Customer Review

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Coffee Table History Book, 15 Feb. 2012
This review is from: Bad History: How We Got the Past Wrong (Hardcover)
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I am a big history fan and do quite a lot of reading, so I liked the idea of this little book by Emma Marriott on the history that we get wrong. History of itself is oft times written by the victors and so it is normally, out of political necessity, part propaganda anyway. Being British we often turn defeats into victories (Dunkirk for example). Or we big up the things that look good as a smoke screen to down play the bad. Most junior historians know of the British victory over the Zulus at Rorkes Drift when a handful of the 1st and 2nd/24th Foot fought off thousands of Cetshwayo's warriors; the massive defeat of Lord Chelmsford's rear column at Isandlwana the day previous is often forgotten.

This is the type of thing I was hoping to get, but this is somewhat dumbed down and is aimed more at the `historical virgin' than anyone seeking very much enlightenment. So we find out that the old American `Wild West' was not that `wild' based on recorded crime figures; however records were not always kept. Australia was not established as a penal colony; well no it was only after US independence and a failed attempt to set one up in Africa that Australia was chosen. Mussolini did not make the trains run on time and Petain did collaborate with the occupying German forces through his offices in Vichy France.

There is a load more besides and the book of itself is really well written and effortlessly accessible. There are some thirty one different subjects that deal with things from the Irishness of St. Patrick to the real victors in Indochina after WW2. I would have liked to know more and to have greater depth into all of the arguments. However, that was never the intention of this book and to criticise Marriott for such is both churlish and un-gallant. What this does do is introduce a breadth of topics that are too often misrepresented and point us in the right direction. I particularly liked the reference to Abraham Lincoln not having a Civil War to free the slaves - something which I am sick of being misrepresented. There are also some nice snippets that were new to me including a couple about Cecil Rhodes.

Where this piece of well written research does score highly is in the bibliography as it points to all the reference texts that you can take up for the more in depth further reading. Any of the areas covered are all justified by previous works that are clearly referenced and that is where the depth will be found. So I went from being almost dismissive of this book to thinking it really not a bad effort at all. That is so long as you appreciate it for what it is, a sign post for the wider topics, and sorry there is no mention of the Zulu war I just used that as an example.

It is a coffee table book and a number of my friends have found something from just dipping in, so I hope you can too.
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