i‑Learner Education Centre

Teacher Diaries

Teacher Diaries: Mr. James – Non-fiction

The world of non-fiction literature includes a huge variety of subjects and genres, so there is always something worth exploring to suit your own individual interests. I particularly enjoy reading about events from the past; you discover a world in which so many things were different from today, and history has led to the world being what it is today. One particularly interesting event that has influenced the world is the French Revolution, which took place at the end of the eighteenth century. With this in mind, the book that I will mention briefly here is Citizens by Simon Schama, which focuses on the individual events and details of the French Revolution.

As the book’s name suggests, Citizens focuses on the French Revolution as a movement with the people of France at the very centre. It describes the context of the monarchs of France, living conditions of normal people, influential ideas and events that took place before the period of revolution, and explains how all of these elements are linked together. For anybody wanting to understand the in-depth details of the Revolution, this book would fulfill that purpose very well.

But an author’s personal comments on history are, for me, the most interesting part of history books. Simon Schama puts forward an idea that the so-called ‘French Revolution’ was a series of events with a common theme, rather than a deliberate revolution. This raised some interesting questions for me: How will the events in the world today be seen and explained when historians look back on us in future years? What will future historians consider to be the causes and effects of events of today’s world?

Reading Citizens also greatly supported my studies of history at A-Level, and gave great context to the French that I was studying at the time. Understanding history can really bring to life your study of a language or culture. Furthermore, it can give you valuable extra content that’s not covered by your school curriculum, which would really impress an examiner if you can bring it into an exam!