I need a sense of time frame.
April 12, 2009 7:08 AM Subscribe
Most history books seem to focus on one geographical location, and usually limit that focus to a narrow swath of time as well. I would like recommendations for books (or videos or anything else) that do neither
of these things.
posted by Nattie to Society & Culture (30 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
I have found that when I learn about history in the context of only one location, or only one time period for that location, I have trouble connecting it to things that are going on at the same time in other locations. For example, I have taken separate classes that cover the 18th and 19th centuries of the United States, Spain, and Russia, and yet I can't think back an event in Spain during this time and have any idea of what was going on in the United States or Russia at the time. It's like the stuff I know about those periods exists in its own little mental bubble that nothing else can permeate. I realize that when there are parts of the world that are isolated from others there is often not a big "connection" there to make, but I want to have a sense of time and scale regardless.
In other words, right now things seem to be indexed in my mind by location, then time period -- that's how I was always taught history. I think that has done more harm than good, so I want to reverse that; I want to think back to a period of time and have a general idea of what different societies were up to.
What I would like is a book (or anything else that fits the bill) that presents world history in a way that makes that possible. There is probably more than one way to do this, but for example, it might divide itself into sections like "early 1700s" and then have a chapter for several locations, then move onto the mid-1700s, or something like that. If it spends too long covering only one location, I will probably lose my sense of time frame.
Obviously I will not get a ton of details doing this, and I don't expect too many. The idea is that once I've tethered the stuff down in my mind by time period instead of location, I can go look up the kind of narrow-scope books that make me lose my sense of time frame right now. It seems to me that, in school, I was forced to learn tons of details about isolated times and places before I even had a good sense of scale for them, and the narrow-scope books will be perfectly helpful once I actually have that sense of scale.
The range of time I'd like covered is roughly the past three thousand or four thousand years. I'm open to more than that, depending. I don't expect to find all of that covered in one book, though. If a book covers just one century in a way that will stick in my head, that's good enough.
I am open to text books if they are good at this, but text books tend to have their own set of issues: they're usually dry and unengaging, which doesn't lend itself to sticking in my head; they try to force memorization of whatever details the text book thinks is important, instead of getting the general idea across; they tend to leave out a lot of interesting things because they're deemed unimportant. If there's a text book that doesn't do these things, by all means recommend it, but I'd rather have a book written by someone who just thinks history is interesting and wants to share that with me; I always learn much faster that way.