VOYA - Joanna LimaThe series features Ancient Egypt, Ancient Rome, The Early Middle Ages, The Late Middle Ages, The Holocaust, and The Decade of the 2000s. These titles may serve as a supplement to middle and early high school history textbooks. Each title is organized into five chapters including a discussion of the circumstances and events leading up to the era and commentary on the legacy of the time period. A time line, list of important people, and an exploration of defining characteristics are also featured. The Early Middle Ages offers an overview of Western European history from 285 AD and the split of the Roman Empire through the rule of Charlemagne to 1096 AD and the first Christian crusade. Topics covered include the rise of feudalism and the power of the Christian Church. The Islamic Empire is casually mentioned while the civilizations of Asia are completely ignored. The Decade of the 2000s highlights global terrorism, natural disasters, and the changing media landscape as key features of the early 21st century. Technological innovation and popular cultureincluding iPods, social networking, and the Harry Potter phenomenonare given as much consideration as economic recession, war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and American politics. The gay rights movement is mentioned but immigration issues are not. While the format of these books is accessible and the content is solid, there is little about which to be enthusiastic. Since the authors present an American perspective for an American audience, these texts will have little appeal for international schools and libraries. Because the presentation lacks new insight and fails to encourage critical thinking, ultimately the books are a retreading of topics covered extensively elsewhere. (Understanding World History) Reviewer: Joanna Lima
VOYA, October 2014 (Vol. 37, No. 4) - Jennifer M. MiskecAll of the topics addressed in the Understanding World History series are incredibly complicated issues, the nuances of which take an expert to truly appreciate. Nevertheless, as all of these complex conversations are both part of typical high school and college curricula and also inform current events, a well-informed citizen will need some grasp of these topics. The Understanding World History series is designed to be such an informational source. While not exhaustiveeach is less than one hundred pages, which includes a foreword, a basic timeline, an introduction, five chapters, source notes, a list of important figures, a “For Further Research” section, and an indexeach text is designed to be a basic introduction to significant global concerns. Historical and political resource books are rarely a barrel of laughs, and this series is no exception, but in terms of illustrating basic concepts in a straightforward manner that does not talk down to the intended teen audience, this series does a reasonable job. Short sections, photographs, illustrations, maps, and other supplemental bits of information break up the volumes so that readers can manage the sometimes intense material in short bursts. (Understanding World History) Reviewer: Jennifer M. Miskec; Ages 12 to 18.
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