It's been a while since I've done a book posting, and my ever-growing library of history books is just that---ever-growing. So I thought I'd do an update.
Of course, in my collection I have the popular "textbook"-style history found in most school books, along with the deeper history. I have a number of biographies. I have the light-hearted kids history books, too. I also have the books that tell the stories behind the major events, such as what lead up to the Boston Tea Party ("1774 - The Long Year") as well as the occurrences behind what became known as the Boston Massacre, and these books bring the world of that time vividly to life through deep primary source research, detailed descriptions to give more of an awareness of the world of the 18th century and its people, and their engaging styles of writing that lures the reader in.
That's history come to life.
Should you decide to purchase any of the books I have listed, I certainly hope you get as much pleasure from them as I have---but be prepared to find yourself lost (or found?) back in time.
The following is a true story, for it actually happened to me. However, the exact quotes are long forgotten, for I don't have a photographic memory, but it was pretty close to what you will read here.
Picture us going back to the past - my past - back to 1974 or '75 and I am in eighth or ninth grade history class with Mr. Pzora at Oakwood Jr. High School.
"Does anyone have any questions about the causes of the Revolutionary War?"
My hand goes up.
"What did they eat for breakfast?"
"Hit the hall."
Out into the hall I go to contemplate my insubordinate comment.
A bit later, Mr. P comes out to speak to me.
"Ken, it's not like you to be such a smart-aleck."
"I wasn't being a smart-aleck," I replied. "I really want to know what they had for breakfast. And lunch. And dinner."
Mr. P looked at me contemplative.
I went on, "I also want to know what they did at night after the sun went down with no TV or even electricity. I know they wouldn't have gone to bed at 5 in the evening when it got dark in the wintertime and slept until 7 the next morning when the sun rose. What did they do?"
Mr. Pzora stared for a moment, and then replied, "You really want to know, don't you?"
"Well then," he said, "I'll make you a deal: you learn what I am teaching in class and I will try to find the answers for you. Deal?"
I nodded and said, "okay."
And back into the room we went.
|I began collecting books on|
American history a lo-o-ng time ago...
He never did find the answers to my questions, though knowing Mr. Pzora, I know he tried. But that type of historical information was not readily available back in the 1970s.
And me? Well, I passed his class, though I didn't do very well. I never did very well in any of my history classes, for it was all about war and politics and names and dates. Not that those things are not important---it's just that was not where my historical interest lay (though I must admit, I have more of an appreciation of the names and dates now).
Let's jump ahead nearly 50 years, and the everyday life history I so desired to read and learn about when I was young is much more readily at hand, and the information has been captured in the pages of the books I have listed here in today's posting...and also in the links for other book postings I've done.
So I thought I would present some of my favorite finds of late - books that can bring the past to life that were written, in some cases, by those who were there.
These are the kinds of books that have helped me to bring the past to life through the living history hobby.
For me, living history begins here.
"In Small Things Forgotten" by James Deetz
History is recorded in many ways. According to author James Deetz, the past can be seen most fully by studying the small things so often forgotten. Objects such as doorways, gravestones, musical instruments, and even shards of pottery fill in the cracks between large historical events and depict the intricacies of daily life. In his completely revised and expanded edition of In Small Things Forgotten, Deetz has added new sections that more fully acknowledge the presence of women and African Americans in Colonial America.
"Travels Through the Interior Parts of North America" by Jonathan Carver
The 18th century was a wealth of knowledge, exploration and rapidly growing technology and expanding record-keeping made possible by advances in the printing press.
Rich in titles on English life and social history, this collection spans the world as it was known to eighteenth-century historians and explorers. Titles include a wealth of travel accounts and diaries, histories of nations from throughout the world, and maps and charts of a world that was still being discovered. Students of the War of American Independence will find fascinating accounts from the British side of conflict.
"Domestic Beings" by June Sprigg
An illustrated collection of experiences from the everyday lives of eighteenth-century American women selected from the diaries of an invalid, spinster, schoolgirl, farmer's wife, farmer's daughter, a midwife, and a president's wife.
"Founding Foodies" by Dave DeWitt
Beyond their legacy as revolutionaries and politicians, the Founding Fathers of America were first and foremost a group of farmers. Like many of today's foodies, the Founding Fathers were ardent supporters of sustainable farming and ranching, exotic imported foods, brewing, distilling, and wine appreciation. Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin penned original recipes, encouraged local production of beer and wine, and shared their delight in food with friends and fellow politicians.
In The Founding Foodies, food writer Dave DeWitt entertainingly describes how some of America's most famous colonial leaders not only established America's political destiny, but also revolutionized the very foods we eat.
"The Diary of Elizabeth Drinker" edited by Elaine Forman Crane
The journal of Philadelphia Quaker Elizabeth Sandwith Drinker (1735-1807) is perhaps the single most significant personal record of eighteenth-century life in America from a woman's perspective. Drinker wrote in her diary nearly continuously between 1758 and 1807, from two years before her marriage to the night before her last illness. The extraordinary span and sustained quality of the journal make it a rewarding document for a multitude of historical purposes. One of the most prolific early American diarists—her journal runs to thirty-six manuscript volumes—Elizabeth Drinker saw English colonies evolve into the American nation while Drinker herself changed from a young unmarried woman into a wife, mother, and grandmother. Her journal entries touch on every contemporary subject political, personal, and familial.
Focusing on different stages of Drinker's personal development within the domestic context, this abridged edition highlights four critical phases of her life cycle: youth and courtship, wife and mother, middle age in years of crisis, and grandmother and family elder. There is little that escaped Elizabeth Drinker's quill, and her diary is a delight not only for the information it contains but also for the way in which she conveys her world across the centuries.
"Colonial Days & Ways As Gathered From Family Papers" by Helen Evertson Smith
"With the gathering of relics to make suitable exhibits at the centennial celebration of our national independence, there came a general awakening of interest in all things pertaining to the history of our Revolutionary War and of the few years preceding it. The smallest traces of our national beginnings should be sought for...every old record, every homely detail, every scrap of old furniture, every bit of home handicraft, above all, every familiar old letter or diary or expense-book, should be treasured..."
And that's how this book, first published in the year 1900, begins. Gather it does, for minute details of everyday life not found elsewhere of the later 18th century is here.
"The Diary of Hannah Callendar Sansom" edited by Susan E. Klepp and Karin Wulf
Hannah Callender Sansom (1737–1801) witnessed the effects of the tumultuous eighteenth century: political struggles, war and peace, and economic development. She experienced the pull of traditional emphases on duty, subjection, and hierarchy and the emergence of radical new ideas promoting free choice, liberty, and independence. As a young woman, she enjoyed sociable rounds of visits and conviviality. She also had considerable freedom to travel and to develop her interests in the arts, literature, and religion. Regarding these changes from her position as a well-educated member of the colonial Quaker elite and as a resident of Philadelphia, the principal city in North America, this assertive, outspoken woman described her life and her society in a diary kept intermittently from the time she was twenty-one years old in 1758 through the birth of her first grandchild in 1788.
"Almanacs of American Life: Colonial America to 1763" by Thomas L. Purvis
This compendium is a veritable treasure trove of information, divided into 19 chapters that cover such topics as "Diet and Health," "Religion," "The Cities," "Science and Technology," "Crime and Violence," and "Popular Life and Recreation." There are general details of Colonial life as well as obscure and difficult-to-find facts that students need and teachers always want. Copious tables, maps, and charts cover everything from small-town population statistics to the heights of Colonial soldiers. Readers will find lists of the pre-1763 Indian treaties, perpetual calendars, the price of wheat, rice exports, lists of Governors and Chief Justices, distribution of craft workers, wage rates, occupations of New York taxpayers, and a chronology from 2,000,000 B.C. to A.D. 1763. The text is also sprinkled with black-and-white reproductions of period art and photographs of the Colonial areas as they appear today. Young adults will enjoy leafing through all of the fascinating facts and curious bits of information, but the well-organized, complete, and accessible text will also provide an invaluable resource for research and term papers.
"A Guide To Artifacts of Colonial America" by Ivor Noel Hume
Cited in virtually every colonial-era site study of North America, "A Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America" holds a place of honor among historical archaeologists. It is a classic, highly sought-after handbook for the professional archaeologist, museum curator, antiques dealer, collector, or social historian. Though first published more than thirty years ago, Ivor Noel Hume's guide continues to be the most useful and accurate reference on the identification of artifacts recovered from Anglo-American colonial sites.
This edition contains a new preface, updated references, and corrections based on recent scholarship, in addition to the original 102 photographs and line drawings. With a list of forty-three categories, including buttons, cutlery, stoneware, and firearms, collectors and curators of early American artifacts will find this book insightful, informative, and indispensable.
An acclaimed archaeologist and historian, Noël Hume understands the interests of both professionals and enthusiasts. He manages to combine out-of-the-ordinary information with a lively presentation. His extensive knowledge and experience make this richly detailed text communicate something beyond the facts—the reality of other times, places, and cultures.
"Reminiscences of A Nonagenarium" by Sarah Anna Emery
Sarah Anna Emery recorded her thoughts and remembrances of not only occurrences in her own life but of conversations she had heard from her parents, aunts & uncles, and even grandparents, in her diary. As she noted of what she had written was "chiefly derived from the recollections of my mother; but recitals by my father, grandparents, and other deceased relatives..." In 1879 she published this remarkable collection of tales from her long life in book-form entitled Reminiscences of a Nonagenarian. For me, it is the details of 18th century life that I love most.
"The Boston Massacre: A Family History" by Serena Zabin
The story of the Boston Massacre—when on a late winter evening in 1770, British soldiers shot five local men to death—is familiar to generations. But from the very beginning, many accounts have obscured a fascinating truth: the Massacre arose from conflicts that were as personal as they were political.
Author Serena Zabin draws on original sources and lively stories to follow British troops as they are dispatched from Ireland to Boston in 1768 to subdue the increasingly rebellious colonists. And she reveals a forgotten world hidden in plain sight: the many regimental wives and children who accompanied these armies. We see these families jostling with Bostonians for living space, finding common cause in the search for a lost child, trading barbs and and sharing baptisms. Becoming, in other words, neighbors. When soldiers shot unarmed citizens in the street, it was these intensely human, now broken bonds that fueled what quickly became a bitterly fought American Revolution.
"The New Nation: The Art of Mort Kunstler" by Edward G. Lengel
Celebrate the creation of the United States, which is brought to vivid life through the work of acclaimed artist Mort Künstler. In 2011, Künstler ignited a media firestorm when he painted a version of Washington crossing the Delaware that many believe is a more factual representation of the momentous scene than Emanuel Leutze's iconic work, Washington Crossing the Delaware—the most popular painting in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Spurred by that fierce debate, which was covered everywhere from the New York Times to ABC News, this beautiful volume presents Künstler's artistic vision of America's birth. The New Nation also features text by premier Washington scholar Edward G. Lengel along with quotations from Washington's contemporaries, as well as a foreword by David Hackett Fischer, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Washington's Crossing." The result is a powerful portrait of the formation of a country as it unfolded, from Jamestown to the Revolutionary War to the War of 1812.
"A Treasury of Early American Homes" by Richard Pratt
"Here are more than 250 full-color photographs of exteriors and interiors, page after page of beautiful. glowing color, showing the finest historic homes in the nation."
This book is from 1949, but the photographs are rich in color and the details about each house is well-written. The book itself is also in a large format.
A feast for the eyes.
"The Age of Homespun" by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
They began their existence as everyday objects, but in the hands of award-winning historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, fourteen domestic items from preindustrial America–ranging from a linen tablecloth to an unfinished sock–relinquish their stories and offer profound insights into our history.
In an age when even meals are rarely made from scratch, homespun easily acquires the glow of nostalgia. The objects Ulrich investigates unravel those simplified illusions, revealing important clues to the culture and people who made them. Ulrich uses an Indian basket to explore the uneasy coexistence of native and colonial Americans. A piece of silk embroidery reveals racial and class distinctions, and two old spinning wheels illuminate the connections between colonial cloth-making and war. Pulling these divergent threads together, Ulrich demonstrates how early Americans made, used, sold, and saved textiles in order to assert their identities, shape relationships, and create history.
"1774 - The Long Year of Revolution" by Mary Beth Norton
"(Author Mary Beth Norton) does not fundamentally challenge the traditional trajectory of events in that decisive year. What she does do is enrich the narrative, filling in the story with a staggering amount of detail based on prodigious research in an enormous number of archives. . . . She wants to re-create as much as possible the past reality of this momentous year in all of its particularity. Only then, she suggests, will we come to appreciate the complexity of what happened and to understand all of the conflicts, divisions, and confusion that lay behind events, like the Tea Party, that historians highlight and simplify. . . . She seems to have read every newspaper in the period, and she delights in describing the give and take of debates between patriots and loyalists that took place in the press." --Gordon S. Wood
Other postings I wrote about history books:
The Cabin Faced West: Historic Children's Author Jean Fritz Dead at 101 Years of Age - My Personal Tribute
Back in the day one had to dig deep and sometimes read between the lines to find the much sought after information about 18th century living. But here in the 21st century, there are books--plenty of books--of this type available. It's just a matter of keeping your eyes peeled. We subscribe to three history magazines: "American Spirit" (my wife is a DAR - Daughter of the American Revolution - member, and, thus, we get their magazine), "Early American Life," and "Re-Living History," and each will have book reviews. Other times I may be scanning through various web sites such as Jas Townsend and will find books of this flavor available. I also look for the bibliographies cited in the books I own to find where the author got some of their information. And still, the members of various Facebook pages such as 18th Century History may also throw in some of their finds.
So there are numerous ways today in which to find history books of this sort.
And, I have to say, now that I help to teach high school history classes, I do pass along the interesting information I find to the students. And by doing so, maybe---just maybe---I might garner a stronger interest in the subject from them.
Stronger than what I had when in school.
Until next time, see you in time.
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