Your favourite historians and why

Jun 2014
94
Canada
#1
I've never been one to pay much attention to the writer of the books I buy, and am usually more interested in topic. That said, over the past year I've come across a few historians that really stood out to me.

The first was T.C. Smout who I've since heard is one of the best historians on Scottish history out there. I started out with his 'History of the Scottish People', which gave me the exact type of account I was looking for on the country. He really brought it to life.

The other I've come across is Barbara Tuchman. Someone suggested 'The Calamitous 14th Century' to me, and I was blown away by her eloquence and insightfulness. Reading her stuff was the first time I was totally immersed in a work of historical non-fiction, but also felt like I was really *getting* a time and place.

That brings me to the question of what other greats are out there. I know what I'll read is also contingent on topic, but I've realized that I also enjoy historians with real insight and writing skill. So I wonder: who are some of your favourite historians, and why?
 
Jun 2013
2,361
--
#2
I have 6 favourite authours whose publications I always look forward to, but sadly two of them passed away.

Dr. Manouchehr Moshtagh Khorasani comes on top. He is a pioneer in the field of Persian Historical Martial Arts and has made extensive written publications on the subject in several languages including English. His magnum opus is a massive book covering Iranian arms and armour from the Bronze Age to the early 20th century CE. His books are pricey, but definitely worth it. You may want to have a look at his website if historical martial arts is your thing.

Dr. Richard Nelson Frye was a leading Iranologist with 40 years of first hand experience in the Iranosphere. His publications are invaluable to the field of Iranian Studies.

Mary Boyce also deserves a mention. She was an undisputed authority on Zoroastrianism and contributed greatly to a rather obscure subject.

Dr. Touraj Daryaee comes fourth. A leading scholar of Sassanid history and the only authour who made English-language publications covering the entire history of the Sassanid Empire, and that's saying something.

Dr. Kaveh Farrokh is also a favourite. He focuses on military history, and has certainly earned a place as a reputable historian. He is kind of a nationalist, but in this case a bit of bias is needed to balance things out. His website is also fantastic.

Reza Zarghamee is a recent addition to the scholarly community, but has made a name for himself by releasing his outstanding and exhaustive biography of Cyrus the Great. He is currently working on a biography of Darius the Great, and I'm eagerly awaiting its release.
 
May 2008
4,465
Fireland
#3
The first was T.C. Smout who I've since heard is one of the best historians on Scottish history out there. I started out with his 'History of the Scottish People', which gave me the exact type of account I was looking for on the country. He really brought it to life.
I'll vouch for Smout anyhow for the early modern period; feudal entanglements, Gaelic dimension, Highland/Lowland divide, clan structure, Knox and the changing role of the Church - crystal clear explication - perfect primer to understand conditions in Scotland during the War of the Three Kingdoms in fact (of which topic David Stevenson has written some great titles.) Barrow's book on Robert the Bruce (Community and the Realm) is also top drawer and very much in the style of Smout.
 
Mar 2014
6,633
Beneath a cold sun, a grey sun, a Heretic sun...
#4
The other I've come across is Barbara Tuchman. Someone suggested 'The Calamitous 14th Century' to me, and I was blown away by her eloquence and insightfulness. Reading her stuff was the first time I was totally immersed in a work of historical non-fiction, but also felt like I was really *getting* a time and place.
Barbara Tuchman and Robert K. Massie both impress me as they are gifted amateurs (though Massie does have a history degree). The research and effort they both put into their works is not merely impressive, it is awe-inspiring. Just flipping through their sources one has to wonder, "How did they have the time?" This, combined with their very gifted writing styles, raises them both above the majority of their peers.
 
Nov 2012
1,700
#5
Barbara Tuchman and Robert K. Massie both impress me as they are gifted amateurs (though Massie does have a history degree). The research and effort they both put into their works is not merely impressive, it is awe-inspiring. Just flipping through their sources one has to wonder, "How did they have the time?" This, combined with their very gifted writing styles, raises them both above the majority of their peers.
Honest question: what separates an amateur with a history degree from a professional historian?
 

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