Essential upper-level books in world history (for a library with limited space/funding)

Marc Gilbert's picture

Editor's Note: At the end of this posting, Professor Gilbert requests that suggestions/discussion come to him directly. Your H-World Editors encourage the use of H-World for this discussion. Subscribers, of course, are free to do as they wish. 

From Marc Jason GIlbert, Hawaii Pacific University, Honolulu, Hawaii

My new, if smaller, University Library has requested a list from which to purchase books on world history. This request raises the issue as to what are the key readings for books in the field for university libraries with shrinking funding and shelf-space.

GENERAL GUIDELINES: Discussion should exclude 200-level materials or no textbooks, unless they offer new research or a new perspective.

•        All should support 300-400 or graduate level study.

•        Should support world history curriculum and common courses [for example as at Hawaii  Pacific :  Globalization; Terrorism/political violence;  Oil/global economics; modern world revolutions; Islam and the Middle East; Imperialism; OCeanic studies; trans-regional and and comparative studies; Diaspora studies; the United States in World History; military and naval affairs in world history.

•        No general survey type books.

Please send any discussion and or suggestions to me at as I wish to create a discussion and resource base addressing  this perennial issue, which is now in more critical due to reduction in library collection support despite burgeoning publications. Solutions, such as use of Hathi and other full-text digital collection are worthy of discussion.  Invitations to a future World History Association conference panel will be extended to scholars wishing to contribute to this discussion with publication possible of the discussion in World History Connected, of which I am the editor.

Categories: Discussion

Thanks for starting this conversation, Marc!

Arash Khazeni's Sky Blue Stone about the role of Turquoise in world history is fantastic--and an intentional move away from Eurocentric historie of commerce. It's consistently a favorite with my students.

Kris Lane's Potosi, The Silver City that Changed the World is another strong contender for your list (great review by JH Elliott last year in the New York Review of Books), and it was written to be accessible to this upper division world history readership.

Timothy Brook's Vermeer's Hat

Elizabeth Lambourn's Abraham's Luggage (subject of a recent post).

John Richards' The Great Hunt (strong Pacific element)

David Igler's The Great Ocean (really important or Hawaii and eastern Pacific)

These are all rigorous scholarship in student-friendly prose.

Laura Mitchell
UC Irvine