Customer Review

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An adventure story, with so many truly valuable historical dimensions, 12 Jan 2011
This review is from: The Fourth Part of the World: The Epic Story of History's Greatest Map (Hardcover)
No previous experience is needed to enjoy this book. It reads like an adventure story, using as its cast all the famous ancient names - Ptolemy, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Marco Polo, Henry the Navigator - we feel we should know more about. To have achieved such readability with such a serious history is a unique achievement. Here's what it did for me. I have shunned pre-15th century history, because not much original printed material is available (in an era before printing presses). As a result, my experience of anything written about the 300 years or so from 1200 - 1500, has been off-putting: full of archaeological, religious & classical references to historical mountain ranges I have never felt able or willing to climb. (I can't stand Aristotle - the only book I tore in two half way through reading it was De Anima. And I can't stand archaeology - using bits of clay to reconstruct Egyptian civilisation.) But if you are vaguely interested in the Age of Discovery from 1500 - 1800 and US history after that, and the last 150 years of Asian history, you will keep coming across something called humanism. Man is the measure of all things. This book has given me a richer foundation to explore the antecedents of the modern, humanist world we now live in. It is immensely learned, sympathetic to the reader and original in its chosen historical perspective - maps. And now an apology. I should not inflict my prejudice on Aristotle or archaeology on anyone who reads this. But I suspect that many normal readers, with insufficient knowledge about Classical civilisations will avoid a book like this because it is just more of the same impenetrable gossip about Greek & Roman thinkers. Don't. Read it. It is fabulous. These Greek & Roman thinkers - and so much else - come alive.
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