It appears that A History of Hand Knitting is out of print again, which is a shame.
This extensive book, written by Richard Rutt, provides a nice overview of actual history and some lore, starting with what preceeded knitting (nalbinding and other techniques that aren't quite the same), moving into actual knitting, and on up to about 1985.
If you can get your hands on a copy, you should, even if you aren't an avid historian. It's really fun to see a copy of the world's oldest extant knitting pattern, read about how the Crimean War affected knitting, and see an incredible knitted lace dress from around 1960.
Rutt wasn't writing for an audience of historians, but a bunch of knitters. His tone is friendly and warm. The historical glossary of knitting terms renders up jewels like "arrasene," "back bar," and "moggin."
Rutt's list of English Knitting Literature used to bring me to my knees with envy, but his collection is available online, now. So, Mrs. Gaugain can confuse the dickens out of me, anytime I like.