I’m not a big history buff. I can’t remember dates very well and I think most history is skewed to the European male version which leaves out a lot, and to me makes it mostly boring. But recently I stumbled across Eyewitness to History, a website which covers the ancient world all the way through modern day by posting eyewitness accounts of historical events.
Basically, history as told by the people who were there. Another plus is the accounts are relatively short and easy to read.
Here is an excerpt from Seneca watching the Gladiators:
The other day, I chanced to drop in at the midday games, expecting sport and wit and some relaxation to rest men’s eyes from the sight of human blood. Just the opposite was the case. Any fighting before that was as nothing; all trifles were now put aside – it was plain butchery.
An excerpt from the Fire of London, 1666:
…all over the Thames, with one’s face in the wind you were almost burned with a shower of Firedrops – this is very true – so as houses were burned by these drops and flakes of fire, three or four, nay five or six houses, one from another. When we could endure no more upon the water, we to a little alehouse on the Bankside over against the Three Cranes, and there stayed till it was dark almost and saw the fire grow; and as it grow darker, appeared more and more, and, in Corners and upon steeples and between churches and houses, as far as we could see up the hill of the city, in a most horrid malicious bloody flame, not like the fine flame of an ordinary fire.
Here is an excerpt by Ascanio Condivi, who was one of Michelangelo’s students, on Michelango’s painting of the Sistene Chapel:
For this work and for all his expenses, Michelangelo received three thousand ducats, of which he was obliged to spend about twenty or twenty-five on colors, according to what I have heard him say. After he had accomplished this work, because he had spent such a long time painting with his eyes looking up at the vault, Michelangelo then could not see much when he looked down; so that, if he had to read a letter or other detailed things, he had to hold them with his arms up over his head. Nonetheless, after a while, he gradually grew accustomed to reading again with his eyes looking down. From this we may conceive how great were the attention and diligence with which he did this work.
There are tons more entries if this sort of thing interests you.