Framework of History

An idea, a proposal, a thought…..

Our current history textbooks for typical school-age kids are total crap for all sorts of reasons. But what do you replace them with? There are a lots of good books with the stories of history within them, but precious few really good school-age textbooks. The kids are drown in a sea of irrelevant details and trivia contained within a huge tree-killer tome filled with bold and underlined key words and colorful pictures, but have no idea about the larger sweep of history for context. What’s needed is a “framework” to hang all those details of events, ideas, people, battles, dates, and so-forth on. So…. here it is, at least in rough-draft brain-storming outline:

A series of short books, 100 to 150 pages each, each offering a thematic take on one aspect of world (or national) history, written and designed to be used in middle school, 7th grade or so, maybe 8th. Use enough some hard numbers to make comparisons possible. Get into some gory detail here and there, and don’t pull punches. Have an easy-to-read style and an occasional picture or map, but not the cartoonish bright colors of children’s books, to make the whole series be both serious “adult” books, not kids books, but not overwhelming or intimidating or excessively academic in tone. Start with at least four, maybe have as many as a dozen. They would be designed to read mostly as homework, and discussed in class. They will mention lots of things that can easily be tied into by other disciplines, like science, math, literature, language, etc. The goal is not to be comprehensive, but rather to provide a broad framework upon which all the other sorts of more normal text-books can be attached, sort of providing a “cover image” for a box with a puzzle in it, when normally the kids are just given a load of bits and pieces without any way to assemble them together.

So, for example, one book might be history through the lens of economics. How did people earn a living, what and how did they trade, what goods were made locally versus traded for, what was the typical breakdown of the population in terms of farmers, pastoralists, tradesmen, craftsmen, soldiers, how much of a person’s food did they grow/catch versus buy, what was money or wealth, etc. And, of course, how all this changed over time as new technologies showed up, invasions of new peoples happened, climate changed, and so forth. Things like slavery, wind power, transportation methods, and other items would be touched upon to link it to other topics in the book series. Look at what was done any why, but through the perspective of cost-benefit analysis, actual choices available, and restrictions placed because of knowledge, resources, and world-view.

Books would include:

  1. Economics
  2. Wars and battles, military strategy, tactics, and tech.
  3. Science and Technology
  4. Religion & Philosophy (as it interfaced with the real world, rather than doctrine)
  5. Movement of peoples and slavery
  6. Daily life – vignettes of how different people in different paces and times lived, including things like daily diet and calorie-count, recipes, and life expectancy; primary goal is to make comparisons to life today, instill gratitude for what we have
  7. Politics , diplomacy, and nations
  8. ?
  9. Appendix A, Great men of World history, not necessarily just kings and generals
  10. Appendix B, lists of great men, events, battles, wars, for each nation/ethnicity/place

So, imagine if you will, one leading figure in each field is contacted, and asked to write an extended essay suitable for a middle-school textbook, to be made as either a homeschool series, or even a public school text. Maybe Van Creveld can write the military history book. Maybe Simon Webb can write the movement of peoples and slavery book. Stephan Molineux can write the the Religion and Philosophy book. And it could all be published by Castalia House. Thoughts?

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