Suggestions for a History Text Book Needed Please

My son has just started in 5eme and like other children in France is using new text books this year. During the weekend he was struggling with an essay for History homework and asked for my help. Of course I was schooled in Britain and, having learnt history from a different perspective, quickly realised I didn’t know anything about the subject in question. No problem, I thought and grabbed the text book. Honestly that didn’t help and I had to resort to researching the topic online which was time consuming and not terribly helpful. In addition, given that History isn’t my son’s favourite subject, it did not provoke anything other than frowning and sighing in my son and just confirmed his idea that History is boring! It was the same last year: the text book presents events in history as snapshots drawing on old artwork, artifacts or writings. What would be much more useful would be a fuller account of the events in chronological order. Can anyone recommend a text book that delivers the information in such a way? Failing that a website? I really don’t like having to draw from Wikipedia if I can help it but many of the sites resulting from our searches were far too highbrow for a 5eme student. It’s a shame to kick off history in the new school year in such a negative way.

@cat any suggestions?

I really recommend the Horrible Histories series - they are factual, fun and readable by age 8/ 10 onwards. My nearly 15 year old (at lycee)still enjoys them and he’s learnt a lot over the years and loves history as a result. They are quite gory and as such are very good for engaging teenage boys. Hope this helps!

Hiya Catharine

Thanks that’s great advice and yes we have them and love them. We were big fans of the TV show too and as a result my son can tell you all about Britain’s King Georges (which one was German, bad, mad or fat) but I was really after a book that follows the history syllabus here in France. I don’t have the text book he’s using to hand (he has history today) but they kicked off with the fall of the Roman Empire and establishment of Byzantine and Carolingien Empires…

Well a very nice book (albeit written in 1936) is Ernst Gombrich’s Little History of the World, then there’s anything and everything written by Barbara Tuchman, all her books are wonderful, there’s a nice book called Blood Bones and Bastards by I can’t remember who, but it is very Anglocentric, Steven Runciman’s History of the Crusades is fantastic, all three volumes of it, Alison Weir’s history books are splendid (history not historical fiction), and you are never too young to read Eric Hobsbawm, whatever people may say.


I suppose it depends reallynon how keen a reader he is, my daughters have loved all of these.

Hi Katherine, Why don’t you ask his History teacher ? He might give you an advice.
Regarding the courses themselves, there is a big debate in France about what to teach. Some would like to focus on the French History and others are pushing for a less Gallic approach, considering the diversity of the ethnic origins of their students.
So don’t look surprized when your son will ask you about the African kingdoms of the XVI° century. I experienced that…
I am not against the idea of a global history but when the students cannot refer to a well mastered chronology of their own cultural area, this is shere nonsense and can only bring confusion.

Sorry for this long post but History is always a hot issue in France.

Kind regards,



Thanks for the suggestions, I’ll have a look at them.

Hi Christian, Well quite! That’s exactly my problem – I’m not against the syllabus but I am struggling with a reference book that’s doesn’t give all the information required. I’ll talk to the history teacher, that’s a good idea thanks.