6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
prejudiced and biased reading of early civilisation.,
This review is from: Cartoon History of the Universe: From the Big Bang to Alexander the Great (7 Volumes) (Paperback)
The early stages of the book are excellent for teaching young readers. Gonick describes current scientists' views of the origins of the universe, the big bang, and the formation of the planets, natural gases, and the earliest life forms. The second stage of the book is also praiseworthy, as he describes the evolution of life from very basic forms and on to sea creatures, which then make their way out of the sea to progress to dinosaurs. He also describes the progression of apes to humans, the early hunter gatherer life ( which he describes sensitively and with dignity, albeit with good humour), the development of language and art, moving on to tribal formations, culminating in early man making his way out of Africa, as weather conditions changed, land masses broke up and separated, and continents were formed.
All of that is excellently described for young learners, as he then goes on to describe early man grappling with the concept of number, art, and abstract thought, and debating notions of object value, and early perspectives on exchange value and trade.
All very good so far : it is all sensitively and intelligently done, and great fun too, all a plus for young learners.
However, as soon as Gonick gets to the origins of sophisticated civilizations in Egypt, Sumer, Syria, and Persia, his whole project goes downhill -- fast. From page 93 to page 270 ( approx) , he describes these cultures in the most contemptuous of terms, as one ceaseless `progression' of bloody massacre to bloody massacre, from one set of stupid ignorant backward belief systems to the next.
Gonick tells the reader absolutely nothing good about these cultures whatsoever. A young reader would be excused for thinking that the present day Arabs and Iranians descended from a race of backward and superstitious tyrants who contributed nothing of value to the world.
I cannot recommend these books to you if you are intending to use them to introduce world history to a young reader: Egypt, Iraq and Iran contributed immeasurably to our modern day civilisations, and were amongst the first peoples in history to discover a vast range of metaphysical concepts, scientific, medical, civic, architectural notions, and introduced Western peoples to philosophical truths, and we are privileged that these cultures transformed our world.
You wouldn't guess any of that from Gonick's book. A young reader would complete Gonick's bizarre telling of history thinking that present day Iranians, Iraqis and Egyptians are descended from murderous, sly, evil, untrustworthy, cunning, despots, tyrants and savages who left us with nothing besides vast failed cities and evil beliefs and cruel ways of life.
Such a shame - the early stages of the book are excellent. The latter read like a mad neo con Zionist's view of Arabs.
Not recommended - it will warp young readers' view of Arab, North African and Persians significant contribution to who we are and what we know of the world about us in regards to science, art, philosophy, metaphysics, ethics and religion.
I will also add that Gonick's view of tribal migrations to and within the Middle East, and his views of what makes up nations and 'races' are old fashioned, specultive and very dated indeed. Ernest Gellner, Shlomo Sand,Eric Hobsbawm and Benedict Anderson give very different accounts from Gonick, whose views of 'race' and migration seem to derive from old fashioned late 1800s theory.
It is just disappointing that Gonick is so biased against these North African, Persian and Arab cultures that contributed so much to, and played a major role in creating later Judaic and Christian cultures. Judaism and Christian cultures would not have existed without them.