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I want the easiest-reading, most engrossing history books.

Tell me the history books you've read that you could not put down. History of just about anything, but especially historically significant people, say, before WWI. [more inside]
posted by fingersandtoes on Jan 25, 2015 - 31 answers

Japanese interest in 'exotic' cultures in the late 70's

Where can I learn more about Japan's heightened interest, starting in the late 70's, towards cultures they deemed to be exotic, especially in (but not limited to) music? [more inside]
posted by procrastinator on Jan 24, 2015 - 4 answers

Great Trivia Books for a Teenager

A young woman (14 years old) of my acquaintance absolutely loves those "fun fact of the day" trivia phone apps. Now I'm looking for some books I could recommend to her chock full of fun facts, and explanations of the background of those facts, that would be age- and knowledge-level-appropriate. Ideas? [more inside]
posted by decathecting on Jan 18, 2015 - 18 answers

Can you hire a computer mentor?

I always thought I could learn whatever I needed to learn about computers, but as my life has gotten more complex, and computers keep changing, I find myself with over 12 years of email from school and three jobs, and more and different kinds of stuff coming all the time. I see four big things I'd like to do with my computing environment (home, work, phone, cloud) but I have no idea how to get started or what is the best way to do this. I need a computing mentor. [more inside]
posted by rschram on Jan 17, 2015 - 9 answers

The return of Portuguese colonists from Africa to Portugal in the 1970s

This is a question about the return of hundreds of thousands of Portuguese colonists to Portugal after the African colonies became independent and the politics thereof. [more inside]
posted by jason's_planet on Jan 16, 2015 - 2 answers

Readable yet extremely comprehensive history books

I just finished reading The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer again and it was just as incredible if not more so the second time around. I'm wondering if there are other nonfiction books of similar quality and comprehensiveness for other topics - primarily looking for a diabetes book but also interested in any other comparable books. [more inside]
posted by cybertaur1 on Jan 16, 2015 - 30 answers

Discussion boards or mailing lists for ancient history

Are there any good discussion boards or email lists for an amateur ancient history enthusiast? [more inside]
posted by artichoke_enthusiast on Jan 14, 2015 - 4 answers

Mystery's Histories

Embarrassingly simple question-- has there been recently published a book about the history of the British (cozy?) mystery? [more inside]
posted by stoneandstar on Jan 13, 2015 - 6 answers

Time Capsule on display?

Before Thanksgiving, construction crews working on the Massachusetts State House discovered a time capsule placed there in 1795. It was opened last night at a press conference. Will the contents be on display? [more inside]
posted by tckma on Jan 7, 2015 - 3 answers

A history of Socialism. For kids.

Our 12-year-old has expressed some interest in the history of socialism and communism. I would love to find him some resources that aren't quite as blatantly one-sided and dismissive or even flat-out wrong as I've been able to find so far (like a video titled: "Socialism: From Marx to Obama" for example, ugh). I'm a staunch European social-democrat myself, so I can tell him a little about what I know myself, but I'd love to supplement it with some good, easy reading, and maybe some video.
posted by monospace on Jan 6, 2015 - 11 answers

Whither "catch"?

"Nice catch!" you'll think, realizing that I deserve kudos for noticing that this question is hard to find an answer to. But where does the phrase "nice catch" come from? Why is noticing and identifying a thing a "catch"? When was this first used and whence did it come?
posted by TheNewWazoo on Jan 4, 2015 - 8 answers

How did the 18th century French aristocracy regard the poor?

The popular perception of Versailles and the 18th century French aristocracy holds that they showed a casual disregard for the the struggles of the poor. This surely has truth to it, but the famous "let them eat cake" anecdote quite likely never happened – so can you point me to any other evidence (letters, anecdotes, trial proceedings, etc) of how the French ruling class actually regarded the poor?
posted by dontjumplarry on Dec 29, 2014 - 4 answers

1. Show Up 2. See What Happens 3. ??? 4. Profit!

An episode of Sports Night refers to Napoleon's Battle Plan as being: "First we show up, then we see what happens." Does this have any grounding in reality, or is it just Sorkinism gone wild? [more inside]
posted by SpiffyRob on Dec 23, 2014 - 12 answers

Seeking resources on 19th century American vegetable and herb gardens

I'm trying to find historians, writings, examples... whatever I can about 19th century American (especially mid-Atlantic) veggie and herb gardens and could use some help! I'm basically looking for resources on what someone might have had in their home garden. [more inside]
posted by youcancallmeal on Dec 17, 2014 - 15 answers

What were the most prescient criticisms of "shock therapy" in Russia?

Which articles, written before and as "shock therapy" economic liberalization policies were being implemented in Russia, have best been borne out over time? [more inside]
posted by ibmcginty on Dec 13, 2014 - 3 answers

Gift ideas: Cosmetics (history) nerd

I am appended to a cosmetics nerd, who is daily engrossed in the theory, history, and practice of makeup in Europe and the US. This is someone who has shelf space devoted to books on, like, the material culture of powder compacts between the great wars. [more inside]
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic on Dec 9, 2014 - 14 answers

History buffs with specific interests, recs from your interest?

I want to read very good history books. I know such threads exist. But I want recommendations from people who are very well read (decently well read, even) in the subject. If you have a particular interest, what is it, and what are some excellent books you've read and recommend? [more inside]
posted by Rams on Dec 8, 2014 - 20 answers

Whose ears popped first?

I know why our ears pop, but I'm wondering when humans reliably began experiencing this sensation caused by anything other than having a cold. Today, we are most likely to feel our ears popping in a airplane or driving a car in the mountains. But before planes and cars, and besides the head colds and infected sinuses that have always been with us, what caused our ears to pop first? [more inside]
posted by peeedro on Dec 6, 2014 - 19 answers

Christmas Present: Books for Mom edition

Every year I load up my Mom's Kindle library for Christmas. This year I'm finding a lot of stuff on the non-fiction end but very little fiction that is up her alley. Her fave books: Neal Stephenson's "The Baroque Cycle" and Gillian Bradshaw's "The Sand-Reckoner." Got a rec? Expanded explanation of her taste inside! [more inside]
posted by rednikki on Dec 5, 2014 - 13 answers

Books about ordinary German life pre-WWII

I'm looking for books about the daily lives of ordinary, non-Jewish Germans in the run-up to WWII. Ideally about someone who wasn't that interested or involved in politics and didn't have any strong feelings about Jews, Roma or other Nazi targets. Specific questions inside. [more inside]
posted by desjardins on Dec 3, 2014 - 13 answers

History books of the Pac NW

What are the best history (non-fiction) books concerned with the Oregon Territory, the Pacific Northwest, Washington State, the Puget Sound region, or Seattle?
posted by the man of twists and turns on Dec 2, 2014 - 11 answers

Technological developments during the Industrial Revolution

Book recommendations, please! What's a good non-fiction book to sink one's teeth into about the technological developments leading to the Industrial Revolution?
posted by invokeuse on Dec 1, 2014 - 3 answers

What is a good book on the history of the "L" in Chicago?

I'd like to read a book with more details on this. This is a cool page. "When the Northwestern Elevated Railroad built its Ravenswood branch in 1906, [lots of cool information with pictures]. Are there any books like that? I want to read all about the development of the area, illustrated with historical photos. What kind of cars did they use? Did they have to build through neighborhoods? how did that work? etc etc etc!
posted by bleary on Nov 30, 2014 - 3 answers

Engineering histories for scientists/engineers

I'm looking for media (books mostly) related to technical histories of engineering projects. [more inside]
posted by Captain Chesapeake on Nov 28, 2014 - 15 answers

I want to believe.

Please recommend me works based on the lives and works of stage magicians. I want to learn about how they started their careers and how they changed as it went on. [more inside]
posted by chrono_rabbit on Nov 25, 2014 - 13 answers

Why was the US Army base Fort Worden named after a Navy Rear Admiral?

Fort Worden is apparently the only US Army base to ever be named after a Navy officer, one John Lorimer Worden, commander of the Monitor in the US Civil War. The reasons why are possibly lost to history. Any military history buffs out there who might possibly know why? [more inside]
posted by loquacious on Nov 23, 2014 - 12 answers

"Hey, this is terrible... want some?" (Book recommendations wanted.)

My wife and I were talking the other night, and we were wondering about how human beings figured out what food is edible and what isn't - what possessed folks to figure out if they ate this part of the fish, but not that part, then they wouldn't die, or if they could just get past the prickly parts of this plant, the innards were good? [more inside]
posted by joycehealy on Nov 22, 2014 - 8 answers

Revolutionary reading needed!

I'd like to read some great non-fiction books about political revolutions, both successful and failed. I'm particularly interested in the past couple hundred years of history, and in revolutions involving (former?) colonies. [more inside]
posted by Narrative Priorities on Nov 20, 2014 - 13 answers

Who will buy these fun, obscure essays?

What are some magazines or online publications that publish popular -- but not dumbed-down or gimmicky -- history writing? Difficulty level: must pay writers. [more inside]
posted by anonymous on Nov 20, 2014 - 10 answers

Biographies of interesting lives

I'm looking to read about the interesting, fascinating, and crazy lives people have lived. Any recommendations for biographies of people that have led fascinating lives?
posted by markbao on Nov 20, 2014 - 34 answers

Best history of science podcasts?

I'm looking for a really great history of science or weird science podcast(s)! [more inside]
posted by WidgetAlley on Nov 19, 2014 - 3 answers

I Want An Encyclopedia of Demonology, Mysticism, the Occult, etc.

Let's say I wanted to see the history of the angel Uriel. Or Zoroaster. Or Astaroth. Or one of the many demon-like figures in Japanese folklore. Is there such a comprehensive work of mythological beings? Something with facts like the first historical mention of the figure, various physical descriptions throughout time with context, their backstory(ies), etc? [more inside]
posted by Willie0248 on Nov 17, 2014 - 8 answers

TV shows with plots that span decades?

I'm looking for television shows that have plots that span long periods of time. Boardwalk Empire comes to mind. So does The Borgias. [more inside]
posted by vecchio on Nov 17, 2014 - 28 answers

What are good sources for an overview of early Christianity/Gnosticism?

Help me out, Hivemind. I'm looking for respectable, scholarly books, friendly to the layman, on the early beginnings of Christianity. More specifically, I'm interested in its first few centuries. I'm also hoping to attain a better understanding of Gnosticism and its place in Christianity's history. I am NOT looking for New Age-y neognostic inculcations.
posted by fignewton on Nov 13, 2014 - 14 answers

Illiteracy in fantasy fiction/games?

Are there any medieval fantasy games or fiction where the illiteracy of the characters are a major plot point, or at least discussed in depth? Since most people couldn't read or do any sort of advanced math before the modern era, you would think it would come up more often, but it seems like it's barely mentioned or considered in most stories that I can recall.
posted by empath on Nov 13, 2014 - 18 answers

What should I read before travelling to India?

Can you recommend a historical book to give me some background and context before I visit India? I'd like to learn more about the region's history to understand what I'm seeing. [more inside]
posted by Nelson on Nov 7, 2014 - 17 answers

What did Yolo mean in 1919?

I was playing around with Google's Ngram viewer and noticed this interesting graph. Any idea what drove the two peaks around 1885 and 1919?
posted by monkeys with typewriters on Nov 2, 2014 - 7 answers

Online Resoucres For rural life in 1800s New England.

I'm looking for online resources describing daily life and struggles in rural New England in the 1800s, ideally around the mid-century period and in Vermont/New Hampshire. Narratives favored over statistics but non-fiction favored over fiction.
posted by The Whelk on Nov 2, 2014 - 7 answers

Are there any salacious history books of 1970's gameshows?

So I met a guy who used to work on a few of the celeb shows of the 1970's - the Bert Convy, Jamie Farr, Young Betty White years. He was telling some stories that were equal parts shocking and hilarious. I was wondering: IS there some sort of oral history of the shows and all their craziness at the time BESIDES Confessions of Dangerous Mind? I'd love to read about it.
posted by rileyray3000 on Oct 30, 2014 - 6 answers

A People's History of Great Britain, Canada and Australia

I'm a huge fan of Howard Zinn's book "A People's history of the United States" and I'm looking for close equivalents for Britain, Australia and Canada.
posted by asharchist on Oct 29, 2014 - 14 answers

Life expectancy through history, but not skewed by infant mortality?

I want to know how long people usually lived in different historical periods, but all the charts I can find are heavily skewed by infant mortality rates. (See e.g.). Can anyone point me toward a similar break-down that removes infant mortality from the calculations?
posted by SpiralT on Oct 26, 2014 - 6 answers

Recommendations for books on the history of science?

My question is two-fold, really. First, please recommend to me all of your favorite titles on the history of science, math, technology, and medicine. Secondly, how do you go about searching for good books in these topics? My favorite booksellers don't have a "history of science" search tag, unfortunately. Some of my past favorites and extended explanation below the fold. [more inside]
posted by backwards compatible on Oct 19, 2014 - 30 answers

Peasants and the Eucharist

Did English peasants in the Late Middle Ages--say, 14th c.--take Communion? If so, how often? How about the other sacraments?
posted by jwhite1979 on Oct 18, 2014 - 16 answers

Early 19th c. immigration practices?

Before Ellis Island there was Castle Garden. Before Castle Garden ...? [more inside]
posted by John Borrowman on Oct 14, 2014 - 4 answers

Easy-reading history and politics sites

Can you recommend a website that has easy-to-understand recaps of important historical and political issues? I used to think history and politics were boring but after I returned to university and have been exposed to more of it, I've become fascinated to learn more. [more inside]
posted by oceanview on Oct 9, 2014 - 3 answers

Historical situations where the seemingly right choice was very wrong

I'm looking for historical/political situations or decisions that made perfect, logical sense at the time but in retrospect seem terribly misguided or worse. These should be situations that when presented very simply, it is clear and easy to say, "Obviously XYZ is the right choice " but where in fact XYZ ends up being an awful choice. Example and further details inside. [more inside]
posted by _DB_ on Oct 9, 2014 - 43 answers

Essay question has too many permutations or am I overthinking this?

For my son’s high school history class, he has been assigned an in-class argument/opinion essay. The teacher ended most of the lecturing this week and has given them time to prepare thesis statements for the essays. Here is where it starts to get complicated (at least to my son and me): [more inside]
posted by bionic.junkie on Oct 8, 2014 - 25 answers

Historical Examples of "Giving a Child to God"

In the bible we have the example of the Prophet Samuel, whose mother is so grateful for him that she gives him to God to be raised by the priest Eli. Has this ever been a common practice – children being given over to an organized religious organization? Can anyone give me examples? More specifically, has the Vatican ever done this? [I'm not interested in the Philomena type of stories, with young girls getting pregnant, just because I'm already aware of them.]
posted by visual mechanic on Oct 8, 2014 - 17 answers

Definitive Holocaust Video to Supplement Maus?

Thanks to the wonderful responses I received in the question of "What would be in your best high school english class?" I've started the year by reading Art Spiegelman's Maus. What's wonderful is that my incredibly reluctant readers are actually reading and enjoying the book, what's not wonderful is they don't seem to understand that the Holocaust was a VERY BAD THING. I'm looking, ideally, for a 1 hour documentary that does just that. [more inside]
posted by kinetic on Oct 4, 2014 - 27 answers

Are there connections between U.S. bankers and moguls and the Nazis?

Articles like this talk about links between the Nazi regime and the Rockefellers, Warburgs, and others. Is there any validation for this line of thought?
posted by DMelanogaster on Sep 30, 2014 - 7 answers

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