History, the analysis and interpretation of the human past, permits students and historians to learn about continuity and change between countries and cultures. For students who are preparing for history programs in graduate school, continuing to read and learn history is essential. However, there are many writings to choose from. Below are the five books every history major should read before beginning graduate school to increase understanding and prepare for the work to come.
Battle Cry of Freedom by James M. McPherson
McPherson’s book is regarded as the one of the best one-volume accounts of the American Civil War. He provides a detailed-account of various aspects of the war, including cause and effect of many different situations. Although he takes a pro-Union stance, he remains objective in his analysis. This surely is one of the best books that chronicles that bloodiest war in American history.
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West by Dee Brown
Brown’s book traces the genocide of the Native American people throughout the history of the United States. From the arrival of diseases like smallpox, the conquistadors, to the final and brutal massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890. This is an important book that assesses America’s dealings in the destruction of an entire people. It is heavy reading, but excellent preparation for the more modern dealings with the natives.
A People’s History of the World by Chris Harman
Harman’s book examines the last five millenia and argues, using various elements of historic evidence, that society has been divided between classes throughout this entire time period. With an impressive overview of class-struggles, this piece relies on the information from ordinary people forming, and re-forming complex societies. A unique and new perspective in history, this book offers students a fresh way to analyze historic events.
Liberation: The Bitter Road to Freedom, Europe 1944-1945 by William I Hitchcock
For a time period so well known in history, Hitchcock examines a post-World War Two Europe. According to one historian, “post-war Europe paints a violent and chaotic picture of liberation and recovery. It should be essential reading for any leader hankering for regime change.” This books will paint the picture of the struggle Europe and other nations went through trying to rebuild what had been destroyed, and reclaim the innocence they had lost.
Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town by Mary Beard
Taking an almost archeological approach, Beard uses ancient relics found near Mount Vesuvius in order to examine the daily lives of Romans at the time. In her book, she examines everything from domesticity to government organization. As a result, she complies a vivid story of life preserved in a famous Roman town.
A continuous study of history is important when preparing for graduate school, and a career in history. Reading these captivating history books will set you up for academic success whether it’s from Harvard, or a Norwich online history masters degree. The great thing about history is that it is continuous, and when studying such a broad topic, it can be beneficial to continually study.
Brooke Chaplan is a freelance blogger and recent graduate of the University of New Mexico. She now lives in Los Lunas where she writes and researches when she’s not outside running, hiking and biking. Contact Brooke on LinkedIn.