In my last blog post I touched on the subject of infographics. By coincidence, this week, a set of ten infographic postcards have landed on my desk for reviewing. Produced by Scott Addington, and taken from his book ‘The Great War 100 – The First World War in Infographics‘, these cards cover ten of the key battles of the First World War.
The front cover of the packaging in which the cards come describes the contents as:
“Ten Infographic Postcards: Packed with facts, stats and first hand accounts of some of the bloodiest battles in history.”
The first thing I should offer is a brief health warning. These are not traditional postcards. Each is a large 20cm x 20cm square produced on glossy card, with information on both sides. These are most definitely not designed to be sent through the post! Rather they are information cards for reading, exploring and displaying. Each one covers a particular battle/campaign from the First World War: Mons, Tannenberg, Gallipoli, Loos, Verdun, Somme, 3rd Ypres, Cambrai, Kaiserschlacht, Amiens.
On the front of the cards is an infographic of the style found throughout the aforementioned book. Set on a dark background, there is a location map to put the battle in question in the wider context of the First World War. Also on the front side are the dates of the battle/campaign in question, the commanders, the numbers of troops involved, casualties and other relevant statistics.
On the rear of the cards there is a ‘Did you know?’ section which covers some of the key facts and figures about the battle – some providing basic information other a little more quirky. For example the fact that after the success at the Battle of Cambrai in November 1917 church bells were rung in Britain for the first time since 1914. Finally on the back there is also a relevant quote from a participant in the battle providing some human colour to the story.
To set these cards in context it is important to understand Scott Addington’s philosophy in producing them. He calls himself a ‘layman’ and this is his approach to this project. As he says on his website:
History doesn’t have to be dull. My aim is to write military history books in a lively way that informs and inspires people that have may have never read much history before. My ‘Layman’s Guides’ military history books are short, sharp and to the point – not chock-full of unnecessary detail that can sometimes overwhelm and confuse readers. Fact books and infographics add a slightly different twist to the telling of history as I try to make the subject more accessible to more people!
With this aim in mind, I am sure Scott would not object to me saying that these postcards do not purport to be extensive histories, nor are they primarily targeted at the expert. Rather they are a collection of key facts and figures that provide an interesting and accessible overview, and a taster to a deeper study of the battles.
Now at £7.99 a pack, I am not sure I see them fitting in the library of a serious student of the First World War – there is so much more detail available in a myriad of other publications. Equally if one has an interest in infographics, and I have to admit I do, then one will probably wish to buy the book which is full of them! However, as an introduction to the First World War, these cards have much scope to open up the story of these battles to a new audience. I can see them being very attractive to children and young adults, be it in schools or at home. Gracing the walls of a history class in school, or the bedroom wall of an enthusiastic young historian, they are guaranteed to grab attention and be a talking point. Indeed had they been around when I was a child they would have been on my bedroom wall! Equally I can see parents attaching these with fridge magnets to the fridge door, or leaving them lying around, in order to provide an opportunity to stimulate young minds during the current First World War Centenary commemorations.
In short these are an imaginative, attractive and engaging set of cards that will provoke discussion and interest. The selection of facts and figures give a good flavour for each battle. They are thought provoking and will encourage further investigation. And if they encourage those with little understanding of the First World War to engage with the history and explore the subject further, then Scott has probably achieved his aim, and I congratulate him for trying to do so with such an attractive and accessible product.