WASHINGTON (Sept. 1, 2011)— It’s one thing to learn about the Great Depression in a textbook, but it’s another to hold the front page of Variety newspaper, dated Oct. 29, 1929, and read the report on the Wall Street crash for yourself. And none of us was around when Lincoln was killed, but the event is brought starkly to life by seeing the “Wanted” poster for his assassin.
Readers can take a spirited spin through history and get a firsthand look at a treasure trove of facsimile documents in a new book from National Geographic, HISTORY BOOK: An Interactive Journey (ISBN 978-1-4262-0679-5; on sale Oct. 18, 2011; $40 hardcover), by Marcus Cowper.
Packing 5,000 years of world history, from human origins to international space exploration, and from the Maya Empire to Mahatma Gandhi, the book profiles 88 of the most influential people, events, time periods, civilizations and ideas or cultural trends that helped shape our world. To allow readers to feel as if they are actually reaching back in time, the book contains 20 facsimile documents, letters, journals, telegrams, posters and artworks to be pulled out and examined. In the same way that historians approach their research, HISTORY BOOK readers can study primary sources to see what really happened and who was behind the events. Peruse a copy of Shakespeare’s will and see how he changed his mind about who got what. Delve into Napoleon’s love life by reading a steamy letter to his wife, Josephine. Experience the grim realities of Nazi Germany by examining a British officer’s on-site account of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Other relics include:
- Pages from the Gutenberg Bible, the world’s first printed book
- A blueprint for the RMS Titanic
- A wall fresco from the house of Marcus Lucretius Fronto in first-century Pompeii, depicting the wedding of Mars and Venus
- A 1989 memo from Tim Berners-Lee proposing the World Wide Web, on which someone has scribbled “vague, but exciting…”
For added context, each of the 88 thematic spreads includes informative timelines, rich illustrations and related sidebars. For example, a sidebar on the New World Colonies spread offers the most current information on Pocahontas; the reunification of China spread includes a sidebar on Buddhism; and the Martin Luther King Jr. spread features sidebars on the Jim Crow laws and the Birmingham Campaign.
HISTORY BOOK: An Interactive Journey “is not an encyclopedia or a comprehensive survey; it is instead a storyboard of major characters, key plot points, and crucial details in the moving picture of human history. A portal through time, it is also a collector’s showcase of historical treasures and oddities, a between-the-covers museum of world history,” writes Cowper in his introduction. It is an entertaining and inspiring new way to experience and interpret the events and people who have influenced the way we live.
About the Author
Marcus Cowper studied medieval history at the universities of Manchester and Birmingham. He specialized in High and Late Medieval Church history and received his postgraduate degree for a study on the impact of heresy in the locality. He has more than 20 years experience writing and editing history books, including “Cathar Castles: Fortresses of the Albigensian Crusade 1209-1300” and “Henry V: The Background, Strategies, Tactics and Battlefield Experiences of the Greatest Commanders of History.”