Books to give to 6th Formers

I’ve long been a fan of giving / lending books to students of history who think they want to read it at university, or if I think they should think about reading it at university.  Often however, a great book on a period can be daunting, even if it is as beautifully written as some of those listed below.  I’ve often lent out copies of meta-historical writing, or books on the nature of history as a discipline, some of which are listed below as well.  These can sometimes be initially more approachable (especially the Richard Evans one, which is brilliantly written), but they raise very profound questions (the challenge of relativism for instance) which some students love to consider and debate.    Most universities don’t interview their candidates anymore, but some do, and there are excellent things in these books which could give students a interesting topic of thought and conversation if they are invited to one.

Anyway, I got to thinking about this after just finishing Margaret MacMillan’s The Uses and Abuses of History which I would imagine is a great read for 6th formers. It’s short, lucid and full of great examples of which illustrate a thoughtful argument – that we can’t leave history to the television documentary makers or the demagogues.   The examples she gives would have been on the button in 2009 when the book was published, but they are now somewhat out of date.   I think this could actually be of use, to students who might be encouraged to see which events have recently been abused and used by politicians and the press in order to convince, persuade or frighten.

Books about a period of history Books about history
  • The Cheese and the Worms – Carlo Ginzburg
  • The Great Cat Massacre – Robert Darnton
  • The Force of Destiny – Christopher Duggan
  • The Making of the English Working Class – E. P. Thompson
  • The Voices of Morebath – Eamon Duffy
  • Sleepwalkers – Christopher Clark
  • The Forgotten Victory – Gary Sheffield
  • The Adventure of English – Melvyn Bragg
  • The Time Traveller’s guide to Medieval  / Elizabethan England – Ian Mortimer
  • The Uses and Abuses of History – Margaret MacMillan
  • The Pursuit of History.  John Tosh
  • In Defence of History.  Richard Evans
  • What is History?  E H Carr

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