In this, the first of a series of guest posts for National Share a Story Month, in association with the Federation of Children’s Book Groups, world history author and timeline specialist Christopher Lloyd explains how connecting knowledge together gives narrative its heart.
Most people, especially when they write non-fiction books – are specialists of some kind. Our modern culture is obsessed with people being experts, doctors and professors – so much so that to succeed in getting a good job (or being taken seriously as a non-fiction author) you must be an expert.
“What’s your special topic?” asks John Humphries, host of the famous BBC Series Mastermind. Maybe it’s a species, an event in history, a famous person, an invention, a movement or a historic place.
I do the opposite. My job is zooming out. For the last 10 years I have made it my business to narrate the biggest possible stories, to connect knowledge together across the widest possible timescales and the farthest geographical co-ordinates. In so doing I like to think I have discovered narratives and stories that for many people simply don’t exist.
That’s why I love timelines. My latest is a rendition of British History published in collaboration with the National Trust. One part is a fold-out timeline of more than 1,000 pictures and captions that charts the story of British history from its emergence as a jagged hunk of rock, as the Atlantic ocean was forming some 60 million years ago, to the political shenanigans of whether we should remain an island nation or not today.