History’s Most Influential History Book

Since our previous history-themed game was such a success, we at the Hysterical Society thought we would try another one. This time to identify history’s most influential history book.

Yes, there are a lot of possibilities.

To help narrow things down a bit the rules, which we’ve just made up, state the book:

  • Must be written using a mix of primary and secondary sources and comparative or contextual methods (which is why books of collected and altered oral histories like The Bible and The Iliad are right out).
  • Is to be judged by its influence, not it’s accuracy.
  • National influence is good, international is better.
  • Should shape and/or capture the views of both the academy and the general public.
  • May approach prehistory and history through any field – including, but not limited to, archeology, anthropology, material culture, art history, music history, or any other recognized flavor of history.

Please leave your nominee(s) in the comments section. So…

What Is History’s

Most Influential History Book?


Warning: Below Is Our Nominee. Feel Free To Skip Over This Until After You’ve Answered.

(ok, so it’s not in the comments. It’s our site, we can do what we want)




We would like to nominate a history-related book which has inspired documentaries, movies, television shows, music, video games, and other books, as well as brought the author over 46 years of continued international attention. It’s motivated millions of non-specialists around the world to read classic texts or ponder ancient art and architecture. Amazon and other review sites have called it a “classic,” “required reading,” “clever,” “stimulating,” and “entertaining.”(1)

We refer, of course, to:

Click image for more.

That’s right, the book that says earlier humans were too dumb to make anything more complex than a mess, so extraterrestrials had to show us how to do everything. While its claims may range from the dubious to the spurious, the book has been translated into over 30 languages and has inspired dozens of works of art, history, science, and entertainment, including the Battlestar Galactica franchise, the Stargate franchise, Ancient Aliens, the 2012 film Prometheus, two documentaries, several follow-ups, a rebuttal, at least one scientist’s support,  and a long-ish Wikipedia page.

Sure it’s flawed and not a little ridiculous, but it’s gotten more people to engage with the past in more ways than any other book we can think of.


1. The same sites have also called it “rubbish,” “pop history,” “fringe history,” “dangerous,” “pseudoscience,” and “pseudoarcheology.”


About T.H. Gray

T.H. Gray is the self-appointed court jester and Dr. Demento for the history museum field. A lifelong museum professional and reenactor, he is a graduate of the prestigious Peale-Barnum Public History Museum Studies Program. Until 2011, when the AHS hired him away, he was on staff at the Benjamin Dover Memorial Museum & Swimming Pool ("Our History is All Wet!"). He remembers when museums were still about history, science, and art. BTW, all of these posts say they are by T.H. Gray because he can't turn off the byline. Credit, when due, is given. View all posts by T.H. Gray

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