I’m sure it happens to everyone, you hear about something – especially from someone else’s past, about them growing up, and you think gosh, that was me, that happened to me too! It can of course be an unpleasant as well as pleasant thing… When I thought this earlier today I was reading, and the writer was describing how he first came to love not just maps, but the stories they told and the questions they posed.
I’m reading The Silk Roads, by Peter Francopan, subtitled,: A New History of The World, and he describes how fascinated he was from a very early age by maps. When I was really quite young I wanted a globe, which kind Father Christmas was good enough to deliver – I was probably about five or six at the time. I loved the names of the far distant places, and the vast areas of blue explorers had to cross to get to these far-flung lands. A year or so later I received an atlas, not a child’s atlas but one for young people, and that too was a great joy to me.
Frankopan writes in his introduction
‘Before long I had memorised the names and locations of all the countries, noting their capital cities as well as the oceans and seas and the rivers that flowed into them; the names of major mountain ranges and deserts, written in urgent italics, thrilled with adventure and danger.
That perfectly describes me! He mentions seeing the Mappa Mundi when he was young, and what an impression it made on him. I was taken to see it when visiting an uncle who lived in Hereford, and at that time it was just stretched out on a table and we could peer down and touch it. Now, of course it is safely behind protective glass. Like him it really struck me, and I have been back to see it several times and have a copy of it.
He goes on to describe how he studied history, as I did, but unlike me his thoughts strayed to the history of other parts of the world. I was interested, of course, but read about it at home, and didn’t particularly connect it to the narrow Western-centric subject in school. He was far more scholarly and clever than me,, He was able to study Russian and Arabic which opened a whole new world to him – how I would have loved to do that!
He goes on to mention the ancient kingdoms in what we now call the Middle east, the lands between the Tigris and the Euphrates, Babylon, Assyria, He learnt about those places, and I did too – but my knowledge of them came through Sunday School stories of them I learnt about the myths of Ancient Greece and Rome and Egypt, of the Persians, and the religions which sprung from the area – through my own reading in encyclopaedias and books from the library which also told me about the Chinese civilisation and the other distant nations. .
Unlike Frankopan, my thoughts went to no further and it was only much later I began to realise and think about the history of the world, in a more global and less Eurocentric way. I’m only a few chapters into the book, but it is a fascinating revelation, and I’m as gripped as if I were reading fiction!
Here is a link:
I expect I’ll be sharing more thoughts as I read further!