Review of ‘Bad history: how we got the past wrong’ by Emma Marriott. by wppalmer [WorldCat.org]
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Bad history - how we got the past wrong.

by Emma Marriott

  Print book

Review of ‘Bad history: how we got the past wrong’ by Emma Marriott.   (2018-12-16)

Very Good

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by wppalmer

Review of ‘Bad history: how we got the past wrong’ by Emma Marriott.

CITATION: Marriott, E. (2016). Bad history: how we got the past wrong’. London: Michael O’Mara Books Ltd.

REVIEWER: Dr William P. Palmer.

I found this book to be easy to read and interesting. The book is 173 pages long followed by appendices and an index; it is illustrated with simple black and white diagrams and maps.

One problem with the book is its lack of organisation in terms of the order of its thirty-one different sections that illustrate historical misconceptions. They could be ordered historically or geographically but appear to be ordered at random. Then there are the section titles where some are justified through a quotation which is later shown to be historically dubious. For example, in the section on the English king, Henry V (Henry V: the greatest man that ever-ruled England), the title is justified as a quotation by the historian, K. B. McFarlane. This claim is then challenged. The section title is reasonable as it represents someone’s view.

On the other hand, many of the chapters have titles that do not represent the opinions of any reasonable person. For example, one chapter is entitled ‘The Italian astronomer Galileo was persecuted by the Catholic Church and imprisoned in a dark cell’. There is a case for saying that he was persecuted by the Catholic Church, but he was not imprisoned in a dark cell. He did in fact live in comfortable confinement. A further problem with this chapter is that the conclusion that the author intended to write in this chapter appears to be misstated as she states that ‘[Galileo] believed that science and religion were not compatible (p. 136).’ However, Galileo actually believed that science and religion were compatible! One problem that the book has is the oversimplification of issues, but this is a necessary consequence of attempting to explain complex issues in a few pages.

Despite its faults, I enjoyed this book.

BILL PALMER




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