A trip through the entirety of human history, from the birth of bipedalism to the death of Philip Roth, Timelines does exactly what it says on the tin – provides four continuous paths through history split across politics, science, religion and art, picking out key moments along the way.
Each timeline is segmented into ‘periods’ of history – starting understandably large (ten million to 100,000 years ago) and becoming more narrow focused (26BCE-184AD, 1599-1649, 2002-2010) as mankind evolves and more accurate historical records can be tapped. Each segment comes with a brief overview of the themes of the period (‘The Birth of Christianity’, ‘The Cold War’) and are interspersed with occasional data maps or pictorial overviews of the period.
Where Timelines shines is by splitting history into the four overarching themes, rather than taking a geographic approach. It means you can see at a glance intriguing parallels such as Isaac Newton defining key scientific principles of gravity and motion at roughly the same time as the Salem witch trials are killing people based on spurious superstitions.
It would be impossible to take such a broad overview of history as this without having to cherry pick moments here and there, but for the most part the four categories do an admirable job of capturing the majority of key world events. The ultimate book to dip in and out of and you can certainly see scope for future editions to focus on different overarching themes to complete the historical picture.