Society & Culture

The Future of Publishing

In 2004, a middle-aged English businessman named George Courtauld decided to put together a slim, illustrated album for his three young sons.  It was called The Pocket Book of Patriotism.  The original idea had come to him on a crowded train home from work to his house in the countryside east of London on Christmas Eve.  “There was a little boy with his arm in a sling looking for a seat next to his friends,” Courtauld told the Daily Telegraph.

“A kindly older woman offered him hers, suggesting that ‘Little Lord Nelson’ might like to sit.”  But the boy did not know whom the woman was talking about.  “She said: ‘You know, England expects!  Admiral Nelson,’” recalls Courtauld.  “And the boy replied: ‘Of course, the man in Star Trek!’”

Finding this “rather sad,” Courtauld went to work on his project.  The idea was to draw up “a chart containing all the British historic events he thought his children should know about.”  It began as a seven-page timeline, with a few explanatory footnotes, and grew from there as friends and family made their own suggestions.  As the list grew, Courtauld realized there was enough material for a “‘very simple history book.’  Or as he describes it: ‘No judgement, no padding—just...

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