Dear Stephanie asked:

BookLists Education GertrudeHimmelfarb LMLDLibraryProject

As our country heads towards more censorship and a rewriting of our own history, I’d like to start a history book collection that is solid. I don’t really know where to start. Do you have any recommendations?

Dear Stephanie,

Since early on, I’ve been posting about good books in my own laconic, desultory fashion. In my defense, it would be impossible to provide a comprehensive list of good books even on one topic, such as history; what I’ve always tried to do is to point out the sort of book you should be looking for, on the theory that once you get started, you soon find others, because friends make suggestions, lists overlap, or even search engines (such as on Amazon) offer similar examples.

Another difficulty is that you need books for all ages, from kindergarten through high school. And history is about the whole world, throughout time.

Obviously, given the extremely large number of factoids one could choose when one multiplies every second of every day since time began by every person who ever lived, choices have to be made.

The necessity of choice leads me to something everyone has to understand: All history is written with a point of view. Last fall I posted on Facebook about an article criticizing certain curricula chosen by conservative Catholic homeschoolers. You can read it here, along with the comments. I was actually pretty angry about the article, since I happen to know a bit about Cortez and the Aztecs, so I admit, I went in swinging.

The author of the piece actually got in touch with me and we had an exchange that confirmed to me that while he is open to discussion, and I appreciate that, he himself lacks self-awareness about the prevailing point of view that leads him to criticize traditional curricula. Having accepted critical race theory (and Marxist theory in general, whether he realizes it or not), he is blind to his own bias. And of course, the editors of the magazine have their own purposes in undermining homeschoolers’ attempts to protect their children from ideological attack.

In my post about this article, I acknowledge my own “west-o-centric” viewpoint, for the very good reason that it is the only one that cares to examine events at all. One simply doesn’t find the objectivity necessary to try to make sense of past events in an academic way in non-western cultures. One simply doesn’t find the idea of “the academy” in non-western cultures.

(I actually highly recommend the book that is the main subject of his critique, Anne Carroll’s Christ the King Lord of History. But I recommend that you use it as an outline to help guide you in making your own course of study using more lively materials. In the Facebook post I explain its virtue, that it offers the only possible organizing principle for studying the vastness of the past.)

On top of all of of these problems, there’s the pedagogical issue, completely not understood in our time: that education is not about having a boatload of facts to pound into a child, nor is it about mainlining ideology into them, either.

True education helps the child open up to reality, giving him principles, keeping him connected to those who have gone before. Today, education has been hijacked by those who try to do the opposite by severing connections, including connections to truth — yes, they lie (I’ll link to an important essay I’ve shared in the past, below, on how that happens specifically in the study of history).

Fortunately, once you understand the great divide between those who, understanding the inherent problems of the enterprise, do their best to offer a coherent understanding of events, and those who, determined to separate future generations from the past, falsify and ideologically massage events and subvert the very institutions they occupy, you can at least identify the latter and keep their works off of your shelves.

So what do I recommend?

As always, stick mainly with old books. I’m not sure about the exact time period, but somewhere from the late 40s to the early 70s, the main publishers produced a plethora of excellent works aimed at children from the early-reading stage to high school. I’ve pictured a few here — there are many, and looking up some leads you to others.

The Landmark Series is perhaps the outstanding example of history books for children. This article captures their quality (mainly due to choosing actual interesting authors to write about fascinating subjects):

“The books first sold for $1.50 (about $13.25 today)—not bad for a hardcover. Random House wisely packaged them with inviting dust jackets for the general reader, and in reinforced bindings for libraries (often with the dust jacket image embossed on the front cover). The paper was of the highest quality: even today the pages haven’t yellowed. All the books came in just under 200 pages, with a legible Caslon font, reasonably wide margins, and even comprehensive indexes. They were illustrated, then the norm for children’s books. Each Landmark volume had about 10 one-color block prints, although in the 1960s photographs became more common. Cerf [the publisher] shrewdly linked them to the Book-of-the-Month Club: about 70,000 Young Readers of America, as they were called, received Landmark books on a regular basis, along with a “personal” letter from the author, inviting the reader to dive right in.”

Look for them second hand. Library binding offers longevity and satisfying durability.

While teaching history, teach geography too! I’ve written about the Twins books, by Lucy Fitch Perkins. Super not PC. But you know what? Children need stories and love to think of other little children wearing different clothes and eating different foods, and the Twins books are a charming way to offer this picture of a wide world. (And some are more historical than others.) Lapbooks can be a great way to help a child assimilate what he has read.

Read history books that you love — any high school senior can read them too. Ones that top our list at the moment: Anything by David McCullough, Paul Johnson’s History of the American People (look for a used hardback edition), Arguing about Slavery: John Quincy Adams and the Great Battle in the United States Congress…

Historical fiction is another way to learn more. A few of my favorites: for adults: Kristin Lavransdattar (for seniors and older, due to her bad life choices, for which she has to spend her life atoning, but sometimes that lesson is lost on someone too young), In a Dark Wood Wandering, Helena (the biting satire of which might be lost on those not familiar with the Anglican world inhabited by Evelyn Waugh — yet another reason for entering into other eras alertly, rather than imposing on them as if we know everything — you miss the joke). My husband just finished Robert Harris’ An Officer and a Spy, a novel about the Dreyfus Affair. Gates of Fire is “An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae” — I couldn’t get comfy with it but your intense teenage boy will love it. Janice Holt Giles wrote a series of historical novels about Kentucky — my favorite is Hannah Fowler, which I wrote about here.

For younger ones: The Killer Angels (high school), The Bronze Bow, Come Rack! Come Rope!, Johnny Tremain, The Little House Books. Laura Ingalls Wilder has already come under attack for being racist, and honestly, this critique demonstrates for me the determination of some to wrench everything into their binary world view. A good rebuttal can be found here, and also in a calm reading of her books.

I’ve linked a bunch to Amazon here (with affiliate links, thank you) — but really, try to find hardback versions, used, when possible. One’s library is enhanced by well produced books.

Memoria Press offers an excellent catalogue. Ambleside Online has booklists galore. Go to my list of lists — many of the most beloved books are historical in nature and will round out your library.

Timelines will help organize and systematize. I cannot emphasize enough, and it took me so long to realize this, that each child making his own timeline of history is so important. This is an ongoing project that can (and will) take several forms. Charlotte Mason has her century books, you can have a family timeline that marches along the wall, and each student can have a timeline in a binder (sounds not like a line but works very well). This latter form allows scope for adding maps, essays, lists, and what have you.

By the way, in an ongoing attempt to do my part in educating readers here on the blog about this ideological warfare that is waged in our schools and now, gaining traction, in our town squares and news outlets, I post just about every week some essay on the subject. So do go back through the bits & pieces archives to see what you may have missed — maybe you thought, “now why would I be interested in that” — well, the intellectual assault we are enduring right now is why!

bits & pieces

In general matters touching the study of history:

Most decent people, while aware that scholars might have their own interpretations of history, resist the thought that they would deliberately falsilfy it. Most who are not in academe today may not be aware that falsifying history is considered rather the thing, not least because it’s easier. The incomparable Gertrude Himmelfarb explains: Tradition and Creativity in the Writing of History

There’s no doubt that our cultural institutions have been subverted. The Long March through the institutions has been accomplished. Building your own library and educating your own children is the appropriate response for sure.
Does all of this sound extreme? We are actually at the endpoint — where not only is it happening (as it has been for decades), but the rhetoric has been perfected to make what is not good seem good — seem equitable, anti-racist, inclusive, and so on, when in fact it is the opposite. California’s proposed ethnic studies curriculum is a case in point; don’t be surprised if your state contemplates something similar.

On a more positive note:

A sweet interactive page — click on the bird and wait a few seconds — you will hear a recording of its song. Linked within is this page, from Cornell Labs, with more extensive information. Even more.

I never stop repeating: the goal of education is to learn what we ought to love (and to learn what not to love).

How to make a home altar (to go along with your little oratory!).

Just thinking about things:

A lecture about Frédéric Bastiat; he has a lot to say to us today, I believe.
Regarding the Covid vaccine: A long article exploring the reasons given by theologians to accept (with reservations) immorally derived vaccines. If you scroll down, you will see my comment, registering my objections.

from the archives

The best and simplest pot roast you’ll ever make. It has one ingredient that you can keep in your pantry until you need it (it makes your tomato sauce better too). Really. Try it. (And if you use the Instant Pot, you can even skip the browning. I find that my meats brown up in there without any separate step!)

The reasonably clean bathroom. (For the story of the minor miracle of matching that great paint color, go here)

liturgical living

St. Martina — patron of nursing mothers!
Tomorrow the Seven Sundays of St. Joseph begin. (I think I told you before that you can tell they’re beginning because of the Super Bowl, but calendars are hard.) I love St. Joseph so much and have posted about this a lot. For ideas on how to observe this preparation for his feast, go here.

Candlemas is Tuesday. Ask your priest to bless your candles!
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The post Ask Auntie Leila: Rescuing history appeared first on Like Mother Like Daughter.

#GertrudeHimmelfarb #LMLDLibraryProject #BookLists #{bitsAndPieces} #Education
GertrudeHimmelfarb LMLDLibraryProject BookLists Education

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