Tel: 203.245.4567 Email:

A history book discussion group, led by MHS board member Lyle Cubberly, Ph.D., and by other volunteer members, meets on the third Tuesday of each month at 7 pm at the Allis-Bushnell House at 853 Boston Post Road. Please note that handicapped access is available; limited parking is in the rear. (In case of inclement weather, the group typically delays the meeting to the fourth Tuesday of the month.)

PLEASE NOTE: In May, June, July, and August of 2021, the group will meet outdoors in the back garden of the Allis-Bushnell House, in accordance with current social distancing recommendations. New participants can contact Lyle Cubberly to request the Zoom link for the April 2021 meeting and the Fall 2021 meetings.

At each meeting, participants can offer suggestions for readings. Books set aside at the E. C. Scranton Memorial Library in Madison can be borrowed by library-card-holding participants.

MHS members and the public are welcome at no charge. Drop-in visitors and teen readers are welcome.

For more information, please contact the MHS at 203.245.4567. You may add your email address to the History Book Group email list by sending an email to moderator Lyle Cubberly at

2021 History Book Group Schedule and Titles

The Warmth of Other Suns
by Isabel Wilkerson

In this beautifully written and award-winning masterwork, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South, particularly from 1915 through 1970, for northern and western cities, in search of a better life. This definitive and vividly dramatic account tells how these American journeys unfolded, altering our cities, our country, and ourselves. Both a riveting microcosm and a major assessment, The Warmth of Other Suns is a bold, remarkable, and riveting work, superbly revealing the “unrecognized immigration” within our own land.

February 16
The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History
by John M. Barry

Barry teaches readers almost everything they need to know about one of the deadliest pandemics in human history. At the height of World War I, a lethal influenza virus erupted in an army camp in Kansas, moved east with American troops, then killed as many as 100 million people worldwide. More people perished in twenty-four months than died from AIDS in twenty-four years; more died in one year than the Black Death killed in a century. This devastating assault on human life in 1918 marked the first collision of science and epidemic disease. Described as "magisterial in its breadth of perspective and depth of research, "this book provides a precise and sobering model" as we confront the pandemic of our own experience. Barry concludes, "The final lesson of that...those in authority must retain the public's trust. The way to do that is to distort nothing, to put the best face on nothing, to try to manipulate no one. Lincoln said that first, and best. A leader must make whatever horror exists concrete. Only then will people be able to break it apart." 

March 16
Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World
by Margaret MacMillan

For six months in 1919, after the end of “the war to end all wars,” the Big Three—President Woodrow Wilson, British prime minister David Lloyd George, and French premier Georges Clemenceau—met in Paris to shape a lasting peace. In her landmark work of narrative history, MacMillan gives a dramatic and intimate view of those fateful days, which saw new political entities—Iraq, Yugoslavia, and Palestine, among them—born out of the ruins of bankrupt empires, and the borders of the modern world redrawn. The history of the 1919 Paris peace talks following World War I is a blueprint of the political and social upheavals bedeviling the planet now. In these pages, a wealth of colorful detail and a concentration on the strange characters of these statesmen keep the narrative lively.

April 20
Cult of Glory: The Bold and Brutal History of the Texas Rangers
by Doug J. Swanson

Swanson punctures the myth of the Texas Rangers as 'quiet, deliberate, gentle men', describing them instead as 'the violent instruments of repression.’ Cult of Glory will thus surely discomfit some of those who pick it up, even as it confirms for others their sense that the Rangers frequently served as anything but impartial arbiters of justice.

May 18
Countdown 1945: The Extraordinary Story of the Atomic Bomb and the 116 Days That Changed the World
by Chris Wallace

Countdown 1945 goes beyond our history lessons. It tells moving, personal stories of Americans who played pivotal roles in one of our most important moments as a nation. From scientists at the top of their field, to heroic members of our military, to everyday Americans, it’s an incredible story of how our country came together with a determined spirit to end a war and save countless lives.

June 15
Iron Dawn: The Monitor, the Merrimack, and the Civil War Sea Battle that Changed History
by Richard Snow

In this "utterly absorbing"' account, richly illustrated with photos, maps, and engravings, historian Snow shows that no single sea battle has had more far-reaching consequences than the one fought in Hampton Roads, Virginia, in 1862. With no fleet of its own, the Confederacy took a radical step to combat the Union blockade, building an iron fort containing ten heavy guns on the hull of a captured Union frigate named the Merrimack. In panicky desperation, the North commissioned an eccentric inventor named John Ericsson to build the Monitor, an entirely revolutionary iron warship. Rushed to completion in one hundred days, it mounted two guns housed in a shot-proof revolving turret. When the ship arrived in Virginia, its crew discovered that the Merrimack had already sunk half the Union fleet—and aimed to finish the job. But the Monitor fought the Merrimack to a standstill, and, many believe, saved the Union cause.

July 20

Please note that our July title has changed!
Instead of Simon Winchester's book about Calcutta, we will read:
Revolver: Sam Colt and the Six-Shooter That Changed America
by Jim Rasenberger

Brilliantly told, this story offers a sweeping, definitive biography of Samuel Colt—the inventor of the legendary Colt revolver. Colt’s gun had a profound effect on American history. Its most immediate impact was on the expansionism of the American west, where white emigrants and US soldiers came to depend on it, and where Native Americans came to dread it. The six-shooter became the iconic weapon of gun-slingers, outlaws, and cowboys. In making the revolver, Colt also changed American manufacturing—his factory revolutionized industry in the United States. Revolver also brings the brazenly ambitious and profoundly innovative industrialist and leader Samuel Colt to vivid life. Colt lived during an age of promise and progress, but also of slavery, corruption, and unbridled greed, and he not only helped to create this America, he completely embodied it. By the time he died in 1862 in Hartford, Connecticut, he was one of the richest and most famous men in the nation, during an era of extraordinary transformation.


August  17
The House by the Lake: One House, Five Families, and 100 Years of German History
by Thomas Harding

In 1993 Harding traveled to Germany with his grandmother to visit a holiday home that had once belonged to the family. Abandoned in the 1930s as the Nazis swept to power, it had become government property and was now slated for demolition. Harding wondered: Could it be saved? And should it? His inquiries unearthed secrets  about the lives of the families who had lived there: a wealthy landowner, a prosperous Jewish family, a renowned composer, a widow and her children, and a Stasi informant. This site of domestic bliss and contentment also had a history of grief and tragedy. As its story began to take shape, Harding realized there was a chance to save the house, resolve his family’s feelings toward their former homeland―and alter a hatred handed down for generations.

September  21
Notre-Dame: A Short History of the Meaning of Cathedrals
by Ken Follett

Follett became an expert on medieval cathedrals when he studied the building of the great Parisian edifice that is inarguably an architectural wonder. In this spellbinding book, he describes the emotions that gripped him when he learned about the fire that threatened to destroy the cathedral—and continues on to tell the story of the cathedral, from its construction to the role it has played across time and history. He reveals the influence that the Notre-Dame had upon cathedrals around the world and on the writing of one of his most famous novels, The Pillars of the Earth.

October 19
The End is Always Near
by Dan Carlin

The creator of the award-winning podcast Hardcore History looks at some of the apocalyptic moments from the past as a way to frame the challenges of the future. Combining his trademark mix of storytelling, history, and weirdness, Carlin connects the past and future in fascinating and colorful ways. At the same time the questions he asks us to consider involve the most important issue imaginable: human survival. He looks at questions and historical events that force us to consider what sounds like fantasy; that we might suffer the same fate that all previous eras did. “A master of storytelling, Dan Carlin uses vivid detail and intuitive empathy to ... ponder the rise and fall of civilizations and ask where we are headed."

November 16
Iron Empires: Robber Barons, Railroads, and the Making of Modern America
by Michael Hiltzik

In 1869, when the final spike was driven into the Transcontinental Railroad, few were prepared for its seismic aftershocks. Once a hodgepodge of short, squabbling lines, America’s railways exploded into a titanic industry helmed by speculators, crooks, and visionaries. The vicious competition between such empire builders as Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jay Gould, J. P. Morgan, and E. H. Harriman sparked stock market frenzies, provoked strikes, transformed the nation’s geography, and culminated in a ferocious battle that shook the nation’s financial markets. Spanning four decades and featuring some of the most iconic figures of the Gilded Age, Iron Empires reveals how the robber barons drove the country into the twentieth century—and almost sent it off the rails.

December 21
100 Mistakes that Changed History: Backfires and Blunders That Collapsed Empires, Crashed Economies, and Altered the Course of Our World
by Bill Fawcett

In this engrossing volume, Fawcett explores backfires and blunders that collapsed empires, crashed economics, and altered the course of our world. From the Maginot Line to the Cuban Missile Crisis, from the bombing of Pearl Harbor to the overspending of the Caliphs of Baghdad and the Aztecs' disastrous welcoming of the Conquistadores, Fawcett retells these tipping points and other ideas that snowballed into disasters and unintended consequences.

2020 History Book Group Schedule and Titles

The Crowded Hour
by Clay Risen

In this brilliant narrative, the Rough Riders are brought gloriously to life. When America declared war on Spain in 1898, the US Army had just 26,000 soldiers. In desperation, the Rough Riders, led by Theodore Roosevelt, were born. Both a portrait of these men and of the Spanish-American War itself, The Crowded Hour dives deeply into the lives and struggles of Roosevelt and this unique group of volunteers. In the Battle of San Juan Hill in Cuba, Roosevelt called their charge his “crowded hour”—a turning point in his life that led him directly to the White House. As The Crowded Hour reveals, it was a turning point for America as well, uniting the country and ushering in an era of global power.

The Saltwater Frontier
by Andrew Lipman

This fascinating perspective on the seventeenth-century American Northeast is the previously untold story of how the ocean became a “frontier” between colonists and Indians. When the English and Dutch both tried to claim the coast between the Hudson River and Cape Cod, the sea itself became the arena of contact and conflict. During the violent invasions, the region’s Natives were navigators, boat builders, fishermen, pirates, and merchants who became active players in the emergence of the Atlantic World. Looking past Europeans’ arbitrary land boundaries, Lipman uncovers a geography of Native America that incorporates seawater as well as soil.

Kor-I-Noor: The History of the World's Most Infamous Diamond
by William Dalrymple and Anita Amand

The first comprehensive history of the Koh-i-Noor, which may be the most celebrated and mythologized jewel in the world. In 1849, the ten-year-old maharaja of the Punjab handed over, in a public ceremony, great swathes of land in a formal Act of Submission to the East India Company. He was also compelled to hand over the Koh-i Noor diamond to Queen Victoria. Perhaps the most valuable object on the subcontinent, this “Mountain of Light” was long enshrouded by a fog of mythology punctuated by greed, murder, torture, colonialism, and appropriation. It ends with the jewel in its current controversial setting: in the crown of Queen Elizabeth.

The Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitution
by David O. Stewart

The Summer of 1787 enters the sweltering room in which the founding fathers produced the Constitution: a flawed but enduring document that defined the nation then—and now. This book traces the struggles within the Philadelphia Convention as the delegates

hammered out the charter for the world’s first constitutional democracy. Using the words of the delegates, Stewart reveals the passions and contradictions of the process of writing a document that could evolve with the nation. As we continually argue over the document’s original intent, it is fascinating to watch these powerful characters struggle toward consensus—often reluctantly.

MAY 19
The Pioneers
by David McCullough

Pulitzer Prize–winning historian McCullough rediscovers the settling of the Northwest Territory by the dauntless pioneers who, in 1788, began to build a community based on ideals that came to define the nation. The immense Northwest Territory was a wilderness empire containing the future states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Included in the Northwest Ordinance were three remarkable conditions: freedom of religion, free universal education, and most importantly, the prohibition of slavery. As McCullough reveals, the pioneers let no obstacle deter or defeat their ambition and courage.

Those Turbulent Sons of Freedom
by Christopher Wren

In this groundbreaking account, Wren overturns the myth of Ethan Allen as a hero of the American Revolution and offers another portrait of Allen and his Green Mountain Boys. The latter were hard-drinking ruffians who joined the rush for land on the northern frontier of the colonies before the Revolution, intending to establish an independent republic called Vermont. In a botched attempt to capture Montreal against George Washington’s specific orders, Allen was captured in 1775 and condemned to be hanged. Freed in 1778, he spent the rest of his life negotiating with the British to bring Vermont back under British rule.

The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve
by Stephen Greenblatt

Crafted by another Pulitzer-winning author, this book explores the enduring story of humanity’s first parents. Tracking the characters of Adam and Eve into the deep past, Greenblatt uncovers the theological, artistic, and cultural investment that made them so resonant in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim worlds. Greenblatt explores the intensely personal diversity of the rich allegory, vicious misogyny, deep moral insight, and artistic triumphs in image and literature. The biblical origin story, he argues, is a model for what the humanities have to offer: not the scientific nature of things, but rather a deep encounter with problems that have gripped us in the past and continue to fascinate and trouble us today.

August 18
Napoleon: Soldier of Destiny
by Michael Broers

Using the personal archives of Napoleon himself, this is the first volume of a majestic two-part biography. Making full use of the great French emperor‘s newly released personal correspondence, Broers' biography draws on the thoughts of Napoleon himself as his incomparable life unfolded. It reveals a man of intense emotion, iron self-discipline, acute intelligence, and immeasurable energy. It tells the story of the determination, ruthlessness, and calculation that won this brilliant and violent leader a precarious mastery of Europe by 1807.

September 15
Through the Eye of the Needle
by Peter Brown

Jesus taught his followers that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. Yet by the fall of Rome, the church was becoming rich beyond measure. Through the Eye of a Needle is a sweeping intellectual and social history of the vexing problem of wealth in Christianity in the waning days of the Roman Empire, written by the world's foremost scholar of late antiquity. It also challenges the notion that Christianity's growing wealth sapped Rome of its ability to resist barbarian invasions, and offers a fresh perspective on the social history of the church in late antiquity.

The End of Empire: Attila the Hun and the Fall of Rome

by Christopher Kelly

History remembers Attila, the leader of the Huns, as the Romans perceived him: a savage barbarian brutally inflicting terror on whoever crossed his path. Christopher Kelly portrays Attila in a compelling new light, uncovering an unlikely marriage proposal, a long-standing relationship with a treacherous Roman general, and a thwarted assassination plot. Attila is explored as both a master warrior and an astute strategist whose rule was threatening but whose sudden loss of power was even more so. The End of Empire is a thoughtful and sophisticated exploration of the clash between empire and barbarity in the ancient world.

Bible and the Sword: England and Palestine from the Bronze Age to Balfour
by Barbara W. Tuchman

From yet another Pulitzer-winning author comes a fascinating chronicle of Britain’s relationship with Palestine and the Middle East, from the ancient world to the twentieth century. Historically, the British were drawn to the Holy Land first to translate the Bible into English and, later, to control the road to India and access to the oil of the Middle East. With lucid and vivid detail, Tuchman follows these twin motives—the Bible and the sword—to their seemingly inevitable endpoint, when Britain conquered Palestine at the end of World War I. At that moment, the Balfour Declaration of 1917 established a British-sponsored mandate for a national home for the Jewish people. Tuchman demonstrates that the seeds of conflict were planted in the Middle East long before the official founding of the modern state of Israel.

Constantine the Great
by Michael Grant

Since the day of his death, Constantine has been the subject of conflicting appreciations. On the one hand, pious Christians routinely overstated his virtues. They admired his support of the church, his civil building programs, and his military successes. They ignored his predatory taxation, his enlargement of the imperial bureaucracy, his reckless wars, his extravagant pomp, and his murders of perceived enemies. On the other hand, pagan and secular historians routinely exaggerated his faults and scanted his achievements. In this examination of Constantine’s life, noted classicist Grant has pruned away the exaggerations in a readable evaluation that also makes clear that the emperor's belief that he was constantly in touch with God made him difficult and dangerous.

2019 History Book Group Selections

Jerusalem the Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore
by Simon Sebag Montefiore
Jerusalem is the epic history of 3,000 years of faith, fanaticism, bloodshed, and coexistence--from the birth of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam to the Israel-Palestine conflict. How did this small, remote town become the Holy City, the "center of the world," and now the key to peace in the Middle East? In this gripping New York Times Notable Book, Montefiore bring the holy city blazingly to life with a cast that varies from Solomon, Saladin, and Suleiman to Cleopatra, Caligula, and Churchill; from Abraham to Jesus and Muhammad; from Jezebel, Nebuchadnezzar, Herod, and Nero to Disraeli, Rasputin, Lawrence of Arabia, and Moshe Dayan.

The Templars
by Dan Jones

Jerusalem 1119. In the aftermath of the First Crusade, the first Knights Templar decided to set up a new order to protect Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land. Over the next 200 years, they became the most powerful religious order of the medieval world--until a vindictive King of France contrived a plan to seize their fortune, and, in 1307, hundreds of brothers were imprisoned, tortured, and tried as heretics by the Pope in secret proceedings. In this groundbreaking history, Jones draws on original sources to build a gripping account of holy warriors whose heroism and alleged depravity have been shrouded in myth. Were they heretics or victims of a ruthlessly repressive state? Jones brings the tale to life in a book both authoritative and compulsively readable.

The Silk Roads: A New History of the World
by Peter Frankopan

More than a history of the Silk Roads, this book is a revelatory new history of the world, from the Middle East, to China, and through the vast region stretching from the Balkans to South Asia. Frankopan reveals the astounding pasts of the cities and nations built on intricate trade routes--and what is at stake for them today. It was on the Silk Roads that East and West met each other through trade and conquest, leading to the spread of ideas, cultures and religions. From the rise and fall of empires to the spread of Buddhism and the advent of Christianity and Islam, right up to the wars of the twentieth century, this book shows how the fate of the West has always been inextricably linked to the East.

April 16
A Commonwealth of Thieves
by Thomas Keneally

In this spirited history of the remarkable and improbable first four years of the convict settlement of Australia, Keneally offers us a fascinating inside view of this unprecedented experiment. Written from the perspective of the new penal colony’s governor, Arthur Phillips, Keneally uses personal journals and documents to re-create the hellish overseas voyage and the challenges Phillips faced upon arrival: unruly convicts, disgruntled officers, bewildered and hostile Aborigine natives, food shortages, and disease.  

May 21
The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way
by Bill Bryson

With dazzling wit and astonishing insight, Bill Bryson brilliantly explores the remarkable history, eccentricities, resilience and sheer fun of the English language. From the first descent of the larynx into the throat to the fine lost art of swearing, Bryson tells the fascinating, often uproarious story of an inadequate, second-rate tongue of peasants that developed into one of the world's largest growth industries.

June 18
Victoria: The Queen: An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire
by Julia Baird

Named a "best book" by the New York Times and the Chicago Public Library, this page-turning biography is a stunning portrait of love, heartbreak, devotion, grief, strength, and resilience that reveals the real, bold, glamorous, and unbreakable queen behind the myth. The New York Times Book Review says, “Victoria the Queen, Julia Baird’s exquisitely wrought and meticulously researched biography, brushes the dusty myth off this extraordinary monarch."

July 16
Boone: A Biography
by Robert Morgan

The story of Daniel Boone is the story of America—its ideals, its promise, its romance, and its destiny. Critically acclaimed author Robert Morgan reveals the complex character of a frontiersman whose heroic life was far stranger and more fascinating than the myths that surround him.  This authoritative biography offers a new perspective on an American icon—a hero as important to American history as his more political contemporaries, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. Endnotes, cultural and historical background material, and maps and illustrations underscore the scope of this immensely entertaining work.

August 20
by Ron Chernow

From the acclaimed author of Alexander Hamilton comes the engrossing biography of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., known as both a rapacious robber baron, whose Standard Oil Company rode roughshod over an industry, and a philanthropist who donated money lavishly to universities and medical centers. The terror of his competitors, the bogeyman of reformers, and the delight of caricaturists, he was nonetheless an utter enigma. Drawing on unprecedented access to Rockefeller’s private papers, Chernow reconstructs his subject's troubled origins and his single-minded pursuit of wealth. He also uncovers his devotion to his father, his wry and colorful sense of humor, and the profound religiosity that drove him “to give all I could.” Titan is a magnificent biography—balanced, revelatory, and elegantly written.

September 17
The Last Stand
by Nathaniel Philbrick

The Last Stand, called "engrossing and tautly written" by the Los Angeles Times, is Philbrick's monumental reappraisal of the epochal clash at the Little Bighorn in 1876 that gave birth to the legend of Custer's Last Stand. With his characteristic literary flair, Philbrick brings a wealth of new information to his subject, detailing the collision between George Armstrong Custer and Sitting Bull--a battle that both parties wished to avoid. He brilliantly explains how the battle that ensued has been shaped and reshaped by national myth.

October 15
The Path Between the Seas
by David McCullough

Winner of the National Book Award, this epic volume chronicles the creation of the Panama Canal, a bold and brilliant engineering feat that was marked by both tragedy and triumph. Told by acclaimed historian David McCullough, it tells the story of the men and women who fought against all odds to fulfill the 400-year-old dream of constructing an aquatic passageway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Complete with tales of astonishing engineering feats, tremendous medical accomplishments, political power plays, heroic successes, and tragic failures, this volume weaves the many strands of the momentous event into a comprehensive and captivating history.

November 19
Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga
by William F. Fitzhugh and Elizabeth Ward

Replete with color photographs, drawings, and maps of Viking sites, artifacts, and landscapes, this book celebrates and explores the Viking saga from the combined perspectives of history, archaeology, oral tradition, literature, and natural science. The book's contributors chart the spread of marauders and traders in Europe as well as the expansion of farmers and explorers throughout the North Atlantic and into the New World. They show that Norse contacts with Native American groups were more extensive than has previously been believed, but they also reveal that the outnumbered Europeans never established more than temporary settlements in North America.

December 17
Empire's End
by John Keay

Researched and written in the period when the British prepared to disengage themselves from Hong Kong, this study of the involvement of Europe and America in the Far East explores more than five hundred years of Western colonial presence in Asia and speculates about the future of the region's political and economic geography.

2018 History Book Group Selections

The Man Who Found Time: James Hutton and the Discovery of Earth's Antiquity
Jack Repcheck

As its publisher notes, this “marvelous narrative about a little-known man and the science he founded…” is “…also a parable about the power of books to shape the history of ideas.” Unlike Copernicus and Darwin, who also “helped free science from the straitjacket of theology,” James Hutton never received similar recognition for his discoveries, in part because he did not express his ideas well in their written form.  His ideas, though, profoundly changed our understanding of the earth and its dynamic forces. Hutton proved that the earth was—and is—“continuously shaped and re-shaped by myriad everyday forces rather than one cataclysmic event. “ Repcheck reveals the story of this Scottish gentleman-farmer and how the observations he made on his small tract led him to a theory that challenged the Bible’s interpretation of Earth’s geological timeline and also provided the scientific proof that sparked Darwin's theory of evolution.

The Passing of the Armies
Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

A member of the Fifth Corps recounts the dramatic final acts of the Civil War, describing Sheridan's rise, Warren's fall, and the slow, inexorable stalking of Lee's forces across the battle-scarred countryside. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was a Maine college professor who entered the Union Army in 1862. He fought with the Twentieth Maine at Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his role at Little Round Top. In the campaigns described here, Chamberlain commanded a brigade in the Fifth Corps in the Army of the Potomac during the final days of the war. His eyewitness account takes us past Lee’s surrender to show the beginnings of Reconstruction.

Lords of the Atlas
Garvin Maxwell

Set in the medieval city of Marrakesh and the majestic kasbahs of the High Atlas mountains, Lords of the Atlas tells the extraordinary story of the Madani and T'hami el Glaoui, warlord brothers who carved out a feudal fiefdom in southern Morocco in the early twentieth century. Quislings of the French colonial administration, they combined the aggression of gangland mobsters with the opulence of hereditary Indian princes and ruled with a mixture of flamboyance and terror. On returning from the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, T'hami ordered the severed heads of his enemies to be mounted on his gates. Yet in 1956, when the French left Morocco, the Glaoua regime toppled like a pack of cards.

1066: The Year of the Conquest
David Howarth

One of the most important dates in the history of the western world, 1066 is the year William the Conqueror defeated the English at the Battle of Hastings and changed England and the English forever.  The events leading to and following this turning point are shrouded in mystery. Distorted by biased accounts written by a subjugated people, many believe the English ultimately won the battle since the Normans became assimilated into the English way of life. Drawing on a wealth of sources, Howarth offers memorable portraits of the kings Edward the Confessor, Harold of England, and William of Normandy, as well as of the leading political figures of the time. He describes how the English commoners worked, fought, and died—and how, from their isolated shires, they perceived the overthrow of their world.

MAY 15
A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir
Donald Worster

In this biography, John Muir's sense of himself is as fully explored as is his extraordinary ability, then and now, to help others to see the sacred beauty of the natural world.  This account of the great conservationist and founder of the Sierra Club is based on Muir's private correspondence, full of rich detail and personal anecdotes uncovering the complex inner life behind the legend of the solitary mountain man. It traces Muir from his boyhood in Scotland and in frontier Wisconsin to his adult life in California right after the Civil War up to his death on the eve of World War I. It explores his marriage and family relationships, his many friendships, including those with Theodore Roosevelt and Ralph Waldo Emerson, his role in founding the modern American conservation movement, and his life as a successful fruit-grower, a talented scientist, a world traveler, a doting father and husband, a self-made man of wealth and political influence, and a man more passionate about the beauty and value of the natural world than perhaps any other.

Wellington: The Iron Duke
Richard Holmes

Highly acclaimed as a military historian, Holmes superbly tells the exhilarating story of Britain’s greatest-ever soldier, the man who posed the most serious threat to Napoleon. Wellington is a brilliant figure, idealistic in politics, cynical in love, a wit, a beau, a man of enormous courage often sickened by war. As Holmes charts his progress from a shy, indolent boy to commander-in-chief of the allied forces, he also exposes the Iron Duke as a philanderer and a man who sometimes despised the men that he led and was not always in control of his soldiers. This is a beautifully produced book with stunning illustrations and color plates.

Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War that Changed American History
Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger

This riveting page-turner is the little-known story of how a newly independent nation was challenged by four Muslim powers and what happened when America's third president decided to stand up to intimidation. When Jefferson became president in 1801, America was deeply in debt and needed its economy to grow quickly, but its merchant ships were under attack. Pirates from North Africa routinely captured and enslaved American sailors, demanding ransom and tribute far beyond the new country’s means. Jefferson found it impossible to negotiate with the leaders of the Barbary states, who showed no mercy, so he decided to send warships and a detachment of Marines to blockade Tripoli, launching the Barbary Wars and beginning America's journey toward future superpower status.

The Aztecs:  The Rise and Fall of an Empire
Serge Gruinski

This volume explores the complex aspects of the ancient Aztec civilization, its artistic and cultural achievements, its bloody religion, and its history--from its earliest times to its collapse with the arrival of the Spanish in the New World.

Germany: Memories of a Nation
Neil MacGregor

From the author of A History of the World in 100 Objects, this view of Germany is like no other.  For the past 140 years, Germany has been the central power in continental Europe. Twenty-five years ago, a new German state came into being. MacGregor argues that no over-arching narrative of Germany's history can be constructed, for in Germany both geography and history have always been unstable. For most of the five hundred years covered by this book Germany has been composed of many separate political units, each with a distinct history. And any comfortable national story Germans might have told themselves before 1914 was destroyed by the events of the following thirty years. Beginning with the invention of modern printing by Gutenberg, MacGregor chooses objects, ideas, people, and places that resonate in the new Germany and reveal its collective imagination.

Hannibal: The Enemy of Rome
Leonard Cottrell

In 216 BCE Hannibal of Carthage faced an opposing Roman army twice the size of his own and outwitted the enemy at Cannae by means of his famous double-pincer maneuver. In that battle, seventy thousand Roman soldiers died within a few hours on a field the size of New York's Central Park. As devastating as Cannae was, it was only one of Hannibal’s incredible feats. His 1,000-mile march across the Alps from Spain to Italy, for instance, was one of the wonders of ancient times. Blending biography and military adventure, Hannibal is a portrait of a military genius who harbored a deep hatred for the Roman Republic and a fierce determination to subdue it forever. Cottrell traveled Hannibal’s entire route took across the Alps, thus amassing firsthand knowledge of his subject. With drama and authenticity Cottrell describes Hannibal's amazing campaign—a saga of victory after victory that fell just short of its goal: the annihilation of Rome.

Leonardo da Vinci
Walter Isaacson

The author of the acclaimed bestsellers Steve JobsEinstein, and Benjamin Franklin brings Leonardo da Vinci to life in this exciting new biography. Based on thousands of pages from Leonardo’s astonishing notebooks and new discoveries about his life and work, Walter Isaacson weaves a narrative that connects his art to his science. He shows how Leonardo’s genius was based on skills we can improve in ourselves, such as passionate curiosity, careful observation, and an imagination so playful that it flirted with fantasy.

Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire
William Fitzhugh, Morris Rossabi, and William Honeychurch

This clear, illustrated volume presents the untold story of Mongolia and its people, utilizing the latest research in archaeology, forensics, history, art, and literature. Rossabi presents a portrait of Genghis that goes far beyond the stereotype of the barbarian conqueror to reveal the sophisticated administrative structure, religious and economic freedom, and social precepts that were his lasting legacy. Other historians describe the western expansion of the empire and reveal recent archaeological discoveries. Fitzhugh is director of the Arctic Studies Center at the Smithsonian Institution. Rossabi is Distinguished Professor of history at the City University of New York and Columbia University. William Honeychurch is an assistant professor of anthropology at Yale University.

2017 History Book Group Schedule and Titles

January 17
1415: Agincourt

Anne Curry

As night fell in Picardy on Thursday October 24, 1415, Henry V and his English troops, worn down by their long march after the taking of Harfleur and diminished by the dysentery they had suffered there, can little have dreamt that the battle of the next day would give them one of the most complete victories ever won. Anne Curry’s startling history recreates the campaign and battle from the perspectives of the English and the French. One of the best battle accounts ever published, Anne Curry has updated this classic work in honor of 600th anniversary of Agincourt.

February 21
The Concise History of Ireland
(NEW edition)
Sean Duffy

This one-volume survey is complemented by maps, photographs, and diagrams. Duffy has written a text of exceptional clarity, stressing the enduring themes of Ireland's long cultural continuity; the central importance of its relationships with Britain and mainland Europe; and the intractability of the ethnic and national divisions in modern Ulster.

March 21
Mohawk Baronet - Sir William Johnson

James Thomas Flexner

In this "scholarly, stirring, and brightly written study," Flexner writes an in-depth biography of one of the most interesting figures in eighteenth-century America. Full of color and incident, it illuminates Indian life, the colonial frontier, the wars with the French, the economic forces based on furtrading and land speculation, and the tangled relations of the crown, royal governors, and New World assemblies. The personality of the indomitable Johnson, has" never before been so effectively depicted."

April 18
1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed

Eric H. Cline

In this account of the causes of this "First Dark Ages," Cline tells the gripping story of interconnected failures, invasions revolts, earthquakes, drought, and the cutting of international trade routes. Bringing to life the vibrant multicultural world of great civilizations, he draws a sweeping panorama of the empires and globalized peoples of the Late Bronze Age and shows that it was their very interdependence that hastened their dramatic collapse and ushered in a dark age that lasted centuries. A compelling combination of narrative and scholarship, 1177 B.C. sheds new light on the complex ties that gave rise to and ultimately destroyed the flourishing civilizations of the Late Bronze Age--and set the stage for the emergence of classical Greece.

May 16
The Age of Gold: The California Gold Rush and the New American Dream

H. W. Brands

“I have found it.” These words, uttered by the man who first discovered gold on the American River in 1848, triggered the most astonishing mass movement of peoples since the Crusades. California’s gold drew fortune-seekers from the ends of the earth. It accelerated America’s imperial expansion and exacerbated the tensions that exploded in the Civil War. And, as H. W. Brands makes clear in this spellbinding book, the Gold Rush inspired a new American dream—the “dream of instant wealth, won by audacity and good luck.” He tells this epic story from the perspectives of adventurers, entrepreneurs, prospectors, soldiers, and scoundrels, imparting a visceral sense of the distances they traveled, the suffering they endured, and the fortunes they made and lost.

June 20
Jamestown, Quebec, Santa Fe: Three North American Beginnings
James Kelly and Barbara Clark Smith


This illustrated volume published by the Smithsonian Institution in 2007 explores the then-400th anniversaries of the settlement of Quebec, Santa Fe, and Jamestown, which took place nearly simultaneously. A large-format treatment with vivid photographs of maps, paintings, and artifacts, this book, one reviewer said, “is thoughtful and accessible, and full of long neglected historical information."

July 18
Unlikely Allies: A Playwright and a Spy Saved the American Revolution
Joel Paul

Connecticut merchant Silas Deane was a member of the Continental Congress, and he traveled to France to persuade the king to support the colonists in their struggle with England. Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais was a playwright who had access to the arms and ammunition that Deane needed. And the Chevalier d'Éon was a diplomat and sometime spy for the French king who ignited a crisis that persuaded the French to arm the Americans. This is the true story of how three remarkable people lied, cheated, stole, and cross-dressed across Europe to gain France's aid as the War of American Independence hung in the balance.

August 22
The French-Canadian Heritage in New England
Gerald Brault

An American of French-Canadian descent, Brault weaves the dual history of French Canadians -- Acadians and Québécois -- into his account of the history and development of Franco-American culture and its contemporary situation. Drawing upon historical works and literature of the period, he provides detailed description of early life in Quebec and Acadia and analyzes the forces that led to migration in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His own family history provides insight into the experience of being Franco-American, offering a perspective that reveals how these people feel close to both Canada and France while also being solidly and patriotically American.

September 26
40 Miles a Day on Beans and Hay: An Enlisted Soldier Fighting the Indian Wars
Don Rickey Jr.

With this engaging book, the enlisted men in the United States Army during the Indian Wars (1866-91) need no longer be mere shadows behind their commanding officers. Through their labors, combats, and endurance, these men created a framework of law and order that contributed to the settlement and development of the country. Psychologically and physically isolated their fellow Americans, many enlisted men were barely able to scribble their names, so Rickey asked more than three hundred living veterans to supply information about their army experiences through questionnaires, personal accounts, and personal interviews. Whether the soldier is speaking for himself or through the author in his role as commentator-historian, this is the first documented account of the mass personality of the rank and file during the Indian Wars,

October 17
When America First Met China: An Exotic History of Tea, Drugs and Money in the Age of Sail
Eric Jay Dolin

Ancient China collides with newfangled America in this brilliant epic tale of opium smugglers, sea pirates, and dueling clipper ships. Dolin traces our fraught relationship with China back to its roots: the unforgiving seas that separated a rising naval power from a battered ancient empire. A “prescient fable for our time,” this book sheds light on our modern relationship with China. The furious trade in furs, and opium, might have catalyzed America’s emerging economy, but it also sparked an ecological and human rights catastrophe with reverberations still felt today. This page-turning saga of pirates and politicians, coolies and concubines, is a must-read for fans of Philbrick or Kurlansky.

November 21
Fur, Fortune and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America
Eric Jay Dolin

Best-selling author Eric Jay Dolin chronicles the rise and fall of the fur trade of old, when the rallying cry was "get the furs while they last." Beavers, sea otters, and buffalos were slaughtered, and their precious pelts were made into extravagant hats, coats, and sleigh blankets. Read this history to understand how North America was explored, exploited, and settled, while its native people were alternately enriched and exploited by the trade. As Dolin demonstrates, fur was both an economic elixir and an agent of destruction and was inextricably linked to such key events in American history as the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the relentless pull of Manifest Destiny, and the opening of the West.

December 19
The Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape and the Making of Winston Churchill

Candice Millard

This book is a thrilling narrative of Winston Churchill's extraordinary and little-known exploits during the Boer War. At age twenty-four, Winston Churchill was convinced it was his destiny to become prime minister of England, and he believed that to achieve his goal he must do something spectacular on the battlefield. Churchill arrived in South Africa in 1899 to cover the brutal colonial war the British were fighting with Boer rebels. Just two weeks after his arrival, the soldiers he was accompanying on an armored train were ambushed, and Churchill was taken prisoner. Remarkably, he pulled off a daring escape—and then traversed hundreds of miles of enemy territory, alone, with little except his wits to guide him.
Millard spins an epic story of bravery, savagery, and chance encounters with a cast of historical characters with whom Churchill would later share the world stage.

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