:57AM) (new)

Hotspur (hotspurot) | 5 comments Hmmm a very good question. Normally I shy away from "list your favorite" discussions but this one is generating new possibilities.

I rather like Barbara Tuchman's work-- it's history with a very personal touch, and it influenced later generations of writers like Ambrose.

Suetonius, for THE TWELVE CAESARS.

Samuel Eliot Morrison has my vote. A tad dry in places but he really uncovered every nook and cranny of the Pacific War.

Alfred Thayer Mahan, for the Influence of Sea Power on History.

Churchill, for brilliant, florid prose...

Robert Morris, for his Pre-Great War and Great War Naval Histories, and Nicholas and Alexandra.

I'm sure there are more, I haven't had my coffee yet.


message 24: by Richard (new)

Richard Fulgham (richardlee) | 4 comments One of my favorite favorites is William Craig, author of "Enemy at the Gate" -- the story of the German attack of Stalingrad. I also enjoy Nathan Miller, author of "Broadside", the history of the great sailing fleets of wooden warships. (Did you know the larger ones allowed whole families to live onboard? Wives were given extra pay if they participated in the battles.

message 25: by J.R. (new)

J.R. | 6 comments Simon Schama, Samuel Eliot Morrison, Barbara Tuchman, Stephen Ambrose.

message 26: by [deleted user] (new)

Without a doubt Stephen Ambrose for WWII lit.

message 27: by Lianne (new)

Lianne (eclecticreading) Favourite historian...hmm, tough choice. My newest favourite has to be Orlando Figes, who wrote The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia. It was an interesting read and the sources he used were just phenomenal...Sheila Fitzpatrick is also a favourite given the clarity she brings to Russian historiography. Margaret MacMillan is also an interesting read, I enjoyed her Paris 1919. And despite some errors here and there, Arthur Herman was also a good read for me, introduced me to the world of British Naval History :)

message 28: by Randy (new)

Randy | 10 comments I like everything I've read by David McCullough. His books are very readable, though I don't know if they convey a specific historical philosophy, but they are uplifting as they portray the struggles of people who tried to achieve good in the world.

I also like William Shirer and Jay Winik (April 1864). Both seem to agree that so much of history is random.

Randy Kadish

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