You can’t argue with someone’s personal story. You can’t deny what they saw. Oh, you can dislike it, or wish it weren’t so, or even disbelieve it. But firsthand accounts and eyewitnesses to history are the foundation that our civilization rests on. There are hundreds, no thousands, of books that tell about events major and minor throughout history and around the world, and you’d be wise to collect them in print. Here is a short list of 40 firsthand accounts that everyone should own. Okay, actually there are 42.
These are mostly about American history and western civilization. They have usually been corroborated by multiple other witnesses to their events (though not always). But they tell the human stories of the wars, the nations, the movements, and the discoveries of the human race.
And they deserve a place in your home library. Why? Because many of these have been “re-imagined” in history textbooks, school classrooms, university lectures, and internet searches. Too often, modern historians want to give their opinion of people and events in history. You know, opinions are interesting, but the journals are a thousand times better.
In this list you’ll find everything from American pioneers to Viking invasions; American Indian attacks to slave narratives. You’ll read about things you are proud of and things you wish had not taken place. Because history isn’t right or wrong: it’s a continuous story of people and the things they do. And sometimes those things are noble and sometimes they are embarrassing. But they happened, and we need to remember that they did.
Journals and First-Hand Accounts
- Anglo Saxon Chronicle
- Ecclesiastical History of the English People by Bede
- The Four Voyages: Being His Own Log-Book, Letters and Dispatches with Connecting Narratives by Christopher Columbus, J. M. Cohen
- Of Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford
- Mourt’s Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth by Anonymous, Dwight Heath
- The Sovereignty and Goodness of God: with Related Documents by Mary Rowlandson, Neal Salisbury
- Thirty One Years on the Plains and in the Mountains
- Life of Black Hawk, or Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak: Dictated by Himself by Black Hawk
- Letters From an American Farmer and Sketches of Eighteenth Century America by J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur
- A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
- George Washington, Writings
- Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
- Private Papers of William Wilberforce by A. M. Wilberforce
- The Journals of Lewis and Clark
- The Narrative of Cabeza de Vaca by Alvar Nunez Cabeza De Vaca, Rolena Adorno
- Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville
- King of the Wild Frontier: An Autobiography by Davy Crockett
- A Tour on the Prairies by Washington Irving
- Phillis Wheatley: Complete Writings
- I Rode With Stonewall: Henry Kidd Douglas
- Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs
- Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglass
- Infantryman Pettit: The Civil War Letters of Corporal Frederick Pettit
- The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman
- Mary Chesnut’s Civil War by Mary Chesnut, C. Vann Woodward
- All for the Union: The Civil War Diary & Letters of Elisha Hunt Rhodes by Elisha Hunt Rhodes, Robert Hunt Rhodes
- Last of the Desert Frontiersmen by Jack Longstreet
- Women’s Diaries of the Westward Journey
- Mollie: The Journal of Mollie Dorsey Sanford in Nebraska and Colorado Territories 1857-1866
- Pioneer Women: Voices from the Kansas Frontier by Joanna L. Stratton
- Ranch on the Ruidoso: The Story of a Pioneer Family in New Mexico, 1871-1968
- My Friend Doc Holliday by Wyatt Earp
- Grace McBride: Missionary Nurse by Lila Watson
- All in a Lifetime by Frank Buck
- The Story of My Experiments with Truth by Mahatma Gandhi
- Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell
- Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov
- The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien by J. R. R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien
- Pioneer Girl by Laura Ingalls Wilder
- The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom
- The Diary of Anne Frank
- God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew
NEW! The Knowledge Keepers Home Library Series
In 2020 I began doing something I’ve thought about for many years: bringing old, important, out-of-print history books back to print for 21st century readers. These are what I consider to be the most important kind of history books, just like in the list above. They are available to purchase here on Knowledge Keepers as well as Amazon.
I hope you’ll begin to stock these accounts (and many others) in your home library. Invest in an extra bookcase, stack them against the wall, and by all means READ THEM. Become a Knowledge Keeper and help preserve the history of the human race.
Knowledge Keepers has two types of inventory:
- Physical books that we sell secondhand
- Amazon affiliate links
When you purchase through the Knowledge Keepers affiliate link, we receive a small commission from your purchase. It’s our way of recommending great books for your home library when we don’t have them in inventory.