Books about history

The author walks us through a normal day – getting up, brushing teeth, having lunch – even going to the toilet, and looks at how those mundane acts have been regarded and developed over time. It’s the sort of perspective that gets lost in the stories of great people, wars and politics.

There’s actually not much in the way of physical maps in this book, which is what I’d been expecting. What I got instead was (for me) an unexpected and fresh insight into how geography has shaped the politics, nations and cultures of our world.

This is absolutely brilliant. Broad in scope, insightful, I must read it again. I’ve also read Peter Frankopan’s Silk Road, which is a history of the world, but I much prefer this book.

Another one I must read again. In a world where Google tries to find links it thinks we will like, and we read newspapers (if we do) that match our political views, and I can’t find a music service that will play a completely random list because it wants to play me music like other music I’ve listened to – in that world, we live in our bubbles, protected from the ‘other’ person, and the ‘other’ view of culture and how things should work. It’s something of a relief to find a well-written book that looks at the history of the world from a different perspective than the majority of history I’m exposed to. If we all want to get along, we need to be able to understand different cultures and views, which means seeking them out. There is way too much scapegoating of the ‘other’.

This is where the phrase ‘searing indictment’ is appropriate. How the West messed up Iraq through mis-management, cronyism, lack of strategy, and political ineptitude.

In the UK we do, of course, hear a lot about British prisoners of war in various conflicts. This is the story of a group of Italian POWs in a Scottish camp in the second world war. These are real people. It’s not the people that ever want to fight each other and die (usually) – it’s the overweening ambition of our leader, whom we may or may not have voted for.