Brief encounters

19th September 1997 at 01:00
UNDERSTANDING EUROPE. By Noel Henderson. Professional Association of Teachers Pounds 6.50

This spiral-bound booklet of material on Europe is too lightweight to count as a textbook, and too varied in its coverage to be neatly categorised by subject.

There's a little bit of geography (long rivers, high mountains, capital cities), then a little bit of history (three lines on the Reformation, four lines on the Cold War), a quick survey of the major institutions of the European Union, finishing up with some tips on arranging travel insurance and how to adjust your headlights to driving on the right.

It's written in an informal style, with plenty of contemporary examples to explain points, so that the whole book reads like a longer-than-usual school assembly. This is already lending the text a dated air. Who will make sense of references to the election campaign a year from now?

However, more importantly, the style tends to lead to the simple airing of the author's prejudices: Yugoslavia is "a nation which should never have been created", "most historical events are not really very important", "the real cause of pollution is not industry, or sewage, or climate; it is man's greed", and Bulgaria is not, apparently, part of the Balkans. Since when?

Understanding Europe is certainly readable, but it is neither objective nor comprehensive enough to be of much use in class. And Pounds 6.50 is a lot to ask for anyone's assembly notes.

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