Rarely do short introductory books make any justice to complex and large topics such as history. John Arnold made the exception in History: A Very Short Introduction. The book is a member of the highly renowned series of Very Short Introduction books by the Oxford University Press which has more than of its fair share of great introductory books.
John explores the history of historiography and the emergence of the discipline. He uses quite interesting and amusing tidbits from the past to both entertain the reader and to examine a use-case that demonstrates how historians work.
What I like most in this book is how the authors demonstrates that history and the past are not the same, nor are they equivalent. He stresses the point even further when he differentiates between history with a small h and History. The subjectivity and time-sensitive nature of history is well explained in this book. A point that many miss by a long shot. Some have even maintained that historic facts are equal to scientific facts, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
Finally, John writes that history doesn’t tell us how it would have been had we lived in the past, nor does it teaches us lessons for the present and future. Rather, history tells us something about ourselves. By examining others in similar situations and searching about meaning in what happened in the past, we get insight in what we might do in our future.
Edition(s) read: Audio.
Recommendation: Highly recommended for everyone.