I've put this here as it seems the right place, but I'm not sure how much it will be seen. In any case it is just a little mental exercise.
With nod to H.G. Wells and various films, imagine the following simple premise - You have a time machine. You can travel at will and you do so. You travel into the future and discover the population of the Earth has been destroyed by war, atomic or otherwise. There is nothing left and the planet is dying. You realise this has come about because of civil wars and international wars breaking out all over the world.. You can see in your own society the germination of this end result and naturally, you wish to stop it happening. Unfortunately, as you return to your own time you understand the writing is on the wall and it is too late even then. So you decide to go back in time, to the formation of civilisation, to try and influence events from there on, thus taking humanity along a different path, one more harmonious which avoids its destruction. With me so far?
To do this thing you are only allowed to take back with you three books for the nascent civilisation to read and to learn from. Which or what would be the three books? I will extend this to allow three films instead or any combination of those. Let me know what they would be.
Very interesting idea and yet seemingly totally impossible to try to change the course of history. I myself would choose the late 18th century (French revolution) as the period that would have the greatest chance of influencing the future. France was the most influential country in the Western world then with extremely revolutionary ideas such as the metric system which changed absolutely everythng about distances, weights and measures, temperature scales... and even so, its big rival on the island to the north resisted all of this for another 200 years simply out of principal while most of the rest of the world decided that it was an innovative and practical idea. So that just goes to prove how much influence is limited, no matter how good the plan. And of course, even though France was extremely influential (just like England, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Egypt, Greece... in other centuries), this only concerned the Occident, because completely different things were happening in remote Asia.
But if I must propose 3 books (assuming that the necessary tools for understanding would be provided to the readers of the 18th century), I'll propose these:
The Second Sex - Simone de Beauvoir (women's rights being almost certainly the biggest problem of past times)
Baby and Child Care - Benjamin Spock (there was no attempt to understand children back in those days)
Silent Spring - Rachel Carson (because it would have been good to start understanding ecology as early as possible)
I'm thinking that Spock is maybe a controversial choice. There is some modern day criticism regarding his advice and his 'scientific' methods. If that is so, then I probably wouldn't consider his books. The other two though, I think are worth looking at as possibilities.
I can't answer yet, as so far I've only been able to think of one book that might be an appropriate choice.
If it was a comprehensive book on Mexican cookery and recipes I'd go for that. I think if we all sat comfortably round a table eating good food and 'breaking bread' more often we wouldn't be in quite the state we are in. If a problem can't be solved over a bowl of pozole followed by pastel de tres leches around the kitchen table, then there's no hope for any of us.
The point is, would taking this back in time to be learnt from, assist in stopping humanity destroy the world? The book itself has had influence on many parents/children and made their life better than before according to many, but those that were raised according to his guidance, are they less likely to cock it all up and bomb countries? Are they less violent than those who went before. And if they are, are they less violent enough to make a difference? Just because a book shows a better way of raising children, is it just a better way for the child, or does it have larger effects, good effects, on the future of society?
I don't have a bloody clue. I've never read it. I see nothing wrong in sticking six year old kids up chimneys anyway. What else would you do with them? My nine year old daughter once said she thought I was expecting too much of her. I told her we'd discuss it when she'd finished her shift at the pit.
I am having a really hard time finding a period or books that I think would be "best" to take ideas from. I know I would leave behind the Bible, the Koran and any other religious book that purports to tell people what to believe and how to behave.
I'd certainly shy away from any religious books for a number of reasons. But I would be torn between two different types of books or films. Which would I include - those that show what can go wrong with a society, or those that are a role model for a good society? In film terms, would I show Metropolis/Gattaca/Logan's Run as what society shouldn't be or would I show..... errrr..... can't think of any of the top of my head, that show a template for a good and peaceful society?