Category Book Reviews

Book review: Mike Maxwell, Future-Focused History Teaching (Maxwell Learning, 2018)

Mike Maxwell is reader of this blog and a fellow historian who sent me a copy of his new book. The general message of the book is that history education, specifically at the high school level, is a mess. The first 55 pages of the book diagnose the problem, which is that history education does […]

Book Review: Helena Rosenblatt, The Lost History of Liberalism: From Ancient Rome to the Twenty-First Century (Princeton University Press, 2018).

This book is more than a coherent and straightforward synthetic history of liberalism. First, let me note that the book is impressive in its scope of covering hundreds of years and multiple countries, although limited primarily to Western Europe and the United States. It also brings together a large historiography about liberalism and has a […]

A Few “Best History Books of 2018”

History research generally does not need to be consumed as quickly as scientific work. History books can remain the definitive voice on a topic for 10, 20, even 30 years. So, as a historian, I don’t always try to read the newest books, but the best ones. In 2018, I’ve made a conscious effort to […]

Book Review: Marshall T. Poe, How to Read a History Book: The Hidden History of History (Zero Books, 2018)

There have been a rash of history books recently with incorrect titles. Sam Weinburg’s Why Study History when its Already on Your Phone has very little to do with justifying learning of history in the age of the smart phone, and Alex Rosenburg’s  How History Gets it Wrong: The Neuroscience of Our Addictions to Stories […]

Book Review: David C. Krakauer, John Lewis Gaddis, Kenneth Pomeranz, eds. History, Big History History & Metahistory (Santa Fe Institute, 2017)

The Santa Fe Institute sounds like an Elon Musk/ Lex Luther style lair, where the brightest thinkers come together to hatch a scheme for controlling the planet. What many of the participants of the book want to control is the shape and scope of historical narrative. They want history to be big, to cover grand […]

Book Review: Sean Patrick Adams, How Americans Kept Warm in the 19th Century (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014.

In the 18th century, Americans burned a lot of wood to keep their homes warm.  But everything from a log cabin to a brick house had an open fire place with a chimney made of brick or stone. These open fires were quite inefficient. As Adams notes, houses in the Northern states would burn ten […]

Book Review: Sarah Maza, Thinking About History (University of Chicago Press, 2017)

The genre of historians writing about their own field is large and growing. Some of these are quite good, like John Burrow’s A History of Histories, which traces historical writing from the Greeks to the present, or, more relevant to most active historians, Georg Iggers’ Historiography in the 20th century.  But since I’ve also read […]

Book Review: Alex Rosenberg, How History Gets Things Wrong: The Neuroscience of Our Addiction to Stories (MIT Press, 2018).

A new book by an established philosopher of science challenges the value of narrative explanations, of history, and of purposeful action more generally. Historians, it seems, have been doing it wrong. They have been under the spell of believing that people act with purpose, and that by studying history we can understand human motivations and […]

Book Review: Sam Wineburg, Why Learn History (When It’s Already on Your Phone)

If the modern history textbook was on trial for corrupting the youth, I’d appoint Sam Wineburg as the prosecuting attorney.  His hatred for the standard 1,000-page neon-flashing over-produced textbook was first on display in his 2001 book Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts.  Now, in this new work, Why Learn History (When It’s Already on […]

Book Review: Augustus Schade, The Philosophy of History (1899)

In 1899, an obscure German American named Augustus Schade wrote what is, hands down, the most absurd book ever written on the philosophy of history.  Schade self-published his “The Philosophy of History” in Cleveland, Ohio, of all places. The book claims to be based on the works of a German thinker, Rudolf Rocholl. Schade’s influences […]