So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Age Of Revolution

The Age Of Revolution is volume seven of a ten volume series called The Illustrated History of the World which is based on Roberts' 1993 History of the World. The first volume covered the origins of the human race through the first civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt. The second volume in the series reviewed the early cultures of India and China and then moved on to discuss Greek civilization. The third volume covered the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, from 800 BCE to 600 CE. The fourth volume surveyed the rise of Islam, the Arab empires, the decline of the Byzantine Empire, and the beginnings of modern Europe. The fifth volume offered a first look at Japanese, African, and American cultures and also brings the stories of India, China, and Europe up to the 18th century. The sixth volume looked at the forces that formed the modern face of Europe and colonialism's effects on the whole world. This seventh volume is focused on Europe and North America. It starts with the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, and Urbanization. Then it explores the French and American Revolutions, the Napoleonic reforms, and the nationalist revolutions of the mid-Nineteenth Century, and ends with the US Civil War and British political reform. Sadly, the rest of the world is left out, and no mention is given to the great struggle for women's rights. This is a book filled with beautiful color illustrations. Every page has at least one and most are photographs of artifacts, art works, or scenes. The text is well written and emphasizes brief summaries rather than scholarly examination. This makes it a good basic introduction and outline, but may be less useful to someone who wants to look at these subjects in greater depth. The lack of any bibliography of further readings is also a drawback for those wanting to seek more information. A two-page time chart of the period helps to put events in perspective. The chapter contents are confusingly placed at the end of the book, but they are well done and helpful for getting an overview of the author's approach. A two page listing of all the books in the series with their section and chapter titles helps to put the material into the broader view of all world history. All in all this is a great brief introduction to European and American 18th and 19th century history. However the emphasis is decidedly European and white male. The type face is large and the lines are amply spaced. Couple this with the copious illustrations and the book is actually a very quick read for its size and length. It is a few steps above the approach of Dorling Kindersley books that are predominately illustrations with supporting text. With Roberts, the text is the major part, but the illustrations are definitely more than an after thought. This is a good introduction for the general reader. It is not going to be a lasting reference book that you will turn to again and again.


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