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Book Reviews

British History Seen through Art

Gina D. B. Clemen & Laura Stagno

Black Cat Publishing - Rapallo, Italy

Book (128 pages) - includes CD - ISBN: 88-7754-618-2


The review has been written by Magda Zawadzka who works at the Teacher Training College in Radom


What do you do when you see a black cat run across the street in front of you? Many of us (although we might not be willing to admit it openly) think of an alternative route or resign ourselves to the fact that it is going to be a bad day. You might, however, look on the bright side if you saw that the black cat appears on the cover of a book, British History Seen through Art, for example. Ever since I bought my first book from Black Cat Publishing ( I have been looking for their publications and every time I find a new one, I feel I have been lucky in more than one way.


I teach English, I teach history and I like art, so British History Seen through Art is ideal for me - it combines the most important historical events with detailed descriptions of the works of art produced in a given epoch. All the texts have been recorded on a CD, which makes it possible to use the book in more than one way. Each chapter offers a variety of exercises: ‘True or False’ statements, matching games and multiple-choice questions. Some units finish with projects which, by asking learners to explore e.g. the Middle Ages in their region, offer them a chance to rediscover their own history and to do some research, thus helping them to become more independent learners.


The items in the book have been carefully chosen to provide an interesting insight into different epochs and their major events; the illustrations range from Celtic mirrors with wave-like patterns to scenes from Yellow Submarine. The accompanying commentaries are detailed and provide a cultural angle as well as factual information.

Another useful feature of the book is a series of internet activities summing up each chapter - to be able to answer the questions or complete the tables, students have to explore the book’s own internet site - see where a selection of works of art covering each century can also be found.


To sum up - the book has a lot to offer, especially to those who realise that there is more to history than long lists of battles and deposed kings. I use it regularly with my first year students at a Teacher Training College, although I have to rely on other sources to provide my students with more in-depth analysis of historical events. But that is not a criticism of the book - simply my students’ needs are different as they have a separate course of British history and are more linguistically advanced.


N.B. Although the book is listed as pre-intermediate there is no problem in adapting the materials for more advanced learners with an expectation of a much higher quality of response.

For more on Black Cat and other readers - see Graded Readers.

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