On Tuesday we asked our followers ‘what’s your favourite popular history book?’ for a chance to win a copy of The Devil’s Alliance by Roger Moorhouse, as featured in yesterday’s book review. We had an amazing range of responses.

There were groundbreaking classics like AJP Taylor’s The Origins of the Second World War and EP Thompson’s Making of the English Working Class. There were also some truly ‘popular’ books like Michael Wood’s In Search of the Dark Ages and Mark Steel’s Vive la Révolution – not to mention the wonderful Horrible Histories.

We even had some historical novels like Hilary Mantel’s A Place of Greater Safety, showing the huge range of what we might consider ‘history’ books. And it was fascinating to hear about some, perhaps lesser known, but equally important, books like The Governing Passion by Cooke and Vincent, which have sparked life-long interests in history as well as, in some cases, inspired future historians.

What it did show is the overlap in what we might consider ‘popular’ and ‘academic’ history. They’re not mutually exclusive – history can be both academic and entertaining at the same time. And the end results from all the books we heard about were people interested in history, and inspired to learn more – you can’t ask for much more than that.

Following such an overwhelming response we found it difficult to pick a winner – so we’re going to ask you again. We’ve selected the four most nominated titles and are going to let you vote to see what, definitively, is your favourite ‘popular’ history book.

The four nominees are:

  • In Search of the Dark Ages, Michael Wood
  • The Origins of the Second World War, AJP Taylor
  • England’s Children, Alison Weir
  • Vive la Révolution, Mark Steel

Place your vote using the twitter poll:

Think we’ve missed something? Keep suggesting more of your favourite history books – we’ve still got one more book left to give away to the person who gives us the best reason for their choice in the comments below.

Image: Bayeux Tapestry Scene 51 [via Wikicommons].

Tags : best history booksfavourite history bookshistorical fictionpopular history
James Chetwood

The author James Chetwood


  1. Excelent choices all but WEir is impressive in looking at history from a more oblique angle and this gets you (well, me!) thinking…

  2. It’s clearly Marc Bloch’s Feudal Society: a work which personalises the concept of feudalism without seeking to demystify the social complexity; at its heart the book speaks of the birth of modern Western nation states. An incredible work, written by a war hero who was tortured and executed by the Gestapo for his resistance to the Nazi occupation of France. It really should be more widely read.

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