Book Review: Histories of Nations edited by Peter Furtado

2017 | Thames & Hudson Ltd. | 272 Pages

Another very light summer read which left mixed feelings. Having an interest especially in histories of empires, I believed that this book would also, somehow, be a good read. I cannot say that it is bad, yet I cannot say that it is good too.

The Style: The book is made of essays by different historians on 28 countries. It has always been an easy read in terms of vocabulary, maybe also thanks to me skipping some of the countries. There were boring people, as there were really readable ones, as expected.

The Structure: Starting with the comparably old and moving towards the newer, the book contains countries from all continents (well, Africa partly by force, I’d say) and covers vast majority of planet Earth’s population and land.

The Argument: The book has two main messages. First, identities are constructed (as the subtitle of the book, How Their Identities Were Forged, implies). Second, the perception of one’s self is different from others’ perception. For an easy read, if one is interested in (or prefers) constructivism, it is fair enough.

The Good: It is a summer read — therefore the chapters are short and not much detailed (as expected) which also can be a bad side, depending on your expectations). It gives a very very brief idea about how the country’s children perceive their past, and nothing else.

The Bad: As also mentioned in the introduction of the book, there is only one essay on a country while there can be many, or at least two, different perceptions are existent. I first read the chapter on Turkey, as I know Turkish history the best, and, honestly, I wanted to throw up. I do not know if an Egyptian, Indian, Brit, German… would feel the same about their chapters. It’d be better to have two, or co-authored essays, I believe.

The Worse: This is much of an expectation for a summer read maybe, but I did not find any references in the essays for me to dig in the arguments of the authors. There are further readings section, yet it includes almost nothing.

The Conclusion: If you want to get a very brief introduction to the self-identification through history of some nations, and if you are not going to use the book in academia or for (further) research, it is an okay read. There are goodly and badly written chapters, and there are interesting and not as much interesting nations. Overall, though, it can be taken with to the beach next summer, if you have not done so yet.

Read In: 4 days (yes, I was lazy to read this one). Rating: 6/10.

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