History, from the Beginning (Book #17)

In 2018 I realised my knowledge of history was plain bad. This series charts my re-education, starting from the big bang and working my way to present day one book at a time. (Learn more)

There are few examples of books where the person finishing it is different from the person who started it. This is one such book.

The Dictator’s Handbook addresses questions which have long puzzled me: How do tyrants hold onto power for so long? Why are failed business executives still given enormous bonuses? In general, why is bad behaviour almost always good politics?

In popular culture…


History, from the Beginning (Book #16)

In 2018 I realised my knowledge of history was plain bad. This series charts my re-education, starting from the big bang and working my way to present day one book at a time. (Learn more)

When I was 7 I overheard one of the older kids talking about learning this strange thing called ‘times tables’. I remember thinking: ‘Wow, I can’t wait until I get to do some woodworking too.’ To my disappointment I later discovered times tables have nothing to do with actual tables.

Yet we’re taught things like times tables and the law of gravity like they’re self…


History, from the Beginning (Book #15)

In 2018 I realised my knowledge of history was plain bad. This series charts my re-education, starting from the big bang and working my way to present day one book at a time. (Learn more)

Kant. Nietzsche. Aristotle. Descartes. Hear these words and your otherwise innocent conversation has turned into a pseudo-intellectual contest. Long-dormant phrases like ‘metaphysics’ and ‘teleology’ spring to life, and raging debates comparing the ethics of Hegel versus Hume ensue. All the while you try to recall that one video you watched on utilitarianism, and scold yourself for not having read Plato’s Republic.

In a situation like…


History, from the Beginning (Book #14)

In 2018 I realised my knowledge of history was plain bad. This series charts my re-education, starting from the big bang and working my way to present day one book at a time. (Learn more)

Authors of popular history often concern themselves with the main events: discoveries and dictatorships, the Henry VIIIs and Alexander the Greats. As readers we enjoy watching the drama unfold on the global stage. But what about life beyond the spotlight?

In the murky darkness exists an ever-present silent majority. We learn about the monarch, but we rarely get to know their subjects. What was it…


History, from the Beginning (Book #13)

In 2018 I realised my knowledge of history was plain bad. This series charts my re-education, starting from the big bang and working my way to present day one book at a time. (Learn more)

Before they were trawling Silicon Valley for the next Uber, angel investors were mingling with the British aristocracy spying the next transatlantic voyage most likely to return a rich bounty from the new world. At least, that’s the mid-sixteenth century Britain depicted in New World Inc.

In this book, Butman and Targett detail the host of voyages that set off from British shores in search…


History, from the Beginning (Book #12)

In 2018 I realised my knowledge of history was just plain bad. This series charts my re-education, starting from the big bang and working my way to present day one book at a time. (Learn more)

As I was progressing through my history reading project, there was one topic that loomed larger than any other: the reformation. I knew it was an important event that couldn’t be avoided, but I was also intimidated by its scale, complexity, and relation to ideas of religion and belief.

In his book, Nick Page cuts through this theological academia with an approachable humour and…


History, from the Beginning (Book #11)

In 2018 I realised my knowledge of history was plain bad. This series charts my re-education, starting from the big bang and working my way to present day one book at a time. (Learn more)

The books so far have done well to highlight some of humanity’s worst traits: violence, hedonism, and desire for power. This book is a celebration of some of its better ones: appreciation for art and commitment to craft.

Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling is small in scope, covering the four years it took Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel between 1508 and…


History, from the Beginning (Book #10)

In 2018 I realised my knowledge of history was plain bad. This series charts my re-education, starting from the big bang and working my way to present day one book at a time. (Learn more)

There are moments in history when the future rests on the actions of a small number of people in a select period of time. Where the fate of the world pivots on its axis like a weather vane in a gale. In Hernan Cortez’s case, the wind was not blowing in his favour.

Indeed, Conquest documents one of the most remarkable and unlikely series of…


History, from the Beginning (Book #9)

In 2018 I realised my knowledge of history was plain bad. This series charts my re-education, starting from the big bang and working my way to present day one book at a time. (Learn more)

By the ninth book, I had my fill of vast, global histories and wanted to make a step change. I desired to be inside the heads and hearts of some of the real people experiencing history on the ground. Crowley’s Conquerors does just that.

Documenting Portugal’s miraculous rise as a global empire through the discovery of a sea route to India, there is nothing more…


History, from the Beginning (Book #8)

In 2018 I realised my knowledge of history was plain bad. This series charts my re-education, starting from the big bang and working my way to present day one book at a time. (Learn more)

Susan Wise Bauer complete’s her History of the World with this book, an account of events that occurred between 1100 and 1453 where “new currencies are forged, new weapons invented, and world changing catastrophes alter the landscape”.

Bauer’s trilogy numbers over 2000 pages, and one would be forgiven for thinking that such a trek through such a large swathe of history would be exhausting. …

Adam Blades

Lecturer in higher education who loves creating learning experiences. Find me at www.adamblades.com.

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