Today in History: A Reading List

I normally do four events for the Today in History reading list but I just couldn’t choose this time so I did five. Check out a day full of Emperors and presidents, Samurai and various kinds of rebels. We give you one non-fiction and one fictional work to go with each event.

960 Coronation of Zhao Kuangyin

Also known as Taizu of Song, Kuangyin founded of the Song dynasty after overthrowing the Zhou dynasty. The Song would rule China for three centuries.

Non-Fiction: The Age of Confucian Rule: The Song Transformation of China by Dieter Kuhn

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Just over a thousand years ago, the Song dynasty emerged as the most advanced civilization on earth. Within two centuries, China was home to nearly half of all humankind. In this concise history, we learn why the inventiveness of this era has been favorably compared with the European Renaissance, which in many ways the Song transformation surpassed. [GoodReads]

Fiction: Along the River: A Chinese Cinderella Novel by Adeline Yen Mah

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After a fall, CC is whisked away to a hospital. As she drifts in and out of consciousness, she is haunted by vivid dreams that seem strange—yet somehow familiar. Thus begins CC’s emotional journey back to a privileged life lived eight hundred years ago during the Song dynasty. [GoodReads]

1703 Forty Six of the 47 Ronin Commit Seppuku

47 Samurai are rendered Ronin (masterless samurai) when their master Asano Naganori is forced to commit seppuku for assaulting fellow lord Kira Yoshinaka is murdered. They wait and plan for a year or two. Finally they attacked Kira’s mansion and kill him. Afterwards they commit seppuku to maintain their honor. The story becomes a Japanese legend told and retold in books, plays and (eventually) movies.

Non-Fiction: Tour of Duty: Samurai, Military Service in Edo, and the Culture of Early Modern Japan by Constantine Nomikos Vaporis

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Alternate attendance (sankin kōtai) was one of the central institutions of Edo-period (1603-1868) Japan and one of the most unusual examples of a system of enforced elite mobility in world history. It required the daimyo to divide their time between their domains and the city of Edo, where they waited upon the Tokugawa shogun. Based on a prodigious amount of research in both published and archival primary sources, Tour of Duty renders alternate attendance as a lived experience, for not only the daimyo but also the samurai retainers who accompanied them. [GoodReads]

Fiction: 47 Ronin by Mike Richardson

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Japan’s enduring national legend comes to comics! The tale of the 47 Ronin and their epic mission to avenge their wronged master epitomizes the samurai code of honor, and creators Mike Richardson and Stan Sakai have done justice to their story! Meticulously researched and beautifully illustrated, this collection of the acclaimed miniseries recounts this sweeping saga of honor and violence in all its grandeur. [GoodReads]

1789 George Washington Elected President

Washington was elected the first president under the new Constitution. He was the only president to receive a unanimous vote from the Electoral College. John Adams, who came in second, became his Vice-President. Washington would be elected unanimously again in 1792. He then retired setting the president (later made law) that a president only serves two terms.

Non-Fiction: The Return of George Washington: 1783-1789 by Edward J. Larson

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In this groundbreaking new look at our first citizen, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Edward J. Larson masterfully chronicles how George Washington saved the United States by coming out of retirement four years after the War of Independence to lead a country on the brink of dissolution and secure its future. [GoodReads]

Fiction: The Whiskey Rebels by David Liss.

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Ethan Saunders, once among General Washington’s most valued spies, now lives in disgrace, haunting the taverns of Philadelphia. An accusation of treason has long since cost him his reputation and his beloved fiancée, Cynthia Pearson, but at his most desperate moment he is recruited for an unlikely task–finding Cynthia’s missing husband. To help her, Saunders must serve his old enemy, Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, who is engaged in a bitter power struggle with political rival Thomas Jefferson over the fragile young nation’s first real financial institution: the Bank of the United States. [GoodReads]

1861 Formation of the Confederate States of America

Delegates from the first seven states who seceded from the Union, South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Louisiana, met in Montgomery Alabama and began the process of forming the Confederate States of America.

Non-Fiction: The Fall of the House of Dixie: The Civil War and the Social Revolution that Transformed the South by Bruce Levine.

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In this major new history of the Civil War, Bruce Levine tells the riveting story of how that conflict upended the economic, political, and social life of the old South, utterly destroying the Confederacy and the society it represented and defended. [GoodReads]

Fiction: Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier.

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Cold Mountain is a novel about a soldier’s perilous journey back to his beloved near the Civil War’s end. At once a love story & a harrowing account of one man’s long walk home, Cold Mountain introduces a new talent in American literature. [GoodReads]

1974 The Symbionese Liberation Army Kidnaps Patty Hearst

The left-wing urban guerrilla group kidnapped Hearst from her apartment in Berkley California. Hearst eventually joined the group (or was forced to join or was brainwashed into joining) and participated in several robberies, attempted robberies and attempted assassinations. She was arrested in 1975 and sentenced to 35 years in prison although president Jimmy Carter commuted her sentence in 1979.

Non-Fiction: Patty’s Got a Gun: Patricia Hearst in 1970s America by William Graebner

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With Patty’s Got a Gun, the first substantial reconsideration of Patty Hearst’s story in more than twenty-five years, William Graebner vividly re-creates the atmosphere of uncertainty and frustration of mid-1970s America. [GoodReads]

Fiction: I, Tania by Brian Joseph Davis

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America lies in ruins during an age of decline, despair, and death. The year is 1975 and a radical far-left group has kidnapped a young woman from one of America’s richest families. Using the memoir format just enough to spin off into a crazed, bawdy, and seditious charge through pop culture and politics, this is a highly fictionalized true story of the rise and fall of the Symbianese Liberation Army, as it never happened. [GoodReads]

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