Book Review: Atlas of History | Sunday Observer

Book Review: Atlas of History

12 January, 2020

Sarathchandra Jayawardana needs no introduction. His latest publication, Atlas of History speaks volumes. His contribution to the progress of education is similar to a river; it never stops flowing and is gathering resources, nurturing it and serving others.He has been active when he was in service and more active after his retirement.

As students we were familiar with the Atlas. But in our mind it is a collection of various maps of the earth or a specific region. The maps show geographic features, the topography of an area’s landscape and political boundaries. They also show climatic, social, religious and economic statistics of an area. The Atlas is a book of maps and charts that help one to locate a place. It is Geography.

When I came across an Atlas of History I was ruffled. When I opened the book I was mesmerized. History is something which never stops at a point. It moves with ticking time. With the moving history faces, features, the landscape, structures, nature and everything changes. After a lapse of time one would not see anything as was seen before. It is nearly impossible to map a history. The Historical books such as Deepawamsa, Mahawamsa and Chulawamsa are mostly contemporary records of history. But recording history with a map and a photograph after several millenniums is unique and a near impossibility. The Atlas of History is a first in that sense.

It is not this impossibility that merits reading Sarathchandra Jayawardana’s Atlas of History. It is the content. It contains a brief description of events and civilizations. When we were studying History not only in school but also in the University we hardly had a clue of locations. That gap is filled by this Atlas which explains an event, a place, a civilization with a map and a picture.

We have read and studied changes that occurred throughout history, but have found it difficult to locate the exact place where an event took place as they were not mapped. Jayawardana has done it. Creating a map is a mixture of genius, creativity, imagination and combined knowledge of History and Geography.

History always comes in volumes. We spend many nights to read and grasp it. But one can grasp history in few minutes through the Atlas of History.

The Atlas of History provides a clear picture of the rise and fall of world empires and old civilizations. The Atlas starts with the origin of the Solar System and the Earth and then the origin and evolution of man. Sarathchandra Jayawardana has covered the history of several millenniums with the origin of the solar system and earth, the evolution of man, rise and fall of empires and the whole history of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) just in 108 pages with brief write-ups, maps and illustrations in simple language mustering his long experience and skills.

The Atlas is produced in a user friendly manner and the author has highlighted a few difficulties encountered in producing it. He says that certain names of places have changed over time. Features, landscape, land marks, have changed. The author had to recreate the events and rebuild history and depict it through an Atlas. Yet, he has produced the Atlas with minimum distortions.

He says the Atlas is focused on students and teachers. My school days go back to more than 50 years. But there are some historical events I did not grasp well. Jayawardana’s Atlas cleared all that. It is only right that we pay homage to Sarasavi Publishers who are always keen to publish a worthy book for society. I recommend this atlas to teachers and students and any reader interested in learning the long years of history in a few hours. The Atlas is useful to the Historian as well as non historians. It is useful to the young and the old. The Atlas of History is a snapshot of the long winding History.


The writer is a former Ministry Secretary.