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Glimpses of World History

16 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0143031055
ISBN-10: 0143031058
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Editorial Reviews

Glimpses of World History, a book written by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1934, is a panoramic sweep of the history of humankind. It is a collection of 196 letters written between 1930-1933, as an introduction to the world history to his daughter Indira, then thirteen years old. The letters, written in a span of thirty months when Nehru was imprisoned in various places by the British, starts off with one he sends to his daughter on her birthday. He says he is sad about not being able to send her any "material" gift from prison, so he would try to give her something he can "afford", a series of letters from his heart. Written from prison, where he had no recourse to reference books or a library but his personal notes, Glimpses of World History contains the history of humankind from 6000 BC to the time of writing of the book. It covers the rise and fall of great empires and civilizations from Greece and Rome to China and West Asia; great figures such as Ashoka and Genghis Khan, Gandhi and Lenin; wars and revolutions, democracies and dictatorships. He wrote about many cultures throughout the globe in detail because, as he himself said, he didn't like the way history was taught in schools where it was confined to the history of a single country and that too narrow, and he wanted his daughter Priyadarshini to know why people did what they did. It was possible only through knowing the history of the whole world. The letters are written in informal language, with the contemporary and personal events too are mentioned. They reflect the world view of Nehru, and his grasp of history. It could be considered as one of the first attempts at historiography from a non-Eurocentric angle. The book is comparable to The Outline of History by H. G. Wells. The New York Times described it as . . . one of the most remarkable books ever written . . . Nehru makes even H.G.Wells seem singularly insular . . . One is awed by the breadth of Nehru's culture.([1])

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 1155 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (March 30, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143031058
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143031055
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.2 x 2.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #176,066 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By kate on December 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
Without question one of my all time favorite books. Nehru wrote the book while in prison with the idea that it is what he would have imparted to his daughter Indira (Ghandi)were he at home with her. Despite some very minor factual errors (precise dates, etc.), the fact that the book was written under prison conditions, without any available reference material available to him, speaks to Nehru's incredible mind and grasp of history, as well as to the depth of his love for his young daughter. I find it to be one of the most remarkable works ever written and have given it as a gift more times than I can count. How many current world "leaders" do you think could produce something even close?
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Anand Nair on January 23, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Nehru was in prison when he wrote these series of letters. His vision of history and of contemporary events had a sweep and genuineness that had nothing to do with pleasing powerful allies, or with wooing of voters. Nehru's views on secularism and Palestine -so passionately expressed in the early thirties- give lie to the Hindutva propaganda that these are "pseudo" positions cunningly devised with Muslim "vote bank" in mind.
Today, it is fashionable to hold that a nation's foreign policy is to be decided based on "self-interest" rather than on lofty principles and the like. As if there is a great contradiction between self-interest and principles. Indeed when principles are given the go by, and the game is played exclusively with an eye on each player's self-interest; it is obvious that the only interest that would be served is that of the most powerful among the players. It is definitely not in the self-interest of the poorer and weaker nations of the world to abandon principles. But this paradox is quite lost on the petty minds that fashion our foreign and trade policies, 50 years after independence.
On Palestine this is what he wrote on May 29, 1933, "The people inhabiting it are predominantly Muslim Arabs, and they demand freedom and unity with their fellow Arabs of Syria. But British policy has created a special minority problem here- that of the Jews- and the Jews side with the British and oppose the freedom of Palestine, as they fear that this would mean Arab rule".
About the Jews, spread and persecuted in Europe and other parts of the world, Nehru wrote, "And yet these amazing people not only survived all this, but managed to keep their racial and cultural characteristics, and prospered and produced a host of great men.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By The Agile Minds on June 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I read this book a decade ago and can never forget the greatness of this book that now I am ordering another copy.

I cannot agree less with the New York Times review: `It is one of the most remarkable books ever written...Nehru makes even H.G.Wells seem singularly insular...One is awed by the breadth of Nehru's culture'

The information is so rich (the history of empires from Greece, Rome and China to name a few), the style is flawless and the English language was written in a most beautiful way that you will forget Nehru was not born next to Shakespeare's Stratford-upon-Avon.

I look forward to reading it again and again.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By unmesh shukla on June 7, 2007
Format: Paperback
I read this book when i was a student.I was amazed to find that Nehru wrote it largely while he was in prison,with restrictions on access to historic materials and other works of reference.Yet he has done a brilliant job.His prose is effortlessly flowing.The contents are carefully and objectively chosen.However, the book reflects his bias and preferences when he deals with contemporary history.His admiration for soviet union and their economic model inspires even history writing.While fully understanding his anti-imperialistic stand,i am inclined to say that later part of the book needs to be read with caution as he, perhaps unconsciously,allows the politician within him to dilute the objectivity needed, or expected of a historian.Having said that,still i recommend this book to every youngster.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By R. Pokkyarath on June 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is indeed an amazing book / a collection of letters. Nehru takes you on a tour from 3000 BC all the way down to 1930 touching upon the known history of all the regions of the world at any particular point. For me finishing this book was a culmination of almost a year's effort reading a few letters a week. Since this book is intended to be a glimpse you may want to supplement it with other sources if are looking to learn more about some of the topics, especially the early history. For example, ancient Greek history is disposed off in a couple of pages--1 letter if I remember correctly. Similarly Roman history is covered in 2 or 3 letters (there are nice and reliable documentaries on youtube which can give additional details of each of this topics). The topics get zoomed in more detail as you move towards 1930, and so relatively recent events like the French and Russian revolution gets covered in more detail. However, at times I found certain topics a bit too detailed for my taste and need. For example, a fairly long letter is devoted to the Russian 5 yr Piatilietka plans (perfectly understandable given the context and the time in which these letters were written). The only minor quibble I've is that the family talk and the personal musings about the prison life / independence struggle, found at the beginning of many of these letters, was a bit distracting at times. But, then again, to the author's defence, this was letters to his daughter. A wonderful book and a great way to take a peek at the last 4000 - 5000 years.
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