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_History Lessons_

Just started looking at this book I picked up randomly, and it's due back today, but it looks interesting. It's the history of the US as told by non-US textbooks around the world, in various snippets. Just the introduction was interesting: non-US textbook processes being a lot more centralized than the US, and different styles of textbooks: e.g. US texts tend to be organized by political history, presidents and eras and such, while the French have more social and economic history and history of ideas. Anglophone books tend to go for long narrative, French for short summaries and lots of primary sources.

A Cuban book notes details like the sailor of Columbus who saw land being Andalucian. "Caribbean" (various small islands share a text) spend more attention on Columbus's activity in their region, including the genocide and slavery of the Indians.

Some facts I hadn't known: In the mid 1700s France supposedly had 20 million people, Britain just 6 million, the British colonies 1.5 million (so 1/4 that of Britain!), New France just 100,000. I didn't know the colonies were so big relative to the UK. Differences between British and French colonies: partly the availability of fertile land, but largely immigration policies, the French only wanted pious Catholics while the British were less committed to mercantilism (so more colonial industry and trade) and took in more people from all over Europe.

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( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 11th, 2013 01:43 pm (UTC)
Fascinating. What book is this?

History is essentially a collection of the "facts" chosen for us by historians, but it's interesting how each society arranges it out for themselves.

I studied at an international school, but I spent every summer with my cousins in southern India. As a history nut, I couldn't get enough of their history textbooks. It was so different to ours. To begin with, theirs was just full of dates, with the text merely filling in the gaps between one set of wars to the next. There was almost zero analysis. My cousins hated it but for me it was like Christmas had come home early. Looking back, I now realise how government-controlled the narrative had been, in the sense that "British Raj = Bad", "Indian Medieval History & Everything Before it = Our Renaissance", "Independence = Re-discovery of Our Renaissance". Unfortunately I never had the opportunity of studying Indian history in school, but I have read about Indian history from both Indian and British perspectives since then, and there is a noticeable difference. However I'd love to know how other parts of the world have covered Indian history. I'd be interested just to read that book you've returned!

> In the mid 1700s France supposedly had 20 million people, Britain just 6 million

Indeed! I remember how surprised I was when I first learnt that. By the time of Britain's first census in 1801, the population was over 16 million. London is often touted as the world's first with a million (and probably was in the Western world) by the early 1800s. Interestingly, despite France having such a big population by then, London still had a bigger population than Paris. In fact the population of Paris fell immediately after the Revolution, whereas London's kept growing. London alone went from just under a million at the start of the 19th-century, to 6.5 million a 100 years later!

> the British colonies 1.5 million

Presumably this didn't include possessions in India?

Edited at 2013-09-11 01:44 pm (UTC)
Sep. 11th, 2013 11:28 pm (UTC)
The title is _History Lessons_, as in my title. :) Dana Lindaman and Kyle Ward editors, I guess.

This book won't have anything about India-India of course, it's foreign coverage of the US. And doesn't look like there are any Indian samples, either. Though they do have some oddballs like North Korea and Zimbabwe.

"British colonies in North America".
Sep. 12th, 2013 07:19 pm (UTC)
Ah, thanks! Found it on Amazon.

> And doesn't look like there are any Indian samples, either. Though they do have some oddballs like North Korea and Zimbabwe.

I'm not surprised about India. Indian history textbooks cram in so much Indian history, there's no space for anything else! But it is interesting how so-called Axis of Evil or other "non grata" nations do teach their kids some (form of) American history. I see on the Amazon page that the book created a bit of a stir when it was originally published. I'm just surprised it completely slipped me by at the time. I think it's a fantastic idea of a book and should be part of every secondary school history curriculum. I suspect the world would be a better place if every country integrated a macro and micro perspective. Learning one's own history is important to develop a national cultural narrative, but learning about other perspectives of our own history broadens our mind. Communication and understanding would probably result in better relations with other countries. No one nation or culture has a monopoly on wisdom or evidential truth. Anyhow, sorry, I digress.

> "British colonies in North America".

Ah. :)
Sep. 12th, 2013 01:14 am (UTC)
The population ratios--between Britain and France, between the British colonies and the French--are noteworthy, but I don't think that limiting immigration to New France to Catholics was notable. France still had a much larger population, and a larger population of strong Catholics, than the British realm had people. So what if the (say) tenth of French who were Protestant didn't go?

The exceptional mobility of Britons from an early age is the anomaly, I think.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


Damien Sullivan

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