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History of the world: Who to leave out?

History of the world: Who to leave out?

Clockwise from left: Cleopatra, Mao, Queen Victoria, Nelson, Stalin and Hitler

Attempting to tell the history of the whole world in one go is a leviathan of a task. Knowing what to leave out is a struggle, says Andrew Marr, presenter of History of the World.

Once, many of us got our sense of history from illustrated books or partwork series.

David Attenborough, who as controller of BBC Two commissioned Kenneth Clarke’s groundbreaking Civilisation, had himself been inspired by HG Wells’s An Outline of History.

For me, it was other books, from Ladybirds to a massive 1920s historical encyclopaedia.

But television is brilliantly placed for join-the-dots history – it has the vividness and enthusiasm for the concrete that illustrated books share. Dramatisation can act like the coloured pictures I pored over as a boy.

Find out more

Andrew Marr

But to tell each story takes between five and eight minutes so, very roughly, we knew we had up to 60 stories to choose. Where to start?

We decided to tell the story of man the social animal, and our rise from hunter-gatherers in Africa to today’s clever apes and our technologically adept, seven-billion-plus domination of the planet.

Deep space and deep time, the origins of life and evolution, I left to the scientists. The same went for the hundreds of thousands of years of the emergence of Homo sapiens from earlier apes and hominids.

Quick wipe of brow. We would start a mere 70,000 years ago with the migration from Africa which spread mankind around the world. Easy.

Then, however, we decided to make it harder.

We’re no longer living in the Europe-first culture where Kenneth Clarke so confidently stood. This had to properly reflect a world in which China, South America and India are the rising powers.

Big histories

  • Herodotus wrote world’s first ever history – The Histories – focused on Greece, Asia Minor, Egypt and Persian Empire
  • Cassius Dio wrote history of Rome that covered more than 1,400 years and stretched to 80 books
  • HG Wells published The Outline of History in 1919 and followed it up with A Short History of the World in 1922
  • EH Gombrich wrote A Little History of the World in language children could understand in 1935
  • Jared Diamond‘s 1997 work Guns, Germs and Steel explained why technology developed in some parts of the world and not others
  • Bill Bryson wrote the science-orientated A Short History of Nearly Everything in 2003

Also, I was determined that although the vast majority of history-making figures – the names we know, the rulers, the scientists – are men, this would also pay tribute to women’s contribution to history.

Clearly, human history has accelerated. The vast sweeps of time when Stone Age cultures barely changed, then the thousands of years of the farming revolution, then the towns, empires and then a frantic tumble and cascade of change.

So the early programmes cover much longer ranges of time, and as the stories move forward, the focus gets closer. But in each show, there was an agonising and mostly highly argumentative, selection going on.

It was a principle that we couldn’t afford to tell the same big story twice. So, for instance, I needed to explain about absolutist rulers in the 18th Century – their ambition, their scale but also the weakness of personal rule as a way of driving a large society.

I went for the story of the Mughals in India and Aurangzeb – the 17th Century emperor who fought endless wars of expansion. It’s less familiar and in some ways more important than that of Louis XIV, France’s Sun King, or Frederick the Great of Prussia. They both appear in the book, but neither made the cut in the film.

In: Edward Jenner, pioneer of smallpox vaccination

Inventor of vaccinations Edward Jenner (1749 - 1823) vaccinates his son

Later on, I needed to discuss the vast death toll produced by Communist dictatorship and chose Mao and Deng Xiopeng, rather than Stalin.

Then there were the practical problems. I’d wanted to show the early Mesopotamian empires but Iran and the relevant parts of Iraq were either forbidden or too difficult to film in. The same soon went for Syria, which had been an “essential” setting.

‘Drinking, wenching, stealing’

Hogarth's Gin Lane

So we found ways round. The heart of the Mesopotamian story is about how the need to control rivers – for irrigation and against flooding – forced the people living around them to come together, eventually under some political authority.

That’s why so many civilisations began on the banks of rivers. In Mesopotamia it produced empires, terrifying gods, the first writing and excellent maths. But something very similar happened to the Chinese clans living along the banks of the Yellow River. So we filmed there instead.

The death of Socrates – a story about open societies and dissent which reverberates loudly today – and the too little-known tale of the remarkable Asoka of India are among my high spots.

Also the super-rich empire of Mali, and the man who perhaps deserves to be the world’s all-time favourite Englishman – not William Shakespeare but Edward Jenner.

In: Cleopatra, famous beauty and an astute politician

Actress Elizabeth Taylor filming Cleopatra in Rome - 1961.

Cleopatra appears as a brilliant manipulator and gutsy politician, not just a beautiful woman. Then there’s Tolstoy, and the women behind the Pill, and the Viking founders of Russia.

But – rats! – I really wanted to tell so many other stories that there simply wasn’t the space, time or money for. I decided people knew more British history than any other, so there is no Nelson or Wellington, no Queen Victoria, no Battle of Britain.

You know that stuff already. And as for Henry VIII, fascinating ruler though he was, in world terms he’s just a fat sprat.

Out: The Battle of Britain

RAF pilots

On this scale you can’t tell the story of World War I or II, so I’ve taken the extraordinary tale of a Berlin civil servant, the rise of young Hitler, the massacre of Jews at Babi Yar in Ukraine and the making of the atom bomb as my representative moments.

To get in stories from Peru, Brazil, Japan, Mongolia and the Caribbean, some of the better known periods in European history slipped away. Charlemagne was galloping boldly but fell at an early fence. Charles Darwin is my all-time hero, but we’ve had plenty of him in recent years.

This was three years in the researching and 18 months in the filming, including the drama reconstructions made in South Africa. Writing a book, I can include far more – but there’s something provocative and cheeky about the brutal selections required by television.

History of the world: Who to leave out?

History of the world: Who to leave out?

Clockwise from left: Cleopatra, Mao, Queen Victoria, Nelson, Stalin and Hitler

Attempting to tell the history of the whole world in one go is a leviathan of a task. Knowing what to leave out is a struggle, says Andrew Marr, presenter of History of the World.

Once, many of us got our sense of history from illustrated books or partwork series.

David Attenborough, who as controller of BBC Two commissioned Kenneth Clarke’s groundbreaking Civilisation, had himself been inspired by HG Wells’s An Outline of History.

For me, it was other books, from Ladybirds to a massive 1920s historical encyclopaedia.

But television is brilliantly placed for join-the-dots history – it has the vividness and enthusiasm for the concrete that illustrated books share. Dramatisation can act like the coloured pictures I pored over as a boy.

Find out more

Andrew Marr

But to tell each story takes between five and eight minutes so, very roughly, we knew we had up to 60 stories to choose. Where to start?

We decided to tell the story of man the social animal, and our rise from hunter-gatherers in Africa to today’s clever apes and our technologically adept, seven-billion-plus domination of the planet.

Deep space and deep time, the origins of life and evolution, I left to the scientists. The same went for the hundreds of thousands of years of the emergence of Homo sapiens from earlier apes and hominids.

Quick wipe of brow. We would start a mere 70,000 years ago with the migration from Africa which spread mankind around the world. Easy.

Then, however, we decided to make it harder.

We’re no longer living in the Europe-first culture where Kenneth Clarke so confidently stood. This had to properly reflect a world in which China, South America and India are the rising powers.

Big histories

  • Herodotus wrote world’s first ever history – The Histories – focused on Greece, Asia Minor, Egypt and Persian Empire
  • Cassius Dio wrote history of Rome that covered more than 1,400 years and stretched to 80 books
  • HG Wells published The Outline of History in 1919 and followed it up with A Short History of the World in 1922
  • EH Gombrich wrote A Little History of the World in language children could understand in 1935
  • Jared Diamond‘s 1997 work Guns, Germs and Steel explained why technology developed in some parts of the world and not others
  • Bill Bryson wrote the science-orientated A Short History of Nearly Everything in 2003

Also, I was determined that although the vast majority of history-making figures – the names we know, the rulers, the scientists – are men, this would also pay tribute to women’s contribution to history.

Clearly, human history has accelerated. The vast sweeps of time when Stone Age cultures barely changed, then the thousands of years of the farming revolution, then the towns, empires and then a frantic tumble and cascade of change.

So the early programmes cover much longer ranges of time, and as the stories move forward, the focus gets closer. But in each show, there was an agonising and mostly highly argumentative, selection going on.

It was a principle that we couldn’t afford to tell the same big story twice. So, for instance, I needed to explain about absolutist rulers in the 18th Century – their ambition, their scale but also the weakness of personal rule as a way of driving a large society.

I went for the story of the Mughals in India and Aurangzeb – the 17th Century emperor who fought endless wars of expansion. It’s less familiar and in some ways more important than that of Louis XIV, France’s Sun King, or Frederick the Great of Prussia. They both appear in the book, but neither made the cut in the film.

In: Edward Jenner, pioneer of smallpox vaccination

Inventor of vaccinations Edward Jenner (1749 - 1823) vaccinates his son

Later on, I needed to discuss the vast death toll produced by Communist dictatorship and chose Mao and Deng Xiopeng, rather than Stalin.

Then there were the practical problems. I’d wanted to show the early Mesopotamian empires but Iran and the relevant parts of Iraq were either forbidden or too difficult to film in. The same soon went for Syria, which had been an “essential” setting.

‘Drinking, wenching, stealing’

Hogarth's Gin Lane

So we found ways round. The heart of the Mesopotamian story is about how the need to control rivers – for irrigation and against flooding – forced the people living around them to come together, eventually under some political authority.

That’s why so many civilisations began on the banks of rivers. In Mesopotamia it produced empires, terrifying gods, the first writing and excellent maths. But something very similar happened to the Chinese clans living along the banks of the Yellow River. So we filmed there instead.

The death of Socrates – a story about open societies and dissent which reverberates loudly today – and the too little-known tale of the remarkable Asoka of India are among my high spots.

Also the super-rich empire of Mali, and the man who perhaps deserves to be the world’s all-time favourite Englishman – not William Shakespeare but Edward Jenner.

In: Cleopatra, famous beauty and an astute politician

Actress Elizabeth Taylor filming Cleopatra in Rome - 1961.

Cleopatra appears as a brilliant manipulator and gutsy politician, not just a beautiful woman. Then there’s Tolstoy, and the women behind the Pill, and the Viking founders of Russia.

But – rats! – I really wanted to tell so many other stories that there simply wasn’t the space, time or money for. I decided people knew more British history than any other, so there is no Nelson or Wellington, no Queen Victoria, no Battle of Britain.

You know that stuff already. And as for Henry VIII, fascinating ruler though he was, in world terms he’s just a fat sprat.

Out: The Battle of Britain

RAF pilots

On this scale you can’t tell the story of World War I or II, so I’ve taken the extraordinary tale of a Berlin civil servant, the rise of young Hitler, the massacre of Jews at Babi Yar in Ukraine and the making of the atom bomb as my representative moments.

To get in stories from Peru, Brazil, Japan, Mongolia and the Caribbean, some of the better known periods in European history slipped away. Charlemagne was galloping boldly but fell at an early fence. Charles Darwin is my all-time hero, but we’ve had plenty of him in recent years.

This was three years in the researching and 18 months in the filming, including the drama reconstructions made in South Africa. Writing a book, I can include far more – but there’s something provocative and cheeky about the brutal selections required by television.

Egypt security HQ in Sinai hit by militants

Egypt security HQ in Sinai hit by militants

File pic of an Egyptian soldier

There has been an Egyptian security crackdown in Sinai since early August

Related Stories

Suspected Islamist militants have attacked an Egyptian security HQ in Sinai, firing crude rockets and bullets from a nearby building.

The attack in al-Arish set off battles between militants and security forces in surrounding streets, officials said.

Three policemen were reported hurt in other unrelated clashes nearby.

The violence comes amid a security crackdown in the area launched after 16 Egyptian soldiers were killed at a border post in early August.

The BBC’s Jon Leyne, in Cairo, says the militants operating in Sinai are usually described as Islamists, but there’s no clear idea exactly who they are.

Security experts say they are a combination of Egyptian and foreign Islamist militants, who take advantage of the lack of law and order in Sinai.

They appear to work with the local Bedouin, who have their own set of grievances against the Egyptian government, as well as engaging in smuggling across the border with Gaza and with Israel, our correspondent says.

‘Lawless’

In the attack on the North Sinai security headquarters, militants “positioned themselves on the roofs of buildings opposite” and launched the rocket propelled grenades, news agency AFP quoted a security official as saying.

Fighting stopped after the militants fled the area.

“It seems they set off an explosive device at the security headquarters first before using the RPGs,” the official was quoted as saying.

In an unrelated incident in the town of Sheikh Zuwaid, nearer the border with the Gaza Strip, three policemen were hurt in clashes between militants and security forces.

There is no immediate evidence the latest clashes are connected with the controversy over a film that has outraged Muslims.

But our correspondent says the violence is fresh evidence that the area is still quite lawless, despite the Egyptian military build-up.

Since 1982, when Israeli troops withdrew, the Sinai peninsula has remained under a special security regime mandated by the peace treaty the two countries signed in 1979, which restricts Egypt’s freedom of military action.

map

Egypt security HQ in Sinai hit by militants

Egypt security HQ in Sinai hit by militants

File pic of an Egyptian soldier

There has been an Egyptian security crackdown in Sinai since early August

Related Stories

Suspected Islamist militants have attacked an Egyptian security HQ in Sinai, firing crude rockets and bullets from a nearby building.

The attack in al-Arish set off battles between militants and security forces in surrounding streets, officials said.

Three policemen were reported hurt in other unrelated clashes nearby.

The violence comes amid a security crackdown in the area launched after 16 Egyptian soldiers were killed at a border post in early August.

The BBC’s Jon Leyne, in Cairo, says the militants operating in Sinai are usually described as Islamists, but there’s no clear idea exactly who they are.

Security experts say they are a combination of Egyptian and foreign Islamist militants, who take advantage of the lack of law and order in Sinai.

They appear to work with the local Bedouin, who have their own set of grievances against the Egyptian government, as well as engaging in smuggling across the border with Gaza and with Israel, our correspondent says.

‘Lawless’

In the attack on the North Sinai security headquarters, militants “positioned themselves on the roofs of buildings opposite” and launched the rocket propelled grenades, news agency AFP quoted a security official as saying.

Fighting stopped after the militants fled the area.

“It seems they set off an explosive device at the security headquarters first before using the RPGs,” the official was quoted as saying.

In an unrelated incident in the town of Sheikh Zuwaid, nearer the border with the Gaza Strip, three policemen were hurt in clashes between militants and security forces.

There is no immediate evidence the latest clashes are connected with the controversy over a film that has outraged Muslims.

But our correspondent says the violence is fresh evidence that the area is still quite lawless, despite the Egyptian military build-up.

Since 1982, when Israeli troops withdrew, the Sinai peninsula has remained under a special security regime mandated by the peace treaty the two countries signed in 1979, which restricts Egypt’s freedom of military action.

map

PRESS RELEASE: AutismAid Kickoff Postponed due to Tragic Death within the Autism Community

PRESS RELEASE: AutismAid Kickoff Postponed due to Tragic Death within the Autism Community

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: AutismAid Kickoff Campaign Postponed due to Tragic Death within the Autism Community

September 14, 2012

STATEMENT FROM  AutismAid™

Our
thoughts and prayers go out to Steve and Aric’s Family.
 

AutismAid’s
Race Across America and national Introduction has been postponed until
further notice.

On behalf of the AutismAid family, we wish to express
our deepest
sympathies and heartfelt regrets for this unexpected tragic loss of
life.

Aware to Care… Aware to Share


Tim Welsh, Zidlow Marx, and Elyssa Durant and the AutismAid Family

AutismAid™

 

Statement from Steve Knowlton:

“We lost an incredible Friend Aric True and it has hit deeply and I will be speaking at his funeral and a Pall-bearer on Friday at Hosanna Lutheran Church 11:00 in Mankato MN I hope as many as possible will attend. 

Saturday is his burial so for now the “Run” is postponed. I want to be here and help and come to closure with this tragedy, I will run though, definitely have the record by May, for now this is my priority.”

Steve

Steve Knowlton World Record Run for Autism and Aspergers

BACKGROUND INFORMATION ABOUT THE RACE:  AutismAid “Beyond The Limits Campaign”

AutismAid to launch “Beyond The Limits Campaign” to support individuals impacted by Autism Spectrum Disorder Autism And Aspergers World Record Run

Press Release Steve Knowlton Guinness World Record Run

 Catlin,
IL: AutismAid is proud to support ultra-marathoner Steve Knowlton.
Steve has committed to help us introduce a message of service support
equity for those individuals impacted by Autism Spectrum Disorder from
coast to coast as he runs to break the Guinness World Record this fall.
The journey, which we are calling our “Beyond the Limits” Campaign will
consist of Steve running from San Francisco to New York in 45 days
commencing on September 1st. 

“Last
year, with inner determination and help from God, I ran Solo 3,717
miles across America,from Seattle to Key Largo. This fall I plan on
breaking a 32-year-old World Record set in 1980 by Frank Giannino who
averaged 67 miles a day for 46 days and 8 hours running across America. I
will set the New World Record by averaging over 70 miles a day for 45
days… This September, I will begin my Record Run starting in San
Francisco, California and head through Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska,
South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio,
Pennsylvania and finishing in New York City, New York for a total of
3,100 miles.” – Steve Knowlton 

We
want to support Steve in every way that we can and we are so very
grateful for his commitment and sacrifice. We are in the process of
looking for sponsors as well as in-kind donations to help Steve with his
journey. Our growing organization welcomes contact from all members of
the community as we address the service needs of individuals on the
spectrum through our partner Non Profit groups. 

About
AutismAid: AutismAid is a National Consortium that will change the way
Local Autism Service Non Profits Raise Donations, Collaborate, and
Operate. Our mission is to raise funds, confidence, and community action
levels. AutismAid For more information contact Executive Director Tim Welsh tim@autismaid.org or Creative Director Zidlow Marx zidlow@autismaid.org

3,100 miles San Francisco to New York Launching this September 15th 2012
Steve Knowlton will smash 32 year old ultra marathon record for
AutismAid AutismAid Steven Knowlton

AutismAid Kickoff Campaign

 PLEASE VISIT OUT SITE FOR MORE INFORMATION….

 AutismAid™

 

 

 

From an “Undisclosed Location” 

Just me,

e

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Steve and Aric’s Family.

AutismAid’s Race Across America and national Introduction has been postponed until further notice.

On behalf of the AutismAid family, we wish to express our deepest sympathies and heartfelt regrets for this unexpected tragic loss of life.

Respectfully yours,

Tim Welsh, Zidlow Marx, Elyssa Durant and the entire AutismAid Family.

AutismAid.org

“Aware to care, aware to share.”

PRESS RELEASE: AutismAid Kickoff Postponed due to Tragic Death within the Autism Community

PRESS RELEASE: AutismAid Kickoff Postponed due to Tragic Death within the Autism Community

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: AutismAid Kickoff Campaign Postponed due to Tragic Death within the Autism Community

September 14, 2012

STATEMENT FROM  AutismAid™

Our
thoughts and prayers go out to Steve and Aric’s Family.
 

AutismAid’s
Race Across America and national Introduction has been postponed until
further notice.

On behalf of the AutismAid family, we wish to express
our deepest
sympathies and heartfelt regrets for this unexpected tragic loss of
life.

Aware to Care… Aware to Share


Tim Welsh, Zidlow Marx, and Elyssa Durant and the AutismAid Family

AutismAid™

 

Statement from Steve Knowlton:

“We lost an incredible Friend Aric True and it has hit deeply and I will be speaking at his funeral and a Pall-bearer on Friday at Hosanna Lutheran Church 11:00 in Mankato MN I hope as many as possible will attend. 

Saturday is his burial so for now the “Run” is postponed. I want to be here and help and come to closure with this tragedy, I will run though, definitely have the record by May, for now this is my priority.”

Steve

Steve Knowlton World Record Run for Autism and Aspergers

BACKGROUND INFORMATION ABOUT THE RACE:  AutismAid “Beyond The Limits Campaign”

 Catlin,
IL: AutismAid is proud to support ultra-marathoner Steve Knowlton.
Steve has committed to help us introduce a message of service support
equity for those individuals impacted by Autism Spectrum Disorder from
coast to coast as he runs to break the Guinness World Record this fall.
The journey, which we are calling our “Beyond the Limits” Campaign will
consist of Steve running from San Francisco to New York in 45 days
commencing on September 1st. 

“Last
year, with inner determination and help from God, I ran Solo 3,717
miles across America,from Seattle to Key Largo. This fall I plan on
breaking a 32-year-old World Record set in 1980 by Frank Giannino who
averaged 67 miles a day for 46 days and 8 hours running across America. I
will set the New World Record by averaging over 70 miles a day for 45
days… This September, I will begin my Record Run starting in San
Francisco, California and head through Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska,
South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio,
Pennsylvania and finishing in New York City, New York for a total of
3,100 miles.” – Steve Knowlton 

We
want to support Steve in every way that we can and we are so very
grateful for his commitment and sacrifice. We are in the process of
looking for sponsors as well as in-kind donations to help Steve with his
journey. Our growing organization welcomes contact from all members of
the community as we address the service needs of individuals on the
spectrum through our partner Non Profit groups. 

About
AutismAid: AutismAid is a National Consortium that will change the way
Local Autism Service Non Profits Raise Donations, Collaborate, and
Operate. Our mission is to raise funds, confidence, and community action
levels. AutismAid For more information contact Executive Director Tim Welsh tim@autismaid.org or Creative Director Zidlow Marx zidlow@autismaid.org

3,100 miles San Francisco to New York Launching this September 15th 2012
Steve Knowlton will smash 32 year old ultra marathon record for
AutismAid AutismAid Steven Knowlton

AutismAid Kickoff Campaign

 PLEASE VISIT OUT SITE FOR MORE INFORMATION….

 AutismAid™

 

 

 

From an “Undisclosed Location” 

Just me,

e

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Steve and Aric’s Family.

AutismAid’s Race Across America and national Introduction has been postponed until further notice.

On behalf of the AutismAid family, we wish to express our deepest sympathies and heartfelt regrets for this unexpected tragic loss of life.

Respectfully yours,

Tim Welsh, Zidlow Marx, Elyssa Durant and the entire AutismAid Family.

AutismAid.org

“Aware to care, aware to share.”