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World History

When does an explorer become an adventurer, an adventurer a traveller, a traveller a tourist? This third volume of Raymond Howgego’s monumental Encyclopedia of Exploration moves into a period when the lines become increasingly blurred.

Volume One (2003) covered all of human history up to 1800. In that period, any traveller who left a written account of his or her journey could be counted as an ‘explorer’, and Howgego’s sheer stamina in seeking them all out made this one of the extraordinary books of our time. Most reference works of this scale are assembled by small armies of writers, researchers and editors, funded by major international publishers. The Encyclopedia of Exploration to 1800 was the work of one man, supported by the comparatively modest resources of Sydney antiquarian bookseller and boutique publisher, Hordern House.

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Occasionally, a television series on history is accompanied by an excellent book. Jacob Bronowski, anchorman for The Ascent of Man (1973), produced a book of the same name, the more remarkable because it lucidly explained complicated topics in the history of science. John Kenneth Galbraith’s challenging and quietly amusing The Age of Uncertainty (1977) came from another BBC series. Now the history of the twentieth century – or essentially the first half of it – is told and interpreted in this fascinating book by Niall Ferguson, a talented British historian who is a professor at Harvard University.

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