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The Heritage History Mission

"If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten."
—Rudyard Kipling

"Hold you brave Wallace—the English
have hanged your best men like dogs."
If you are visiting the Heritage History electronic library for the first time, welcome! Our library contains hundreds of entertaining and easily-read history books which were written for students and history lovers many years ago. All the illustrations, maps, and other history-related material on our site were taken from traditional history books and student atlases that are no longer copyright protected and are available to republish without cost.

The mission of Heritage History is to make old-fashioned history books, written for the enjoyment of young people, easily available. The complete text of every book in our library can be read directly off the website, and both printable and e-Reader formats are available for every book on our website.

We developed the Heritage website with the intention of helping to re-popularize old-fashioned narrative history. We believe that the current trend of teaching Social Studies rather than history to young people is unfortunate, not so much because it is politicized, but because it is boring. Too many students leave school disinterested in history because it was never presented in an engaging manner.

At Heritage History, we seek to promote, not so much the study of history as the enjoyment of History. By making available old-fashioned history, as it was enjoyed as a pastime rather than studied as a subject, we hope to help reawaken the interest of a new generation.

Story Based History

There are two quite distinct purposes of history; the superior purpose, which is its use for
children, and the secondary, or inferior purpose, which is its use for historians. The highest
and noblest thing that history can be is a good story.

—G. K. Chesterton

Most of the books prepared for Heritage History take a old-fashioned, or story-based approach to presenting history, rather than an analytical or critical approach. Our books do not attempt to explain the "underlying forces" that influence history, or critique ancient notions of human rights, or focus on contrasts between cultures. Instead they are based simply on stories that have been retold for dozens of generations regarding individual characters, important conflicts, and events of special interest. The stories are connected by simple narrative threads and are shorn of complicated analysis.

Minstrels sang of the famous
deeds of heroes

This approach to history is not our own invention, but was in fact, the traditional approach to teaching young people history in almost every introductory history book right up until the mid 20th century. The trend toward interpreting history as Social Science in the Universities began in the 19th century, but it was not until the baby-boomer generation that Social Studies and historical criticism replaced traditional, narrative history in elementary and secondary schools.

We believe that the modern emphasis on abstract themes rather than fundamental knowledge is wrong-headed because it encourages students to interpret history before they learn the most basic facts. The priorities of modern academics are perfectly exemplified by the instructions for the College board AP World History test. Students are expected to know . . .

"The importance of European exploration, but not individual explorers, "Characteristics of European absolution, but not individual rulers, and "Causes of the World Wars, but not battles in the wars."

The traditional view of history was that students should have a solid grounding in the stories of history before delving into analysis, but the message students get from modern colleges is to focus on concepts and don't bother with the details. This is unfortunate, since it is precisely the riveting tales of exploration and adventure, palace politics, and critical battles that are of most compelling interest. It is the stories of history themselves, not abstract "themes", that inspire a love of the subject.

Whatever the merits of this new analytical approach may be, it is much less interesting to most students than the traditional approach and modern students are far less knowledgeable about history than their great-grandparents were.

Our Collection of Books

Heritage History's online Library allows you to view over four hundred titles, sorted by genre, author, series, and civilization. Each book is listed according to difficulty: Green Links indicate introductory books, appropriate for older grammar school students; Brown Links refer to material appropriate for middle school; and Red Links indicate books that are appropriate for an intelligent high school student.

THE BODLEIAN LIBRARY, OXFORD The Series page lists all of the books in the Heritage library that are part of a series so students who enjoy one book in a set can easily locate other similar volumes, and the Authors page provides some background information about some of Heritage History's most prolific authors.

Most of the books in the Heritage collection come from the private library of a long time collector of children's histories. Some of these books were found by combing the children's history shelves in dozens of used book stores. Others were identified by reviewing book catalogs published by librarians in the early twentieth century or by tracking down additional books from favorite authors and publishers.

Although our focus is primarily on young people's history, we have included several books of interest to moderately sophisticated adults. None of the books in the Heritage library, however, require specialized knowledge of economics or political philosophy. Only an interest in the subject matter and some familiarity with the historical era is required, even for our most advanced selections.