History at its worst
Christopher Lascelles’ A Short History of the World is certainly not what the name claims it to be. Just 241 pages in length, it is a very, very, very, very short history of the world.
And the name would have been <g data-gr-id="50">more complete</g> if it had carried the subtitle ‘Man’s journey through a Western writer’s bigoted eyes’. The way Lascelles writes, it seems as if African slaves were little more than inanimate tools of economic progress for explorers from European countries.
And Lascelles’ blatantly West-centric, almost racist, world view becomes <g data-gr-id="48">appalingly</g> clear when he deals with India. The Battle of Plassey, in his version of history, was the battle in which the East India Company of Britain defeated the French in the competition for supremacy in India. To Lascelles, it seems that the Indians themselves were just incidental – not even worth mentioning – to this crucial period of what was after all (Indian) history.
Lenin, this alleged historian confidently asserts without giving a shred of evidence, was on Germany’s payroll. Post-1949 revolution China, he says, had intervened in South Korea to help North Korea invade it and then meddled in South Vietnam to help North Vietnam unify it… As if the United States of America was nowhere in the picture. Christopher Lascelles goes on and on. Every person, including a writer, certainly has a right to have his opinions. But someone who claims to be a historian certainly has no right to hawk prejudices and racist attitudes as history. Christopher Lascelles’ book covers a huge number of events right from man’s Pre-History (Chapter 1) to The 20th Century (Chapter 7). And throughout its 241 pages, Lascelles also tries to correlate the events and explain in his own way how they all combined to bring the human race where it stands today. The language is simple and reader-friendly and there is an excellent collection of maps.
The book is rather well organised, the fonts are appealing and there are various sub-sections, which try to supplement the main flow of writing. In fact, it is quite amazing how much the author has tried to get into details. A concise work of this type usually tends to concentrate more on the macro or big picture and refer the interested reader to a detailed bibliography for micro-details and further inquiries.
It is a pity that the author is biased against large swathes of humanity, a bias which thoroughly demolishes his attempt and claim to write history. Christopher Lascelles’ A Short History of the World ends with a two-page conclusion What’s Next.
Again, in this epilogue, he just can’t hold back his contempt and lack of concern for non-Westerners. He reminds us that “the resurgence of Islamic militancy threatens… the supply of oil, much of which lies in the Islamic countries of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and Kuwait. If this supply is threatened, the West and its trading partners will suffer the consequences.” Lascelles simply can’t hide his conviction that the people of the oil-rich countries don’t really matter. The only ones who matter are “the West and its trading partners”.
If this is history, God save the subject!