(For a detailed list of all the subjects covered, see end of this introduction)
When my children were growing up in the late 1980s and the 1990s, they would see things happening around them and in the world on television and read things in newspapers and books that made them curious to know more. They and many other young people, both then and now, would ask “Daddy, Why ….?”, “Daddy, What ….?”, “Daddy, How ….?”, seeking simple answers to difficult questions.
One of the very first “Daddy, Why ….. ?” questions to be asked (in 1989) was “Why do we have to sort our plastic waste before it can be recycled ?”. Then “Why are the people in Yugoslavia fighting each other ?”.
Over 60 subjects are covered and around 150 questions are answered, including these other examples:
Why is Easter on a different date every year ?
Why is printing paper called A4 ?
What’s the difference between Sunni and Shia ?
What is the difference between Hamas and Hezbollah ? What is the Taliban ?
Why are North African people Muslims ?
Why are there people from India, Pakistan and the West Indies in Britain ?
What’s the difference between beer and lager ?
What does mediaeval mean ? What were the Dark Ages ?
Why are Conservatives called Tories ?
What’s the difference between a county and a shire ?
Why do they speak Spanish in South America ? Why don’t they speak Spanish in Brazil ?
Why is it B for bravo and C for Charlie ?
What do the road numbers on signposts mean ?
What was the Cold War ?
Why is Northern Ireland separate from the republic ?
Now, in these early years of the 21st century, there are many things in our living environment that young people will take for granted (such as the use of electronic equipment and social media, instant communication, climate change and the ever-present risks from terrorism) but without much, if any, understanding of where these things came from, nor that the changes which brought them about have generally occurred within only the last two generations and thus within the living memory of parents and grandparents.
The pace of technological change may seem very fast, but it is actually not always the case. Thus it is that we can recognise modern day clothes, cars or aircraft as not very different from the clothing, motor cars and aeroplanes that were newly appearing in the streets and in the skies over a century ago, yet personal computers did not appear in homes and offices until the early 1990s and now, less than a quarter century later, we cannot live without them.
Our electronically dependent world can provide us with infinite amounts of data, but benign (and malign) altruism bombards us with so much information, it has become difficult to find simple explanations of the background as to how and why the world is how we now find it. When I was at school in the 1960s we had simple wooden rulers with inches and centimetres on the front and a list of all the English kings and queens on the back, 30cm long. Things are no longer so simply available and Wikipedia offers so much information that the same list of kings and queens runs to the equivalent of 25 pages if printed on A4 paper. And why is it called “A4” anyway ?
Information today is very easily accessible through the internet, but it is frequently presented in too much detail and with endless cross-references to related subjects. The essays in “Daddy, Why …..?” aim to distil the detail and cross-references into shorter, simpler, succinct pieces that extend to only a few pages (although sometimes grouped into a larger collection of multiple related pieces). The compilation seeks to respond to questions that a child may ask a parent, not only when young, but also when grown older, such as “how to buy a house ?”
For the past 40 years, the availability of crude oil has dominated global political events and the principal source of that oil has returned the geographical focus of these events to the Middle East, the original cradle of human civilization and now also the world’s greatest area of conflict. For much of that period and for 20 years preceding it, global political events were also driven by fierce competition between the ideologies of two great superpowers, themselves the successors to previous great empires. Thus many of these questions and their answers trace themselves back to common themes, such as language, colonial imperialism, communism, Islam, migration and communication technology.
For a detailed list of questions, see Index of Questions .
To read about any of the subjects, select the appropriate link from the following list.
Daddy, Why ….. ?
AN Arab Nations
BF British Food
PS Paper Sizes
RM Retail Myths