All of Us: A Young People’s History of the World

This book, lavishly and attractively illustrated in a rich, varied, colourful style is ostensibly for 7-10 year olds. However, its language register would suggest an older target age group. 

It is problematic from the points of view of inclusivity and historical accuracy. I will use gender to illustrate this, though I could equally use ethnicity or class. In the illustrations and within the text whole pages offer no female figure of any significance. It is assumed that interesting human activities, like art, writing, building, travelling, religion, politics, hunting or fighting have always been done exclusively by men.  A section on the Middle Ages asserts ‘Women were excluded from education in all countries except China and Japan’. How then explain the existence of great European women scholars, artists and intellectuals like Hildegard of Bingen or Eloïse the lover of Abelard or Christine de Pizan? It also makes many other unsubstantiated assertions such as ‘Women … raised children without questioning the established  order’ and most appallingly,  of  babies, born into a world where many died, ‘Men showed little interest in those who survived’. This latter despite the fact that there are many instances in both medieval  history and literature of fathers’ tenderness towards their children.

Though this book claims to tell the history of ‘all of us’, a young girl of any nationality or, for example, a Native American boy would find little to relate to or identify with in its pages.