Big World, Small Country is a richly illustrated textbook, aimed at NCEA Level 1 and 2, that focuses on the major political, military, economic and social events of the 20th century. The book begins with a timeline of the 20th century and a 'status report' as at the year 1900, in order to provide an overarching context for what follows. Subsequent chapters cover the major developments in the 20th century, in which New Zealanders were involved or which, due to their global significance, had an impact on New Zealand, even if indirectly. Where New Zealanders were involved in global events, their observations and experiences are included.
Big World, Small Country provides rich grounds for discussion, along with activities that explore and develop content understanding, key ideas, predictive reading, values, perspectives and historical empathy. Anecdotes, such as the fact that New Zealand boxer Clarrie Gordon was perhaps the only person to have punched Hitler and survived, help bring history alive.
Students are also challenged to consider the reliability and usefulness of sources, including the textbook itself.
Graeme Ball, the author of the popular textbook Making Kiwis, has written Big World, Small Country to embrace the flexibility inherent in the New Zealand Curriculum. Teachers may wish to focus on particular topics, and/or allow students to explore and pursue their own interests.