This Week’s Word is “Leaders.”
This week I’m reviewing my first DK book of 2019. The first, but most certainly not the last! I’ve reviewed several of DK’s “…That Changed History” books for previous Word Wednesdays, including books, battles, and scientists.
Now, it’s the turn of a group of people who were arguably in the best position to change the world: Leaders. With Leaders Who Changed History, DK examines those charismatic individuals who made their mark upon the world, whether for good or for ill.
What is Leaders Who Changed History?
This book covers great leaders from ancient history to modern day; from Moses to Malala. Like most DK history books it’s broken down into several different sections covering differing chunks of time.
- Empires and Religions. 2000 BCE – 1500 CE. This section includes religious icons such as Muhammad, Siddhartha Gautama, Jesus Christ, and Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism. It also covers great military leaders such as Augustus Caesar, Ghengis Khan, and Alexander the Great. Boudicca, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and Joan of Arc make it in too.
- Conquest and Liberty. 1500-1820. Suleiman the Magnificent, Elizabeth I, and Napoleon Bonaparte feature in this section along with George Washington, Robespierre, and Simón Bolivar.
- Nationhood and Industry. 1820-1920. Garibaldi, Karl Marx, and Abraham Lincoln are all covered in this century of leaders, along with Susan B. Anthony, John D Rockefeller Sr, and Coco Chanel
The last half of the book is devoted to the last hundred years of human history.
- Conflict and Hope. 1920-1950. As you might expect. Hitler, Stalin, and Churchill feature here, as do Mao Zedong and Mohandas Gandhi, along with Roosevelts, Franklin and Eleanor.
- Rights and Revolutions. 1950 – 1980. John F Kennedy, Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King Jr all appear here, as well as Castro and Yasser Arafat.
- Freedom and Opportunities. 1980 – Present. Margaret Thatcher and Bill Gates sit alongside one another in this chapter. Close by are Gorbachev, Lech Walesa, and Vaclav Harvel. More unlikely, perhaps, is the inclusion of Anna Wintour.
That’s just a sample of each of the leaders described in the book. There are 82 separate entries altogether. Each leader gets at least a page to themselves, with some more prominent or influential figures getting two or three. At the end of each section, there is a double page directory that has a brief description of another 10 or so leaders from that era.
One noticeable change from similar DK books I’ve reviewed in the past is the paper choice and presentation style. Rather than being glossy, the pages are matte. The book is still filled with photographs as you might expect but they are presented quite differently to other DK books I’ve seen. Some are stylized as you can see from the sample pages I’ve included in the review. Others some fade into watermarks under the text. The book has an arresting visual overall, making the reading experience feel more intimate.
Leaders Who Changed History feels less like a history book and more a window on the lives of great people. As usual, DK has used a variety of text styles to break up the book’s visual aesthetic. As well as the main text, there are sidebars, blockquotes, and easy-to-read milestone tables, so you can see at a glance the important achievements of the leader in question.
Why Read Leaders Who Changed History?
Once again, DK has delivered an excellent information book. It’s perfect for any home or school library. The book’s strength lies in the accessibility of its text. The text display DK’s trademark readability, but it’s the book’s visual presentation that draws you in. The book doesn’t aim to blow you away with the beauty of its images. Instead, it’s been designed to grab your attention and hold it, once it has. Whoever designed Leaders Who Changed History has the skill of a tabloid headline writer.
There are bold captions to draw your eye, interesting facts that are easy to read and assimilate, and blockquotes to illustrate the philosophy of the leader in question. Perhaps best of all are the milestone tables. These offer a great overview of the leader’s life and make a great jumping off point for homework assignments.
The scope of the book is impressive too, from the famous leaders of antiquity to modern designers, politicians, and media moguls. Modern history books like this one also help redress the traditional white-male oriented version of history that I grew up with. Leaders Who Changed History brings in leaders from across the globe and from many different cultural backgrounds. It celebrates strong female leaders too.
Leaders Who Changed History, I think, represents a step up for DK’s already peerless approach to teaching history. The production values are some of the finest I’ve seen in one of its books. DK has delivered a book that should inspire even the most reluctant of homework doers and switch them on to many of the figures that helped shape the world in which we live.
If you’d like to pick up a copy of Leaders that Changes History, you can do so, here in the US (where the book publishes March 19th) and here, in the UK, where the book publishes on 7th March.
If you enjoyed this post, do check out my other Word Wednesday reviews.
Disclosure: I received a copy of the book to write this review.