Some people await the next episode of a popular movie, others the latest software update. If, however, you have been using the Story of the World series by Susan Wise Bauer, the release of the fourth and final volume of this popular history series will create more of a stir than any popular novel, movie or electronic device available. The Story of the World, Volume Four: The Modern Age (From Victoria's Empire to the end of the U.S.S.R.) concludes a four-year, chronological sweep around the world in its 503 pages.
Each volume has been written for a slightly older audience, with volume four being geared toward fourth through eighth grade. Besides the difference in the reading level, it is important to take note of the period of history and the content that is studied. To explain some of the distinctions of this final period of history, Susan Wise Bauer notes in the foreword:
?I wouldn?t study this particular volume?with children younger than fourth grade. The events that shaped the twentieth century?have almost all involved violence. As an academic, a writer, a historian, and the mother of children ranging in age from four to beginning high school, I have done my best to tell this history in a way that is age appropriate. Because of that attempt, this volume is less evocative than the previous three. I have always tried to tell history as a story?but with this story, I have found myself veering continually toward a more matter-of-fact and less dramatic tone. The events of the twentieth century?are dramatic enough. Turned into story, they would be overwhelming.?
With those cautions noted, she continues, ?Despite their violent nature, I don?t think these events should be ignored by parents of young children? A fourth or fifth grader who has a vague idea of what is going on in the world deserves to be started on the path to understanding.? It is helpful to have a history spine that provides the story of this time period while at the same time considering the specific needs of such an age-specific audience. Each individual family can then continue their history study and, depending on the maturity of the students, delve deeper into specific events, or move on with a more sweeping view of the time period as the goal.
Topics in this volume include the American Civil War, the Suez Canal, Carving Up Africa, the Boxer Rebellion, the Mexican Revolution, the two world wars, the Holocaust, the Partitioning of Palestine, the Space Race, Communism Crumbles, and the First Persian Gulf War. The book ends with events in 1994, as the author chose deliberately not to move on to the twenty-first century. She explains in the afterword:
?I have not brought this history up to 2001, because I don?t understand how 9/11 will play into history. At the time that I write this, the war that the event spawned is still going on. The administration that took us into the war is still in power. Reconstruction in the countries shattered by that war has only just begun. These are current events, not history; they are acts that cannot yet be interpreted?I have instead tried to give the historical background that led up to the current chaos. If we can begin to understand the background of that chaos, we may find ourselves understanding a little more about the chaos itself.?
Even with the limitations she has outlined, the fourth volume of Story of the World is written with Susan Bauer's characteristic style of writing: engaging, easy to follow, and able to peak the interest of listening students. This volume will provide at least a year's worth of history topics, and promises to initiate many conversations for thoughtful families.
To order Story of the World, Volume Four, or any of the various products offered by Peace Hill Press, please see their website at www.peacehillpress.com, or call 1-877-322-3445 for more information.
As complicated as the story of world history is, with the variety of nations and people groups, and the frequent changes throughout the centuries, Susan Wise Bauer manages to capture the essence of significant moments in history with her series, Story of the World. Used as the stepping stone to further reading and discussion, this fascinating four-volume story can light a spark of interest in your students and open the door to a lifetime of study in history, geography, politics and sociology. Lifelong learning can begin in grammar school, thanks to Susan Wise Bauer and The Story of the World.