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Historical Atlas of the World Hardcover – 1 Sep 2010
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Hardcover, 1 Sep 2010
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I do, however, have several criticisms.
Despite being a European book, written largely by Slovakians and presumably designed primarily for the UK/RoI market, it is written in American English.
Many of the maps are oversimplified in places, with round, coloured blobs denoting various empires which are named but not otherwise explained in the accompanying text. For instance, we learn that a certain empire existed in 600 AD in a certain region but there is often no explanation of why that empire does not feature on the map of the same region in 800 AD. There is always Wikipedia to fill in the gaps but that does kind of defeat the purpose of a good reference book.
The maps use the terms "BCE" (Before the Common Era) and "CE" (Common Era) in place of the BC and AD with which we are all familiar. As an atheist, I have no specific desire to date all world events according to their relation to the birth of Christ but, given that I've grown up using the terms BC and AD, I simply can't get used to the meaningless terms BCE and CE and it genuinely makes the maps that much harder to interpret. This really is political correctness for the sake of it. If any Muslims, Hindus or indeed, atheists, are offended by the use of the terms BC and AD, which have been in common usage in the English-speaking world with its Christian traditions for many centuries, they really do need to get a life. It is a shame the editors of this book felt the need to pander to them.
Most irritating of all, however, are the many errors. These are far too numerous to mention. There are many mistakes on the maps, as well as in the accompanying text. I would go as far as to say that there is at least one mistake on almost every double-page spread on any topic on which I have any prior knowledge.
As an example, the book seems totally confused by the terms "England", "Great Britain" and "United Kingdom". The book gets it right in places, and the political history of the British Isles is reasonably well explained on one page with the dates of the Union of the Crowns and various parliamentary Acts of Union clearly set out, but this knowledge has not extended to the rest of the page, let alone the rest of the book. So we have, for instance, a 1914 map showing "England and its colonies" in pink and, on another page, a passage on Northern Ireland stating that "The northern counties remained part of Great Britain after the rest of the island became independent". We are told elsewhere that "England declare[d] war against the Germans" in 1914, whilst a double-page spread entitled "England and Great Britain in the 18th-20th Centuries" contains a map showing the current administative districts of the entire United Kingdom in the 21st Century. Such fundamental errors on the subjects which which I am familiar does not lead me to trust the book on subjects of which I have little prior knoweldge.
Frequent mistakes have been made by incorrect colouring of countries and regions, so that, for instance, Australia and New Zealand are marked on a 1949 map as being areas "occupied by the US and its allies", akin to Germany and Japan, rather than "other allies of the US", which is presumably how they should have been shaded. There are frequent inconsistencies between chronologically sequential maps, which show, for instance, that China was both was and was not a member of the UN in 1969.
In a similar vein, the book irritates the reader by using terms which, whilst not factually incorrect, carry a political slant unnecessary in a reference book of this kind. The book repeatedly refers to Burma as Myanmar, a name adopted by the military junta in 1989, even when referring the the country well before that time. It uses value-laden terms, such as "absurd stone age communism" to describe one regime, without justifying such language with factual descriptions. When counting Nobel Peace Prize winners by country, it refers to Tibet, Palestine and Northern Ireland as though they were independent nations, without justifying these decisions.
All in all, this book has been well set out and there is potential, with some good editing, for a future edition to be an excellent book for this price range. Given the criticisms outlined above, however, I wouldn't recommend this edition and would instead suggest looking at some of the other historical atlases out there.
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