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Bookclub Wednesday!

Hello everyone,

Welcome to our weekly guide suggestion thread!

We’ve discovered that lots of people come to this sub to ask for books about historical past or sources on sure matters. Others make posts a couple of guide they themselves have learn and need to share their ideas about it with the remainder of the sub.

We thought it could be a good suggestion to try to bundle these posts collectively a bit. One huge weekly publish the place everyone can ask for books or (re)sources on any historic topic or timeperiod, or to share books they not too long ago found or learn. Giving opinions or asking about their factuality is inspired!

After all it’s not restricted to *simply* books; podcasts, movies, and so forth. are additionally welcome. As a reminder, [r/history]( past/) additionally has a really helpful record of issues to [read, listen to or watch]([]( past/wiki/recommendedlist))

Comments ( 13 )

  1. Does anyone know any good books on Han China or really anything from ancient to medieval China? Same goes for books on Indian history. Cheers!

  2. ***British Cavalryman Vs German Cavalryman* by Alan Steele**

    Osprey’s new book in their *Combat* series, *British Cavalryman Vs German Cavalryman* by Alan Steele has major shortcomings, but not in the ways that I had imagined going in. It mostly follows more recent cavalry scholarship, which is good, but does misinterpret part of Stephen Badsey’s book on British Cavalry Doctrine, specifically dealing with the South African War.

    More damning, and much more central to the book, is the wholesale repetition of M. von Poseck’s claim about Belgian *Franc-Tireurs* from his 1921 semi-official history of the German Cavalry in France and Belgium. Poseck, and thus Alan Steele, argue that the only people they executed had weapons and buildings that were burned had had shots fired from them. This is wholly untrue, and a close reading of Poseck showcases a lack of supporting evidence for these claims. Poseck’s claims about *Franc-Tireurs* come early in the book and function entirely as an ex post facto justification, in the main text of the book, where he painstakingly follows the actions and movements of German cavalry formations and units, the evidence of there being *Franc-Tireurs* is non-existent.

    Furthermore, it’s fairly settled that *Franc-Tireurs* did not exist, that there was no “Belgian People’s War”. John Horne & Alan Kramer (*German Atrocities, 1914: A History of Denial*) especially have shown pretty conclusively that it was in fact 6,500 innocent civilians gunned down, used as human shields, and sometimes even burned in their own homes (often hiding from the Germans). Part of the issue is that the German government led a pretty concerted propaganda effort during and after the war to “prove” their innocence in nearly everything. 1921 saw the opening of the *Kriegsschuldreferat* and it would not surprise me if they saw the book before publication and made sure that the portion about Civilian executions was put in. I’d have to do more research to know for sure, but it would not surprise me if it had.

    Insultingly, he ends that section of the book with a claim that

    > These reprisals were hardly in accord with the ideal of chivalrous mounted combat with which the German cavalry had been imbued and carrying them out undoubtedly had a demoralizing effect (in both meanings of the word) on the German cavalrymen.

    The real victims apparently being the German cavalrymen, and not the civilians who were murdered and the rest of Belgium which had to suffer under an occupation, forced labor, and major restrictions on their daily lives.

    It otherwise is a fairly typical Osprey book. It has some decent illustrations, good photographs and maps. It analyzes three cavalry actions from the early portion of the First World War in which British and German cavalry met. I found the analysis mostly good, with a few points of disagreement but nothing major on that front. The section parroting Poseck *really* brings this one down.



    ***The Rape of Belgium: The Untold Story of World War I* by Larry Zuckermann**

    A fairly brisk book which examines the occupation of Belgium throughout the entirety of the First World War, it’s major weakness was noted by Brian Crim in an H-Net review, and that is the general dearth of German sources. However, Crim also notes that that material *would* support many of Zuckermann’s overall points about the deliberate nature of German actions during the occupation. This book’s main strength comes in detailing the general political landscape of Belgium during the war and the general contours of the occupation. You’re not going to get a lot of nitty gritty detail, which works for the kind of book he was writing. If you’re at all interested in the civilian aspects of the First World War, this is one you do have to read.

    The most heartbreaking aspects, beyond the initial invasion of Belgium and the violence wrought there, are the requisitions of private property, factory equipment, and ultimately forced labor in which Belgians were deported to occupied Northern France and Germany, in very poor conditions – all the while the German occupation government is attempting to “split” Belgium to make sure that, at the least, Belgium would be German aligned in the post war period. This I feel is often left out of conversations about the First World War, and while it’s easy to speak of a war where no one hated eachother and that was “pointless”, you’d be hard pressed to find Belgians in ’14-’18 who would agree with such a conclusion.



    ***Doughboys on the Great War: How American Soldiers Viewed Their Military Experience* by Edward A. Gutièrrez**

    Gutièrrez takes a strong stance against the mileu of the “Lost Generation Writers” by utilizing ~30,000 surveys sent out by four different states to their returning soldiers in 1919 into the early 1920s. These are an interesting source to analyze, and one that he correctly notes hadn’t been used before his book. They offer a genuinely interesting view of how many Doughboys saw themselves and their service after getting back from France or out of the service (if they hadn’t gone to Europe). Generally I agree with Gutièrrez’s conclusions, but with a few caveats based on his handling of the sources.

    There are four states which make up his analysis, as these are the only four states to have sent out surveys of this kind: Utah, Virginia, Minnesota, and most importantly (as they were the blueprint for the others) Connecticut. I am from Connecticut, and I actually use these sources in my local history research, so a few things stood out to me throughout the book.

    There’s not much of an analysis of the ways that class or race may have effected responses. Race does get some mention, but he doesn’t try to really compare the views of black men from Virginia to say black men from Connecticut. Furthermore, class is omitted entirely. How did one’s economic status effect responses? Were the majority of respondents from one economic bracket versus another? And what about *location* (which ties into those other two). For Connecticut, almost every Doughboy he quotes from is from either New Haven or Hartford, and many are Italian immigrants or the kids of immigrants. Hartford and New Haven may be (and were) large cities: but what about East of the Connecticut River? There were major manufacturing cities east of the CT river (such as Norwich, Willimantic, Rockville), a port city (New London), and then many rural towns. To me, this seems like a very untapped source of comparison, and it seemed similar in other states.

    Finally, these are a very self selecting source base. Ultimately, it was up to each individual Doughboy whether they wanted to respond or not. Were those who responded more likely to respond in a “positive” way to the war than those who did not? It’s not as if there weren’t negative responses in the surveys, but they certainly number far less. So how much of that is because it’s “self-selecting”? Again, I ultimately agree with the conclusion – that many Doughboys were proud of their service and saw it as good, and that the “Lost Generation” writers speak mainly for themselves and not everyone as a whole. And I certainly agree that this source base is one way of tackling that notion, but on their own I can see enough weaknesses where someone could be inclined to dismiss the conclusions.



    ***Pershing’s Crusaders: The American Soldier in World War I* by Richard S. Faulkner**

    This is a very comprehensive social history of the (generally white) American soldier during the First World War. Each chapter takes you chronologically through the general experiences of a Doughboy – from enlistment or drafting, to training, and beyond. Topics such as the food they ate, the equipment they carried, their religious beliefs, and more are all discussed at some length in this book. The writing is good and understands when to dwell on a topic and when to move on, even at it’s hefty size (over 630 pages of text), it reads briskly because of that with most subtopics within a chapter getting a page or two.

    The major weakness is much like Gutièrrez’s in which race isn’t examined much. Faulkner does talk about it some, but for instance, doesn’t talk about what the Combat Pioneer units that many African Americans were in were like. This book mainly focuses on *white* Doughboys, so if you’re looking for something on the Chinese, Mexican, or African American Doughboy, this isn’t really the place to look, which is a shame since it is so comprehensive otherwise.

    I also have a bit of a personal issue is that he dedicates a single paragraph to American cavalry in Europe, essentially saying he’s not going to talk about them. There’s not much writing on the Cavalry regiments which went ‘over there’, so it certainly would have been nice to see him tackle the subject for a couple of pages – especially since the chapter is titled “‘The Cavalry, the Artillery, and the Lousy Engineers'”.

    Overall though, a well worthwhile book and I’d say a general model for social history of soldiers of the period, I’d put it up there with something like Richard Holmes’s *Tommy: The British Soldier on the Western Front 1914-18*.


  3. Finished **Hundred Days: The End of the Great War by Nick Lloyd** Review copied and pasted from my Goodreads.

    >4.5/5 rounding up for Goodreads. Very good and if you are interested in WWI it is really worth reading. 280 main pages and 50 pages of notes and sources. Begins in July 1918 with the end of the final major German offensive on the Marne and the prelude to the Allied offensive which began on 8 August at Amiens. The book is great at describing the technological and tactical changes that had been made by 1918. The thoughts, feelings and views of the leadership on both sides is covered well and the experiences of the ordinary soldiers were done with a lot of detail. The descriptions of the particular attacks are described in a way that shows what is going on at the broader level without getting bogged down with every unit or every village. There is a decent amount on the American perspective as well, with the battles of St Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. The author paints a vivid picture of the final period of the war and the German army in collapse. There isn’t that much on the political decisions at the end of the war or the outbreak of revolution in Germany but there is enough to understand what is happening. The feelings of the soldiers at the end of the war are also only touched on briefly.

    After a break for a sci-fi book (Leviathan Wakes by James S.A Corey, very good imo) I’ve just started **Avoiding Armageddon: From the Great War to the Fall of France 1918-1940, by Jeremy Black**. Military history of the interwar period. So far based on the introduction and the beginning of the first chapter I’m thinking it will have a good amount of info but will be a dry read, the writing style isn’t interesting. It is also only 260 pages so I should get through it quickly.

  4. It made the rounds on several best books lists earlier this year, but I greatly enjoyed Four Lost Cities. It’s a part history, part anthropology look at four very different ancient cities: Cahokia, Angkor, Pompeii, and Catalhoyuk (Neolithic Turkey). I learned a ton about how ancient people lived.

  5. Looking for books on the conflict between England and France over roughly the nine years’ war through Waterloo, what I’ve heard called the second Hundred Years War. Ideally something on the whole period touching on how all the various countries of Europe participated at various times, but failing that any of the individual conflicts (except the Napoleonic wars, I have those covered).

    As far as reading level, anything from popular history up to just short of textbooks.

  6. Recommendations on more to watch about ancient people?

    I loved watching the *BBC* “History of Ancient Britain,” the *PBS* show “Native America,” and the youtube channels “Ancient Americas” and “Aztlan Historian.”
    I’m looking for youtube, regular tv shows or documentaries. It could be of ancient people anywhere in the world.

  7. would love any recommendations for interesting books, podcasts, etc. about the Berlin Wall (virtually anything related to it, the events leading up to it, and it’s legacy in Germany) 🙂

  8. Alan Palmer has written a ton of books on the period and region I’m interested in (Central Europe in the early 20th century) and it’s tempting to pick them up, but I’m not sure if they’re any good. Does anyone have any opinions on his stuff? If you wouldn’t recommend him, can you recommend other authors for Central Europe in the early 20th century?

  9. I loved **First Steps: How Upright Walking Made Us Human**. Not easy, but writer referenced and praised many other scientists, and and had a minimum with personal musings.

    I hated **Sapiens**. Started nice, but there where no references, and and most of it felt like the authors opinions rather then facts, and a lot of clever ideas and conclusions he head.

    I want to find something a bit more serious about the the Stone and Bronze Ages. Good university text books, and books by specialists in a narrow fields, preferably within the last 10-20 years to cover discoveries since I was in school 🙂

  10. Looking for recommendations on places to learn about the Chinese Civil War

    Can be books, or research papers abt the period of 1926-1949 in China

    I’m interesting in learning about the various battles fought between the Nationalist and Communists, the role of foreign powers and the impact on Mao’s rise to power

  11. Hi, can anyone suggest a funny and humorous historical book about the Middle Ages? I’ve finished reading Greg Jenner’s Dead Famous and Jennifer Wright’s Get Well Soon, both hilarious books on history, and I want more.

    Thank you!

  12. Are there any good books about Roman (or Greek, or even Persian, Carthaginian, Mesopotamian, etc.) history that aren’t about politics or military conquest? I’m talking about language, folk history, city planning, day to day life, exploration, cuisine, and whatnot. Or even about tribes/groups that lived near to these societies, like the Sabines, Etruscans, Rutuli, and Faliscans to name a few. Thank you!

  13. I started reading “Cannae- Hannibal’s Greatest Victory” by Adrian Goldsworthy.

    What are some other good books about ancient battles or warfare?

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