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History of the World, The Penguin: Revised Edition (Penguin History) Paperback – July 1, 1995


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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin History
  • Paperback: 1168 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Revised edition (July 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140154957
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140154955
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.1 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,075,936 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

In any event, at some point, anyone interested in history should read it.
Lawrence O. Taliana
One of the most important late realizations of the foundations of Western civilization is the debt that is owed to Islamic society.
William Alexander
Don't feel daunted by its size, a book like this makes for excellent piece-meal reading.
remco@oberon.princeton.edu

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Friso Hermans on December 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a fascinating read, worth reading and rereading. It will give you a background for every event in world history and in the headlines. It gives a sense of the sweep of history that could not possibly be given in any less ambitious format. I disagree that there are no overarching themes in the book, I pick out two big ones. One is that to understand events at any time in history you have to know what went before. He carries this to its logical extreme by starting with the big bang, and it allows him to present history with no arbitrary boundaries. That is fun! His second theme is the prime place of Europe in world history. Roberts argues that while many cultures have contributed their own strand to the world culture, the European contribution is the largest. For this reason, events in Europe get more play than those in any other part of the world. While this might strike some as Eurocentric, it strikes me as Roberts' best efforts to make clear why our world is the way it is today. I recommend it very highly for the PATIENT reader. If you can get past the Sumerians you've got it made.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Linda Linguvic HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book consists of 1109 pages of dense historical facts and analyses from the early beginnings of civilization right up to 1995. It was a long hard read and impossible to totally grasp it all. There's just too much information packed into tight paragraphs and a presupposition that the reader is familiar with the material.
I was determined to read it however, and absorb as much as I could, and so I just kept reading, letting my eyes skim over parts I couldn't quite understand. I pushed on through with the intention of getting a general understanding even though I knew I'd never remember all the names of kings, battles, and constantly changing borders of countries.
The author is British and the book a bit Eurocentric, but he did manage to include the whole globe in a somewhat confusing way. Sometimes he'd jump from Europe to Asia to the Middle East all on one page. And then from century to century. It was an ambitious undertaking. I applaud him for it. And I must say that it did make the sweep of history very real for me.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By William Alexander on January 14, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a very good book, a 1,200 or so page summary of the history of the world. Roberts is balanced, fair, and accurate in his reporting. He does not pander to Western stereotypes like some do. For example, he acknowledges the fact that the 'Middle Ages' really were no such thing. The period we label that was really a development of tradition along a straight trajectory into the present modern world. He effectively dispels the 'Dark Ages' myth. As an example, he demonstrates that it was in the 11th and 12th centuries that Europe began recovering the ancient Greek and Roman philosophies from the Arabs, translating them, expanding upon them. One of the most important late realizations of the foundations of Western civilization is the debt that is owed to Islamic society. To them we owe much: medicine, algebra, astronomy, architecture, anatomy, the diffusion of Eastern culture to the West.
Roberts also writes in an engaging manner. He does not go into great detail often, surely impossible in a world of such vast scope. On occasion he will indulge in detail when it is particularly important or interesting. He pays careful attention to the roots of events; the fall of the Roman Empire for example. He eloquently explains all the changes to Roman society that began in the 3rd century that resulted in the eventual fall of the Western Empire, without simplifying obscurely. I find this a very easy book to read, and highly enjoyable.
The book is somewhat Western-centric, and as you move eastward there is less and less detail. I think that Islamic civilization is covered in considerable depth relatively which is positive, but when you proceed to India, China, Japan the material loses some attention. Overall, still a very good read.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 30, 1999
Format: Paperback
I read this book cover to cover five years ago and have been using it ever since as a reference book. It's a great read if you like an urbane, erudite "Oxford (or is it Cambridge?) don" style, and Roberts is careful about stating grand theories as though they were incontrovertible fact. All in all, a wonderful comprehensive world history. I'm buying a second copy for my 19 year old nephew who is studying history.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on January 10, 2006
Format: Paperback
J.M. Roberts is a good popular historian. Of the several works of his for the popular audience that I have read, all have come across as interesting and well organised, accessible and fairly objective. Roberts also writes for scholarly audiences; while his popular works are not a rigourous, his other works prove that there is serious scholarship underpinning these works.

Roberts' large, one-volume 'History of the World' joins many such volumes in having strengths and weaknesses, the primary weakness affecting them all being the inherent problem of selectivity. The history of the world, even if one simply means by this the history of human civilisation, has so much data in so many directions that ultimately no single volume (or, indeed, whole series of volumes) will satisfy all on every count.

Roberts begins with the pre-historical beginnings of human beings in various parts of the world, based on archaeological evidence. He then explores of civilisation in various parts of the world (Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, India - all the places civilisation arose largely independently of each other). From there, Roberts traces the advances of civilisation through the Classical Mediterranean period, the post-Roman imperial time, the period of European expansion around the world, the period of world wars, and the modern post-war period. Within these broad divisions, Roberts introduces the history of other parts of the world -- the Islamic civilisation, more advanced the post-Roman lands, is not seen as a mere afterthought or addendum to the 'real' action in Europe; Roberts also traces historical development in China, India, and Japan as major centres of civilisation.
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