The Handy History Answer Book: From the Stone Age to the Digital Age

Visible Ink. 4th ed. ed. Sept. 2020. 640p. ISBN 9781578596805. pap. $24.95. REF
History overviews can be judged not on their answers but on what is and is not asked. Most questions found in this work are significant, though a few (“Who is Bernie Madoff?”) are perhaps ephemeral. Werner (How To Study Religion) completely reorganizes and substantially rewrites the previous, third edition by David Hudson, though occasionally perpetuates its errors (e.g., calling the Diamond Sutra “the oldest-known book”). The expanded second half is impressively broad, covering science, law, medicine, politics, economics, philosophy, arts and culture, disasters, human rights, exploration, and religion. Few events in world history are discussed, and American interests dominate; however, this edition’s improvements are its better layout and illustrations. There are some minor quibbles, though: For instance, there is a brief entry on the War of 1812 but the Hundred Years’ War is omitted, and Werner uses the phrase known world to mean Western world. “Code talkers,” Slobodan Miloševic, the Khmer Rouge, Kosovo, Che Guevara, and Chechnya, covered in the previous edition, are gone, but Harvey Milk, Nikola Tesla, Alan Turing, Fred Rogers, the Affordable Care Act, Greta Thunberg, and other people and events debut. This book offers more interconnections and explanatory scaffolding than DK’s The History Book.
VERDICT Anticipating basic questions, maintaining objectivity, and deploying an engaging style, Werner ably provides an introduction of Western history for general readers.
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