A History of the World in Numbers by Emma Marriott
|A History of the World in Numbers by Emma Marriott|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A suitable primer with the headlines of history given in chronological order, but with the emphasis on numeral data.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 192||Date: October 2014|
|Publisher: Michael O'Mara|
Make no mistake, this book does what it says on the cover. That also goes to say that it is not A History of the World of Numbers, or A History of the World's Numbers and what they might mean, as other books provide. This is a primer of the world's history, right from the earliest days of civilisation up to the close of World War Two, in handy bite-sized chunks, where the headline data can be given using a number.
Some instances of this are better than others – some of the larger, vaguer numbers have to be given as both the large and small estimates, such as the quantities in the Library of Alexandria, and the B29 Enola Gay is a code-number, to be pedantic, and not just a number as such. But on the whole the purpose does work. This is a history for the short of attention span, perhaps, although I would certainly put its worth as being valuable for many more people than that might suggest. It's readable enough to be tackled in bigger chunks than the stereotypical toilet read.
The approach does make for some unusual, and unknown, numbers. We start with 32 edible grasses being found in the Fertile Crescent that bore our current agricultural world, 700 Sumerian pictographs, and so on, and it's a couple of pages before the reader hits any data the layman would have expected from such a book, when we get the world's first list of 7 Wonders. This does mean we can gain many trivial details the regular history book may have missed – one eighth of the Roman Army was given the job of looking after their interests in Britain, for one. Thus in the details the headlines can give are insightful reasons to browse, eye-catching focus, and many things the reluctant reader of history will be spurred on by.
So if you never got told the number of Spanish Armada vessels, the length of the Mahabharata in words or how many angulas make a hasta, then this is the book for you. Carrying a true modern look at history, in that it skips merrily from region to region, from story to story in chronological order, it will leave the student to make the connections at times, but will appeal to the fans of the more trivial side of history. It won't, however, leave anybody short-changed with major lapses or important stories, and as such I think I can declare the book a success.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
And as for those books I said this is not, I was chiefly referring to Rogerson's Book of Numbers: The culture of numbers from 1001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World by Barnaby Rogerson which is just as informative.
You can read more book reviews or buy A History of the World in Numbers by Emma Marriott at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy A History of the World in Numbers by Emma Marriott at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.