Books throughout history have provided us with a window on the past. But have there been some books that have guided the course of history? Well, of course! But here’s what our authors think. This week’s question comes from stomperdad.
Changed history? No — once it’s happened, it’s happened. But changed the COURSE of history, yes. The easiest one that comes to mind is Stranger in a Strange Land.
Plenty! Forgive my brevity, but of course. I think my favorite of which would have to be Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.
Changed history? Well that’s a strong notion, but I’m sure there probably are some books that have changed history. The Bible definitely springs to mind, as I’m certain history would have been a heck of a lot different without it, but somehow that seems like a kind of a smartass response. So, instead, how about the grandfathers of horror like Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein? They may have not been Earth-shattering changes, but I’m sure these books changed the history of horror in huge ways, and as a horror writer that’s big enough for me.
Definitely. Two of the most obvious would be Newton’s Principia and Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species.
Fiction’s influence tends to be more subtle, but I doubt, for just one example, that American history would be the same without Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
I’m sure lots of books have. What we read goes into our brains and wanders around in there, inspiring new ideas about the way things work, about what we could do differently, about who we are and who we want to be.
Books that have changed history? I don’t know. There are books that have changed how people see the world and others that have made generations of youth book lovers. There are controversial books that have caused great discussions. I remember when the Satanic Verses came out. It was all over the news, people talked about it, but I don’t know anyone who read it. My mother remembers finding a copy of Gone with the Wind. Her mother forbid her to read it. So she buried herself under covers each night until it was finished. Did either change the world? No, not that I can see.
DEFINITELY! Books definitely have a way of changing history. Just this week with the race-related problems in Baltimore and just before in Ferguson, I saw quotes all over the news and internet from Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s impossible to deny the way sacred religious texts influence history—just turn on the nightly news. I’d add some others to the list as game changers: Orwell’s 1984, Darwin’s The Origin of the Species, Hitler’s Mein Kampf, Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique… Okay, I obviously could go on all day with this one!
I’m sure there are plenty. I know of two examples that have influenced US history (I can’t speak for other countries): Uncle Tom’s Cabin and The Jungle.
Pretty sure Ayn Rand’s stuff has had an …. interesting effect on the course of certain countries. Then there are the various religious texts and political manifestos that have steered the course of the world, and of course scientific treatises causing philosophical upheavals. Books are important.
History has been guided by a lot of books, I’m sure. Religious texts such as The Bible, The Quran, and Torah (and these are only for some Abrahamic religions) are still directing how people live, as well as giving reasons for waging wars. Scientific books, such as Darwin’s On the Origin of Species play a major part in scientific advancement that has resulted in things like vaccines and understanding how life evolved. More recently, fictional literature such as Orwell’s 1984 have had an influence on the present state of surveillance and attempts at controlling what people can say.
On the other hand, there are school history books today that are attempting to change how we view history, effectively making people completely misunderstand what really happened. Revisionist history is certainly not a good thing.
How about you?
Are there any books you feel have changed the course of history? Let us know in the comments below.