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Dahlen comments on The Best Textbooks on Every Subject - Less Wrong

167 Post author: lukeprog 16 January 2011 08:30AM

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Comment author: Dahlen 28 September 2015 01:34:55AM *  2 points [-]

Here's, for example, a textbook I was looking into: World History by Duiker & Spielvogel. The table of contents looks pretty much like what I was seeking, though there's less focus on geopolitics and more on the civilisational "big picture" than I would have liked. (Edit: and perhaps if it were thrice the page count it would have been closer to the level of detail I was trying to get.) I was interested in getting a comparison between, for instance, this book and others of the same type.

What I'm trying to remedy is a very poor knowledge of the most basic, boring kind of historical data: who ruled when, what were the major battles and their dates and locations, what political entities and subdivisions existed and when were they founded and ended/conquered, what major reforms were made, what people produced and traded etc. I too have and can find books on very specific historical matters, and take pleasure in reading them, but they would fit better in an understanding of the hard facts and data relevant to those historical circumstances.

Comment author: Lumifer 28 September 2015 03:48:13PM -1 points [-]

most basic, boring kind of historical data: who ruled when, what were the major battles and their dates and locations

Why do you want to know this? You'll forget the great majority of this data in half a year.

Comment author: Vaniver 28 September 2015 04:00:50PM *  3 points [-]

The difference between recall and recognition is perhaps important for this. Even if you can't recall things unbidden, recognizing that something fits with your "sense of history" or not is useful. For example, if someone says "remember that time a Muslim army invaded central France?" you might think "oh yeah, what was that battle's name? Wasn't Charlemagne's father involved?" instead of "that sounds like an AU timeline."

(The 'dates and battles' view is better than ignorance, but I still think it's a very oversold perspective relative to scientific / economic / engineering history.)

Comment author: Lumifer 28 September 2015 04:27:14PM -1 points [-]

Even if you can't recall things unbidden, recognizing that something fits with your "sense of history" or not is useful.

Yes, but it's the standard school approach of "throw a lot of everything at the wall, something will stick". It doesn't look efficient or effective. I can see some sense in it during the middle/high school years because you're basically training kids to deal the overwhelming amounts of information (e.g. by forcing them to figure out what's important and what's not) -- however adult self-education should be able to do a lot better.

Comment author: Dahlen 28 September 2015 10:50:48PM 1 point [-]

I know a lot less about it than you might expect. I'm able to recall various tidbits about people's life and culture in who-knows-what historical era, but the "big picture" is very low-res. I don't want to keep having surprises like, "oh, these peoples existed", "hey, Afrikaans sounds Germanic, what's up with that", "I've been listening to a song about this guy for months, but I don't know wtf he did" etc.

Comment author: Lumifer 28 September 2015 11:47:30PM -1 points [-]

So study the big picture. Who ruled when and in which particular year did a battle take place are not very useful for that.