The Learning Company – Centuries of Europe review

interesting historical work
Photo of The Learning Company – Centuries of Europe

As the intro screen for Centuries of Europe fades gracefully into focus, backed by the stirring strains of some classical anthem, it almost makes one feel like hoisting the European flag in one’s front garden. If only one could afford a flagpole.

Who knows what the next step of European history will unfurl. The dreaded unified currency perhaps? Or worse; the Eurovision Song contest is staged twice yearly. Perhaps eating British beef will be made compulsory. Where might the madness begin?

If, on the other hand, you want to know what has happened in Europe, as opposed to what will happen, then this CDROM aims to be an invaluable resource. It details European history from the year 700 up until the present day, arbitrarily dividing this 1300 year period up into four ages – that of “God” (732-1492), “Kings” (1493-1789), “Nations” (1790-1945) and “Unity” (1946+). I’m not sure the last period wouldn’t be better titled “Genocidal Weapons Race”, but history is as much in the eye of the beholder as anything else.

The general design of Centuries of Europe has to be applauded. Crisp, clean graphics and layouts, easy to read text and plentiful images all go to make the program something of an aesthetic triumph. There’s no clunky navigation here either, traversing the various menus is a breeze, with a full history of your progress kept so you can backtrack to any point. This is how multimedia should be, but all too often isn’t.

As far as the actual hard content goes, Centuries concentrates mostly on personalities, which is fair enough as people have indeed shaped history. Key events are highlighted in the Events menu (rather predictably), but there is only a smattering of them compared to the masses of mini-biographies of famous clergymen, politicians, writers, scientists and artists that the program offers. It doesn’t go into too much depth though, serving as more of a general historical overview. Each section is, however, extensively hyperlinked and cross-referenced to others, making exploring connections and suchlike easy.

On top of the main mass of information, extras such as the maps menu (showing the shifting borders of Europe) along with some miscellaneous information on myths and values of the various ages have been bolted on for good measure. Naturally, there is a full index and a basic search engine too.

All in all, if you’re looking for a nicely designed multimedia overview of the last millennium of European History then you’ve just found it. Be warned that it will only really help on the level of a general overview though.

Company: The Learning Company

Contact: 01293 651300

Good production values and interface, all nicely hyperlinked, although the content is rather biography heavy and only serves as a general and very broad overview of European history. But then a detailed analysis would probably scare most people to death.