I know nothing about History..

(9 Posts)
Spacecraft Tue 10-Dec-13 09:08:24

I like to consider myself reasonably bright, I have a decent education and read widely but it's all science, politics, nature/environment. I seem to have missed all the more cultural things.

So if 2014's the year I learn something about history, how should I go about it and which subjects should I start with?

I'm thinking of having, say, six topics to cover - 2 months each. Would that be long enough/too long? I'm obviously not looking for great in depth knowledge just a little interesting understanding.

Is there such a thing as a history book that's also a decent read?!

Livinginlimbo2 Tue 10-Dec-13 10:46:39

I am in the same boat. When I was growing up, history was not in the fore of the school curriculum.
It might sound silly, but how about getting a children's encyclopaedia of history, the Usborne on is very good.Trying to get to grips with a meaty adult tome can be rather daunting.
I also find reading books about social history far more digestible than purely academic ones. I've read countless books about the East End of London and find them fascinating.
Hope this helps.

SinisterSal Tue 10-Dec-13 10:49:30

What era/s are you interested in?

If you choose wisely you can learn lots of actual facts from well researched well written historical novels. You can move on to more scholarly type things once your interest is piqued.

You will get loads of suggestions from MNers

How about A History of the World in 100 objects as a starting point?

Manchesterhistorygirl Tue 10-Dec-13 10:50:50

What era's are you interested in? Are you interested in the facts or ordinary peoples accounts and experiences?

TheBunsOfPanettone Fri 13-Dec-13 20:08:58

History seems to get bigger and bigger the more you explore it... how about starting with the history of something you enjoy or a biography of someone who specialised in one of those areas... I'm thinking Galileo, Newton, Darwin etc... it's a way to start finding out about historical periods in a way that's likely to sustain your interest.

Let us know what you decide to go for.

AnneWentworth Fri 13-Dec-13 23:54:52

I would say pick Russia and read Orlando Figes and Sheila Fitzpatrick. His books are like doorstops but very accessible and engaging. Hers are short, to the point and contain all of the info.

I love Russian history.

AnneWentworth Fri 13-Dec-13 23:55:54

Russia is fascinating.

PepeLePew Sun 01-Jun-14 21:13:15

I know I'm very very late coming to this thread, but I found myself in this position a couple of years ago.

I agree that the Usborne History series is excellent but that historical fiction or a really gripping biography is the best way of fixing a period in your mind (or my mind at least). Sarah Dunant is great on the Renaissance, for example - with a feel for that period in history I then find it easier to go back and read around it.

Two books I would hugely recommend are A Little History of the World by EH Gombrich, which is just wonderful, and Our Island Story, which is quite a particular view of English (and it is mostly English - other parts of the UK don't really get a look in) history but very good as an overview of what happened when.

And (slightly shameful confession here), I've picked up quite a bit from Horrible Histories...

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