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Romesh Bhattacharji

History of the World By Plantagenet Somerset Fry, Dorling Kindersley, London, 1994, rpt 2004, pp. 400, £14.99   Encyclopaedia of People Dorling Kindersley, London, 2003, pp. 304, £13.99   Eyewitness Victorians By Ann Kramer, Dorling Kindersley, London, 1998, rpt 2003, pp. 58, £4.20   Timelines of World History By John B. Teeple, Dorling and Kindersley, London, 2002, pp. 666, £22.50   History of the World is an innovatively compiled history from 4600 MYA till 2002. For those who want to know what MYA and how to use the book, is there’s a helpful page showing “How This Book Works”. The presentation switches from rather detailed descriptions of more important subjects like the Palaeozoic era (570-245 MYA) or the Birth of Art or English peasants rebellion (1381) or 9/11 or The Agricultural Revolution of the 18th century or Lula wins in Brazil to calendar like snippets that give prominence to certain events in a millennium, century and in modern times annually.   It is a very handy reference volume even for adults in newspaper offices and TV studios, which of late have been displaying a lot of ignorance brazenly. The end pages have, apart from the usual useful index, a glossary for words like conquistador, ethnic cleansing, Reformation, Fascism and Zionism etc, and two pages showing important inventions and discoveries from 4000 BC to 2003. Then there’s a priceless map showing assassinations, conflict areas, age limits for driving, alcohol, marriage and even death penalty etc.   With so much information to slot there have been some minor flaws. The Taj Mahal gets a tiny box whereas a log cabin of a settler in America hogs half a page. While Gen. Dyer is mentioned and so is the persecution of Jews given importance there is no mention of other pogroms like that of the Armenians by the Turks after First World War.   The bright and colourful way so much knowledge has been offered is a compelling invitation to read or browse or consult this book.   Encyclopaedia of People is an another attractive reference book, which will be a perennial magnet to curious learners— young and old. That compliment aside this book begins with by giving—expectedly—disproportionate attention to North America and Europe. Perhaps that is inevitable as a large number of their customers could be from there. India – that is far more diverse—on the other hand, is dismissed with a page each on Bengalis, which it shares with Bangladesh, Rajasthanis and Hindus. Thereby giving a wrong impression of such a large country. Somewhat similarly ...

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