Even though this is a collection of cartoons and the text in the dialog balloons is generally meant to be frivolous, it is possible to learn a lot of history from the book. Unlike so many history books that concentrate on Western Europe and derivatives, this one deals extensively with India and China. Volume 8 deals with the early history of India and how the great religions that we associate with India arose. From it, you also learn the origins of the great early works of Indian civilization such as Bhagavad Gita.
The origins of the ancient Chinese civilization are covered in volumes 9 and 10. Most of the points deal with the battles for supremacy and feature court intrigue, deception and a lot of killing. We tend to think of massive deaths in war as being a modern invention, but that is a misconception. Well before the year 0, the army of Chin was ambushed and massacred, over 200,000 men were killed in one day.
Chapter 11 begins with the last days of Alexander the Great. It correctly points out that while Alexander was married to a Persian, that union was largely political. The great love of Alexander's life was Hephaestion, his male grand vizier. When Hephaestion died, Alexander grieved over the body for two days. The next sections chronicle the origin and rise of Rome as a great power. Once again, it is largely a tale of murder, intrigue and war. As the power of Rome grew, it was no longer possible to maintain the republican form of government. At first the supreme position was called the consulship, where the holder was powerful, but not yet a dictator. All this changed when Julius Caesar marched off to conquer Gaul and then returned to march on Rome. This began several decades of near constant warfare in the Empire, some of which was civil.
The numbers of people that were killed in these wars are amazing to consider. Some history books estimate that Julius Caesar killed over a million while in Gaul. Descriptions of Western history describe the carnage of World Wars I and II as unprecedented in human history. In fact, the concept of total war with deaths numbered in the hundreds of thousands or millions is an old theme of history. The wars that took place between the Europeans in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were comparatively limited in consequence.
After a few pages, the discerning reader will understand that the text in the captions is generally designed to impart the history while the balloon dialog is reserved for the humor. I enjoyed this book immensely, learning many things about Chinese history. I also learned some additional details about western history. If there is a theme to the history presented here, it is how many people were killed in acts of the powerful fighting for control. We tend to think of the twentieth century as being the bloodiest on record. That is probably not the case. Given the carnage that occurred in China and the Mediterranean even before the birth of Christ, there might be centuries before the A. D. label that were bloodier. That fact is disturbing, whether learned by text or by cartoon.