History Suggestions for Excellence in Literature

History options that fit well with Excellence in Literature

Many books and programs work well with EIL, but I’ll list a few resources I have used or carefully examined, with comments on each. This is by no means a complete listing, and I will continue to add to it as I discover or remember helpful resources (if you have a suggestion, feel free to leave a comment below). In addition to the resources below, our family used many of the Sunlight Curriculum books as a starting point for history. I did not use the teacher guides, but paired it with my own Excellence in Literature style of teaching (we weren’t using the official EIL curriculum then — I was just writing, teaching, and testing the format at that time). 

No matter what history text you choose for middle school and high school, I recommend keeping a timeline as you study through the ages. It is also helpful to read well-written biographies and historical fiction to get a fuller picture of a historical period. Here is a list to help you get started: Historical Fiction: A List of Favorites.


History options for students of Excellence in Literature curriculum.

History is a fascinating story, and when it’s presented with the literature, art, and music from Excellence in Literature, it comes to life. Enjoy!

Western Civilization by Jackson J. Spielvogel

We used and loved this college text, and it goes especially well with the British and World Literature levels. Spielvogel’s chronological narrative reads like a story, and includes excerpts from source documents, maps, timelines, and art. It covers political, economic, social, religious, intellectual, cultural, and military aspects of history in a memorable way. It’s a sturdy hardcover, thus expensive, but you don’t need the newest edition and it usually resells well. Secular.

 The Landmark History of the American People from Plymouth to the Moon by Daniel J. and Ruth F. Boorstin

We found this book through Sonlight.com, and it was so well told we read the entire book aloud. Amazon seems to stock only used copies, but Sonlight still has it.

My oldest son (B.A. in history) also liked A Patriot’s History of the United States: From Columbus’s Great Discovery to the War on Terror
 and Winston Churchill’s A History of the English-Speaking Peoples which is useful for both British and American History (the title link is to the one-volume abridged version, but the four-volume original is good too).

The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome by Susan Wise Bauer

Bauer has written a series of compelling texts that, in the publisher’s words, “tells the stories of all peoples, connecting historical events from Europe to the Middle East to the far coast of China, while still giving weight to the characteristics of each country . . .” Dozens of maps provide a clear geography of great events, while timelines give the reader an ongoing sense of the passage of years and cultural interconnection. This narrative history employs the methods of “history from beneath”—literature, epic traditions, private letters and accounts—to connect kings and leaders with the lives of those they ruled.” Sadly, Bauer’s history books were published after our boys graduated, so they did not get to use them. I’m going to keep them on hand for my grandchildren, though! These would be excellent to use as a history spine with the EIL curriculum. I respect Bauer’s outstanding scholarship, and enjoy her narrative style. She writes for a general audience, so the books are useable by secular and Christian (both Catholic and Protestant) audiences. Also available as an audiobook. This is challenging, but worth it.

The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade by Susan Wise Bauer

From the publisher’s description: A masterful narrative of the Middle Ages, when religion became a weapon for kings all over the world. In her earlier work, The History of the Ancient World, Susan Wise Bauer wrote of the rise of kingship based on might. But in the years between the fourth and the twelfth centuries, rulers had to find new justification for their power, and they turned to divine truth or grace to justify political and military action. Right thus replaced might as the engine of empire.” Also available as an audiobook. This is challenging, but worth it.

The History of the Renaissance World: From the Rediscovery of Aristotle to the Conquest of Constantinople by Susan Wise Bauer

I haven’t yet seen this one, but Publisher’s Weekly says, “Beginning with the 12th-century rise of the Plantagenets in England and ending with the 1453 Ottoman overthrow of the Byzantine Empire, Bauer ranges far and wide, touching on everything from the gruesome murder of the Archbishop of Canterbury; the ascendancy of the first king of the Incan Empire; the terrorization of the Asian Steppe by Mongol hordes; the relocation of the papacy from Rome to Avignon; the birth of the Inquisition in Toulouse, France; the beginnings of the African slave trade; and the bubonic plague’s decimating sweep across Europe. In five sections (Renaissances; Invasions, Heresies, and Uprisings; Catastrophes; Regroupings; and Endings), Bauer covers a bewildering amount of territory . . .” This is challenging, but worth it. Also available as an audiobook.

History Revealed: Ancient History, Middle Ages, and Modern History by Diana Waring

The History Revealed history curriculum by Diana Waring is a thoughtfully designed program that fits well with Excellence in Literature. Students may cycle through Ancient History, Middle Ages, and Modern History, using a unit study approach with suggestions for different learning styles/preferences. Waring’s approach is conversational and interesting. According to the website, “Each historical period is divided into 9 units. Each unit is design in a 4-week cycle. All 9 units can be covered in a typical 36-week school year. After covering all three historical periods, families can dig deeper into some or all of the eras for further study.” Protestant perspective.

Connecting With History: World History from a Catholic Perspective by Sonya RomensConnecting With History: World History from a Catholic Perspective by Sonya Romens

I have not personally reviewed this chronological series, but my friend and trusted reviewer Cathy Duffy has given it high marks, even including it in her Top Picks. She writes, “It is a four-volume unit study designed for teaching children in kindergarten through twelfth grade together, but it also has charts with lesson plans so that you can teach each child at his or her own level. It uses a classical education approach, focusing on the humanities and using real books with lots of reading and writing.” Cathy has seen and reviewed just about every curriculum published over the past four decades or so, and I trust her judgment.

American History: Observations & Assessments from Early Settlement to Today by Dr. James Stobaugh

This one-volume history begins before the birth of our republic and covers the principles of liberty, American history trends, philosophies, and events from a Protestant worldview. Easy to use; optional American History – Teacher Guide available.

British History: Observations & Assessments from Early Cultures to Today by Dr. James Stobaugh

This one-volume text explores British history from the Anglo-Saxon invasions to the end of an empire, with attention to British history trends, philosophies, and major events, all from a Protestant worldview. Easy to use; optional British History – Teacher guide

World History: Observations & Assessments from Creation to Today by Dr. James Stobaugh

This world history overview is designed to help students develop a Protestant Christian worldview while glancing at world history trends, philosophies, and events. Because it is impossible to thoroughly cover this span of history in one short book, this may be best used as a supplement if you wish to add a specifically Protestant perspective to Spielvogel’s Western Civilization. Easy to use; optional World History – Teacher guide available.


We have additional resources on this site to help you with history study. Many are linked to specific modules in the Study Guide Links pages, but here are a few more.

Steven Kreis History Guide Index

Outline of U.S. History: A Free Text

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