One of the most useless classes I took in college was freshman year World Civilizations. I’ve always loved history – all the little pieces that fit together to make the big picture – but this class was singularly awful. Instead of the big picture that was implied by the course name and promised by the course description, we got one little piece, thrown at us over and over again. The professor was a visitor from Africa, so we focused on African history. Even that would have been interesting, but the more specific focus was not on the cultures and politics of the continent, but on how Africa made us feel, as women. Combine this with lectures in a nearly impenetrable accent and a naptime class slot, and four years later, I literally cannot remember a single thing I learned. That’s unfortunate, not only because I’m still paying for that class, but because I’m still interested in history and find myself with some large gaps in my knowledge.
I was recently reminded of how little I know about the history of the Middle East, but having decided to educate myself, I still had to find a good source. Because it’s still a current political topic, I didn’t want to pick a book that I’d be second-guessing the whole way through. Providentially, this realization came as I was sitting at the dining room table next to the current Ignatius Press catalog. I flipped to the History section, and lo and behold: The Battleground, by Hilaire Belloc. I’m about to start it, and very excited. Once I’m done, I’ll have to find another source that picks up where Belloc leaves off (1936), but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. Updates to follow!