History Book Reviews

How English Became History

How English Became History

Having recently completed a thoroughly enjoyable read through Simon Horobin’s How English Became English, it feels necessary to put fingers to keys to pen some thoughts about this very concise, but hugely useful text. Given the length of just 187 pages, covering a topic as incredibly rich and broad as the English language seems an incredibly difficult task. Just how does one manage to take the reader through the journey of a language that began with around 7 million speakers in 1582, yet today is spoken by a staggering 20% of the earth’s population, or around 1.5 billion people. That is a staggering figure, and Simon Horobin’s short book certainly tackles a formidable task.

For this reason, this review hopes to provide a balanced look at how Horobin has managed to treat this universal language. The table of contents certainly gives the reader an idea of just how sweeping the approach is. From a short exposition of what English is, through to its origins, renowned authorities, evolving standards, varieties/global variations, and even a “Why Do We Care?” section: this book is certainly hedging on the side of being arguably too broad of an approach for serious scholars of the language. However, as you will read below, this book has towering merit for younger readers (e.g. Secondary to A-Level) readers looking familiarise themselves with the origins, context, and development of the language, particularly in the modern context with all its variations hugely influenced by both medieval and modern technology.

Read On...

Horrible Christmas

Horrible Christmas

Most children of Primary and Secondary-school age are at least partially familiar with the Horrible Histories body of work. This franchise has hundreds of books, TV shows, and various other resources aimed at taking historical frameworks, timelines, and fun facts, and constructing them into enjoyable books that equal parts easy-to-read, fun-filled, and fact-heavy. Horrible Christmas continues the famous and distinctive style of the Horrible Histories series, this time using Christmas as a theme with which to explore some of the major periods of human history as they relate to the festive period.

Horrible Christmas features author Terry Deary’s familiar humour-filled writing style to take the reader on an historical, and often darkly-festive expedition through the ages. Using Christmas to probe the annals of history for some of the most fascinating, unbelievable, and downright gruesome historical facts and peculiarities, this book covers periods ranging from the middle ages to the Christmas events on the battlefronts of the major wars in the 20th century.

With a book that promises to offer equal measures of fascination and education, how well does this fare as an educational text for Primary and Secondary-level students? This review hopes to tell all about this book’s contents, probing the facts that are contained within it, and offering up some conclusions on its suitability as a book for education, or whether it should be simply filed in the “fun and fascinating facts” category.

Read On...

The Simple History of WWII

The Simple History of WWII

Anyone that has really studied the history of WWII can tell you that it was no simple event. It didn’t have one simple cause, no one simple battle was fought, and there isn’t anything simple about the number of deaths that occurred on both sides, both civilian and soldier. So it must have been a very difficult task for author Daniel Turner to simply and briefly explain the entire history of the World War WII. This is a book that is part of a wider series of books that are designed to present, explain, and explore the various causes, events, and aftermaths of various historical wars and events, including the Cold War, World War I, and The Wild West.

The Simple History of World War II is a fantastic book to read if you’re at primary, or even secondary-level education. Though the book cannot possibly go into detail about all the events of World War II, it does offer a very brief and very understandable overview of the conflict. This review will look in more detail at the content of the book and will provide you with an insight into whether the book might be useful for your educational needs.

Read On...

The Story of Castles

The Story of Castles Book

A lot of the exposure that young children get to the structures we known as Castles is via the medium of fantasy. The flowing follicles of German fairy tale Rapunzel draped over the side of a castle’s tower is one of the most famous, but even modern-day depictions of fantasy are littered with the structures: Game of Thrones’ Eyrie, Marvel Comics’ Castle Doom, Lord of the Rings’ Minas Tirith. The list is virtually endless. How much do our children know about castles, though? Not the fictional portrayals of them, but the ones they may see when entering the perimeter of an historical city virtually anywhere in the UK. The answer is probably not one that parents of young children in primary or secondary education would like.

This knowledge deficit is why thousands of books exist in the literature on castles. These magnificent structures – many of which have survived until the modern-day (a testament to their robustness and effectiveness as persistent defensive structures) – have protected and made impenetrable hundreds, if not thousands of cities, provinces, and general areas of various countries. A very accessible introduction to the absolute basics of the castle, including the why, the where, the when, and the who, can all be found in Lesley Sims’ The Story of Castles. This review will reveal what is to be expected of its content if you choose to purchase this book, taking a closer look at its chapters, as well as the writing style in order to determine how useful and applicable this text can be for primary and even secondary-level students.

Read On...