Page 7, 10th December 1965

10th December 1965
Page 7
Page 7, 10th December 1965 — HISTORY SEEN AS ADVENTURE

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MANY OF US left school loathing history almost as much as we did poetry, our curiosity killed by inept teaching and text-hooks which redueed this enthralling subject to mere dates, treaties, imports.

Whatever the contemporary teaching methods, a splendid variety of books are now showing history as universal adventure rather than patriotic myth or arid political tabloid. The editors of Cassell'a "Caravel Books" abundantly understand site new approach. Twelve volumes (25s. each) have now been issued, Caesar and The Vikings being recent additions. It includes the Crusades, African and Polar exploration, Tsarist Russia. Shakespeare, Nelson, Marco Polo, Cook, St. Joan and Alexander have volumes centred around themselves. In each the poetical and factual, the artistic, scientific and social are magnificently co-ordinated by colour and monochrome prints, drawings, paintings -many of them unexpected. Illustrations, for instance, by some of Cook's sailors, a sample of Elizabeth l's handwriting, Gauguin's haunted peasant Joan contrasted with Rouault's monumental impersonal figure. Boredom is the enemy of youth: in the classroom, books have had too much to do, things too little, and only the dullest child will yawn over these reproductions and fail to be stimulated into exploring further for himself.

Fifteenth century tapestries and illuminations, a Jan Breughel battle, a Chinese Nestorian mural, oriental ceramics, the grief-stricken Ivan the Terrible, Persian miniatures, a fourthcentury illustration of the Iliad, Nelson's fleet under sail. The texts are sensible, unromantic, excellently printed. Readers of all ages will find useful information, often diverting in itself, leading to a humane and cornprehensive view of the world. Not all adults will immediately recognise the meaning of Yarn's, or know why Vikings often removed ships' heads before landing, or realise the identity of Nelson's first enemy commander (Hyder All) or of Olaf Tryggverson. Or remember that Indians drew circles round debtors to enforce payment; that—in 1154 -Idrisi mapped the Sahara, Frederick .11 experimented in leather bank-notes, Peter the Great mastered IS trades including dentistry; that by 200 B.C. the Chinese were boring 3,500 feet for oil, and that Nelson's sailors sometimes carved their fibrous, disgusting meat into "highly polished boxes".

I cannot recall being able to recommend an educational enterprise so enthusiastically.

Peter Vansittart It is good to find that pubieners at Children's Books arc no longer sausded with the inferior tilustru Lions uf the MORA kind of synthetic religious art, Emile Probst hag tastefully ilium rated two slander new volumes for the very young, The Life of the Blessed Virgin Marl and The Life of St. Fraods of Assisi (Burns dt Owe, 8s. I'd. each). The test lot both is by Janet Bruce, but it is thy ProdUction and pictures which carry the book along.

The word "encyclopaedia" Mzti well frighten a young reader. Odium, Press overcome the handicap by Publishing 0. & A. (11h. 6.1.). a new Question ana answer hook. It is ideal fur the child who cannot sustain long spells of reading, but who likes To dip into C bout.

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