Oldschool kids' history.
October 8, 2009 7:34 AM   Subscribe

Long-lost childhood books: a history book printed after one of the World Wars. I don't know the title or author, but I'll tell you everything I remember. Hivemind, please help me find it!

The book was six or eight inches tall, about two inches thick. It was a red canvas hardcover. It probably had a dustjacket originally, but mine had long since lost that. I think the page edges were also dyed red, but I'm not sure. No bookmark-ribbon, that I recall.

It was a Eurocentric and kid-friendly view of world history, starting with cavemen and going all the way up to one, if not both, of the World Wars. It spent time in the Fertile Crescent, went through Greece and Rome, Dark Ages, Renaissance, discovery of the Americas, the Hundred Years' War, all of that. It wasn't a textbook, it was just a sort of historical... reader, or primer. It was made to be read for fun.

Each chapter covered a specific event, or period in time. They started and/or ended with little rhyming couplets and bits of doggerel that were about the events in the chapter. There were also little black-and-white line drawings (not plates, just printed into the body text) of a man in each chapter. He had a name, I think, and as you read through history, you'd see the little cartoon guy in different clothes, or in important places, things like that.

The last chapter focused on what sorts of things might be found in the future. It was well before the 1950s space obsession, so it wasn't going on about hovercars and jet backpacks.

One distinct thing I do remember: towards the end of the book, when it got into "recent" history, it made mention of some kind of vaccination scar - polio, I think, or maybe smallpox - that, "if you look on your arm, you'll see it." I remember this because I didn't have one, but my grandmother did, just like the book described it.

I realize this is a longshot, but any clues would help. I've been wondering about this for years.
posted by cmyk to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It isn't a Child's History of the World, originally from the Calvert School curriculum, is it? My copy has a tan cover and was printed in the fifties but otherwise seems quite similar.

I loved it as a child but when I went to read it to my own children I discovered that it was uncomfortably racist and I do not say that lightly. I try not to push the morality of my time onto the past and I love Kipling and a lot of other imperialist bastards, but whoa, this book and its companion, the Child's Geography of the World, are pretty heavy duty.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:46 AM on October 8, 2009

Best answer: Various covers for A Child's History of the World - there is a red/orange one.
posted by zamboni at 7:59 AM on October 8, 2009

I don't know the book, but I'm pretty sure it's a smallpox vaccine scar that it referred to. I think they stopped giving that vaccine in the 1970s sometime. I was born, er, a bit before that and don't have a scar, and as a little kid it always baffled me that everyone I knew had one but me!
posted by chez shoes at 8:31 AM on October 8, 2009

Response by poster: That's got to be it. The illustrations on the dust jackets in zamboni's link look just like what I remember. I wouldn't at all be surprised to find out that it's very Imperialist Bastard and I just didn't notice this when I was eight. I'd have to sniff around inside the book to be completely sure, but that has to be it.

I've been wondering about this for months and you nailed it in an hour. Thank you!

(chez shoes -- I was disappointed that my grandmother had a cool scar and I didn't. She told me that it hurt to get it, but that did not stop me, because: cool scar!)
posted by cmyk at 8:46 AM on October 8, 2009

Seriously, that was for smallpox? I thought it was a tetanus/typhoid kind of thing.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 9:50 AM on October 8, 2009

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