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Old 20th December 2012, 09:49 PM   #1
mike3
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How can I gain more knowledge of History?

Hi.

I'm wondering about this. It seems a lot of you on this forum have some nice, big knowledge of history, and I was wondering how I could manage to gain a similar level of knowledge. What would you suggest?
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Old 20th December 2012, 10:20 PM   #2
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Books. Lots of them. The more I read, the more I realize I should have made a serious effort to read extensively about sixty years ago.

Fortunately, History has ended, so it should give you a chance to catch up.

Though it may be conceited of me to think that you had me in mind when you wrote your OP, and, now that I think of it, you surely didn't.
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Old 20th December 2012, 10:25 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by angrysoba View Post
Books. Lots of them.

^This.

Find some history courses you can take at a local college.

Or try http://www.thegreatcourses.com/tgc/c...es.aspx?ps=918, or see if your local library carries some of these.
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Old 20th December 2012, 10:44 PM   #4
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Think of something that interests you. The more specific, the better. Learn everything you can about it. Learn how it started.

Go as far back as you can. Go back until it becomes something else. Learn about that.

For example: Shipping containers. How did they start? What was shipping like before containers? Why longshoremen? Wait, what about Panamax ships? What about the Panama Canal? How did that happen? Teddy Roosevelt? What's his deal? Where did he come from? Etc.

Another: The US Civil War. Just study that, all by itself. Who knows where you'll end up. The Mexican-American War? US Presidents? The abolition of slavery in Europe? The history of the Russian empire?

There's no one thing called "History" that people have a "nice, big knowledge" of. There's only things that interest you, and things you know a lot about.
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Old 20th December 2012, 11:00 PM   #5
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Following on from what the prestige said, perhaps the best place to start is which specific areas about history do you want to learn about?

Maybe you could begin by telling us which posts and threads particularly impressed you.

Maybe some of the posters there could recommend which sources they found most useful.

Also, although I said books, don't necessarily restrict yourself to books. You may also learn plenty from good history documentaries, although I think they are best watched in tandem with books on the subject.
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Old 20th December 2012, 11:05 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by mike3 View Post
Hi.

I'm wondering about this. It seems a lot of you on this forum have some nice, big knowledge of history, and I was wondering how I could manage to gain a similar level of knowledge. What would you suggest?
Live a very long time.
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Old 20th December 2012, 11:05 PM   #7
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I once opened a thread asking about the Daniel Dennett of History and someone recommended me James Burke. You should definitely check him out. He's amazing. James Burke is not so much about giving you a lecture on history, but rather teaching you the connections between the inventions that human beings have made and how the most unlikely inventions share common connections.

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Old 20th December 2012, 11:12 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Ron_Tomkins View Post
I once opened a thread asking about the Daniel Dennett of History and someone recommended me James Burke. You should definitely check him out. He's amazing. James Burke is not so much about giving you a lecture on history, but rather teaching you the connections between the inventions that human beings have made and how the most unlikely inventions share common connections.

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Connections was a terrific show. Glad to see it's available on Youtube.
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Old 21st December 2012, 12:09 AM   #9
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Yes. Books. I like close-up history. Something on the day-to-day level. What was life like for ordinary folk in Ancient Rome for example, or how about the trial of Charles I (1649) which might get you into the English Civil War.
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Old 21st December 2012, 12:16 AM   #10
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One of the best ways to ease into the study of history, IMHO, is to start reading biographies of famous people (except celebrities, which are mostly useless for this purpose). Any good biography will place the person at least somewhat in the context of his or her times. From there, you might find a thread of interest that you want to follow up more broadly.

Also don't ignore historical novels. Again IMHO, Mary Renault's books are a good introduction to classical Greece, for example. I also learned a lot from Pynchon's Mason and Dixon, although that isn't for everyone.

Another option is DVDs from your library. Any reasonably big city library these days probably has educational videos on all kinds of subjects that you can download for free.
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Old 21st December 2012, 12:20 AM   #11
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I'd love to be a Civil War buff. What do you have to do to be a buff?
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Old 21st December 2012, 12:22 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Spockette View Post
Also don't ignore historical novels. Again IMHO, Mary Renault's books are a good introduction to classical Greece, for example. I also learned a lot from Pynchon's Mason and Dixon, although that isn't for everyone.
Indeed. The Flashman novels with all the end notes will inform you on British colonial history, Afghan history, the slave trade, the American expansion west, a bit of Madagascarn history and much more, especially if you take some of Flashman's interpretations of events with a pinch of salt.
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Old 21st December 2012, 01:01 AM   #13
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If they're still around, your grandparents are a living, breathing repository of social history (or more if one of them is like Kissinger or somebody lol).
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Old 21st December 2012, 01:18 AM   #14
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Read, pick a subject and read a general history-then get into the details
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Old 21st December 2012, 01:23 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by anglolawyer View Post
Yes. Books. I like close-up history. Something on the day-to-day level. What was life like for ordinary folk in Ancient Rome for example, or how about the trial of Charles I (1649) which might get you into the English Civil War.
Go to Amazon, hit Daily Life In/Life in/Everyday Life in (other similar) and add the location and time range (ancient, medieval, etc. There are at least two series of this type. None are inexpensive. Double check reviews on them - some are not as good as their source would suggest but others just fine
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Old 21st December 2012, 01:24 AM   #16
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Note, I tested this randomly before suggesting it. Works for Rome, Medieval Europe (parts of), Victorian England......................SO.........
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Old 21st December 2012, 01:26 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by GrouchoMarxist View Post
I'd love to be a Civil War buff. What do you have to do to be a buff?
Exercize frequently and make sure you don't miss any of the muscle groups when you do.
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Old 21st December 2012, 01:43 AM   #18
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I watch documentaries. and when something really peaks my interest, I go find some good books! (often in the credits of historical doc's there is a bibliography or a book that goes along with it.)
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Old 21st December 2012, 02:35 AM   #19
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Here's a good one. Go on holiday to an interesting place (Florence, Istanbul, Paris, the Alamo etc) and get a book or two about a time in which that place formed the backdrop and read it/them when you're there (or when you get back or before you go). This connects you with reality of what you're reading and makes the book and the place more interesting.
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Old 21st December 2012, 06:42 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by GrouchoMarxist View Post
I'd love to be a Civil War buff. What do you have to do to be a buff?

Are you asking for suggestions about where and how to start learning?
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Old 21st December 2012, 06:50 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by mike3 View Post
Hi.

I'm wondering about this. It seems a lot of you on this forum have some nice, big knowledge of history, and I was wondering how I could manage to gain a similar level of knowledge. What would you suggest?

Get an otherwise useless degree in American and/or European history (preferably from a public college or university, if you live in the US; it's much cheaper). Then move back in with your parents and/or room with friends from high school while you work in retail, customer service, or the restaurant industry. As you're able, go back to school part time (or even full time) and get a real degree.
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Old 21st December 2012, 06:50 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by StankApe View Post
I watch documentaries. and when something really peaks my interest, I go find some good books! (often in the credits of historical doc's there is a bibliography or a book that goes along with it.)
As said, watching documentaries can be useful for consolidating what you read in books, but more reading can pique your interest too.
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Old 21st December 2012, 06:52 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by anglolawyer View Post
Here's a good one. Go on holiday to an interesting place (Florence, Istanbul, Paris, the Alamo etc) and get a book or two about a time in which that place formed the backdrop and read it/them when you're there (or when you get back or before you go). This connects you with reality of what you're reading and makes the book and the place more interesting.
Yes! That's a fun one too. Try Cambodia and Vietnam for fun historical tours.
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Old 21st December 2012, 06:56 AM   #24
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Try to use original sources wherever possible as historiography often reflects the socio-political environment of the authors. I studied Ancient History & the Classics at university, but my favourite period is the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine) and although I've read the secondary texts on the subject, I purchase the original sources in translation wherever possible in order to avoid secondary bias.
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Old 21st December 2012, 06:57 AM   #25
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There are 398 units of the National Park System here in the U.S. (if you are in the U.S.) and most of them contain some aspect of history. Many of them are dedicated to history. Go to the ones near you and walk around, read the signs, get the literature, talk to the people there. Start locally. This will work unless you are in Rhode Island.
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Old 21st December 2012, 07:01 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by HotRodDeluxe View Post
Try to use original sources wherever possible as historiography often reflects the socio-political environment of the authors. I studied Ancient History & the Classics at university, but my favourite period is the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine) and although I've read the secondary texts on the subject, I purchase the original sources in translation wherever possible in order to avoid secondary bias.
Don't listen to him! Primary sources are full of bias!
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Old 21st December 2012, 07:32 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by mike3 View Post
Hi.

I'm wondering about this. It seems a lot of you on this forum have some nice, big knowledge of history, and I was wondering how I could manage to gain a similar level of knowledge. What would you suggest?
I suggest that you find some time period and/or event that you are interested in and start reading about it.

Of course, a better way is to get a college degree in history if you really want a more well rounded view of things.
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Old 21st December 2012, 11:33 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by angrysoba View Post
As said, watching documentaries can be useful for consolidating what you read in books, but more reading can pique your interest too.
indeed..........the shame..............
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Old 21st December 2012, 11:36 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by angrysoba View Post
Don't listen to him! Primary sources are full of bias!
But with them it is primary bias!!! *












*seriously, though, it pretty much is.......
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Old 21st December 2012, 11:40 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by mike3 View Post
Hi.

I'm wondering about this. It seems a lot of you on this forum have some nice, big knowledge of history, and I was wondering how I could manage to gain a similar level of knowledge. What would you suggest?
Watch the History Channel.
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Old 21st December 2012, 11:51 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by The Central Scrutinizer View Post
Watch the History Channel.

nah, dog
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Old 21st December 2012, 02:24 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by angrysoba View Post
Don't listen to him! Primary sources are full of bias!
Of course, but why compound it further when it can be avoided? Secondary sources are necessary in gaining an understanding of the primary sources, but we've all seen authors 'stretch' the evidence and form outrageous hypotheses as a result.

Last edited by HotRodDeluxe; 21st December 2012 at 02:39 PM.
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Old 21st December 2012, 02:37 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by fuelair View Post
But with them it is primary bias!!! *


*seriously, though, it pretty much is.......
Quite true, but why compound it further if it can be avoided?


A classic example of my point lies in post WWII Greek historiography regarding the Eastern Roman Empire, where the controversy rages over whether it should be known as the Roman Empire at all. Some refer to it as the Greek Empire based on the fact that the citizens were Hellenized and spoke koine Greek. This nationalistic style of historiography ignores the inheritance and the way the people viewed themselves as protectors of this inheritance. The primary sources leave no doubt.
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Old 21st December 2012, 02:41 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by The Central Scrutinizer View Post
Watch the History Nazi Channel.


Yes, History Channel, the Nazis were bad, we get it!
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Old 21st December 2012, 04:27 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by The Central Scrutinizer View Post
Watch the History Channel.
You are evil!!!!!!!
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Old 21st December 2012, 08:14 PM   #36
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Originally Posted by SpitfireIX View Post
Get an otherwise useless degree in American and/or European history (preferably from a public college or university, if you live in the US; it's much cheaper). Then move back in with your parents and/or room with friends from high school while you work in retail, customer service, or the restaurant industry. As you're able, go back to school part time (or even full time) and get a real degree.
What do you mean by a "real degree"? In history, or what?
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Old 21st December 2012, 08:26 PM   #37
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Join a historical re-enactment society.
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Old 21st December 2012, 08:26 PM   #38
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A few books here.
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Old 21st December 2012, 09:26 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by Ron_Tomkins View Post
I once opened a thread asking about the Daniel Dennett of History and someone recommended me James Burke. You should definitely check him out. He's amazing. James Burke is not so much about giving you a lecture on history, but rather teaching you the connections between the inventions that human beings have made and how the most unlikely inventions share common connections.

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Squee!!!! Connections is on YouTube!!! He wrote some awesome companion books to that series too.
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Old 21st December 2012, 09:55 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by anglolawyer View Post
Here's a good one. Go on holiday to an interesting place (Florence, Istanbul, Paris, the Alamo etc) and get a book or two about a time in which that place formed the backdrop and read it/them when you're there (or when you get back or before you go). This connects you with reality of what you're reading and makes the book and the place more interesting.
That's what I try to do, and it works with biographies as well. In Dublin we stayed in the house Wellington was born in (now the exquisite Merrion Hotel), saw his tomb in St John's and the academy he attended in France. This prompted me to read several books about him, and has led me to conclude he was one of the world's greatest ever generals.
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