History Spines & Surveys

While fact books, picture books, and reference materials all have their place, the real meat of history study is found in spines and surveys, those books that bring lots of important people, events, and dates together to lend context to an entire period. For instance, you might need a book on Civil War battles to adequately understand the military aspect of the struggle, but that's not going to help you grasp the overall significance, scope, and breadth of the war.

Just like a human spine which forms the basic core of a person's anatomy, history spines form the basis for subsequent study. They don't come complete with all the details (muscles, bones, skin), but they do provide a sound framework from which to build. Spines generally cover a fairly broad spectrum of times and places, with plenty of room for further research and gaps that outside study can easily fill, and link major events that otherwise might seem disjointed.

Surveys go a little further than spines. For the most part, surveys offer more information from the beginning, and present as a single narrative the major events as well as the connecting pieces and many of the details. Because there tends to be more information, these are probably better for older students, who don't need as much opportunity for switching between texts or using less structured material.

As mentioned before, the best thing either spines or surveys offer is context. This makes it a bit more imperative to find books you approve of on a worldview and ideological level. If the context a book is offering is completely humanistic, atheistic, and naturalistic, and you're doing your best to train your kids in biblical precepts, you'll probably want to avoid that title. Of course, this becomes less of an issue the older your kids get, and reading from a different perspective even becomes important.

For upper elementary and middle school students, Genevieve Foster's books offer an excellent spine format for important periods of United States and world history. Each volume is built around the period of one man's life, but describes people and events of global significance that may or may not have had anything to do directly with the title figure. These books are extremely informative, fun to read, and make excellent central texts for a Charlotte Mason approach to history.

In a similar vein but more on the survey side, the H. A. Guerber Histories offer a solid general introduction to the scope of world history, beginning with the ancient world and progressing all the way through the 19th century. Guerber was a Christian, and these texts are written from an obviously Christian worldview, so you don't need to run much damage control, if any. The books are written in story form, but also work in plenty of relevant cultural facts and perspective.

Also from a Christian perspective but a bit more doubtful in its theology, the Light and the Glory books from Peter Marshall and David Manuel trace the trajectory of United States history. These books are unique in that there is a series for younger readers, and another series for older students and adults. Each series parallels the other directly, except that there's more information (and often more dubious doctrinal content!) in the series for older readers.

If you're looking for a secular perspective on United States history, Joy Hakim's History of US is a good choice. It covers prehistory through the 20th century in a broad survey of both the essentials and many of the less-known but fascinating details and stories. Christian readers will want to know that Hakim is pretty biased and very humanistic, but there's still a lot of first-rate content and a plethora of full-color and black-and-white illustrations.

A survey or spine should always form the core of your children's history study. Without a solid foundation, they'll just be memorizing facts without context, and more than likely those facts will slip out as soon as they take the test, if not sooner. To make history both come alive and make some kind of reasonable sense, you'll need a book that's more than a list of facts or just fun to look at. For both broad-spectrum titles and those more specific in scope, we hope you'll browse our selection.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur.Read more of his reviews here.

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287 Items found Print
10,000 Days of Thunder
by Philip Caputo
1st edition from Atheneum
for 5th-10th grade
in Vietnam War (1957-1975) (Location: G5E-HIS)
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from Penguin Putnam
for 9th-Adult
in Middle Ages (Location: G2A-HIS)
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1421: The Year China Discovered America
by Gavin Menzies
1st edition from William Morrow & Company
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in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: NLIT7-20)
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1620, Year of the Pilgrims
by Genevieve Foster
from Charles Scribner's Sons
History Reference/Biography for 7th-10th grade
in New World Colonization (Location: G3C-HIS)
20th Century History
by Alan Axelrod
from Alpha Books
for 9th-Adult
in 20th Century (Location: G5C-HIS)
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by Various
from Vision Forum
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Abraham Lincoln's World
by Genevieve Foster, expanded by Joanna Foster
from Beautiful Feet Books
Historical Non-fiction for 7th-10th grade
1945 Newbery Honor Book
in American Civil War (1860-1865) (Location: G4D-HIS)
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by Jim Murphy
from Sandpiper Books
for 5th-8th grade
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by Ruth Beechick
from Mott Media
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by C. S. Forester
from Chapman Billies, Inc
American Naval History for 8th-Adult
in War of 1812 (Location: G3D-HIS)
America and Vietnam
by Albert Marrin
from Beautiful Feet Books
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in Vietnam War (1957-1975) (Location: G5E-HIS)
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by Gerald Johnston
from William Morrow & Company
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by Gerald W. Johnson
from William Morrow & Company
for 4th-7th grade
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America's Christian Heritage
by Gary DeMar
from Broadman & Holman
American History Reference for 9th-Adult
in America's Christian Heritage (Location: G7D-HIS)
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by Gary DeMar
from American Vision Press
American History Reference for 9th-Adult
in America's Christian Heritage (Location: G7D-HIS)
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America's Providential History
by Mark Beliles & Stephen McDowell
from Providence Foundation
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by Steve Wilkins
from Covenant Publications
for 7th-Adult
in History Conferences & Lectures (Location: G6B-HIS)
$25.00
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by Robert K. Krick
from Osprey Publishing
for 9th-Adult
in American Civil War (1860-1865) (Location: G4D-HIS)
$6.50 (1 in stock)
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by Jennifer Silate
from PowerKids Press
for 3rd-6th grade
$5.00 (1 in stock)
American History in Verse
by Burton Stevenson
from Bob Jones University Press
Poetry for 3rd-Adult
in American History Reference (Location: G7C-HIS)
$11.00 $8.00 (1 in stock)
American History to 1865 - CD Set
by R. J. Rushdoony
from Ross House Books
for 9th-12th grade
in History Conferences & Lectures (Location: G6B-HIS)
$119.00
Ancient History Portfolio & Timeline
by Barbara Shukin
from Homeschool Journey
for 3rd-8th grade
in Timeline Resources (Location: G6B-HIS)
$24.00 (1 in stock)
Ancient Times
by Suzanne Strauss Art
from Pemblewick Press
for 6th-9th grade
in Ancient America (Location: G3A-HIS)
Around the World in a Hundred Years
by Jean Fritz
from Penguin Putnam
Biography for 2nd-5th grade
in Exploration (1450-1900) (Location: G3B-HIS)
Art & Civilization: Renaissance
by Paul Procter, Rupert Matthews
from Peter Bedrick Books
for 4th-6th grade
in Renaissance & Reformation (Location: G2C-HIS)
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by Lillo Canto
from Chelsea House Publishing
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in Renaissance & Reformation (Location: G2C-HIS)
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Augustus Caesar's World
by Genevieve Foster
from Beautiful Feet Books
Non-fiction for 7th-10th grade
Cathy Duffy's 100 Top Picks
in Ancient Rome (Location: G1E-HIS)
$21.95
Awakening of Europe
Story of the World Series #3
by M. B. Synge
from Yesterday's Classics
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in Yesterday's Classics (Location: L5A-FIC)
$10.76
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Sterling Point Books
by C. S. Forester
from Sterling Publishing Co.
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in Pirates
$4.50 (1 in stock)
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Oxford History of the United States
by James M. McPherson
from Oxford University
for 11th-Adult
in American Civil War (1860-1865) (Location: G4D-HIS)
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from Gareth Stevens Publishing
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Blizzard!
by Jim Murphy
from Scholastic Inc.
for 4th-6th grade
in 19th Century America (Location: G4A-HIS)
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from Yesterday's Classics
for 7th-12th grade
in Yesterday's Classics (Location: L5A-FIC)
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by Charles Coffin
from Maranatha Publications
Historical Reference for 10th-Adult
in America's Christian Heritage (Location: G7D-HIS)
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by John S. White
from American Home-School Publishing
Ancient History Reference for 4th-8th grade
in Ancient Greece (Location: G1D-HIS)
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by Andrew Santella
from Children's Press
for 4th-6th grade
in 20th Century America (Location: G5C-HIS)
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by May McNeer
from Random House Books for Young Readers
for 4th-6th grade
in California Gold Rush (Location: G4C-HIS)
$4.00 (1 in stock)
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by Virgil M. Hillyer
from Calvert School
World History Reference for 2nd-6th grade
in History Spines & Surveys (Location: G1A-HIS)
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by Russell Freedman
from Sandpiper Books
for 4th-6th grade
in Great Depression (1929-1939) (Location: G5D-HIS)
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by Russell Freedman
from Clarion Books
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in Pioneer & Frontier Life (Location: G4C-HIS)
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by Russell Freedman
from Scholastic Inc.
for 4th-8th grade
in Pioneer & Frontier Life (Location: G4C-HIS)
$4.00 (2 in stock)
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by R. J. Rushdoony
from Ross House Books
for 10th grade-Adult
in History Spines & Surveys (Location: G1A-HIS)
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by Jim Gallagher
from Chelsea House Publishing
for 4th-6th grade
in Exploration (1450-1900) (Location: G3B-HIS)
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from Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
for 8th-Adult
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$18.00 (1 in stock)
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by Tom Spencer
from Logos School
Historical Reference for 9th-12th grade
in American Civil War (1860-1865) (Location: G4D-HIS)
$21.25
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A Basic History of the United States Volume 1
by Clarence B. Carson
from American Textbook Committee
American History Reference for 9th-Adult
in Basic History of the United States (Location: F4A-HIS)
$12.00
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America at War Series
by Alden Carter
from Grolier Publishing
Historical Non-fiction for 4th-6th grade
in Colonial America (1690-1765) (Location: G3C-HIS)
$6.95 $3.50 (1 in stock)
Columbia River
by Tom Lashnits
from Facts On File
for 9th-12th grade
in Pacific Northwest (Location: G7A-PNW)
Columbus and the Age of Discovery
by William Scheller, Zvi Dor-Ner
1st edition from William Morrow & Company
for 7th-12th grade
in Exploration (1450-1900) (Location: G3B-HIS)
$14.00 (1 in stock)
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by Robin S. Doak
for 4th-7th grade
in 20th Century: 1991-Current (Location: G5E-HIS)
$8.00 (2 in stock)
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