What are the worst history books you have ever read?

Feb 2015
640
washington
Whether due to innacuracies or terrible writing share your choices. I recently tried reading a book about the mongols by Thomas Craghwell but it was so amaterish I gave up.
 
Apr 2012
1,045
The Netherlands
Napoleon by Paul Johnson.

With Napoleon one is just as likely to find a positive opinion as a negative one. For all his achievements Napoleon had a lot of faults and I personally do not find him likable.

I do not begrudge mister Johnson for not having a positive opinion of Napoleon. The problem I had with his work is that the Hitler references just. would. not. stop. When he's done with those he'l start mentioning Stalin, Ghadafi or Kim jong Ill. At the end he devotes a chapter critisising the very notion of admiring Napoleon. Its really unprofessional, its hysteric and no, close research does not back such accusations up no matter how much you dislike Napoleon.

The book was well written. It just wasn't written in good faith.
 

johnincornwall

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
7,870
Cornwall
There are 2 types I would say.

The ones described in the OP where someone has obviously just decided to make a few quid by writing about something they are interested in, probably based on one single other book.

Then there's the massive detail, usually university orientated but sometimes just a historian, who has no idea how to write. The sheer boredom and unreadability can be horrific and I've given up on more than one book because of it - filed under 'reference only' on my shelves! It is perfectly possible to do a well-written, well-researched academic book with masses of detail, whcih is readable. But not everyone has the gift.

2 specific examples I can think of (type 2) were one on the Brief History of Argentina and another on the Swabian/Suevo Kingdom of north west Spain.

Both equally and horrifically unreadable. Serves me right for shopping online for Spanish books by 'cheapest first' sometimes!
 

Willempie

Ad Honorem
Jul 2015
5,582
Netherlands
Schoolbooks. They tend to be written from a very biased perspective.
Ie when I was young I was taught that the Dutch revolt was due to religion and Spanish "oppression" (ie the inquisition and Alva).
 

larkin

Ad Honorem
Sep 2009
3,698
Schoolbooks. They tend to be written from a very biased perspective.
Ie when I was young I was taught that the Dutch revolt was due to religion and Spanish "oppression" (ie the inquisition and Alva).
I would be inclined to say the same about American school text books. Especially history where jingoism is a family value.

You might tell us what the real story of Spanish oppression and the Dutch revolt was about.. What did the school books omit..?
 

R5 plus

Ad Honorem
Apr 2013
3,779
Home of Ringing Rocks
I actually just finished one that I'm having mixed feelings about. The Fox and the Hound by Donald Markle. It seems like it wasn't proofread well before publication. After reading the first obvious errors, I kept wondering what else might be wrong that I was overlooking. He seemed to know the information, it would be correct in other parts of the book - so I definitely think it was just a matter of proofreading it better. Additionally, some of his opinions didn't seem backed up (and seemed a bit out there) nor cited (there was just a brief bibliography in the back).

OTOH, there was so much interesting information in the book that I haven't read anywhere else. It has definitely given me a starting point to look deeper in new directions. So, from that standpoint, I really liked it a lot.

So, I wouldn't say it was the worst, but it could have been better.
 

R5 plus

Ad Honorem
Apr 2013
3,779
Home of Ringing Rocks
Schoolbooks. They tend to be written from a very biased perspective.
Ie when I was young I was taught that the Dutch revolt was due to religion and Spanish "oppression" (ie the inquisition and Alva).
The biggest problem I see with schoolbooks is that they have to get a ton of information into a super condensed form to be covered in a brief period of time. There's just no way any of them can do any subject justice, biases aside. The best teachers inspire their students to find out more on their own - past the textbook.

And then there's the occasional scandal in the schoolbook world...:rolleyes:
 

Willempie

Ad Honorem
Jul 2015
5,582
Netherlands
I would be inclined to say the same about American school text books. Especially history where jingoism is a family value.

You might tell us what the real story of Spanish oppression and the Dutch revolt was about.. What did the school books omit..?
It is a long story, but in this thread some stuff can be found.
http://historum.com/european-history/94152-why-did-dutch-empire-decline.html

I am a bit wary to start a discussion about that here, to avoid some heated discussion ;)
 

Willempie

Ad Honorem
Jul 2015
5,582
Netherlands
The biggest problem I see with schoolbooks is that they have to get a ton of information into a super condensed form to be covered in a brief period of time. There's just no way any of them can do any subject justice, biases aside. The best teachers inspire their students to find out more on their own - past the textbook.

And then there's the occasional scandal in the schoolbook world...:rolleyes:
Unfortunately at younger age history tends to get taught like it is math or biology. So not much room for free-thinking.
 

Scaeva

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
5,630
The biggest problem I see with schoolbooks is that they have to get a ton of information into a super condensed form to be covered in a brief period of time. There's just no way any of them can do any subject justice, biases aside. The best teachers inspire their students to find out more on their own - past the textbook.

And then there's the occasional scandal in the schoolbook world...:rolleyes:
We're in the midst of one now in the U.S., where a textbook in Texas refers to slaves as 'workers from Africa.'

Texas textbook controversy: Roni Dean-Burren finds omission in son's geography book.