Reading Around the World, Part 1


My son and I are studying the 20th century this year in our final year of History/Literature.  Although the 20th century is chock full of atrocities and evil, I can honestly say that I’m really enjoying our study.  Hardly a day goes by without an “aha” moment.  I have always loved connecting the dots.  •-•-•

This two volume set by Edward Kantowicz was a random purchase several years ago from a book wholesaler.  I think I spent $5 for both of them.  Although each book retails for $40, you can pick up used copies for about $5 each. When I perused my shelves for books relevant to our studies, these fit the bill.  The writing has been excellent and engaging.  Collin is 350 pages ahead of me; he agrees that the books are eminently readable.

The subject is vast – how does one cover 100 eventful years in 900 pages?  Kantowicz does a great job of paring down the information to what you need to know. The contents are accessible through Google Book Reader. I have particularly enjoyed learning about the Meiji Restoration in Japan, a brief history of the Balkans, the birth of Turkey, modern history of the Middle East (I’ve read about the Balfour Declaration but never quite knew what it meant), the independence of Ireland and the Mexican Revolution.  And I haven’t even gotten to the Great Depression yet!

The title of the first volume comes from Handel’s adaption of Psalm 2: Why do the nations so furiously rage together?  Kantowicz declares his point of view: “I was raised and educated with Catholic Christian values and a deep revulsion against warfare, based on Christian teachings about war and peace.” 

From the introduction:

Though citizens of the world need to know the facts about the twentieth century–the who, what, when, where, and why–it is even more vital that they ask the next question, so what?  Why should anyone care about these events?  What is the context that makes them meaningful?  What connections do they have with everyday life?  How do they challenge or confirm our deepest values

Each chapter (about 20 pages) could stand alone.  The set would be a great addition to your reference books giving you more than a Wikipedia article and less than a book on many historical events.  

The suggestions for further reading is very helpful and – oh my! – sure to keep my shelves groaning under the weight of books.  He recommended the film Michael Collins to understand the Irish war for independence.  We watched it last night: gripping, but not for the faint of heart.

Finally, the guy is a word bird.  If you love seeing words explode into technicolor you will enjoy this book.  Soviet means council.  Caliph means successor.  Sherif is an honorific title given to all Arabs descended from the prophet Mohammed.  Yugo mean south.  Slavs and Yugoslavs. 


4 thoughts on “Reading Around the World, Part 1

  1. Love your new header…. I need to figure out how to do that :)I got my taste of snow for the winter….we were in Hillsdale for the Messiah, when it started snowing on Friday night.  Thankfully, we were leaving Saturday morning, before things got worse.Even as a history major, I lack much knowledge in this area….. especially the 20th century.  On my TBR list is The Mitford Sisters….. six sisters whose letters to one another cover the events of their lifetimes (20th century) complete with personal friendships with political leaders.  Book report to follow…… not this week tho’!

  2. Thank you! Not just for the titles and descriptions of these books that I have added to my Amazon order, but for the breath of fresh air and the encouragement in all things literary and educational. I need your words now more than ever!Janie

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