History

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Martijn
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History

Post by Martijn » Fri Jun 13, 2008 8:52 am

As in books about the past. Preferably serious, well-written books with an eye for personal stories without failing to see the bigger picture. The Dutch actually have some great writers of history books (Frank Westerman, Geert Mak, Chris van der Heijden), but there are several English ones too. Two years ago, I read Mark Mazower's brilliant 'biography' of Thessaloniki and now I saw he has a new book out, about Nazi occupation of Europe. I really want to read that one too. And did anyone read the books on London in the 19th and 20th century. Every time I see them in a bookshop, I need to hold them for a little while.

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Re: History

Post by schlump » Fri Jun 13, 2008 10:28 am

i loved this:
Image

it's anna funder snooping around the crumbling remnants of the german democratic republic, and the secret police, talking about the role of informants, and the effect of state intrusion on individuals' privacy, in east germany. it's fascinating, and wonderfully written, a record of testimonial from those still affected and rememberances of how it was at the time. i heartily recommend it, anyway. one of the most interesting things with records of very recent history, this coming up to '89, is that there isn't the separation of being able to view events through a lens, and assume that people were different, naive, evil, when they were in black and white.

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Re: History

Post by KingPanda » Tue Sep 30, 2008 5:33 pm

Mike Dash's books about 17th century Dutch history are good fun - Tulipomania, about tulipmania, and Batavia's Graveyard, about shipwrecks and insane heretics. Deadly. I also enjoyed his book about the Thug cult in India.
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Re: History

Post by Dan » Mon Oct 06, 2008 11:31 pm

KingPanda wrote:Mike Dash's books about 17th century Dutch history are good fun - Tulipomania, about tulipmania, and Batavia's Graveyard, about shipwrecks and insane heretics. Deadly. I also enjoyed his book about the Thug cult in India.
I wonder if you are who I suspect you are.

On my lunch break I have been dipping into Simon Schama's Embarrassment of Riches, which is about the Dutch. His book on Rembrandt and Rubens is very good.

I also currently have loaned The Making of the English Working Class, but I have not made much headway.

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Re: History

Post by KingPanda » Mon Oct 13, 2008 10:05 pm

I've seen that Simon Schama book... it looks good, but is a bit of a porker. Mike Dash speaks highly of it. I also sometimes look at that book by Jonathan Israel, the one with the great title of "The Dutch Republic - its rise, greatness, and fall".

Among other things, I am currently back reading Anthony Beevor's book about the Spanish Civil War - not one for anyone who reckons that anything good ever came out of Communist Russia. And I am reading a book about France colonising the Sahara (when these unproductive oceans of sand are ours we will be invincible!) but cannot remember its author.
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Re: History

Post by Martijn » Sun Nov 09, 2008 8:21 pm

There are World War 1 booklets free with The Guardian this week. Which is dead exciting and while most of these free things you get with the paper turn out to be pretty crap, these ones looks pretty decent. After the poetry series they did in spring, this is my second favourite giveaway series. (Unfortunately, I don't really have time to read the paper every day. I had only just finished yesterday's Guardian when I had to rush to the Co-op and buy myself the Observer.)

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Re: History

Post by JohaN » Wed Nov 12, 2008 9:14 am

i think i mentioned it in the general reading thread, but i can't recommend nicholas ostler's "empires of the word: a language history of the world" highly enough.
it's pretty much what it sounds like, but is huge and magisterial, and not at all a difficult read, and it just left me with the most wunnerful feel of being satisfied when i'd finished it.
a marvellous book
1 wasn't for the money
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Re: History

Post by Dan » Sun Nov 16, 2008 8:22 pm

I've just borrowed/been given all these books. Help.

A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order - William Engdahl
The Vertigo Years: Change and Culture in the West, 1900-1914 - Philipp Blom
In Europe: Travels through the twentieth century - Geert Mak
Love, Poverty & War and God Is Not Great - Hitchens
The Holocaust Industry - Norman Finkelstein
Faust's Metropolis: A History of Berlin - Alexandra Richie
Deer Hunting With Jesus: Guns, Votes, Debt and Delusion in Redneck America - Joe Bageant
The Discovery of France - Graham Robb
The Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History since 1900 - David Edgerton
City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles - Mike Davis
White Mughals: Love and Betrayal in Eighteenth-century India - William Dalrymple
Yo, Blair! - Geoffrey Wheatcroft, and,
Americans - (by the almost unfeasibly brilliantly named) Edward Countryman

Anyone read any of them? The Discovery of France was particularly highly recommended, but I think I will start with the one about LA. I expect to have them finished sometime around 2018.

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Re: History

Post by Martijn » Sun Nov 16, 2008 8:33 pm

I have read Geert Mak's In Europe, like I've read most of his books. He's kind of a celebrity in the Netherlands, but an interesting person and a really good writer. He cares for the small details without missing the bigger picture and is always willing to debunk some well-known myths. If you're into history, I can really recommend this one, though it's a shame one of his other books, My Father's Century hasn't been translated into English, for he does the brilliant thing of combining the history of his family with the history of the Netherlands between 1900 and 1980.

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Re: History

Post by bananablush » Mon Nov 17, 2008 9:08 am

KingPanda wrote:I've seen that Simon Schama book... it looks good, but is a bit of a porker. Mike Dash speaks highly of it. I also sometimes look at that book by Jonathan Israel, the one with the great title of "The Dutch Republic - its rise, greatness, and fall".
Crumbs, that Israel book is enormous! I can only read little books.

I think everyone should be made to read Reformation: Europe's House Divided by Dairmaid MacCulloch. He can explode an idea (usually something horrifyingly complex) into a hundred different strands and bring it all back together and at the end you feel like you understand the entire world. ace!

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Re: History

Post by JohaN » Tue Nov 18, 2008 7:49 pm

i think probably my favourite historian to read, generally... okay, perhaps he's not a "historian" in any large sense of the word, but he definitely writes history!... is Mark Kurlansky.
It's not just that he tackles unusual topics, but the way in which he writes them are unfailingly fascinating (okay, so far.. i've only read "1968", "a basque history of the world" and "salt" - but they were great)

i've look at mak's "in europe" a few times, martijn - it DOES look splendid. i'll give it another look!
1 wasn't for the money
2 wasn't for the show
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Re: History

Post by humblebee » Wed Nov 19, 2008 8:18 am

JohaN wrote:i think probably my favourite historian to read, generally... okay, perhaps he's not a "historian" in any large sense of the word, but he definitely writes history!... is Mark Kurlansky.
It's not just that he tackles unusual topics, but the way in which he writes them are unfailingly fascinating (okay, so far.. i've only read "1968", "a basque history of the world" and "salt" - but they were great)
I read his book about cod a few years ago. It's brilliant!

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Re: History

Post by KingPanda » Sun Nov 23, 2008 1:03 pm

Dan wrote:I've just borrowed/been given all these books. Help.

Love, Poverty & War and God Is Not Great - Hitchens
The Holocaust Industry - Norman Finkelstein
White Mughals: Love and Betrayal in Eighteenth-century India - William Dalrymple

Anyone read any of them? The Discovery of France was particularly highly recommended, but I think I will start with the one about LA. I expect to have them finished sometime around 2018.
How old is the Love, Poverty & War book? is it from before or after Hitchens went barking mad? The God Is Not Great book, I have heard that it is not great - not really telling you anything you don't already know, except that lots of people are really stupid while Hitchens is incredibly intelligent. The one Hitchens book I have read is very impressive in terms of prose style etc., but he does love himself, and the endless references to "my good friend Nelson Mandela", "my good friend Vaclav Havel" etc. start to grate very quickly.

I have read some of the Finkelstein book. It is interesting, but not history as such. He does have footnotes and all that kind of stuff, but it is a work of polemic rather than historical analysis.

I read another of Dalrymple's Indian history books, and suspect that one you have must be total genius.
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Re: History

Post by stolenwine » Sun Nov 23, 2008 1:50 pm

i've read that white mughals one and i really liked it (but it's about something i've always been curious about/interested in so maybe that's why i liked it?)

i know it kind of looks like a romance novel from the cover, but it's not just about the love story. it's well written and goes into all the history stuff along with the main um..."romantic" story, so you really do get a good idea of the history/events. he's done a lot of good books on indian history though, so if you want to read one i think he's the guy to go for.
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Re: History

Post by Dan » Wed Nov 26, 2008 12:40 am

I too have read another of Dalrymple's Indian history books.

LP&W was published 2004. I have only read the first (Love) section, which consists mostly of book reviews written 2002-2004. I was fascinated to hear about his good-friendship with Kingsley Amis. The barking madness will most likely come to the fore in the final (War) section. The only other book I have read by Hitchens is the one on Kissinger. It is worth reading. Which one have you read?

I watched Finkelstein with that Dershowitz fellow on Youtube and they both kind of did my head in. I hope his written polemic is better than his debating skills are.

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Re: History

Post by Martijn » Tue Dec 02, 2008 11:08 am

Has anyone read Piers Brendon's The Decline and Fall of the British Empire? I've read some good things about it and I'd like to read a bit more about British history. The only problem with most history books is that they take forever to get through them. Perhaps I should just read them a chapter at a time and read some light fiction inbetween.

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Re: History

Post by KingPanda » Tue Dec 02, 2008 11:18 pm

Brandon's book about the 1930s is very interesting. I particularly liked the anecdote about how Mussolini liked his lovemaking as fast as possible, but would sometimes follow up a quickie by playing the violin for the lucky lady.
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Re: History

Post by Martijn » Mon Aug 10, 2009 10:57 pm

I just finished Timothy Snyder's The Red Prince: The Fall of a Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Europe. I don't like biographies, unless they are about someone whose life story tells many stories in one. That of Wilhelm von Habsburg, the subject of this book, does. He was a Habsburg prince, a member of the future Polish royal family, self-proclaimed future monarch of a non-existent Ukraine, a philosemitic socialist, a lover of both men and women who didn't seem to care what gossip was written about him, a financial swindler, an antisemitic fascist, a Western spy in Nazi Austria and a Western spy against Soviet occupied Austria. If that sounds like a great story, then it is because it is a great story. Moreover, and as importantly, Timothy Snyder is a brilliant writer; one who doesn't linger on about historical facts, but one who can really tell a story.

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Re: History

Post by Elie » Thu Aug 13, 2009 9:04 am

KingPanda wrote:Among other things, I am currently back reading Anthony Beevor's book about the Spanish Civil War - not one for anyone who reckons that anything good ever came out of Communist Russia.
How was this? I am about to start it when I've finished reading For Whom The Bell Tolls.

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Re: History

Post by Klove » Mon Feb 22, 2010 1:23 pm

I can reveal that KingPanda greatly enjoyed the Spanish Civil War book, but he warns that it is a bit miserable as the bad guys win and even if the good guys had won this would have just turned into a victory for the communists (e.g. another bunch of bad guys).

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