Question regarding the reading of history

Aug 2017
2
Romania
#1
As a history buff, I have this long dilemma, if for ex. I want to learn about ancient history, should I read a book about ancient history or should I read a list of books like a book on Roman history, oriental, greek, etc. What I have in mind is a decent learning of the subject not too heavy
 
#2
...I don't know what to tell you. I would suggest reading text books (ie books written by modern scholars) then you can follow that up by reading primary sources (the contemporary ie writers actually witnessing or living around the same time and place).

Textbooks/secondary sources are great to put the overall understanding and then you fill it with context (from primary sources).

Actual historians would read (sometimes they even learn ancient language to do so) primary sources, but they are generally boring haha. That's why history buffs would usually bypass that and read modern historians (who would put all those primary sources as well as other forms of sources like archaeology or even genetic sometimes, together).

Speaking of your area of interest, I did not finish but I enjoyed it very much, regarding Roman history is Mary Beard's "SPQR". She writes it like a fictional writer (ie not boring like textbook eg she doesn't write chronologically ie from start of Rome to end, but rather jumps around although she eventually puts it together in a chronological narrative as you go along), she includes archaeological evidence and other sciences to add to the narrative, and she goes all the way back to the founding of Rome.


It's very well written and decently "light" read. I recommend it.

Cheese.
 

Asherman

Forum Staff
May 2013
3,183
Albuquerque, NM
#3
You may find Will and Ariel Durant's 13 vol. History of Civilization a useful reference and foundation for historical overviews. For your interest in Ancient History, the first three volumes are on point. This series has been around for a long time, and the market is flooded with inexpensive copies ... almost always in very good condition.
 

AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
24,901
Lago Maggiore, Italy
#4
As a history buff, I have this long dilemma, if for ex. I want to learn about ancient history, should I read a book about ancient history or should I read a list of books like a book on Roman history, oriental, greek, etc. What I have in mind is a decent learning of the subject not too heavy
It's the difference from specialized and general knowledge.

Personally, when I got in touch with Ancient Egypt, I begun with a monumental work by German scholars [Schulz & Seidel], then I went in deep, argument by argument.

So, may be you can start from an academic work collecting enough information to intrigue your curiosity ...
 
Feb 2017
201
Canada
#5
In short, it depends whether you're interested in very specific, localised knowledge on a specific society or time period, or interested in general currents across a larger time period (e.g. the ancient world).

My approach over time has seemed to be focusing on the latter first, and then getting narrower in scope. It's a lot easier to understand localised conditions when you understand the broad currents first.

A lot of people seem to go the other way, understanding very localised, specific things, without knowing the broader patterns. Their knowledge usually tends to be incomplete.
 
Jan 2018
10
USA
#6
I enjoy Desmond Seward. He mentions primary sources when relevant, often giving specific details for battles you'd never find on wikipedia, while giving modern context to it. His writing looks in hindsight as well as what the people involved may have been thinking. Its very well written and good anybody with whatever historical background. Dan Jones is also good.
 

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