The Book Channel Top Five: Historiography with Jeremy Popkin

Robert Cassanello's picture

Those of us in the H-Net community were excited to see the publication of Jeremy Popkin’s book From Herodotus to H-Net: The Story of Historiography, published with Oxford University Press in 2015. Not only does H-Net have the good fortune to match the alliteration of Ancient Greece’s first historian of record, but clearly the endeavor we have come to know as H-Net is an important signpost to understand where scholarship is heading in this Digital Age. Popkin made himself available for an interview with H-Net about the book and I talked to him about the development of historical inquiry during the last 25 years. You can hear the interview here. We asked Popkin to identify the five historians and their works that he thinks all history students should know. The following is a list of his top five.

Robert Cassanello is Associate Professor of History at the University of Central Florida and H-Net's Vice President of Research and Publications


Herodotus, The Persian Wars and Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War

Written within a few decades of each other in ancient Athens, these two dramatic narratives founded the western tradition of historical writing and still grip their readers. Herodotus’s broad interest in human beings and their actions and Thucydides’s tightly focused story of political passions and military struggle offer contrasting visions of what matters in the past that still divide historians today.

Marc Bloch, French Rural History

The great French historian, who later gave his life in the struggle against the Nazis, inspired scholars all over the world with his imaginative reconstruction of the world of the peasantry, ordinary people who rarely put their own thoughts into written words.  Bloch’s warm human sympathy for the anonymous people of the past remains a model for all scholars who strive to tell the story of the past “from the bottom up.”


Christopher Browning, Ordinary Men

In his probing analysis of how hundreds of ordinary Germans, few of them fanatical Nazis, became ruthless killers during the  Holocaust, Browning shows what historians can contribute to the understanding of great moral issues. Clearly and eloquently written, Browning’s concise account is a model of critical thinking and judicious evaluation of evidence.


Tony Horwitz, Confederates in the Attic

With humor and insight, Horwitz shows how deeply the great struggle of the Civil War still shapes American life in the present. His encounters with battle reenactors, museum volunteers, schoolteachers and amateur historians remind readers that interest in the past is not a monopoly of university professors.

Jeremy D. Popkin holds the William T. Bryan Chair Professorship in History at the University of Kentucky.