Favorite authors/historians

Discussion in 'History Forum' started by Stratiotes, Aug 7, 2004.

  1. Stratiotes

    Stratiotes
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    Who are your favorite authors/historians and what part of history most interests you?

    I enjoy primarily military history and specifically, the history of guerrilla/militia warfare. But, I also can't seem to get enough of the First World War.

    John Keegan is probably my favorite living historian. He in turn likes Paul Fussell a great deal so I am beginning to dig into Dr. Fussell's works more and more too. Both are very adept at pulling out the human side of conflict rather than reducing it to a discussion of strategy and tactics in a cold laboratory.

    Paul De Segur's work on Napoleon's Russian Campaign is probably my favorite in terms of literary style that gripped me from beginning to end. Aside from the historical value of the text, his pros are probably the most enjoyable I've found in an historian.
     
  2. Stratiotes

    Stratiotes
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    Maybe to kickstart this - you can think of some that are your favorites categorized by their specialty like: WBTS - Shelby Foote, James Robertson, or one of the Shaaras.
     
  3. Melanie

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    I have always loved Sir Phillip Sidney along with a text translator as I find some of the old English hard to follow.

    I am a fan of the Elizabethan Period of England which was very rich in Literature.

    The Icelandic Sagas are good stuff!

    I collect John Buchan and Mary Grant Bruce. The former wrote Scottish Boys Own adventures amongst others and Mrs Bruce wrote a marvellous series of childrens books called "Billabong" in Australia, before, during and after the first world war.

    I gobble up anything to do with British history and in particular Roman Britain and Regency England as well as the above mentioned Elizabethan stuff.
     
  4. Dr. Bob

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    As an American Civil War buff, I cut my teeth on Bruce Catton. His works were the standard set for authors.

    James McPherson is a much more detailed writer, his accuracy and insights heralded far above the initial work of Catton.

    The Shaara stuff is fiction. Nice reading, especially for the layman, but fiction.
     
  5. Jeff Weaver

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    I have attempted to write about the American Civil War, and thus have studied it in some detail. I have been fortunate enough to have had 25 volumes published, and have been consulted by several on topics near and dear to my heart. I have concentrated on the individual soldier, and guerrilla warfare.

    I particularly like Shelby Foote and Bud Robertson. I prefer first hand accounts of who did what to whom.

    My problem with the genre of Civil War writing is that the larger than life characters and the major battles have been studied to death, while there are a multitude of interesting minor players and interesting battles which have been virtually ignored except on a local level. So, get off you butts and reseach the obscure.

    As for other areas of historical interest, -- World War I and the Middle Ages are always popular with my eyes.

    My writing is branching out to other areas -- I am currently working on some stuff for the Jamestown 2007 Celebration here in Virginia. The Revolutionary War period is another favorite subject of mine. I concentrate on the obscure, and do most of my research in dusty court-house basements.
     
  6. KenH

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    I finished John Keegan's book on World War I a few months ago and I am currently reading his book on World War II. He is a very, very good historian. [​IMG]
     
  7. rsr

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    Civil War: McPherson, Foote, Catton and William C. Davis.

    Others: Paul Johnson, Raymond Massey, Barbara Tuchman, Robert Graves (yeah, he's a novelist), William Manchester (a journalist, but wonderful work on 20th century topics.) Churchill is also a good read.
     
  8. Daisy

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    Jeff,

    What do you think of Ken Burns? He does use a lot of letters from individuals for color and commentary of the times.
     
  9. Jeff Weaver

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    Burns does a decent job. Some selective choices to emphasize this or that, but that is normal. Lots of southern partisans can't stand him, but on whole, I think he presents a fairly balanced book. My problem with Burns is that since he jumps from project to project he has never developed the in depth understanding of the war, that you get from others, but his book is a good overview for the casual reader. The serious scholar wouldnt use it as a source, except for the letters. Bell Wiley in his 2 volume Life of Johnny Reb and Billy Yank is much better for the common solider. James I. "Bud" Robertson did a volume called Soldiers Blue and Gray which is also very good for an over view of the average soldier and what their life and opinions were.

    My specialty has been the regimental or unit history, and as far as I know I have written more of them than anyone else, ever - 23 volumes in the Virginia Regimental History Series, one unit history of a North Carolina Cavalry regiment, and an area study of the Virginia/Kentucky border area. I have done a couple of others on Kentucky units which have not been published yet. I have also done a manuscript, not yet published either, assessing the statistics of Virginia in the Late Unpleasantness. Most of the units I have worked with have been units not serving with Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia, in fact I did ever regimental for every non-ANV unit from Virginia. Most have gone out of print, however.
     
  10. Dr. Bob

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    Saltville, VA, was a strategic place during the Late Great Unpleasantness. You are fortuneate to live there.

    Hey, does Tim Scott still live there? He was one smart fellow from Dallas who moved there about 15 years ago to work with the Hammonds at Southeast Education Associates (which published some of my works). Tim did all the editing and layout . . .
     
  11. Jeff Weaver

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    I don;t think so, not listed in the phone book.

    I live about 1/2 mile from the battlefield during 1st Battle of Saltville. Of course during the 2nd battle, the Federals gain possession of the town, so they were all over the place. There is a Confederate artillery position in front of my house - literally.

    Going in a little bit to a lecture on "Improper archeology." Seems that the same reasons that made the place attractive to the Confederates, made the place attractive to paleo-Indians and Ice age animals. Archeology here is now being done in a proper manner, but in days past there was a lot of random digging for Indian artifacts and fossils. The skeleton of a another wooly mamonth was discovered here last summer. The museum here in town has a good many of the fossils.

    Our environment here is also unique, being 300+ miles from the Atlantic, we have a costal salt-marsh environment, with sea-birds, coastal plants and the whole nine-yards, and at an elevation of about 2000 feet.

    We also have some important Revolutionary War proto-industrial relics in the area as well. (lead mines).

    In addition to the salt found here and so important during the Civil War, it was an important region for another region -- gunpowder was produced here in quantity during the civil war. Bat Guano is found in abundance in the limestone caves that dot the landscape. We also abut to the Blue Ridge system, specifically Iron Mountain, which is true to its name. There were numerous iron mining operations there during the civil war -- iron was mined, rough smelted and formed into pigs, and shipped by rail to Tredegar Iron works in Richmond for conversion into ordnance and other necessary materials for the war effort.

    After the war the town fell into a malaise, as was true all over the South. In 1892, an English Chemist name Mathieson bought the whole place, lock stock and barrel, and it became the first complete company town in the United States. Chemical production continued here through both world wars, up until 1972 when the company pulled out, leaving everyone high and dry. The Mathieson family sold out to Olin Corporation in the 1950s. One of the big products was hyrdozene gas, which was a rocket propellant, and was in high demand in the early days of the cold war. Household laundry bleach was first commerically developed here as well.

    RIght now, it is a bit of a sad place, lots of old houses, and not a lot of money. When we bought this house two years ago, there were 5 of 7 houses on our block empty and in various states of disrepair. The local papers came and did some interviews with us about historic preservation, and since all five have changed hands and all are under repair, and they give us credit for being willing to take a chance on the place. So, that is where we are right now. Lots of the old-timers think we are nuts for restoring the old house, but lots of folks have said we gave them confidence to try it themselves, so the town is coming back, slowly. The Museum just bought an old department store adjacent to their extisting property and plan on doubling the size of their exhibits. We have a move underway to raise money to build a new library, where I work.

    But we have some problems to face, part of the old system of mines is dangeous and expected to collapse. There was a considerable mercury contamination problem, but it has been cleaned, and we are no longer a super-fund site.

    It is a super friendly little town. When we moved down, before we went to the settlement table to buy the house, we were walking down the street, and everyone already knew our names, where we were moving, and everyone has been the best neighbors you could ever want. Both parties have offered to sponsor me for what ever political office I wanted. (I dont want one and declined.) So, it is a great little town.
     
  12. Stratiotes

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    Jeff Weaver, I wondered if you were the same Jeff Weaver/author or not.

    I agree on the obscure idea, I enjoy that very much too. My guerrilla/unconventional warface interest and living in western Missouri has given me some opportunity to do some digging on the guerrilla war here before and during Mr. Lincoln's war. Its more an interest fed by convenience than by a real love for that part of history but it is still interest enough to keep me going. My ggggrandad was a Confederate guerrilla with Bill Anderson and occasionally Qunatrill - also was friends with the James and Younger brothers during and after the war.
     
  13. mioque

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    2 among my favorite authors.

    Johan Huizinga
    http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/huizin.htm
    Gilles Quispel

    And my 3 favorite fields of history.

    The history of the ordinary daily life of ordinary people.
    The history of High Church denominations
    The history of Christian art.
     
  14. Jeff Weaver

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    Stratiotes

    Guilty of being one and the same person.

    Guerrilla warfare is one of the more interesting aspects of the Late Unpleasantness to me. The western guerillas have had more ink than those in the ink save that expended in extoling the virtues of Mosby. Yet there were several groups raised under the "Partisan Ranger" act, and several had colorful careers. Some were actually quite useful in a miltary sense, others were useful in other ways, some were useful in no particularly military way. Some relatively small bands of partisans kept large numbers of Federal troops tied up in Kentucky that would have been better expended in other theatres of war had it not been for the guerillas operating behind enemy lines. In what is now West Virginia, C.S. Partisans were good at interdicting supplies for the Federal armies. There are problems with properly researching these groups though. After the war ended, in West Virginia in particular, but also true in Kentucky, former Confederates were completely disenfranchised at the ballot box and in the jury box as well. Lawsuits ruined many of them, and these fellows just didn't write about what they did for fear of being sued into oblivion. Many of them left for Texas, or other points west. Oddly enough a large group who left West Virginia for Minnesota, where the political climate was a bit more tolerable in their view.

    I had an uncle who live in Missouri during the war, lived in Noddaway county, but true to his Virginia roots joined with Sterling Price when the war came. His daughters had married Northern fellows, who their father-in-law forced to join the C.S. Army. After the war was over their life was not worth much where the were, so they picked up and moved to Oregon. I have the letters he wrote to his sister (my great-great-grandmother) from Oregon describing the trip.
     
  15. delly

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    Jeff, I'm envious that you live in Virginia and so much of my ancestry centers in that state and North Carolina. One of my ancestors; Etheldred Edward Howell came to James City when he immigrated from Ayershire, Wales in the 1600's. His decendants settled in N.C., and all points South and West.
    I also had an acestor named Sir Thomas Jernigan who settled in Nansemond Co. Va. in 1635 and named his plantation "Somerton" after the Jernigan family home in Suffolk, England named Somerleyton. Sir Thomas was knighted at the age of 19. The Jernigans were very prominant in English history; Sir Richard Jernigan being Privy Council to Henry VIII and Sir Henry Jerningham(changed from Jernigan) Privy Council to Mary Tudor. The Jernigans later fell out of favor during Elizabeth's reign because they were Catholics. Somerleyton was sold when the line became extinct.

    I have always been very interested in the War Between the States and Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson is a hero of mine.
    I would like to read some of your books so I will look for them.
     
  16. Stratiotes

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    I agree in concept but, at the same time, I think you'll agree that it takes an historian to write *good* historical fiction.
     
  17. Daisy

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    I'm reading an interesting book on the history of salt, call "Salt: a World History", by Mark Kurlansky.

    The history of commerce is far more interesting to me than the history of war, although the two are certainly entertwined.

    I had heard about the mercury poisoning - in the water, wasn't it? - in Saltville, but not the wooly mamoth. Is the museum the Museum of the Appalachias or a different one?
     
  18. Melanie

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    I read Mioques piece and agree with the sentiment of reading the lives of ordinary folks.

    In Australia, there has been a spate of these, oldsters putting down their lives in paperback. the resilience of the ordinary bloke/sheila is awesome. Of course every nation in the world has these fantastic tales. I regret my inability to read Dutch, Chinese, etc and worse my ignorance of the histories of such nations. I would need a thousand year life span to soak it all up I fear.

    There is greatness all around if we will only see.
     
  19. Brother Tim

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    Ken H, Yeah Keegan!!!!!
     
  20. Jeff Weaver

    Jeff Weaver
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    Daisy

    I was asleep at the switch. The mercury is cleaned up and we are no longer a superfund site. It was used in the making of hydrozene propellant for the first NASA missions.

    The local musem is the Museum of the Middle Appalachians. (MOMA for short). The story is that during the last ice age, when North America was populated by large animals they congregated here to obtain sodium-chloride, which is necessary for life. The salt is in a water solution, so they came, they drank, and sometimes they got stuck in the mud. There is also evidence of paleo-Indian hunting these mammoths here as well. Fossils of other large pre-historic animals have also been found.
     

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