Casual Reader Extended Review – History in an Hour

  • Title: The Cold War in an Hour
  • Author: Rupert Colley
  • Genre: Non-fiction, history
  • Score: 4 out of 5
  • Amazon link

I’ve always had a bit of a problem with history. At school, it was yawnsome, obviously. As an adult, I now want to learn… well, everything. History has become fascinating to me, but I am far behind most other people in terms of general knowledge. When it comes to history and how it affects current events, I am a bit of a dunce.

So, I have been perusing books and sites and looking into how I could learn a bit more. Instantly, I’m confronted with another couple of problems. Firstly, there’s a lot of implied knowledge when it comes to books, and I have to spend a lot of time stopping and starting and looking other things up. Secondly, I am the kind of person that likes to start at the beginning and not miss anything along the way. With a subject as vast as all of history ever, that’s quite difficult.

I was browsing some of the collections on the iBookstore, and stumbled across the History in an Hour books. The concept is very simple. Take one subject of historical interest, and explain it for complete newbies in an hour. An hour is hard to quantify in written terms, but I think it’s roughly about 10,000 words. It took me more than an hour to read it but that’s because I probably had to concentrate a bit harder than most other people would have to.

For those that know the subjects well, it’s probably far too fundamental. There’s not much in the way of analysis, but facts and figures, people, places and motivation. For simpletons like me, it is brilliant. I downloaded The Cold War in an Hour and sat down to read it.

Split into two parts, the first covers the story in detail – in this case, from the appearance of Stalin to the introduction of Yeltsin, via the Vietnam war, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the rise and fall of multiple presidents and prime ministers. The second half is the appendix, with a quick overview of the main characters involved in the subject, and then a great timeline for just the key facts in the order they happened.

There were only two very brief moments where implied knowledge let me down, but it was only who the people were in the first place rather than how they fit into the story. A couple of tiny Google moments later and I was right back into it.

I really, really enjoyed reading it, learnt quite a lot, and am keen to pick up more of these books. The tagline “history for busy people” fits me perfectly, and with each book only about £1, there’s no excuse not to brush up on some more topics. Other books in the series include:

  • Henry VIII’s Wives in an Hour
  • The American Civil War in an Hour
  • 1066 in an Hour
  • World War Two in an Hour
  • (and rather oddly) The World Cup in an Hour
More information is available on the website. There’s also a blog with extra history articles, and they’re on Twitter too. The books are available via iTunes or Amazon. I may have to collect the whole set.

6 thoughts on “Casual Reader Extended Review – History in an Hour

  1. i could have done with the cold war explained to me like that when i was studying it for Alevel. Our teacher made it so hard to learn, i’ve since learnt that actually it’s pretty fascinating! History is awesome, thanks for highlighting these books Christine, I’ll put them on my list, they sound really good!

  2. I’ve always had a bit of a problem with history. At school, it was yawnsome, obviously. As an adult, I now want to learn… well, everything.

    That is exactly my story. At school I dropped history as soon as I could. I hated it and it was quite a few years before I realised it was awful teaching and not the subject that was the problem.

    The concept is very simple. Take one subject of historical interest, and explain it for complete newbies in an hour.

    What an awesome concept. I will definitely look out for one of these the next time I find a new area I want to explore. The price is incredible value.

  3. I completely avoided history at school, along with any reading. Like you I now love the subject. I seem to be getting all my learnings from “fictionalised” history books. This can be a bit dangerous because it’s not always obvious where the fiction starts (and if they really had computers in the 1700s etc). At least I now know the fire of London was in 1666.

    I think a book covering all of history in one hour would suit me!

  4. This can be a bit dangerous because it’s not always obvious where the fiction starts (and if they really had computers in the 1700s etc).

    Hehehe, it can be confusing 🙂

  5. I agree with Lou, history is indeed, awesome. Although my teachers are actually brilliant, which helps. Very fascinating stuff, and these sort of books will certainly aid to that.

    I kinda wish the World Cup was something I get taught in History like, so fun, at least that would be a certain A…

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