A recent survey of teenagers found that only two out of 10 knew the dates of the Second World War and only one in 10 could give a reason why it happened.
The publication of a new Oxford Children's History will not in itself make an immediate impact on this appalling ignorance but it does make us think about the kind of book that is needed.
Neil Grant has succeeded in a difficult task. For a modest price all children between about eight and 14 could be provided with a book that charts human history from the early hominids to the release of Nelson Mandela.
Unlike some similar titles, this book is easy to access through the chronology in the top right hand corner of each double-page spread, with key features clearly picked out. Each maor section has its own "who's who" and the whole book has a useful glossary and an index that works.
It takes a high degree of confidence on the part of author and publisher to use such a broad brush, which presents 500 years of Roman Empire across two pages and in about 300 words. But this is sufficient to highlight the key features and the significance of events and people.
Coverage is impressive, with sections on Mauryan and Gupta India, Medieval Africa and Tokygawa Japan. The standard of illustration is high and the many maps play a crucial role .
This is a pleasure to browse and use for reference. It stimulates and informs and should make a real contribution to children's understanding of the past.
MARK WILLIAMSON Mark Williamson is general adviser in humanities and RE for the London Borough of Hounslow