I’m currently reading William H. Prescott’s outstanding History of the Conquest of Mexico. The book was written in 1843, which made me realize that - excerpts from Tacitus and Herodotus notwithstanding - I’ve almost never read histories or biographies that were written more than fifty or sixty years ago.
I’m not sure why: I read fiction from all different eras. Is this true for anyone else? Does older non-fiction go out of style because new research is thought to supplant it? That must be part of the story, but it’s not the best excuse: I started at least two modern books about the conquistadors but gave up due to poor writing. Prescott’s writing, on the other hand, is excellent, and I’ll gladly take his pacing and prose over a more up-to-date author’s.
So what other classic works of history/biography should I be aware of? (I’m arbitrarily picking pre-1930 as the definition of “classic”.) Gibbon I know about, but I’m not quite ready to tackle the complete “Decline and Fall”. Other suggestions?