Felipe Fernandez-Armesto. The World: A History.
The author, about whom there is a fine bit of biographical background on page xlii, explains in his introduction to the text that "History is stories" and reminds his readers that "History isn't over." On that same page he attracts his readers by stating that "a textbook can be entertaining, even amusing, as well as instructive and accessible; challenging without being hostile; friendly." Dr. Fernandez-Armesto breaks his textbook down into ten parts and thirty chapters. In each part he makes a successful effort to stay true to the title of his book, so that the various parts of the world are included in almost every chapter. On page 355, for example, he begins a discussion of "Eurasia's Extremities Japan and Western Europe." To accommodate this approach he places emphasis upon trends and inter-relationships far more than on individuals; such persons as Julius Caesar and Lord Nelson, for example, receive little or no coverage, and for whatever reason, my favorites, the Aramaeans, make no appearance.
The book is well edited; maps and illustrations appear in the text at positions where they most complement the material being presented, although the photograph of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony could be a bit mis-leading, since Stanton's name is mentioned first, even though she is sitting on the right (913).
For students, the strengths of this textbook are many; it is written in a style that makes the subject matter easy to follow, and the well chosen illustrations are accompanied by a number of helpful notes. For example, from the photograph of the Grand Canal in China (page 316) students learn that the project itself dates all the way back to the Seventh Century C.E.
The text is further strengthened by the inclusion of a series of excellent maps, many of which allow the reader to see obvious comparisons and/or differences, such as the ones on page 295 that focus on the extent of Islam and Buddhism around 1000 C.E. There are also a number of special features, such as "A Closer Look," which provide more detailed information about a particular subject or event, such as "Board Game from Ancient Sumer," "Royal Blood-letting," and "An Ethiopian View of the Battle of Adowa." These sections are complemented by other entries called "Going to the Source," in which "a key problem" is discussed and compared. For example, the article entitled "Feasting" discusses this custom in different parts of the world, from Hambledon Hill in England to Sumer in ancient Mesopotarnia. Since students can relate easily to well known holidays which feature "feasting," such as Thanksgiving Day, such entries should arouse interest from all but the most lethargic scholars. Another entry, certain to stimulate class discussion, compares the teachings of Jesus Christ and Mozi on the subject of Love. Students are asked to explain how the doctrines of these two teachers were related to the needs of the people and the state.
The author consistently emphasizes the human side of history, often by including accounts of individuals who were sent by their rulers on specific missions. The Egyptian ambassador, Wenamun, was such a person. Sent by his pharaoh to purchase timber for the Egyptian navy from the Phoenicians, Wenamun has a series of adventures that demonstrate the author's belief that History can be both entertaining and instructive.
Another great strength of this book is the availability, if the instructor chooses, of a CDROM: "Primary Sources: Documents in Global History." This academic tool introduces the stu dent to a large number of primary source materials that will certainly complement material found in the textbook itself. Here, for example, are some of the Analect of Confucius and excerpts from the edicts of Asoka.
In conclusion, Dr. Fernandez-Armesto has written a fine textbook; it covers many individuals and trends, but it does not bog down the reader with unnecessary details. It convinces the reader that the study of history can be both interesting and rewarding and therefore can be read with a great deal of enjoyment by a significant number of the general public, who, like the students themselves, will become aware of the great debt we owe to the past and the ways society has constantly been changing in order to deal successfully with problems it will certainly face in the future.
David W. Krueger
Arkansas Tech University
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|Author:||Krueger, David W.|
|Publication:||World History Bulletin|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2007|
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