United States and Modern Europe

  • The History of Europe in 2 minutes – The entire history of Europe is summarized in this 2-minute video by Scott Powell.
  • The History of the Islamic Middle East in 2 minutes – The entire history of the Islamic Middle East is summarized in this 2-minute video by Scott Powell.
  • The Elusive Republic, Political Economy in Jeffersonian America by Drew McCoy.
  • Longitude, The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Dava Sobel. The heroic saga of John Harrison, who finally solved the problem of determining longitude at sea and thereby opened up the world to safe navigation and trade.
  • A History of the Modern World by Robert R. Palmer. Palmer is conventional in his views and approach, but the book is serious, scholarly; by far the best of its kind and subject that I know of. Plus, chapter seven, on the 17th century and the emergence of "The Scientific View of the World," is very good.
  • A History of Political Theory by George Sabine. 775 pages. A good survey of Western political theory, characterized by analysis in terms of fundamentals, and by sweeping generalizations which are correct at best, and provocative at worst. He understands the difference between classical and seventeenth-century political theory in terms of collectivism vs. individualism (which is good). However, he is weak on Locke and the eighteenth century theory (he is sympathetic to the attacks on Locke). The book is quite good in terms of clarity and style. Quite readable. (out-of-print, see sources.)
  • The Revolutions of 1848, A Social History by Priscilla Robertson.
  • The Prelude to Civil War by William W. Freehling.
  • Been in the Storm So Long, The Aftermath of Slavery by Leon Litwack.
  • D-Day by Stephen E. Ambrose.
  • The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin. At once a powerful evocation of his early life in Harlem and a disturbing examination of the consequences of racial injustice to both the individual and the body politic, James Baldwin galvanized the nation in the early days of the civil-rights movement with this eloquent manifesto. The Fire Next Time stands as one of the essential works of our literature.
  • The Measure of a Man, A Spiritual Autobiography by Sidney Poitier. Poitier's autobiography illustrates his fight to maintain his integrity and ultimately succeed as an individual despite the obstacles faced by a black actor in 20th century America.
  • The Autobiography of Malcom-X by Malcom-X. A blunt biography of a confused but fierce attempt at self-emancipation.
  • The Russian Tradition by Tibor Szamuely. Covers entire Russian history in broad generalizations. Very good. (out-of-print, see sources.)
  • The Harvest of Sorrow by Robert Conquest.
  • Stalin, Breaker of Nations by Robert Conquest.
  • We Now Know, Rethinking Cold War History by John Lewis Gaddis.

Recommendations from Scott Powell

  • Europe Since 1815 by Charles Downer Hazen. This is a great book. Normally, when one reads about the nineteenth century, one either has to contend with books that focus on too narrow a topic (such as the revolutions of 1848) or too restricted a theme (such as the rise of Nationalism). The onus is on the reader of history to integrate this topic, since historians have not. By constrast, however, Hazen has a way of selecting out the facts that are important to the broad progression of events, and discarding the minutiae that normally clutters history books. Consequently, his narrative is purposeful and easy to follow. (out-of-print, see sources.)
  • American Epoch, A History of the United States Since the 1890s by Link and Catton. Probably the best telling of the story of the United States from 1890 up to the cold war is by William Catton and Arthur Link, whose American Epoch is comparable to Palmer and Colton's excellent single volume history of the West in being both readable and reasonably comprehensive. As a single reference it exceeds all others in my experience.
  • Twentieth Century America by Dulles, Forster R.. An excellent compliment to American Epoch is Foster Dulles's Twentieth Century America. To work one's way, back and forth between the two volumes is a good way to progress through the story, and to fill the gaps that exist in each.


  • History Recommendations from Scott Powell – History reading recommendations from Scott Powell
  • Manhatta – An art film by Strand and Charles Sheeler, Manhatta shows the beauty and vitality of New York in 1920, the dynamic energy and freedom of the world's greatest city.


John Harrison, clockmaker, solved the problem of determining longitude at sea, opening up the world to reliable navigation.

John Harrison, clockmaker, solved the problem of determining longitude at sea, opening up the world to reliable navigation.