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Essential Reading: History Books

History is the study of the past as it is described in written documents. Events occurring before the written record are considered prehistory. History relates to past events as well as the memory, discovery, collection, organization, presentation, and interpretation of information about these events. We have initially focused on the macro scale of history, followed by a focus on historiography and the study of history itself. As for any area of knowledge or interest it’s important to find your own materials, and more importantly, your own reasons for learning the discipline.

“The historian without his facts is rootless and futile; the facts without their historian are dead and meaningless.” ― E.H Carr.


A Little History of the World 

by E.H Gombrich | Amazon Edition

In 1935, with a doctorate in art history and no prospect of a job, the 26-year-old Ernst Gombrich was invited by a publishing acquaintance to attempt a history of the world for younger readers. Gombrich completed the task in just six weeks. The result was Eine kurze Weltgeschichte für junge Leser, which was published to immediate success, and is now available in seventeen languages across the world. The product of a generous and humane sensibility, this timeless account makes intelligible the full span of human history.

A Short History of Nearly Everything 

by Bill Bryson | Amazon Edition

Bill Bryson takes on the role of apprentice to the world’s most advanced anthropologists, archaeologists, and mathematicians in his pursuit to understandif at all possiblethe weightiest and deepest questions about our universe and our species. Bryson takes an involving and entertaining approach, seamlessly sifting through the reams of human history, from the Big Bang to the rise of civilisation and human knowledge.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind 

by Yuval Noah Harari | Amazon Edition

Sapiens spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the earth to the radical – and sometimes devastating – breakthroughs of the Cognitive, Agricultural and Scientific Revolutions. Drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, palaeontology and economics, Harari explores how the currents of history have shaped our human societies, the animals and plants around us, and even our personalities and behaviour.

Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History 

by David Christian | Amazon Edition

Maps of Time opens with the origins of the universe, the stars, the galaxies, and the solar system, including the earth, and conducts readers through the evolution of the planet to the development of human society. Sweeping in scope, focused on detail, this riveting account of the known world, from the inception of space-time to the prospects of global warming, lays the groundwork for world history like never before.

The Pursuit of History 

by John Tosh | Amazon Edition

This classic introduction to the practice of history invites the reader to stand back and consider some of its most fundamental questions – what is the point of studying history? How do we know about the past? Does an objective historical truth exist and can we ever access it?

History: A Very Short Introduction

by John H. Arnold | Amazon Edition

John Arnold’s addition to Oxford’s popular series begins by inviting us to think about various questions provoked by our investigation of history and historiography. Arnold then explores the ways in which these questions have been answered in the past. The aim is to discuss theories of history in a general, pithy, and accessible manner, rather than delve into specific periods.

History in Practice

by Ludmilla Jordanova | Amazon Edition

History in Practice explores the discipline’s breadth, its complexities and the tasks it takes on. This study by one of the liveliest and most acute practitioners in the field demystifies what historians do. It looks at history as an academic discipline but also engages with the extensive and sometimes troubling uses of historical ideas in the wider world.

What is History? 

by E.H Carr | Amazon Edition

Who is to say how things really were? All historical facts come to us as a result of interpretative choices by historians influenced by the standards of their age. Yet if absolute objectivity is impossible, the role of the historian need in no way suffer; nor does history lose its fascination. With lucidity, Carr casts a light on the proper function of the historian and the vital importance of history in modern society.

In Defence of History 

by Richard J. Evans | Amazon Edition

E. H. Carr’s What Is History?, a classic introduction to the field, may now give way to a worthy successor. In his compact, intriguing survey, Richard J. Evans shows us how historians manage to extract meaning from the recalcitrant past. 

The Nature of History

by Arthur Marwick | Amazon Edition

Developed for students and general readers as a concise guide to the methods and purposes of historical study and its place in modern society. The Nature of History seeks to explore the nature of historical evidence, to show how history comes to be written and to offer a basis on which “good” history can be distinguished from the “bad”.

Re-thinking History 

by Keith Jenkins | Amazon Edition

History means many things to many people. But finding an answer to the question ‘What is history?’ is a task few feel equipped to answer. If you want to explore this tantalising subject, where do you start? What are the critical skills you need to make sense of the past? Jenkins’ clear and concise prose guides readers through the controversies and debates that surround historical thinking at the present time, providing them with the means to make their own discoveries.

The End of History and the Last Man

by Francis Fukuyama | Amazon Edition

The End of History and the Last Man is a modern classic, ever since its first publication in 1992, it has provoked controversy and debate. Francis Fukuyama’s prescient analysis of religious fundamentalism, politics, scientific progress, ethical codes, and war is as essential for a world fighting fundamentalist terrorists as it was for the end of the Cold War.

The Idea of History

by R G Collingwood | Amazon Edition

The Idea of History is the best-known work of the great Oxford philosopher, historian, and archaeologist R.G. Collingwood. This important work examines how the idea of history has evolved from the time of Herodotus to the twentieth century, and offers Collingwood’s own view of what history is.

The Historian’s Craft

by Marc Bloch | Amazon Edition

In this classic work, distinguished French economic historian, Marc Bloch, discusses the techniques of historical observation, analysis, and criticism, and the reestablishment of historical causation in assessing events. What is the value of history? What is the use of history? How do scholars attempt to unpack it and make connections in a responsible manner?


“Historians study the past not in order to repeat it, but in order to be liberated from it.” ― Yuval Noah Harari.

Lastly, if you are keen on learning how to write history consider: