Through various ways: Books (through Google Books, the Internet Archive, et cetera), websites (HarpWeek, Wikipedia, et cetera), newspaper and magazine articles, and films/movies/documentaries.
And you know you are getting somewhere when part way through a passage you catch yourself silently telling the author he is an idiot lolIt often takes reading several books before you start to get a filled-out understanding of a given topic. Seeing different viewpoints helps to give you perspective and form your own views.
When I read a book, I also like to know who the author is. In the case of “A History of the Ancient Near East, ca. 3000-323 BC” is Marc Van de Mieroop, a history teacher at Columbia University. This allows me to see the books that are written by professional academic researchers, peer reviewed and that usually know what they are talking about and separate them from the ones written by guys that are just passing by a theme that is trendy.Thanks guys for all your varying responses. I'm currently studying The Ancient Near East and my first secondary source which I'm using as an introductory to the topic is a book called 'A History of the Ancient Near East, ca. 3000-323 BC(Blackwell History of the Ancient World) 3rd Edition. I chose that book cause it was recommended by lots of people when I researched for sources to learn about this particular period of history. I'm also planning to use a varying collection of other resources such as documentaries and other books. In terms on secondary resources the only secondary resource that I know of that would be worth the effort reading is the "Epic Of Gilgamesh", if I find other secondary resources that are easily translated and the worth the read I will use them as well. I plan to study this topic thoroughly for at least a year and maybe one day even visit some of the ancient Mesopotamian sites. I plan to write down extensive notes as I go through.
Absolutely, and I agree completely. When you're starting to get into the nitty-gritty, I think it's also worth noting where someone is in their academic career. Older, established scholars can get away with writing complete rubbish books, although it doesn't happen all that often. Scholars just starting out tend to write more aggressive books, since one needs to make a splash to have any hope of landing an academic job. That said, first books are usually good because they've been worked over. First they were a dissertation, which a supervisor (ideally) worked closely with the author on. Then they had to pass a dissertation committee, before getting re-written (in the Anglophone world; usually a lot less re-writing in French and German academia!) to satisfy a publisher, who then peer-reviews it again. The cost is that this all takes a long time, but the Anglo-American tenure system tends to require a second book shortly after the first. Hence why so many second books in English are disappointing in comparison to the first.When I read a book, I also like to know who the author is. In the case of “A History of the Ancient Near East, ca. 3000-323 BC” is Marc Van de Mieroop, a history teacher at Columbia University. This allows me to see the books that are written by professional academic researchers, peer reviewed and that usually know what they are talking about and separate them from the ones written by guys that are just passing by a theme that is trendy.
Here is a short review of the second edition: Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2008.05.06. Reading a couple of reviews also allows us to have an idea of the acceptance of the work in the Academia.
I've always been obsessed with Sparta. Started with the old movie about the 300. I read everything I could find on it, but not in order. Then I read the classics on them. I pay little attention to modern revisionist history. Read Thucydides, Herodotus, Xenophon, etc. Even the plays that were popular told me a lot. You start with generalities and then move on to specifics. Once you get the specifics, the generalities become meaningless.
Read books, have a note book nearby and take notes and cross reference with thin pieces of card 'bookmarks' - I used to dog ear and write in the books ... that can result in pure chaos !