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Friday, April 14, 2017

Thomas Jefferson A Life from Beginning to End by Hourly History

The book, Thomas Jefferson, is published by Hourly History Limited with a website at

The copyright is with the Hourly History in the year 2016.

It was made available free of cost. I subscribed to the website when I bought a book titled The Last Mughal by William Darlymple about which I had read a lot but did not care to buy. It was available on Kindly collection for less than ₹100 and being in digital form, I bought it. It was in that book, I found the reference to this subscription and availed it. Every week they send you two free books. As per the site, they had published 60 titles by now and it is accessed and confirmed on April 14, 2017, an auspicious day in Indian calendar and I accessed it to check the content. But who are they at Hourly History? I do not get any answer. Who is the author of different titles? No answer. But they call you friend in every letter and also on the site. Is a friend expected to say goody goody thing? Is a friend a true one if he calls a spade a spade on the face of the friend?

There is no doubt that you can read the books provided by the publication within one hour. They are spread over near about 40 pages. They are nicely written. Well, I am going to point out some flaws. Just another question which I may ask. Should we call it a book or a pamphlet or a long essay? What is an acceptable length of a book? Yes, there are some books which are called books but hardly contains more than 24 pages.

By now I have read two books of this publication. I have started a number of titles simultaneously. It is only in the case of two books, that I have read them fully. It is not that they are not written nicely. It is because I do a lot of internet searching when I come across any word or term about which I am doubtful. Therefore, I sometimes take longer time. Secondly, I am hooked to W. W. Atkinson titles. I generally move to that collection even when I am doing my own job.

I am highly infatuated by the History of USA. As it is a task given to me in my job, I teach American History. My starting book was Henry Bamford Parkes. It was long back that I had read that book. At that time, there was no internet to explore. I visited the library and checked different titles. America otherwise holds a great attraction for the Indians. Any policy on H1B visa is always a national news in India. It affects the software companies of India which contribute to the service sector of India and the service sector contributes around 50% to GDP of India. For me, as a student of History, it holds a different attraction because, for us, the working of history is well reflected in the birth and growth of America. From that perspective, the father of America as a nation, a book on Thomas Jefferson was a prized gift from the publication. Parkes did not discuss the personal life of Jefferson. I learned about it from this book. Lousiana Purchase was definitely an important point which I knew about Jefferson as I have to teach the expansion of America and that definitely makes an important point to discuss before explaining the Monroe Doctrine. In this book, I found some names which helped me to explore further. But as I have remarked that I google a lot while reading a book, as a result, I reached wikipedia. From there, I also make a search for an entry on Thomas Jefferson. I would like to give a link to that entry. I read that posting in one go before I completed the reading of this book with a number of breaks in between. I leave it to the readers to decide that which source is more useful, this title or the Wikipedia entry. No apologies for this comment to my friends in Hourly History. The link from Wikipedia is HERE.

The book is divided into seven chapters. They are as follows.
His life, His Love, His legacy.
In this chapter, "His Legacy" is described in forthcoming chapters.
The Son of Virginia
Jefferson the Patriot
Jefferson in Paris
The three chapters discuss American history and Europe more than the life of Jefferson. It is my experience that if you read about History of America by American Authors and English Authors, they discuss much Europe than America. An American Historian may talk about America itself but in his elaboration, they invariably try to describe their European legacy. They are not able to avoid European heritage. It is another thing, that the publisher has provided two titles on African Americans. One title is about Frederick Douglass. The other title is about Harriet Tubman. The American scholarship fights this dilemma that what actually is the colour of their nation. Does she have two heads, one European and other African? Well, even if they settle that, they will not able to face some more difficult questions which were created by Louis and Clark expeditions. Those questions were not the issues of colonial America as some American historians would like to present.

The next three chapters are as follows.
Jefferson the Politician
Jefferson the President
Jefferson at Home.

This set is more about Jefferson.

It is true that you can read it one hour. But, it is difficult to say that it is a balanced work. It is another thing that if one tries to answer the question that how will you arrange your material within a limit of 40 pages and you have to describe a Father of Nation like Thomas Jefferson, then, the writer has done a commendable job. The chapters making is definitely quite impressive. It requires understanding and imagination to achieve a task like this.

I will like to make one more point. These books are definitely small. They have published the titles like The Middle Ages. They have published titles on the personalities from Europe. But they have not revealed the name of the author. As per the craft of history, the profile of the author of the document is essential before saying anything about history. Otherwise, it can be a good literature but it does not qualify for the title of a history. 

On the same premises, I will strongly recommend to the publisher that one or two pages should be used to give a bibliography or the references to the book or documents which are related to the contents of the title. It is not my suggestion. If you have to call it a history work, then you must refer to the sources. You have every right and freedom to present your material in which you wish to present. History is also an art. But somewhere, you have to follow the demands of the craft of history. Alfred Tennyson was declared a historian. But he was basically a person from the literature background. He knew only this much that a successful writer is one who raises the curiosity in the reader to ask a question, "what happened next"? That is one of the features of the writing of history but not the soul of history.

As I have said in my previous review on Hitler by the same publisher, that the book is good in helping you to remember what you have read at school level. It can be substantiated further, that it helps to fill in some gaps in your memory if you are not aware of that earlier.

I definitely googled a lot while reading this title. At one time, I even thought of developing a Wikipedia Book on it as I have done in the case of W. W. Atkinson. But, when I read the article on Jefferson, on Wikipedia, I did not find much need to substantiate this reading any further.

Thus I read this book.

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