Exploring History from National Geographic

Randall Stephens

National Geographic has rolled out a new magazine, Exploring History, which promises readable and easily accessible essays and features on ancient to modern topics. The magazine has the polish of History Today, though it does not include the range of historians that HT does so well.

The first installment includes a cover story on Abraham Lincoln that delves into that giant's political career and his inner world. K. M. Kostyal presents the man who would become the 16th president as a contrarian:

Growing up in a land of hunters, he spurned hunting; in a land of overt religiosity, he was a skeptic and kept his beliefs private, in a frontier society preoccupied with physical labor, he disdained it, in an environment indifferent to education, he had a passion for learning; raised by farmers, he left the farm; in a rough-cut male culture, he didn't smoke, chew, curse, gamble, or drink; surrounded by slavery sympathizers, he opposed it.

Kostyal draws on the work of scholars and uses firsthand sources throughout and asks "What propelled Abe Lincoln from the obscurity of frontier life to leading the nation, and becoming the most written about president of the United States?" Like other articles in this inaugural issue, this piece could be used for undergrads in a history survey.

The Fall 2011 issue also includes essays on "Rome's War Machine," "The Rise and Fall of Moctezuma," "Joan of Arc--Beyond Belief," and "Birth of the Pyramids." Editor Anne Alexander writes "Just as National Geographic has been revealing the wonders of the world to readers for more than a century, this magazine will dig deep to unlock the mysteries of time, from the dawn of civilization to the modern era."

Richly illustrated and laid out with clean precision, Exploring History is a must have for history buffs, general enthusiasts, teachers, and professional historians.