Not Very Cheering

by Tedra Osell on December 22, 2011

My husband sent me this fascinating chart of atrocities throughout history, from the NYT. It’s an excellent chart as chart (Tufte would be proud), and despite the appalling subject it’s really engaging. It’s a nice visual representation of something a couple of us referenced yesterday in comments, Ta-Nehisi Coates’s ongoing posts about the civil war as the end of a great tragedy, rather than a tragedy in its own right. And it’s also incredibly, incredibly humbling: the only one of the most deadly events of human history I really know much about is WWII, and many of the others I’ve never even heard of. Clearly my education has been revoltingly Eurocentric; I think I had one half of one semester in high school devoted to the history of Asia, and the only thing I really remember is that we memorized a brief dialogue in Mandarin and I cheated on the test by writing the names and Mandarin characters of the major dynasties on my pencil. Poor Doc Langan; he had a PhD in Chinese (Asian?) history, and he had to deal with ignorant little jackasses like me. I owe him restitution in the form of learning something. Anyone care to recommend a couple of decent histories of Asia (or regions thereof) for the general reader?