Top 10 Gifts for Historians this Christmas


Whether you're struggling to find that thoughtful stocking filler for your history housemate or that perfect mind-blowing gift for your historian -loved one, struggle no longer for here at History and the Sock Merchant I have compiled the top 10 best modern-history related gifts available out there this Christmas. 

10: English Heritage Plum and Date chutney

A preserve which every historian should enjoy with their leisurely scholarly breakfasts with hot buttered toast and chunky marmalade, or perhaps in the afternoon with a pint of ale accompanied by a plate of farmhouse cheese and a spoonful of spicy chutney, - images that bring to mind times of a historians well earned rest and comfort.  Cooked in open pans, these chutneys are made from top quality seasonal fruits, vegetables and spices. For those historians who enjoy cooking try adding some English Heritage Sweet Plum & Date Chutney to a Moroccan Tagine for a fruity flavour or use to glaze a gammon joint.


9: Family History Gift Box

This gift box is perfect for the amateur historian, it allows the recipient to discover the history of their family surname and their family tree. The gift box will include a welcome letter plus explanation of your gift, a 'tracing your family history' booklet', information on the introduction of surnames, more about the origins of surnames, a blank family tree and personalisation pen all presented in a luxury metal gift tin. After registration you will receive an ornate printed certificate detailing the history behind your chosen surname.


8: History Chess Set 

The history of the last century has often been compared to a chess game, with political systems, brands, and artistic movements jousting for world dominance.  Each figure in this monumental chess set alludes to a particular icon of the century’s troubled history, from the sinking Titanic to the scarred towers of the World Trade Centre. New York designers Boym Partners have created History Chess, a wooden chess set with 32 unique carved figures, each representing a historic moment or icon from the last century.


7: Twinings Tea History Hamper 

Any historian that does not like drinking tea will never be able to produce the same quality of research as the ones who do. If you don't know what to get your historian friend and they don't drink tea then this is not only your answer, but an investment in their career.  The Twinings Tea History Hamper, comes with two large boxes of 1706 Twinings tea and their English Breakfast tea, a London Pottery china white teapot and a pair of Twinings History mugs in bone china. All of which come in a large 18" luxury willow hamper -ideal for extra book storage when the tea has been drunk.


6 Mao's Great Famine

If there was one book I had to recommend as a gift to someone interested in history this year its Mao's Great Famine. I reviewed it earlier this year at History and the Sock Merchant and found it to be a masterpiece of historical investigation. Frank Dikotter’s chronicle of how Mao's regime killed at least 45 million people in what he calls the greatest man-made famine the world has seen, will go a long way to ensuring that no one will have any more excuses for modish Maoism.



5: Gold Abacus 

Nothing screams of high-intellectual humanities standards quite like a well placed shiny ornament.  This ancient abacus is recreated as a stunning functional masterpiece of ingenuity and artistry. It bears the sculptures of the royal Koi, fish prized for their beauty, revered for their long lives and lovingly cared for in the moats and garden pools of the Forbidden Palace of China. Fitted with red counting beads and plated with 24-karat gold, this is a fascinating and refined historic statement for the home study or campus office. 5 inches in height.


4: Vintage Bookends

Every good historian has far too many books and the best kind of storage for a historians books is storage that makes them look like they have even more books!  These beautifully crafted resin bookends, are designed to fit in seamlessly onto a  bookshelf or desk (or maybe even the top of a kitchen cabinet if you know the same historians I do).


3: Napoleon in Europe

The historic board game to end all historic board games, Napoleon in Europe with its giant game board combines elements of economy, politics, and military into victory. Having played this a as a student many times I can tell you, be prepared for many all-nighters.
There are seven major nations to play as in: France, Great Britain, Russia, Austria, Prussia, Spain, and the Ottoman Empire. When games are played, most of the time each country is given (in relative terms) the amount of troops it had historically. So France and Russia vastly outnumber the forces of second-stringer powers like the Ottomans. Game play is similar to Risk, at least at the very bare bones. Each player has their own designated turn where they move, and then fight any combats that result from it. But there, the similarities end. Rather than randomly roll huge fistfuls of dice as Risk players do, fighting troops are transferred over to another, smaller board that simulates a battlefield, allowing for the game to be played on both a tactical and strategic level.
Noteworthy to mention are Political Action Points (PAPs). Unlike in other strategy games where one can randomly declare alliances and war, PAPs are a system that prevents such a thing from happening so easily. It costs one to do things like establish alliances, declare war, sue for peace, or even something as simple as annexing new territories into your empire. It also makes it harder for one to backstab an ally or declare war randomly, making for more historically accurate game play.


2: Indiana Jones Hat

Forget the tacky replicas from the Universal Studios gift shop, this is the real thing for the discerning travelling gentleman historian. One rather uneventful afternoon in 1980, two American gentlemen came in to Swaine Adeney Brigg at 13 Old Burlington Street, London. They introduced themselves as Mr. Harrison Ford and Mr. Steven Spielberg. Little did we envision that the following conversation involving hats was going to produce the Indy Hat: one of the most instantly recognisable and iconic pieces of headwear. Each Indiana Jones hat is carefully cut by hand, using the original patterns. Each size is ever so slightly tailored to keep the hat in proportion to the wearer's hat size and each Indy hat is hand-rubbed to give it its unique shape.


1: Downton Abbey Series 1 & 2 Box Set

You simply can't go wrong, unless they already have one. Downton Abbey is already close to an institution as the most popular costume drama for about 30 years. So far we have two series, with a third promised which will take us up to the 1920s with doubtless more to come. This DVD set covers the first two series, with 15 episodes, 7 from the first series and 8 from the second.

The first series covered the period from 1912, just after the sinking of the Titanic, up to the start of the first world war in 1914 and much of the story line is about the matchmaking within the Crawley family where financial and social influences have a major bearing. Of course the interaction between the family and those who serve them `below stairs' is a continual contributor to the excellent story lines. The second series picks up two years on from the first series in 1916, in the middle of World War 1. Downton Abbey has been converted into a convalescent home for injured servicemen and the action covers the period from the Battle of the Somme up to the end of the war. In both series topical events of the period, political, economic and military are covered.

Have a very Merry Christmas everybody!