5 Books for Students Obtaining a Master of Arts in History Degree
By studying past events and discerning the lessons taught through their outcomes, students working towards their Master of Arts in History gain the opportunity to analyze and learn from the works of a long line of career historians. By exploring and studying the writings of the five books below, students can further their knowledge and gain diverse insights on a range of historical topics, ranging from the reign of the Comanche to the cultures of Ancient Rome.
A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn
Intent on providing an alternative interpretation of American history, Howard Zinn wrote A People’s History of the United States with the desire to provide an alternative interpretation of American history. For decades, A People’s History of the United States has been considered an essential read for American citizens, because it includes stories that were often ignored or only glanced at in traditional history books. Overall the book provides facts, stories, and examinations that give perspectives on the many groups who, at some point, were victimized by the United States.
In particular, Zinn highlights the plight of America’s women, African-Americans, Native Americans, neglected factory workers, mistreated immigrant laborers, and the working poor. Most volumes of American history exclude key details around these aspects of history, but A People’s History of the United States ties them together to help individuals develop insight on the often unaddressed issues that exist in the United States.
SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard
Roman history contains many stories that make Rome a staple of Ancient history study, yet the practices of an ancient culture may seem peculiar within a modern society where individuals are wirelessly connected. In SPQR, author Mary Beard acknowledges the strangeness of viewing ancient Rome from the 21st century, citing the fundamental ethical differences between ancient Rome and the modern world, including slavery, human slaughter for sport in arenas, and the constant presence of filth and illness. To help establish a connection with modern times, Beard aims to take a philosophical stance by debunking theories that were made in the past, as opposed to simply focusing on the grandiosity of Ancient Rome’s pinpoint war strategy and grand architecture. Beard also draws together the history of Roman culture, mythology, economy, and policy to show readers what living in ancient Roman society really meant. With delicate insights and clever parallels to modern day, reading the work of Mary Beard can help historians to develop the skills needed to question what connections exist between ancient and modern cultures.
1776 by David McCullough
American author, narrator, historian, and lecturer David McCullough has a long list of accolades and awards granted to him in appreciation of his spectacular writing on historically relevant subjects. Though McCullough has published many books, two of which have received the Pulitzer Prize, 1776 stands out as a deep look into the events surrounding the legitimization of the United States. While McCullough’s take on this time period of history is far less gory than most readers of history are accustomed to, he packages lucid and engaging excerpts from the political, economic, and social aspects of the months that brought forth the end of the Revolutionary War.
The fight for liberty and equality was led by George Washington, who relied upon fog and storms to level the battlefield and survive early battles. An instrumental factor in the colonial victory was the American collective collaborating in war as “citizen soldiers.” Countless farmers, artisans, and craftsman picked up arms to aid their countrymen in establishing the foundation of the United States. Though low on war stories and bloodshed, 1776 is a useful resource to help broaden one’s knowledge of American history, which is built mostly upon the sacrifice of American soldiers who valued the success of American idealism.
Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne
S.C. Gwynne’s book, published in 2011, details the historic rise of the Comanche Indians as the most dominant Indian tribe in all of American history. By combining a broad overview of the most important events of the tribe’s reign with in-depth accounts of early female pioneer Cynthia Ann Parker, who was kidnapped at an early age by the Comanche tribe, Gwynne paints a very graphic image of Comanche bravery, war capability, and the strength of the tribe’s culture. These factors were integral in keeping the Comanche tribe firmly in place as a threat to the development of the United States for more than 40 years.
When highlighting Parker, Gwynne makes every effort to engage the reader in a manner that allows them to connect with the experiences of this early female pioneer. Despite being kidnapped, Parker would later become supportive of the Comanche, a change of perspective which Gwynne notes in-depth. With these differing perspectives on the Comanche and their history and culture, historians can benefit greatly from delving into this volume of early Native American history.
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
In The Warmth of Other Suns, Isabel Wilkerson lays out the bleak details of the migration from the Southern states to the more receptive North by African Americans between 1915 and 1970. Using first person accounts gained through face-to-face interviews, Wilkerson’s exhaustive review of this historical period presents an insightful look at what it was like to be an African American faced with making a living while navigating the era’s intense segregation practices. Though Wilkerson performed upwards of a thousand interviews, The Warmth of Other Suns focuses its core story around the lives of three individuals who managed to find success during these tumultuous times.
Throughout her publication, Wilkerson manages to present a captivating narrative which captures the truth of African American immigration in a remarkable way. This immigration involved extensive amounts of travel and adapting, but those who made it to the North were able to survive based on their individual strength. This compelling piece of American history, which hosts one of the country’s biggest concentrated examples of migration, is a classic tome for historians.
Whether seeking actionable information for further research or simply expanding knowledge, these five authors provide exceptional publications for American history students. Current and future scholars can also greatly benefit from analyzing how thought leaders in the field effectively translate their in-depth research into a published text that is approachable and educational for those both in and outside the realm of academia.
Norwich University is an important part of American history. Established in 1819, Norwich is a nationally recognized institution of higher education, the birthplace of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), and the first private military college in the United States.
With Norwich University’s online Master of Arts in History, you can enhance your awareness of differing historical viewpoints while developing the skills needed to refine your research, writing, analysis, and presentation skills. The program offers two tracks – American History and World History, allowing you to tailor your studies to your interests and goals.
A People's History of the United States, Harper Collins Publishers
Review: In ‘SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome,’ Mary Beard Tackles Myths and More, The New York Times
1776, Simon & Schuster
Empire of the Summer Moon, Simon & Schuster
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, Penguin Random House