Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Oxford Illustrated History of the World - A Review

Oxford Illustrated History
Of The World

Felipe Fernandez Armesto

I originally chose to review this book because it looked like an easy read and a coffee-table book. I was wrong on both counts.

Most “illustrated” books that cross my desk are picture (not children’s) books with notes accompanying the pictures. This book is a history book with a few pictures, drawings, and charts, provided to support the historical narrative. Much of the narrative focus on the when, who, what, and why, of the events that define human history. Some events are well-defined (i.e. the use of individual lives to illustrate larger points); most are less so (i.e. the transition of early man following the last ice age) as we follow the movement of civilizations through history. Regardless, the writer and his contributors have created an interesting book with a compelling story.

This review is not written by an historian. His brief knowledge of history is derived from a 3-semester sequence of undergraduate world civilization completed 45+ years ago and 3-quarter sequence of graduate level Biblical and church history completed 40+ years ago. As such, it cannot be a critical review, but is an educated reader’s assessment of the book.

The book is written for an intelligent audience with an appreciation for history. It is not for the light of heart, but will be of interest to both the scholar and the lay reader. This reader intended to have a general overview before writing the review, but he quickly became interested in the material and now intends to complete the entire book with a more detailed review to follow.

The illustrations are mostly indicative of the culture being discussed — some are modern drawings attempting to recreate historical places and events, most are from the era being illustrated in the text. Most images are in color and well-defined. The writing is clear, to the point, and easy to follow. My only complaint is the lack of standard list of abbreviations used in the book. Though most of the abbreviations used are defined in the book, often times a significant number of pages separate the definition given in the text and their next use by the writer. This required unneeded time to flip pages to locate the original definition, a table of definitions would reduce the amount of time wasted on finding definitions. Since most abbreviations have several real-life meanings, a Google search is not helpful

The book has a place in most public libraries and undergraduate college libraries. Some graduate libraries will also want to include it in their collections. The book may also serve as a suitable text for some undergraduate world history/civilization courses — depending on the course outline and purpose. It could also find a home in many personal libraries.
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are my own.

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