In another life, I might have been a historian. I have a passion for history that ebbs and flows, but never goes away. (As a youngster, I had a similar passion for astronomy, which has also ebbed and flowed and never gone away.) It is difficult to describe why I am attracted to history. In part I think it is because it helps me understand who we are and how we got here. Regardless, the passion exists and every once in a while, it flares up and must be fed. I’d guess that I have taught myself far more history than I ever learned in my schooling, and I’d venture to guess that my knowledge of history, generally, is equal to that of someone with a graduate degree in the subject.
There are 3 sets of history volumes that have always intrigued me. The first is Will and Ariel Durant’s 11-volume, Story of Civilization series. I’ve read the first 2 books in the series and own all of the others. I have promised myself I will make it through the entire series some day. The second is Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, which I also own, and which I have read bits and pieces of from time to time.
The third and final set is from the turn of the twentieth century, a collection of historical writings called The Historians History of the World. I first read about this miscellaneous collection of historical writing years ago in Isaac Asimov’s autobiography. Every once in-a-while, I’d do some searches for the books but always come up empty-handed. This weekend, however, I tried a search and found the books, and to my surprise, discovered they are freely available as part of the Google Book Project. My reading is such right now that I don’t have time for any of these books. (In fact, I suspect I won’t really have time for them until well, into the future.) But it is nice to know that they are available for me when my inner historian comes calling.