Today in History Reading List

The Today In History Reading List is a list of books, fiction and non-fiction, to go along with some of the events that happened today.

421 Traditional Date Given for the Founding of Venice

No one knows the actual founding date of Venice but it is traditionally held to be at 12 noon on May 25 with the dedication of the first church San Giacomo.

Non-Fiction: City of Fortune: How Venice Ruled the Seas by Roger Crowley

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A magisterial work of gripping history, City of Fortune tells the story of the Venetian ascent from lagoon dwellers to the greatest power in the Mediterranean – an epic five hundred year voyage that encompassed crusade and trade, plague, sea battles and colonial adventure. [Goodreads]

Fiction: Death at La Fenice: A Novel of Suspense by Donna Leon

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There is little violent crime in Venice, a serenely beautiful floating city of mystery and magic, history and decay. But the evil that does occasionally rear its head is the jurisdiction of Guido Brunetti, the suave, urbane vice-commissario of police and a genius at detection. Now all of his admirable abilities must come into play in the deadly affair of Maestro Helmut Wellauer, a world-renowned conductor who died painfully from cyanide poisoning during an intermission at La Fenice. [Goodreads]

1306 Robert the Bruce Becomes King of Scotland

Robert crowned king at Scone after murdering his main rival John Comyn. He would spend much of the rest of his life fighting King Edward II and his son to hang on to the crown of Scotland.

Non-Fiction: Scotland: History of a Nation by David Ross

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This original and immensely readable history charts the long, painful, sometimes tragic, often inspiring process that has formed the Scottish people of today. It reveals how the Scots’ sense of nationhood has always been under test and how that pressure has shaped the ways in which they see themselves and are seen by others. [Goodreads]

Fiction: The Great Scot: A Vivid Tale of Robert the Bruce, Scotland’s Legendary Warrior King by Duncan A. Bruce

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The Great Scot is a novel filled with valor, treachery, passionate love, journeys great and small, and people of every rank and situation-all from the pages of Scottish history. [Goodreads]

1807 The Slave Trade Act Becomes Law and Makes the Slave Trade Illegal in the British Empire

With England’s sea power this law effectively ended the Atlantic Slave Trade. It did not however make slavery illegal in the British Empire. That would not happen until the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833.

Non-Fiction:The Slave Trade: The Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1440-1870 by Hugh Thomas

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Hugh Thomas’s achievement is not only to present a compelling history of the time but to answer as well such controversial questions as who the traders were, the extent of the profits, and why so many African rulers and peoples willingly collaborated. Thomas also movingly describes such accounts as are available from the slaves themselves. [Goodreads]

Fiction: A Respectable Trade by Philippa Gregory.

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Marriage to Frances Scott is a mutually convenient solution. Trading her social contacts for Josiah’s protection, Frances finds her life and fortune dependent on the respectable trade of sugar, rum, and slaves. [Goodreads]

1931 The Scottsboro Boys are Arrested for Rape in Alabama

Scottsboro Boys was the name given to 9 African American boys arrested for raping two white women. One of the women later recanted however the boys were all convicted of rape and sentenced to death. A long series of appeals to the state and federal Supreme Courts ensued. It is widely considered a case of extreme racism, injustice and a focal point of the early Civil Rights movement.

Non-Fiction:The Scottsboro Boys in Their Own Words: Selected Letters, 1931-1950 by edited by Kwando M. Kinshasa.

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This is a collection of letters written by nine African American defendants in the infamous March 1931 Scottsboro, Alabama, rape case. Though most of the defendants were barely literate and all were teenagers when incarcerated, over the course of almost two decades they learned the rudiments of effective letter writing and in doing so forcefully expressed a wide range of perspectives on the falsity of the charges against them. [Goodreads]

Fiction: Scottsboro: A Novel by Ellen Feldman

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Intertwining historical actors and fictional characters, stirring racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism into an explosive brew, Scottsboro is a novel of a shocking injustice that convulsed the nation and reverberated around the world, destroyed lives, forged careers, and brought out the worst and the best in the men and women who fought for the cause. [Goodreads]

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