Saturday, 22 December 2012

History Books which have shaped me

One of my favourite discussion forums, Ship of Fools, has been discussing which history books shaped our view of the past. Here are some of mine:

I can't remember a time when I didn't read history, either fiction or non-fiction. Even one of my earliest school readers described making rush lights, and (weirdly) the window tax! I think it may have been the history of a house....
I moved on to the usual suspects - Rosemary Sutcliff, Geoffrey Trease, Henry Treece, Mary Renault, so that covered Romans, Ancient Greeks, Vikings, and odd bits of later stuff. (The nearer to the present day I come, the less interested I seem to get).
I had a brief flirtation with Georgette Heyer when I was a teenager - not the Regency novels so much as the eighteenth century stories. Of course, this was about the same time as Poldark was on TV, and I fancied Robin Ellis like mad (but TV is a subject for another post!).
At university, I studied archaeology and medieval history, so that's my comfort zone, and since I moved to Wales I've got fascinated by Welsh history. The best fiction about medieval Wales is by Sharon Penman (the Here Be Dragons trilogy) and Edith Pargeter's Brothers of Gwynnedd series, along with The Heaven Tree trilogy. And Brother Cadfael.
Another special interest is women in history, and the book that set me off on that track is the marvellous Women in Anglo-Saxon England by Christine Fell.
So here are a few books from my shelves that I turn to again and again:
The Visual Culture of Wales: Medieval Vision by Peter Lord
The Norman Achievement by Richard F Cassady (Normans in Sicily as well as England and France)
The Medieval Machine - The Industrial Revolution of the Middle Ages by Jean Gimpel, which shows how the middle ages wasn't all primitive and covered in mud
and The Making of the English Landscape by WG Hoskins. I've got the original at the moment, but I used to have an annotated version where another writer re-visited all the places Hoskins mentioned and described what they looked like now.

Oh, and I'll listen to Michael Wood talking about anything - even periods and places that I had no previous interest in, because he makes it so fascinating!

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