Looking back on my educational experience from grade school to college, I believe I received an adequate education when it comes to the field of history. If that’s the case, then why was I never taught about a 12th century city in America’s Mississippi Valley which at its zenith was home to over 50,000 inhabitants? Why wasn’t I taught about an 8th century Moorish slave turned courtier whose innovations in the fields of musics, dining and fashion resonate to today? And while we’ve all been told about the Titanic, how many of were taught in school about the explosion of the Sultana, a horrible maritime disaster which occurred 60 years before that of the Titanic and killed close to 1,800 people? All I can say is thank goodness for Martin W. Sandler because now these forgotten stories from history and eight others have been brought to light in his 2010 book Lost to Time: Unforgettable Stories that History Forgot. I happened to grab a copy of Sandler’s book during a recent library visit and I’m glad I did.
To be blunt, this book is fun to read. It’s not flashy, stuffy or overly academic. All 11 stories are interesting and worthy of inclusion in a book like this. Thanks to Sandler, the stories described in Lost to Time are the kind of things you not only enjoy reading, but make for great topics of conversation whenever your friends or family ask you what you’ve been reading.
One of the best things about this book is Sandler’s explanations of why these stories were lost to history. Sometimes these events were overshadowed by larger ones (the Peshtigo fire occurred on the same day as the Great Chicago Fire); covered up by government officials (the knowledge of Exercise Tiger, a disastrous dry-run for the 1944 D-Day invasion of Normandy which led to more deaths than the actual Utah Beach attack, was the object of wartime censorship); and while Paul Revere had poet Longfellow to sing his praises, two other patriots (one a teen girl) who undertook far more arduous and dangerous rides, lacked such poetic memorializing.
If, after reading Lost to History, you’re inspired to learn more when it comes to these forgetting stories of history, don’t fear there’s more. It looks like the Sultana disaster is the subject of not one but two books. The horrific Peshtigo fire is the subject of several books, including Firestorm at Peshtigo: A Town, Its People, and the Deadliest Fire in American History. For those desiring to learn more about the America’s lost city of Cahokia, Timothy Pauketat’s Cahokia: Ancient America’s Great City on the Mississippi looks like a nice option.
Harry S. Truman once said the only thing new in the world, is the history you don’t know. If that’s the case, there’s plenty in Lost to History that’s new. Feel free to give Sandler’s enjoyable book a shot. I doubt you will be disappointed.