About ten years ago, I was perusing a used bookstore in St. George, Utah, and stumbled upon a really cool book.
And by “really cool,” what I actually mean is “really old.” I had just graduated high school, had a little bit of a cultish attachment to books, and found a book that was published in 1889. I automatically assumed that it was rare, valuable, collectible, and must be high-quality. Plus, it was from England. And if American television has taught me nothing else, everything from England is high-quality.
I brought it back home with me, put it on my shelf, and called myself a collector. And then I forgot about it for about a decade.
I finally got around to cracking the old thing open this year, and discovered this book (Twenty Centuries of English History) is, in fact, a history book (as I suspected.) More than that, though, I’m pretty sure it was a textbook. It’s got lots of references to other works I’ve never heard of (probably because they’re outdated and out of print), and it frequently refers to events I’m not familiar with. But, even after almost 130 years, it’s still an interesting book.
Reading an English history—from an English perspective put American history more into a global focus for me. And also kind of made me feel insignificant. I mean, the entire (glorious, crucial, inspired) American Revolution is covered in about 2 paragraphs, where the author says that the colonists were good Englishmen who knew they were getting a bad rap. So they revolted, and the British decided it wasn’t worth the fight.
Not the story you hear in American textbooks. We were taught that we fought a glorious, bloody war, and neatly trounced our British oppressors.
It’s also very interesting to read such an old English perspective; very little is said about the Irish, and it’s seldom flattering. Same goes for most of the English colonies of the time, although the author seems to be puzzled as to why the Indians and Afghans would be so easily irritated. I think I’d like to get a much more modern English history, so I can see how times have changed.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys English history—although it might be a little hard to get your hands on one. It’s not really worth much, but it’s not exactly flying off the shelves at Barnes & Noble. ♦