I Used to Know That: History by Emma Marriott

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I Used to Know That: History by Emma Marriott

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Category: Politics and Society
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: They say history ain't what is used to be. This book will show you either way, filling in a few things you might have missed from your school days.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 192 Date: September 2015
Publisher: Michael O'Mara Books Ltd
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1782434481

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Despite being Young Historian of the Year 1994 (a very undemanding achievement given that its reach extended only to the first 3 years of my already small, all girls' school) I never studied history beyond Upper 4 (what normal people might call Year 9…. We were that kind of school). I've picked up a few things over the years, most notably from English language text books while TEFLing abroad (there's nothing like an exciting lesson on Guy Fawkes to have a classroom of Mexicans wondering why we so love to celebrate a terrorist attack that didn't happen). But I have gaps, of this I am sure, and I thought to get a basic understanding of, well, the basics that we all should know, a quick read of this book wouldn't hurt.

It was a quick read, too. At under 200 pages, this book does well to pack in about 7000 years of history, but it also, in my mind, went into just the right amount of depth. I wanted an overview and that is precisely what I got, with short, stubby sections and lots of helpful bold font to pick out the key bits. You might think history ain't what it used to be, and you'd be right. Reading this book shows how much was accomplished in the past and how relatively little we've evolved in the last few centuries. Yes we might now have iPods, Pads and Phones, but how can technology ever really compare to the pyramids or Ancient Greece or the Romans (who had underfloor heating don't you know!) What I especially enjoyed about this book was the parts it filled in – so I knew King Alfred burnt the cakes, but didn't know the fable behind it. It was just a catchphrase I'd picked up somewhere along the line.

The book has a world, rather than British focus. To me the Silk road refers to Macclesfield, just as much as China, and I thought that was a cute tie in that was overlooked. That said, I know lots about our civil war but little about the American one, so that was a welcome inclusion. I also didn't know that Switzerland lagged behind when it came to granting voting rights to the women folk.

If I were to be picky, I'd say the layout got a bit irritating at time. There are various asides throughout the text, usually profiles of an individual person or event, but these are sort of dropped in at random, often half way through a paragraph on something a little bit related. So you can either keep your train of thought and read around these, but then forget to go back and see what all the fuss was about, or you can interrupt yourself and read the words in the (higgledy piggeldy) order in which they come. Other than this, I thought it was well pitched and just what I expected and needed it to be. I definitely feel better briefed as a result and since that was the plan all along, I cant help but recommend.

Thanks go to the publishers for supplying this book. If you too have a hankering for a bit more Brit, I Should Know That - Great Britain by Emma Marriott is a fab read of the same sort.

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Buy I Used to Know That: History by Emma Marriott at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy I Used to Know That: History by Emma Marriott at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy I Used to Know That: History by Emma Marriott at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy I Used to Know That: History by Emma Marriott at Amazon.com.

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