8 great books to get your children and grandchildren excited about history

3 min read

Historical fiction opens an exciting window into our complex past. It allows children to identify with events that are often too far removed from their own experience to fully understand. 

Stories put young readers at the centre of the action, broadening their understanding through relatable experiences. This particular list of classic novels will encourage young readers to feel excited about the past and explore history for themselves.

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On the Field of Waterloo, Captain F. S. Brereton (1915)

On the Field of Waterloo, Captain F. S. Brereton Country House Library

This beautifully illustrated volume is a fascinating read. It is an enthralling and visually captivating story, perfect for children curious to learn more about the British Empire. 

Filled with adventure and heroism, it takes the reader on a journey back in time. War and peace, empire and glory all weave their way into the plot to create an intriguing historical tale.  

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Stories of King Arthur and His Knights, U. Waldo Cutler (1907)

Stories of King Arthur and His Knights, U. Waldo Cutler (1907) Country House Library

Arthurian legend has been threaded through many written works for centuries. This collection, a re-telling of theMorte D’Arthur, provides a wonderful insight into an imaginative history of the Breton King.

Re-imagined in different countries and across the centuries, the Arthur tales have been passed from generation to generation. Cutler’s writing will captivate young readers, especially those who love tales of knighthood, chivalry, fantasy, and myth.

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A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens (1843)

A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens (1843) Country House Library

Loved by readers for decades,A Christmas Carolhas made its name as a heartwarming classic. Filled with Victorian Christmas traditions, family festivities and ghostly encounters, it is the perfect introduction to Dickens. 

While raw and realistic at times, the story comes alive with warmth and entertainment. It captures the trials of poverty and factory labour but also bears a strong message of transformation and optimism. 

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Smith, Leon Garfield (1967)

Smith, Leon Garfield (1967) Country House Library
Set in Victorian London, Smith mirrors the atmospheres and contexts made popular by Charles Dickens in his famous works. The story follows the adventures of Smith, a young pick-pocket whose habits lead to an unexpected change of circumstances. 

Reminiscent of Oliver Twist, the book is filled with thrilling adventures and betrayal. It offers a glimpse of 18th Century London, a slice of realism with an underlying moral thread. Gripping and mysterious, it is ideal for children interested in English history. 

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The Cat of Bubastes, G. A. Henty (1889)

The Cat of Bubastes G. A. Henty (1889) Country House Library

In Egypt, in the year 1250 BC, a young prince becomes a slave and a fugitive after the accidental killing of a sacred cat. 

The Cat of Bubastes transports the reader to an ancient world. Filled with stunning illustrations, it vividly explores the lives and customs of the ancient egyptians. With its thrilling sense of adventure, it hooks readers in from the start. 

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Masterman Ready, Captain Marryat (1841)

Masterman Ready, Captain Marryat (1841) Country House Library

Masterman Ready may resonate with those who have read and lovedA Swiss Family Robinson andTreasure Island. It is a tale of shipwreck, danger, and survival, bound by a strong tone of optimism. 

Marooned on a desert island, the Seagrave family fight for their survival with the aid of veteran sailor, Masterman Ready. Their story is intriguing and draws readers into a spirited and hazardous adventure. 

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Arabian Nights Entertainment Hon. Mrs Sudgen (1884) 

Arabian Nights Entertainment Hon. Mrs Sudgen Country House Library

More commonly titledOne Thousand and One Nights, these collected tales explore a fascinating world of Middle Eastern folklore traditions. Redesigned for juvenile readers, they bring many myths and magical tales to life. 

First collected in the Islamic Golden age, these stories have been retold countless times. 

Romances, tragedies and comedies, bound together by folklore and oriental history. The tales are bewitching, stories within stories of trials, friendship and adventures.  

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Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain (1876)

Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain Country House Library

A well-known classic,Tom Sawyeris a remarkable novel. Filled with humour, adventure and historical poignancy, it can be enjoyed by children and adults alike. 

Set in Twain’s own boyhood home of Hannibal, Missouri, it follows the exploits of a mischievous schoolboy, Tom Sawyer. The story provides a nostalgic insight into American history and has captivated readers of all ages for decades.  

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