Where is this page in my Den? → The Virtual Library Category: History
Worlds of Human History
The Sphinx and the Great Pyramid

Two of the greatest monuments of ancient Egypt: the Sphinx and the Great Pyramid of Khufu, as they appeared to photographer Francis Frith in 1858

History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time; it illumines reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance in daily life, and brings us tidings of antiquity.

-- De Oratore, II, Marcus Tullis Cicero, Roman historian and philosopher

Human history is a great and grand story that spans more than five thousand years. It's hard to separate it into subtopics, but my history books tend to divide into three major groups and a couple of lesser ones:

Ancient history starts with the first written historical records. The oldest known written records come from Egypt: the Scorpion King tablets and the Narmer Palette, circa 3000 BCE -- about five thousand years ago. Shortly after, written records also appear in Sumeria and the other civilizations of Mesopotamia. It also includes the pre-Columbian cultures of the Americas, and all the other human cultures of antiquity.

Western history is exactly that: the history of the Western World, meaning Europe and the United States, mainly from about 1000 to the present. I don't have all that many books from this period. Most of them were acquired when I was thinking about trying my hand at fiction writing set in a pseudo-medieval realm, so they tend to focus on subjects that would be useful to a writer: the Crusades and other wars, medicine, and what life was like for people in medieval times.

My largest history section is military history. I have a number of books about the American Civil War , and a few about the Napoleonic Wars. However, the mainstay of my military-history bookcase is a sizable collection of books about World War II. These break down readily into five categories:

  • On top, naturally, are a number of books about aerial warfare, divided more or less evenly between the European and Pacific theaters of the war.
  • The next shelf is populated by books about the land wars, also more or less evenly divided between the two theaters.
  • Next down comes a couple of shelves full of books about the war at sea. These books focus more on the Pacific War.
  • Below that (naturally enough) is a shelf of books that all focus specifically on the submarine war, US subs in the Pacific, and British subs and German U-boats in the Atlantic.
  • And last but not least is a set of books about the secret side of the war: deception, intelligence, codebreaking, spying, and other covert activities.