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If you want to explore the fascinating past and rich culture of the world, reading the best history books for each period is the portal to all the eras.
Historical books hold the ability to draw the past into the bright spotlight, disclosing its significance and making it simpler for everyone to comprehend and remember. A good history book can make a hero into someone morally ambiguous and a villain into someone relatable. It can change your perspective on subjects and matters you think you know and understand.
The records of the part are both educational and entertaining, and by knowing the past, you will begin to understand the present better.
1. the Importance of Reading History Books
A very small population of people is truly interested in world history. Even voracious readers who love to explore all the genres – fantasy, romance, crime, science fiction, and more, shy away from history.
Many of you probably have less than fond memories of sneakily yawning during those dull history lessons in your school.
Well, it is time to change this aversion to reading history. With the best history books for each period, you will learn about the past in an informative yet fun way.
And how can you expect to understand today if you are unaware of past actions?
By reading the best history books for each period, you will learn about the past and human history, understand the present, and anticipate the right way to navigate the future.
2. The Periods of History
The entire history of the world can be divided into many eras and periods depending on various factors. In the case of chronicling the past, time is generally sectioned in terms of dates, years, and centuries.
The past can be fragmented into many pieces depending on perspective. Each country of the world has a different division of eras. The history of English literature distinctly divides ages, while the past can also be sectioned in terms of wars, politics, and important events.
However, the periods of history are roughly considered in terms of four parts around the world:
- The Ancient Age: 600 B.C. – 476 A.D.
- The Middle Ages: 476 A.D. – 1450 A.D.
- Early Modern Age/Period: 1450-A.D. – 1750 A.D.
- The Modern Era: 1750 A.D – Now
3. 20 Best History Books for Each Period
So now that you know the four eras of past to present, get ready to delve deeper into the fascinating world of history and culture by reading the best history books for each period; you will be traveling in a time machine and will be getting to witness the past in a completely different way.
3.1 A Study of History (Arnold Joseph Toynbee)
Arnold Joseph Toynbee’s examination of the growth and decline of civilizations has always been considered one of the best history books for each period.
The accounts recorded in the twelve volumes from 1934 to 1961 represent the societies and cultures across time and space. The beginning, expansion, turmoils, and fall are all carefully documented and analyzed.
Here, you will find interesting facts and information on twenty-one main civilizations, including Egyptian, Sumerian, Hindu, Hellenic, Orthodox Christian, Mexican, and many more.
Toynbee’s book is the perfect start for your introduction to the best history books for each period.
3.2 The Age of Revolution: Europe: 1789–1848 (Eric Hobsbawm)
Printed in 1962, The Age of Revolution: Europe introductory book in the popular trilogy on “the long 19th century.”
The Age of Capital and The Age of Empire follow this book.
So if you are curious about Europe’s rich and complex history, this is the book for you.
Later a fourth book called The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century was published as a successor to the famous trilogy.
3.3 The Guns of August (Barbara W. Tuchman)
Published in 1962, The Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman is an account of history focused on the first month of World War I.
Following the initial chapters with intros, Tuchman narrates in remarkable detail the starting circumstances and events centered around the war and dispute. Its emphasis then evolves to a military account of the opponents, primarily the leading players of the battle.
Considered a classic, The Guns of August is one of the best history books for each period. So if you want to delve deeper into the history of the First World War, this Pulitzer Prize-winning chronicle is the next book to pick up.
3.4 SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome (Mary Beard)
Mary Beard, an academic on Ancient Rome, gathered 1000 years of the Roman Empire in this comprehensive account of how the power of Rome reached its height along with the rich cultural facets of the society.
In this book of Roman history, she has recorded the lives of common dwellers in minute detail, granting us a detailed picture of how they existed. Along with that, the political aspects are addressed in the book as well.
So if you are looking for a chronicle of the classical era, SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome can be considered one of the best history books of each period.
3.5 What Is History? (E. H. Care)
This book is excellent research on the points historians ask themselves and history readers should address as well. Based on the essence of chronicling history, these questions are fascinating as well as complicated.
Is history a diverse assortment of facts recorded by an impartial person called a historian? Or is it the analysis of the past to understand the present? And what exactly do the old records, laws, alliances, blue books, letters, and journals tell us?
Filled with controversy, wit, and humor, What is History? by Carr is a remarkable and revolutionary history book on history itself!
3.6 The Origins of The Second World War (A.J.P. Taylor)
This historical nonfiction book by A.J.P. Taylor investigates the reasons behind the Second World War. In this work, Taylor presents the outrageous idea that World War II was not something that happened because of Hitler’s evil scheme but was just part accident and part weakness of others.
One of the most intriguing and best history books for each period, The Origins of the Second World War, will completely change your views and perspective on the World War Era.
3.7 Liberty Before Liberalism (Quentin Skinner)
Another text based on the classical era, Liberty Before Liberalism by Quentin Skinner, is an extensive essay that explores the distinction between the “neo-roman” notion of liberty as speculated by 17th Century scholars and the classical liberal theory of liberty as understood by the intellectuals of the 18th Century.
3.8 Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (James M. McPherson)
In this Pulitzer Prize-winning narrative based on the era of the Civil War, McPherson gives a lucid explanation of the enormous and disjointed information on the “second American Revolution” or the Civil War. This conflict remade a country and enhanced the lineage of liberty.
A part of the series called The Oxford History of the United States, Battle Cry of Freedom is most notable for McPherson’s fresh perspective on the issues of slavery, growth matters in the 1850s, the beginnings of the Republican Party, the reasons for withdrawal, and the conflict between the sides of blue and grey.
3.9 Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West (William Cronon)
One of the best history books for each period, Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West by Cronon, is a brilliant work on environmental history.
This winner of the Bancroft Prize is a remarkable example of the idea that financial, metropolitan, environmental, and industrial history can be as attractive, influential, and captivating as a novel.
3.10 The American Political Tradition: And the Men Who Made it (Richard Hofstadter)
Published in 1948, this work by Hofstadter describes the doctrine and philosophy of former Presidents of the United States of America and other political personalities.
With this masterpiece of American history, Richard Hofstadter altered how Americans perceive the connection between power and notions in their national events and affairs.
3.11 Commoners: Common Right, Enclosure and Social Change in England, 1700-1820 (Jeanette M. Neeson)
When looking for the best history books for each period, Commoners by Jeanette M. Neeson is a must-read.
Considered one of the most significant and primary history books on the English rural past, this one is the winner of the Whitfield Prize.
With an age-old debate about the agrarian society of England, Commoners is an important read to develop your understanding of European history.
3.12 Fifth Sun: A New History of The Aztecs (Camilla Townsend)
In Fifth Sun, Camilla Townsend successfully records the account of the Aztecs and what transpired surrounding them at the time of the European assault. Townsend compiled and translated major sources composed by Aztecs who had discovered the Roman alphabet or inscribed comprehensive records in Náhuatl.
This publication is the English-translated anthology of those chronological records, delivering a picture of Aztec life up to 50 years before the Spanish domination and continues till after.
3.13 1776 (David McCullough)
As you can probably guess from the book’s name, 1776 centers on the episodes encompassing the beginning of the American Revolution. It is the tale of the Americans, the English, and all the key players in the conflict.
Other than the extraordinary amount of historical facts, what is especially incredible about this book is the drama, passion, and narrative power that McCullough successfully expresses in documenting the tale of the year America was born.
Along with that, 1776 also comprises numerous pages of pictures containing paintings of the major participants and authentic presentations of historical battleground maps created by English engineers and designers of that period.
Without any doubt, it can be said that the best thing about the book is that even though it is a work of political history and nonfiction, it has no dull details and truthfully feels like reading an interesting novel.
3.14 A Preponderance of Power: National Security, the Truman Administration, and the Cold War (Melvyn Leffler)
In his book A Preponderance of Power, Leffler evaluates the outcomes of the Truman authority’s allegiance to national security and the fight against Communist dominion.
Papers, verbal records, and biographies illustrating U.S. officers’ objectives, purposes, and concerns were widely distributed and reviewed during the Cold War. Still, during the 1970s, a vast declassification of records from the Army, Navy, some intelligence organizations, and Air Force revitalized chronological research of this war, which then became the explicit dispute of its time.
Though most historians used these documents to examine special subjects, Leffler rounds up the important available information on behalf of a comprehensive investigation of the national security system at the time of the Truman years.
Even today, A Preponderance of Power is considered one of the best history books for each period and an excellent record of the Truman administration’s continuous confusion and disorder during the Cold War.
3.15 Ancient Greece: Politics, Society, and Culture (Sarah Pomeroy, Stanley M. Burstein, Walter Donlan, Georgia Tsouvala, David W. Tandy, and Jennifer Tolbert Roberts)
This outstanding collaborative work presents the classical era of Ancient Greece beautifully. The book illustrates the political, civil, cultural, and financial conditions of ancient Greece in all its complicated intricacy and diversity. Composed of these six famous ancient Greek historians, this fascinating research shows the ancient history and past of the Greeks, starting from the Bronze Age until the Roman era.
3.16 Genghis Khan and The Making of The Modern World (Jack Weatherford)
You cannot complete the list of the best history books for each period without including the biggest kingdom in history.
The Mongolian Kingdom was much more enormous than the Roman Empire, and it started under the rule of Genghis Khan. Jack Weatherford, a cultural anthropologist, minutely records the empires Genghis Khan dominated and how transmission, business, and society changed.
3.17 Orientalism (Edward W. Said)
This book by Edward Said studies the impact of the notions of ‘orientalism’ on the relations of the Eastern and Western worlds. Published in 1978, Orientalism examines the chronology of this belief system and the way it is still dominant in today’s life.
Here, Said defines “Orientalism” as a crucial concept to portray the West’s typically disdainful characterization and image of The East or the Orient.
The book discloses why inaccurate Western theories about Eastern nations have existed for over two hundred years and their effect on people’s perspectives in the present world.
One of the best history books for each period, Orientalism has greatly influenced and changed the fields of literary criticism, Post-colonial culture studies, anthropogeography, and human geography.
Though most people deem Orientalism a challenging read, you should not let its intimidating prominence make you skip this great work exploring the power dynamics of the two divisions of the globe.
3.18 The Landscape of History: How Historians Map The Past (John Lewis Gaddis)
One of the most successful modern historians, John Lewis Gaddis, contributes a detailed glimpse at the art and craft of the historian’s work.
He insists that society cannot assign scientific techniques to history as past episodes have already transpired, and the reasons can never be validated with a physical examination.
So if you are interested in both the events of history as well as the art of composing history, The Landscape of History is the perfect read for you.
3.19 The Communist Manifesto (Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels)
Even though The Communist Manifesto is primarily listed as a political work, it is also a great source of finding about the history of that time, especially regarding economic policies and principles.
In this world-famous work, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels assert that all of history has been characterized by conflicts between the common working class and the rich bourgeoisie.
According to them, class links have established financial patterns, and the various uprisings throughout history have provoked hostility and opposition between these two sides.
With only about a hundred pages, the Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels is a short and brilliant read that gives you a fascinating glimpse into the many aspects of politics and class conflicts of society during that time.
3.20 Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (Jared Diamond)
The list of the best history books for each period can never be complete unless you include this remarkable masterpiece by Jared Diamond.
In this 1997 Pulitzer Prize-winning nonfiction, Diamond examines all the environmental components and geographical aspects that molded the modern world.
One of the best history books for each period, Guns, Germs, and Steel, records how modern society was formed and shows the racial and historical aspects of the community.
Now that you know about the most informative, interesting, and best history books for each period, it is time to pick up your next read.
The days of thinking of the subject of history as something uninteresting is gone, and these books might end up chasing the blues and boredom of daily life. The past is full of incredible events, personalities, and tales you would love to find and explore.
It does not matter if you are a history nerd or someone who generally avoids the subject of history. The best history books for each period in this list will change your perspective of the world and leave you wishing for more.
So get ready and hop on a time machine that will take you on an unforgettable journey where you will see the legendary events unfolding before your eyes. Brew a cup of tea or coffee, get cozy in your reading nook, and go on a wonderful trip to the past with the best history books for each period.
FAQs On Best History Books For Each Period
If you wish to explore the past chronicles a bit more and have some more curiosities in need of addressing, read on to find the answers to the most frequently asked questions on the best history books for each period.
1. What are the Main Periods of History?
The main eras, ages, and periods of history can be divided based on many perspectives – literature, wars, politics, countries, important events, and more. However, all around the world, there is a universal acknowledgment of the four main periods of history. They are The Ancient Age, The Middle Ages, The Early Modern Age/Period, and The Modern Era.
While these are the main eras of history, there are many ways and perspectives in which it can be divided. With the best history books for each period, you will see eras divided based on ancient classical times, World Wars, revolutions, politics, and many other significant episodes.
2. Why Should One Read History Books?
History is one of the most important subjects for people of all ages and professions. No matter how dull it feels, one can never deny the importance of studying the past.
One can get knowledge and experience from the past to live in the present. And by functioning in the present, only you can anticipate and become equipped to handle the future.
3. Which are the best history books for each period?
There are many brilliant records of the past that one can study to enrich and expand their knowledge of the world and universal history.
Among the best history books for each period, you will find famous works such as A Study of History (Arnold Joseph Toynbee), Orientalism (Edward W. Said), Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (Jared Diamond), and What Is History? (E. H. Care).
The list goes on and on and is, in truth, endless. The chronicles of the past are unending, but you need to start somewhere. And this guide is your solution to the question of where to begin your journey of the best history books for each period.