LEIGH FORBES: Books of all Sorts

Histories of Nations: How Their Identities Were Forged

by Peter Furtado.

A “History of the Political Revisionist Histories of Nations” would be a more accurate title for this book, which comprises a selection of essays, written by natives of each country, on some (necessarily limited) aspect of their nations’ histories. Some look at religion, some at war, some at colonisation, and so on.

Despite a passion for history, and deep interest in politics, I found this book dry in the extreme – some chapters felt like nothing more than a loosely strung list of names and dates – and almost entirely forgettable. Apart from the occasional use of the first person, I found it impossible to glean any particular “native” perspective – the essays were all very same-y, which I lament, because that’s a big part of what inspired me to buy it.

Despite being tempted to give up, I wanted to finish, as bad books sometimes improve – and this one did. I’m glad I persevered, as I liked the chapters on Ghana, Australia, and Argentina well enough. Overall, my learning point is that most countries are much younger – in terms of their political identities – than I ever realised.


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