Thursday, January 6, 2011

Book Review: Newton's Revised History of Ancient Kingdoms

When you hear the name Sir Isaac Newton, the subject that immediately comes to mind is history, right?  Yeah, me neither.  Who knew that Newton wrote an amazing book about Ancient History?  I sure didn't.

I had the chance to review Newton's Revised History of Ancient Kingdoms, and it was an opportunity I definitely wanted to take.  Master Books republished this book, with some changes to make it more readable for today's audiences.  And it is fascinating.

A tough book to read though. At least the beginning sections are.  Newton certainly assumes that people have a fairly comprehensive knowledge of ancient history already, which makes some sections a lot tougher for me to get through.

Once I got through the introductory material, though, and got into Newton's actual text, it was hard to put down. Well, okay, the incredibly technical section on using astronomy to calculate dates for the Argonaut Expedition... my eyes glazed over and I skipped it.  Way too much for my brain to comprehend.

As an indication of how scholarly this work is, over 1/3 of the book is the bibliography and appendices.

Early Greek History is the first actual chapter, and it is clear that Newton is applying the scientific method to his analysis of ancient history.  He looks for internal consistency in ancient documents, for instance, and his basic conclusion is that pretty much everyone inflated their nation's time scale.  The logic he uses to establish that is intriguing and compelling.  After settling some major dates, over about 18 pages, the rest of the chapter is more of a chronology.  One I actually enjoyed reading.

This is certainly a book I plan to keep, and will use as a reference for me as my children study ancient history.  Thomas has already asked to have a high school level Ancient History credit... and I will make this volume a part of his required reading for that.

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from New Leaf Publishing Group.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review. 

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