12th January 2001 at 00:00
THE BRITISH TIME SCALE: Half a million years illustrated. By G M James. Clinical Press pound;11.99 + pound;1.75 pamp;p. Gazelle, Falcon House, Queen Square, Lancaster LA1 1RN.

This is one of those unusual resources which, as a teacher, you think is lovely while not being sure how you will use it. The author is obviously a real enthusiast. He has a vision of what he thinks is important in British history and has done an extraordinary job in getting it all in. The book folds out into a timeline which could be displayed on a wall but can be read as a book. It even opens up in several directions. It would grace any classroom wall, and it would be well worth investing in a departmental copy.

That said, I feel that the author has tried to get too much in. The value of a resource such as this is that it gives a broad pcture. This means taking a deep breath and missing some things in order to achieve clarity. The pre-medieval sections are noticeably clearer and more informative than the later ones. The monarchs are rather breathlessly jammed in, while social developments make interesting and easier reading.

There are lots of tiny and beautiful illustrations of historic events and buildings to which I found myself drawn, but I could not help feeling that in half a million years of history we might have found an illustration of one humble dwelling to nestle among the cathedrals and palaces.

Small grumbles aside, this is a beautifully crafted resource which pupils will love to pore over and will undoubtedly revisit. I can see it being an inspiration for many DIY timelines for a range of periods.


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