“The Black Man’s Vast and Mysterious Continent” subtitles the article on Africa.    Cassell’s Book of Knowledge being published in the 1930’s existed at a time that the British Empire was still very much in existence.  The tone of the book with regards some of the less industrialized cultures is very much of a colonial nature, no more so than the Africa article, and with it a healthy dose of racism.

But the most formidable obstacle was raised by the powerful and highly organized Zulu-Kaffir state to the north-east.  The Zulus, who form a branch of the great Kaffir family, are tall vigorous, and intelligent.  They quickly learned the white man’s lesson, presenting none of the child-like simplicity found in most negro tribes, with the result that they not only opposed the settlers with arms, but were able to stir up political discord among the whites themselves.  It was not until the British had been defeated in several fierce encounters that the power of King Cetewayo of Zululand was broken in 1879.

The Hand of Civilization in Africa

The Hand of Civilization in Africa

The pictures on this page give a good idea of what civilization and the white man have done for Africa.  For one thing they have put the fierce native Zulu in a policeman’s uniform and set him to keeping law and order, instead of stirring up trouble as the Zulus used to do.  Instead of a truncheon he carries a stick, which is used on those who refuse to obey.  You will notice, however, that it has a heavy ball on the end of it; an ordinary stick would make very little impression on the natives’ skulls.

Africa, showing the many different colonial states.

Africa, showing the many different colonial states.

Wikipedia Links:

Published in: on October 17, 2008 at 12:37 am  Leave a Comment  
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Afghanistan seems to have generally been stuck in the middle:

Afghanistan 1930ish

Afghanistan 1930ish

The very land looks as restless as the sea, so we are not surprised to learn that “Afghan” means “noisy and turbulent” for mountaineers the world over are warlike.  Few foreigners visit this “forbidden land,” and none is allowed to enter without a firmanor permit signed by the Amir.  The map shows plainly the Afghanistan as a “buffer state,” lying between Great Britain’s Indian Possessions on the south and portions of the Former Russian Empire on the North.

Two costly wars (1838 -42 and 1878-80), plus a constant subsidy from the Anglo-Indian Government, have enabled to British to control the foreign policy of Afghanistan, although it is independent in local matters.

Ah, nothing like a good old puppet state…  Thankfully this isn’t the case anymore.  Oh wait…

Wikipedia Links:

Published in: on October 16, 2008 at 11:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The first entry in to unsurprisingly catch my eye is Aeroplane, especially when shown a full page diagram like this:

Tricks the Fighting Airmen Play

Tricks the Fighting Airmen Play

At the top on the left you see the most useful manoeuvre the “vrille.”  The pilot banks sharply and dives, then straightens out.
To the right the same manoeuvre repeated in a series of loops, mimicking the action of a machine which is out of control.
In the centre to the left  the “Immelman turn” is represented.  The flyer climbs as if about to “loop the loop” but instead he twists the machine about and straightens out at a higher level.  In the lower right-hand corner is shown the quickest way to turn an aeroplane — the “virage.”

It seems even by the twenties of Book of Knowledge flying sounded similar to today:

The Miracle we almost Forget

To-day, in places situated near aerodromes, the whir of an aeroplane winging therough the sky scarcely wins a glance from the man in the street or the farmer at his plough.  Flying machines speed from one country to another ; they hop across oceans ; they carry tourists, men in the rush for business, public officials hurrying to distant conferences, physicians on emergency calls.  In fact, the aeroplane has taken its permanent place with the locomotive, steamship and motorcar.

If slightly less sophisticated:

Inside an Aeroplane Liner

Inside an Aeroplane Liner

To-day nearly all cities of importance in Europe and America are equipped with aeroplane landing fields, and governmentsare rapidly laying out aerial highway systems, with maps showing the landmarks, ground stations, and other facilities for official and private lines.  Laws have been drawn up to govern air traffic and regulate passage over international boundries.  The experience of careful flyers has proved that the dangers of air travel can largely be eliminated.  With improvements in construction and stabilizing devices and with the development of the parachutes, which enable pilot and passengers to float down safely when the machine beneath them falls, we may expect to see the number of fatal accidents progressiveley reduced.

The aeroplane needs neither roads nor rails.  No stretch of water or wilderness can bar its way.  If the progress of the world is to be measured by the agencies which bring men closer together, then the aeroplane has indeed won a high place as a civilizing medium.

Wikipedia Links:

Published in: on October 13, 2008 at 7:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Foreword

Suffice to say, Cassell’s Book of Knowledge thinks quite highly of itself:

This work is something more than a book; it is your own complete library on every subject, written simply and accurately, and illustrated by a wealth of pictures in a way never before attempted. Here you hold the world in your hands.

It is a very intimate companion. You will make acquaintance of the famous folk of all countries and of all ages. Mighty conquerors and explorers, scientists and statesmen, inventors and thinkers, authors and artists, healers and poets, people its pages. The thrilling story of amazing triumphs of man over the giant forces of Nature is told in so attractive a way that it will appeal to every reader from nine to ninety.

This is a Day of Greater Things. Hitherto encyclopaedias have been dull, heavy, listless compilations. Attractiveness and interest were apparently regarded as deadly sins. We have endeavoured to let the golden sunshine and the good fresh air into our pages, believing that the true mission of the printed word is to present the amazing facts of this beautiful universe in a way entirely worthy of them.

Published in: on October 12, 2008 at 2:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

The First Encyclopedia

The Encyclopedia that I am looking at initially is the Cassell’s Book of Knowledge, An Encyclopaedia for Children.
The Encyclopedias come as a set of 7 or 8 books covering A through Z plus a quick reference volume. Many of the books have some stunning colour and black and white illustrations.

Although they are not specifically dated, the latest date I have found so far in them is around 1924 which would suggest the volumes were published between then and around 1930.

They were published in England by the Waverley Book Company Ltd and were edited by Harold F. B. Wheeler.

The specific copies I have belonged to a Great Aunt, a teacher and were passed down to my mother, which is how they came to be read by me at a young age.

Dating the Encyclopedias to between 1924 and 1930 means these books detail a time before world war 2, before nuclear bombs, before space travel, and before many other defining events of the 20th Century.

I expect them to be wildly speculative and inaccurate on certain subjects, possibly racist or offensive about others. I also expect them to be slightly whimsical, as they are meant for children.

Suffice to say, I will not be putting every entry in the Encyclopedia into the blog.  I’m looking specifically for articles reflecting the modern events of the time, or the modern opinions of the writers.  Should anyone have specific requests I will try to entertain them.

Published in: on October 12, 2008 at 12:18 am  Comments (1)