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May 1992 - Issue No. #08

Seeing History from New Perspectives:
A Review of Four Books

by Kip Cates

Seeing problems from multiple perspectives is a key global education skill. Here, we introduce four books which present "unheard voices" from the past. We hope these will help language teachers impart a more "global" view of history in content-based foreign language courses.

Stolen Continents: The "New World" Through Indian Eyes Since 1492

Viking/Penguin, Toronto

by Ronald Wright (1991)

History is written by the winners, and so the "discovery" of the "New World" in 1492 is widely regarded as one of humanity's finest moments. But the inhabitants of the Americas saw this event and its consequences quite differently. When Columbus arrived, the Americas held about one hundred million people, a fifth of the human race. Within decades, most of them were dead - victims of imported epidemics and barbarous assaults. The European invaders sacked mighty cities, destroyed great art, plundered fabulous wealth, and seized the land. But the New World's people did not all perish, and neighbor did their view of history, though it has been suppressed for centuries. In Stolen Continents, Ronald Wright quotes the authentic speech and writing of the indigenous peoples — Aztec, Maya, Inca, Cherokee and Iroquois — over a span of five hundred years. We relive their strange, tragic experience through their eloquent words, and see the European invaders through their shrewd, unblinking eyes.

Green History of the World

Sinclair-Stevenson, Londo

by Clive Ponting

We face arrange of global problems destruction of the ozone layer, acid rain, disappearing wildlife and tropical forests, widespread poverty and starvation. This book gives an historical account of the development of these problems, chronicles how humans have destroyed much of the natural world and shows how past societies have abused their environment and collapsed as a result. Topics covered range from the impact of European imperialism on world wildlife and the changing patterns of energy use (from animal power to fossil fuels) to the rise of cities and our affluent "throwaway" society.

The Green History of the World is thus a fascination interpretation of world history from a global ecological perspective.

The Women's History of the World

Harper Collins, New York

by Rosalind Miles (1988)

Traditional history books centres around the deeds of men, with women only playing a minor part. "Men dominate history because they write it," says the author. The book is not simply about famous women of the past, however, but also shows how women's vital part in shaping history has been consistently undervalued or ignored. Topics covered range from the life of prehistoric woman and medieval witch hunts through women's fight for education and the vote right up to the present. Spiced with tales of individual women who changed history, celebrating the work and lives of the unsung female millions, and distinguished by a wealth of research, The Women's History of the World spotlights a hidden side of history to present a new view of the world.

The People's History of the United States

Harper Collins, New York

by Howard Zinn

In most history books, the past is told from the point of view of governments, conquerors, leaders and the upper classes. Traditional American history thus usually focusses on the Founding Fathers, Lincoln, Roosevelt and Kennedy. This book attempts to right the balance by looking at the history of the common people — the farmers, factory workers, immigrants, blacks, women and children — whose story has been largely omitted. Extending right up into the 1970s, the book examines topics such as the U.S. Constitution as seen by the slaves and the rise of industrialism as seen by women workers in the textile mills as well as events usually ignored such as the great railroad strike of f1877 and the brutal suppression of the Philippine independence movement.


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Kip A. Cates, Tottori University, Koyama, Tottori City, JAPAN 680-8551
E-mail: Work Tel/Fax: 0857-31-5650