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Best Biographies/Social Histories

 
 
Reply Sun 17 Dec, 2006 02:14 pm
One of my favorite biographies is "Nicholas and Alexandra," by Robert K. Massie. It was so well written and researched, it put you right there -- in Russia, from the time Nicholas was coronated, to the development of the Duma, the unfortunate public perception of Alexandra's dependence on Rasputin, and the Romanov's eventual execution.

It provided a solid history lesson about the Russian revolution, but also included many fascinating insights into the Romanov's family and personal lives.

Currently, I'm reading "American Brutus," a biography of John Wilkes Booth by Michael Kauffman. I'd highly recommend it. It's also very well written and researched.

What are some of your favorite biographies?

I'm also interested in reading social histories, particularly about American life in the 19th or early 20th centuries. I found one at the library about a year ago that was pretty good, but can't remember the name of it.

If anyone has any suggestions, I'd appreciate it.
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tomasso
 
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Reply Mon 18 Dec, 2006 03:44 am
I also read "Nicholas and Alexandra" and yes, I found it to be quite good.
Very interesting!

However, don't you think that there was more involved with Alexandra's dependence of Rasputin than public perception??? I received the impression that there was definitely a dependence there.

It was also a shocker reading the details of the Romanov family's
execution! Much more brutal than I thought!

I recommend "Luther the Reformer" by James M. Kittelson.
Good history also well written and researched.
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Stray Cat
 
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Reply Mon 18 Dec, 2006 04:52 pm
Quote:
However, don't you think that there was more involved with Alexandra's dependence of Rasputin than public perception??? I received the impression that there was definitely a dependence there.


Yes, tomasso. I agree Alexandra was very dependent on Rasputin, because he was the only one who could stop her son's hemophiliac episodes.

But the public was unaware of the truth of the situation. As Massie said in his book, the Russian people love children, and if they had known of Alexi's affliction, they probably would've been very understanding.

However, the Romanovs wanted to keep his condition secret, because they feared it would make him appear weak - an unsuitable heir to the throne.

So, the public jumped to some unfortunate conclusions about Alexandra's relationship with Rasputin - which, considering the anti-royal sentiment that was developing - didn't help the royal cause any!

Anyway, I love talking about this stuff! It was such a good book, wasn't it?

Thank you for the recommendation about the Luther book. I'll check it out! Smile
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Tico
 
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Reply Mon 18 Dec, 2006 05:12 pm
Anything by Barbara Tuchman. Highly respected historian who happens to be very readable.
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Stray Cat
 
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Reply Mon 18 Dec, 2006 06:19 pm
I think I've heard of her, Tico. Thank you! I'll look her up!
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Letty
 
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Reply Mon 18 Dec, 2006 06:31 pm
Stray Cat, I loved Nicholas and Alexandra by the Massies. Do you know why they wrote that bio?

I also read, Thurber's My World and Welcome to it. Great book.
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ossobuco
 
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Reply Mon 18 Dec, 2006 06:56 pm
I have liked Tuchman a lot. I don't remember that she's an academic historian though she is respected. Not being a history major myself, others might address that (I think they have, thus my bringing it up).

I loved Distant Mirror and that is one thick book.
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Shapeless
 
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Reply Mon 18 Dec, 2006 07:01 pm
Eugen Weber has a series of highly-acclaimed (as well as highly-contested) social histories of France, including My France: Politics, Culture, Myth and France: Fin-de-Si├Ęcle.
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Stray Cat
 
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Reply Mon 18 Dec, 2006 07:08 pm
Yes, Letty. Robert Massie's son had hemophilia, which led to his interest in the young tsarevich who also suffered from the disease.

Did you know that Robert Massie also did a follow-up book called "The Romanovs?" In that book, he lays to rest the legend of Anastasia.

Remember the woman who, for years, claimed to be the daughter of Nicholas and Alexandra, but managed to escape from the basement where they were executed?

Well, once the communist regime fell in Russia, historians were able to uncover the remains of Nicholas and Alexandra.

The woman who claimed to be Anastasia was living in America when she died, but she'd had surgery about a year or two beforehand. The hospital still had some of her tissue samples and they were able to do a DNA test using her tissue samples and DNA taken from Nicholas and Alexandra's remains.

It turns out the woman was a complete fraud. The DNA results proved there was no way she could have been the daughter of N & A!
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Letty
 
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Reply Mon 18 Dec, 2006 07:12 pm
Right, Stray Cat. I forget her name right now, but I think she was from Charlottesville, Virginia. Poor lady. If I'm not mistaken, Peter, Paul, and Mary helped the Massie's son.
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Stray Cat
 
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Reply Mon 18 Dec, 2006 07:22 pm
You're right, Letty, she was living in Charlottesville. Her name was Anna Anderson. She must've been a pretty good con artist, because she managed to convince quite a few people!

Quote:
If I'm not mistaken, Peter, Paul, and Mary helped the Massie's son.


Really? I didn't know that. Good for them! Smile
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roger
 
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Reply Mon 18 Dec, 2006 07:46 pm
The Devil Drives by Fawn Brodie if you find Richard Burton to be an interesting person. I do, by the way.
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Stray Cat
 
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Reply Mon 18 Dec, 2006 09:12 pm
The Devil Drives...sounds like an appropriate title for a book about Burton! I wonder if anyone in that small Welch mining town he came from ever imagined he'd become a famous actor? He must've always had that magnificent voice!
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gustavratzenhofer
 
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Reply Mon 18 Dec, 2006 09:15 pm
Are we talking of Richard Burton, the actor, or the more notable one?
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Stray Cat
 
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Reply Mon 18 Dec, 2006 09:19 pm
Gus, have you ever thought about writing your autobiography?

I'll bet a lot of people would be interested in it. Hell, I'd buy it!
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gustavratzenhofer
 
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Reply Mon 18 Dec, 2006 09:21 pm
Actually, I already have. It sold two copies. My mom bought one and some guy who misread the title bought the other.
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Green Witch
 
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Reply Tue 19 Dec, 2006 06:12 pm
Inside The Victorian Home: A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England by
Judith Flanders.

I picked this up at my local library thinking I would skip around for an overview, but it was so interesting I read it cover to cover. It's all kinds of little things that make history fun. The author literally goes from room to room in a typical Victorian house and breaks down the action that would have gone there. From bedroom to nursery to kitchen to scullery to drawing room to parlor to dining room etc...the author uses a lot of source material to figure out all the details of the Victorian family. Even if you do skip around you will still learn plenty about life in the 1800's
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Stray Cat
 
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Reply Tue 19 Dec, 2006 06:16 pm
Thanks, Green Witch. I've been trying to find a good social history like that. I'll definately put that one on my list!
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ossobuco
 
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Reply Tue 19 Dec, 2006 06:21 pm
Sorry, I goofed the link, will go find it again,
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ossobuco
 
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Reply Tue 19 Dec, 2006 06:25 pm
Ok, there it is -

Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages
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