When I first started homeschooling, I was really into The Story of the World. It was the first history that I used, unless you count Christian Liberty Press’s History for Little Pilgrims. If you go back into the archives of my blog into about 2012 and 2013, you will see that we did a great many activities and had fun as we read through the first two volumes of the story. We also read through volume three, but my children didn’t find volume three as compelling at the time, so I put volume four on my bookcase, thinking that perhaps one day we would work through it.
Late this summer, as my oldest son, who is 12, and I were looking for independent work for him to do separate from our whole families’ schoolwork, he picked the fourth volume off the shelf of options for him to work through. So, I began working through The Story of the World (Volume 4): The Modern Age with him. It was his fall semester “study with Mom.” We would read 2 or 3 chapters a week and discuss the chapters, find places on the map and sometimes put events in our book of centuries. We kept it light and did not do any formal narration or writing with it, and we ended up really enjoying working through this volume of history.
This volume, if you’re wondering about where it covers, begins during the reign of Queen Victoria and covers from Queen Victoria all the way to Nelson Mandela. The volume cuts off in the 1990s, which is interesting because, as we read about the First Persian Gulf war, I would explain to my son that I was actually his age when I watched the coverage of the war on CNN. (As a side note, how creepy is it to realize that we essentially watched that war on television?) I realized that events in my lifetime didn’t really feel like history to me, even though a few of them have truly passed into history.
This volume is wide ranging, as Bauer attempts to cover events on all continents, and that makes it difficult to condense into a cohesive story. I think that, perhaps, is why the books lose their charm in the later volumes. It can be difficult to keep up with events in India or South America as you go through and visit them every couple of chapters, but in the end, I find that reading this volume deepens my perception of global history and how what is done in each part of the world effects the other parts, and that is huge when we begin to study the world wars and to understand modern events.
Because of the complexity of the material and the difficulty in transitioning from one place to another and back again, I would not recommend this volume for children under 10. At twelve, Bennett was the perfect age to absorb and connect the information, but he wasn’t too old to be beyond the material. I do not know when or if I will use this book with my 11 year old, but I do plan to use this book again with at least one of my younger two during their middle school years.
As always, I asked Bennett for his perspective on the whole book as we finished with it yesterday. He said:
I would give this book 4 stars. I really like how history plays out in the book, but a lot of bad stuff happens in modern history. It’s like we just get worse as time goes on.
He definitely picks up on the note of pragmatism and despair that tinges Bauer’s own introduction to this volume of history. We have hope in the next revolution, but as we all carry the evil of sin in our hearts, a new government or revolution is often just a perpetrator of more violence and injustice against a new group. We really do practice perpetual war in the hopes of perpetual peace. Yet, peace cannot be made by us, and so the cycle goes on.
In retrospect, this would have been a good history book to have paired with a Biblical study of the book of Judges, as modern history truly teaches us what happens when people do what is right in their own eyes. This is truly an excellent history volume, and its only truly negative is the difficulty incurred in trying to remember all the people groups and countries that she discusses from chapter to chapter.