Free History Textbooks

It’s truly a shame how many history textbooks and “teachers” turn the subject into a game of trivia rather than an exploration of significant events of the past and how they shaped the future. A part-time history professor, who taught a single course each year and was a lawyer the rest of the year, was the one who finally made history something more than memorizing names, places and chronologies. He required us to “define and give the significance” of each event. That not-so-subtle change from tell me what happened to how did the event change things finally made history come alive and made it far more interesting.

I found by simply trying to answer “Why was this important?” made it so much easier to remember who the important players were, when the event happened and how the event changed things. It made my history exam scores go up and it helped me to become a better decision maker.

Rewriting History Textbooks

This is one of those textbook categories that I hesitated on adding to The Free Textbook List. So much of our history is being re-written to match political agendas and other such nonsense. Too many of today’s history textbooks use adjectives to insert the opinion of the author about an event or person instead of simply chronically why they are remembered.

I would strongly urge history students to seek out sites like and others that share ‘vintage’ works for source materials. First person accounts and those early public domain history textbooks offer students a wealth of information that many of today’s history textbooks either don’t have the room to cover or opt not to share.

I am a firm believer that students should be presented with a topic and encouraged to decide for themselves how they feel about the event or people involved. The free online history textbooks that I am recommending here will be those that tell the story without adding an excessive amount of editorialized content.

List of Free History Textbooks

A History of the People of the United States of America to 1877

Written by: Catherine Locks (Fort Valley State University), Sarah Mergel (Dalton State College), Pamela Roseman (Georgia Perimeter College) and Tamara Spike (University of North Georgia).

The title says it all on this free early American History Textbook – History in the Making: A History of the People of the Untied States of America to 1877.

American History

Written by: The Independence Hall Association

An American History website and textbook in one. was created by the Independence Hall Association in Philadelphia. Students can learn American History from the eve of British colonization until the end of the 20th century. It’s a huge work and one that, I think, suffers slightly from an attempt to cover it all in […]

Germany and Europe (1871-1945)

Written by: Raffael Scheck (Colby College)

This history textbook explores how the founding of the German Empire in 1871 became the defining moment in German and European history that led to World War I and World War II.

World Constitutions

Research the constitutions of the world (active and being drafted) to learn more about how each country has formed their government.

World History

Written by: Philip Parker

This is a wonderful and concise chronical of world history full of wonderful photographs and illustrations. While too brief to truly be a textbook, it provides an almost Atlas-like telling of human endeavors. Would make an excellent addition to any homeschool or student library.

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