Book Excerpts From a
Range of Prominent Writers
Each piece in this section was chosen for one of several reasons: to show history writing at its best (for example, the excerpts from Barbara W. Tuchman and Carl Sandburg), to illustrate how historical scholarship was presented in centuries past (Gibbon, Macaulay, etc.), to show that a good writer can generate history prose that kids will love (Enid LaMonte Meadowcroft), because it’s great stuff that has been overlooked (Arthur Koestler and Page Smith), etc. Each piece has an introduction that supplies background.
This list is a bit heavy on war and on male writers. This is largely due to budgetary constraints. We needed to draw primarily on out-of-copyright material published before the explosion of social history. That revolution, which began in the 1950s and continues to the present day, brought a greater range of people into the field of history than before, writing about a broader set of subjects than had previously engaged the profession – such topics as the history of women, minority groups, working people, out-of-the-mainstream people, etc. Valuable and readable work has resulted. But it’s copyrighted. We don’t have the money to pay for the rights to a lot of copyrighted pieces – to pay, for example, for a selection from the work of Jill Lepore. We hope, in time, to broaden this list to more accurately reflect the range of great writing that’s been done – and is being done – about the past.