History’s worst decisions by Stephen Weir

There are times when the barriers to starting yet another 400-600 page tome seem insurmountable. One of the great attractionsHistory's worst decisions of newspapers, periodicals and magazines is the ‘bitesize’ nuggets of information, easy to read and digest, requiring no long term commitment on the part of the reader. In musical terms, it’s like listening to the ‘sound bites’ of Classic FM compared to the full, unabridged, pieces of Radio 3.

When I came across Stephen Weir’s History’s Worst Decisions, it looked like an ideal text for filling the reading vacuum, without the need of long term commitment to a lengthy narrative. His text is made up of some 50 short ‘vignettes’ of what he claims to be the most disastrous decisions made in the past: beginning as far back as Eve’s seduction of Adam, through Hannibal’s disastrous march over the Alps, to the European introduction of rabbits to Australia, and the missing hyphen that caused NASA to abort the Mariner space mission.

Fortunately, the author assumes that his readers are not fully informed about any of the incidents. In fact, some may appear a little esoteric to the non-historian (for example, Johan de Witt’s exchange of Manhattan for some small Indonesian island, where he thought he could grow nutmeg), but Weir makes them accessible to the lay reader by describing the background of each incident, before exposing the catastrophic nature of the action taken.

An ideal book for reading on buses and trains, or those late few minutes at night before your head hits the pillow.


About Frank Burns

Looking for the extraordinary in the commonplace………taking the road less travelled……..striving for the ‘faculty of making happy chance discoveries’ in unremarkable circumstances. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on October 11, 2014, in Book reviews and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. As a self-confessed grammar geek and pedant, I’m intrigued by the missing hyphen story…

    • ….yes, the hyphen story is one of those examples when so much (space programme costing millions of dollars) depended on so little for its ultimate success. And that ‘so little’ (ie. a hyphen) was missing………

  2. Sounds ideal for filling the spaces in between full length novels or non-fiction books.

  3. Thank you for another fizzing and most valuable blog. Look forward to hearing you next month Tony H

  4. I trust Tony Blair got at least one mention?

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