Title: The Story Of The First Civilizations – From Mesopotamia To The Aztecs
Author: Subhadra Sen Gupta
Publisher: Talking Cub , Speaking Tiger Books
Age group: 10+ years
‘The Story of the First Civilization’ – From Mesopotamia to the Aztecs is the late author Subhadra Sen Gupta’s last contribution to the many treasures she has given children’s literature and history, published posthumously by Talking Cub. Anyone who has read even one of her books knows there is no better way to learn history than to read one of her books. Starting from her Lets Go Time Traveling, we have explored Indian history through her many vivid, humorous and mind boggling narratives.
This book starts right at the beginning, from when the genus Homo first evolved 2.5 million years ago to describing the first civilizations and the great rivers that nourished them. In nine meticulously research chapters covering Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Indus Valley, China, Greece, Rome, the Americas and Africa — the book comprehensively covers all principal pioneer civilizations of the world.
Filled with nuanced observations, she starts right from why someone from Mesopotamia would say “I come from the City of Ur”, pointing out the problems when history is written by someone from another country. The story of each of the civilizations unfold in an easy humorous narrative, an intriguing – almost a conversation – with an enthusiastic historian, asking questions, revealing facts you may have missed and placing some familiar names in context, pointing out gender bias and injustice along the way.
The text is broken into brief paragraphs with witty headings Ziggurat! What was that?, Board Exams, Oh No! (Yes, you can find out which civilization thought it would be a good idea to introduce exams? It’s all gold in Mali, Eureka and Ouch and more. There are small nuggets, poems and proverbs that add a lovely “Did you know?” piece even to a reader who may just be flicking through the book and bulleted lists at the end of the chapters, full of fascinating facts. Maps and illustrations add another layer of information for the reader.
I could give you a long list of facts you will learn from this book. But this is not a book to be read in one go. It is one that must be relished, chapter by chapter, slowly. It will spark curiosity to know more, and therefore you will begin an exploration of your own reading up more about Doser, the first king who thought about a tomb that would rise above the ground, and its architect Imoteph, how Harrapa was saved in the nick of time from becoming a railway station platform, explore waterproofing and pools when there was no cement, search up images of the famous Terracotta warriors as Subhadra tells us they were modelled on real people and each one looks different in different poses, shrug as you discover who used fireworks first and for what and be compelled to find out more after you learn about the origins of democracy in Athens.
History is not just about the rulers and wars. It is about the people and their lifestyles, food and clothes and entertainment. And no one tells it like Subhadra Sen Gupta as she tells us about the teeth chattering rides on the Roman roads, and why some Maharashtrian must have met someone from Peru while frying batata wadas and why you may see strange cones of wax on heads of guests in Egyptian paintings.
Covid took away this gem of an author from us, but thanks to Talking Cub we have one last treasure to keep. History is brilliant when it connects the dots and tells us how far we have come and how much or how little some things have changed. Please do yourself a favour and get this book today and read this book yourself or with a child and discover History, the way it should be presented.
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