In this search for guidance from the past, pop historian Fawcett (Trust Me, I Know What I'm Doing: 100 More Mistakes that Lost Elections, Ended Empires, and Made the World What It Is Today, 2012, etc.) surveys disparate issues ranging from terrorism and pandemics to unemployment and recessions. However, any book that attempts to derive lessons from history must first get the facts right.
This one is replete with falsehoods and fantasies that startle and amaze. Among the author’s more astonishing assertions: Ethiopia successfully repelled the Italian invasion of 1935; in 1915, Turkish troops killed 27,000 Armenians in Monastir, Tunisia; on October 9, 2002, the stock market crashed, and Yahoo stock lost 90 percent of its value in less than two days. The first assertion is sadly false, while the other two are pure fabrications. Perceptive readers will quickly lose confidence in any of the author's purported statements of fact and thus, with any conclusions that might be drawn from them. Even when Fawcett correctly recognizes a historical trend, the lessons he perceives are generally both obvious and useless. Afghanistan is a fractured nation that resists foreign occupiers and central government. Africa must overcome tribalism and corruption if it is to prosper. Hyperinflation can be ruinous. And the even less helpful: "What history seems to give us today are questions, not solutions." Fawcett sees America going the way of the British and Roman empires if we don't, well, do something, like strengthen the middle class. How? Neither history nor Fawcett seems to know.
Superficial analysis and a rash of factual errors combine to drain this volume of any value it might otherwise have had.