This week’s article was about an Australian TV programme called ‘Jennifer Byrne Presents’, a series of specials from the Tuesday Book Club. Having never seen the programme, all I can do is look at the list of episode titles, which seem to cover everything from Fantasy and Erotica, to Writing with Food and War Stories. A very eclectic mixture!
One episode interested me in particular: Books That Changed the World. I wonder what was included in that? It reminded me of a question on one of my university exam. papers. ‘Revolutions are caused by books. Discuss’. If I remember correctly, my essay answer covered the effects of books like Thomas Paine’s ‘Common Sense’, the writings of Voltaire and Rousseau, and Marx’s ‘Das Kapital’, and how they influenced the revolutions in the American colonies, France, and Russia.
In a sense, these books changed the world, or at least led to important changes in some countries. But what about other books? Obviously the main books of each world religion have had a major impact on the world: the Old and New Testaments of Judaism and Christianity, the Muslim Qu'ran, the Hindu Vedas, the Sikh Adi Granth, and the various Buddhist writings, as well as the scriptures of other religions.
And what about Darwin’s ‘Origin of the Species’ which was the foundation of the evolution theory? Or Mary Wollstonecraft’s ‘Vindication of the Rights of Women’, one of the earliest defences of women’s rights? Or ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’, which helped the anti-slavery lobby prior to the American Civil War? We could even include ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ – tame by today’s standards, but the release of the unexpurgated edition in Britain in 1960 could be considered a significant event in the sexual revolution which followed in the sixties.
There are many other books I could name, but I’ll leave it to you now. What books do you think have changed the world?