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Historical Novels to learn History

Mrs Lycos
One of the best ways to lean history is by reading historical novels. You get to see that moment in history through the eyes of the characters, with their loves, passions and hates, and you live through them. You understand the reasons and feelings of important people, and they are now more than just a name in a book.
You get also to understand the society of the time, not by lengthy explanations, but by means of actions, reactions and dialogues. At the same time, the description of places can be of great help to understand the result of battles.

Can you share with us what novels have help you understand history, and what did you get mostly from it?
Fright Knight
I would say the novel NOLI ME TANGERE and EL FILIBUSTERISMO are the two novels that informed me what was happening here in the Philippines back in the Spanish period. It discusses how the Spaniards treat the Filipinos and how the Filipinos fought back against them. It also tell about the struggle of our countrymen when back then there are sort of betrayal by Filipinos to their fellow Filipinos.
The book 'W Pustyni w Puszce' (not sure of sure of spelling), which means 'In Jungle and Desert" made an interesting movie. The book itself is in Polish, and I can barely read that; luckily the movie had subtitles.
It's about the children of English and Polish imperialists in Africa developing a bridge get lost in the desert and make friends (and enemies) but ultimately are returned to their parents. The book is by Sienkiewicz . . . I think.
Mrs Lycos
One of the books I'm reading at the moment is "The last Legion" by Valerio Massimo Manfredi. It's set in the times of the fall of the Roman Empire, about a few soldiers from the last legion who rescue and take the Emperor (a child of 13) through Europe to save his life, while being chased by the Barbarian forces in power.
It 's really enlightening about this period in history, how this Greatest empire is falling apart. All the cities and towns once united by the safe roads, are now more and more isolated, without the protection of the roman army, and start to lose what they had in common. Local accents appear, the universal latin is forgotten. People are scared, and turn to big land owners for protection, which later become the Feudal Lords.
Great book, I recommend it!
If you want to know about the old life in Japan, you must read Mushashi by Eiji Yoshikawa. The story of this novel is very great and reflecting about old Japanese life, culture, and notion.
The story is about a man named Takezo who want to be a strongest man in Japan.
All Quiet on the Western Front is a wonderful novel set just after the end of WWI.

The Killer Angels is another great book (written like a novel, but is actually non-fiction - mostly) about the battle of Gettysburg. The movie Gettysburg starring Martin Sheen (RE Lee), Tom Berenger (Longstreet), and Jeff Daniels (Joshua Chamberlin) is awesome as well.
Historical novels sound like something new to try. I wish I had time for leisure.
Really, though. I like the idea of incorporating history into a novel.
The Flashman books by George McDonald Fraser were the first history-based reading I ever enjoyed. They do a great job of incorporating carefully researched history with engaging (if sometimes ridiculous) plotlines centered around an enjoyably despicable protagonist. They shed a lot of light on events of the 1800s, especially those in which the British army was involved.
Arch of Triumph was an amazing book (by Erich Remarque). It's set in 1939 and doesn't deal directly with WWII, but actually talks more about how it affected people and such. It's also a love story. Wonderful book.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera (and a few others by him) taught me a lot about Czechoslovakia's history.
Ooh, I thought of another historical fiction work I really enjoyed and found informative! Neal Stephenson's The Baroque Cycle is 8 novels in 3 huge volumes taking place in late 17th and early 18th centuries, mostly in Europe but with a little bit of America and elsewhere.

I'm not sure how accurate the details and characterizations of actual historical figures are, but Stephenson did a lot of research into the period and I think the general vibe and ambience of his settings are accurate. There's a lot of fascinating stuff about the history of the Enlightenment, the beginnings of modern scientific inquiry, and money systems.

Well worth checking out if any of that is of interest to you--but be prepared for giant books! :)

When I was about 19, I read a book called The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon K. Penman. I loved it! It tells the story of the life of King Richard III of England.

The truth about King Richard will probably never be known. Richard was killed in battle in 1483 and Henry Tudor seized the throne as King Henry VII. He had to portray Richard in a bad light in order to justify his own position as king. And that is where Richard's bad reputation stems from.

His portrayal as the hideously deformed evil murderer in Shakespeare's Richard III was more Tudor propaganda. After all, Shakespeare was writing during the reign of King Henry VII's granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth I, and great-great-grandson, King James I.

I recommend The Sunne in Splendour to anyone interested in the Wars of the Roses, King Edward IV or King Richard III.
Sorry, King Richard III became king of England in 1483. He was killed in battle in 1485.

For those interested in Greek History I would submit the book “Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae” written by Steven Pressfield. This historical novel is very accurate historically, except perhaps for the main character, a squire to the Spartans who can tell their story from an outside perspective. This is a brilliantly written book which I would recommend to anybody.
I've never read a history novel, but I hear that Terry Deary is currently in the process of writing a series of Horrible Histories fiction titles to be released this time next year. Does anyone know anything more about them? All I can find online is the titles of the books...
pieman wrote:
I've never read a history novel, but I hear that Terry Deary is currently in the process of writing a series of Horrible Histories fiction titles to be released this time next year. Does anyone know anything more about them? All I can find online is the titles of the books...

The first time I ever saw these books was in a corner bookstore in London. They are geared towards older kids, but are a fantastic and fun read for anybody. If you want to see a list of them, you can go to:

Also, you can find them on as well:
Here are some others I would highly recommend:

Steven Pressfield Books
- Tides of War
- The Virtues of War
- Last of the Amazons
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