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Ideas That Changed the World Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: DK ADULT; 1st edition (September 8, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0789496097
  • ISBN-13: 978-0789496096
  • Product Dimensions: 9.8 x 7.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,623,540 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"Ideas are at least as powerful agents for change as material exigencies, economic needs, environmental constraints, and all the other proposed determinants." So writes noted Oxford historian Fernandez-Armesto in this overview of scores of ideas dating back to prehistoric times. The ideas examined are not always soothing or progressive: cannibalism ("typically...human and cultural"); a revival of interest in ancient Egyptian magic during the Renaissance (useful because ultimately "alchemy fed into chemistry, astrology into astronomy"); and anti-Semitism. The book is culturally inclusive: the Zen concept of Mu (the way masters "baffled their pupils into enlightenment") is here, as is jihad. Each idea is examined in a generously illustrated two-page spread, with suggested readings and links to other ideas in the book. This wide-ranging volume offers great browsing and a panoply of ideas for consideration.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

This copiously illustrated book begins more than 30 millennia ago and portrays human history as the product of a series of intellectual and conceptual discoveries. The author shows how our ancestors pulled themselves out of prehistory by realizing that symbols could be used to express ideas; by grasping that what we see is not necessarily what is--by, in short, having the big idea that the world operates according to rules that can be understood. By extending the history of ideas to prehistory (most histories of ideas "start late in the day, with the invention of writing"), Fernandez-Armesto offers a wealth of insights and new ways of looking at human evolution. That's not to say, however, that he doesn't cover more modern ground. Key intellectual moments in the development of science, government, society, and religion are all surveyed in accessible prose and with hundreds of fascinating illustrations. This is obviously not the last word on the history of ideas, but it makes a fascinating place to start. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

(I sort of wish that editions of this book had been published every 50 years, starting with 1600.
Theseus
The book is very well illustrated, and this makes each contribution in the book beautiful in appearance as well as interesting.
Mark Montebello Daritama
The author clearly has his opinions and an agenda to promote, which does not belong in this kind of book.
Chris Frost

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Todd I. Stark VINE VOICE on April 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book is an enticing mile-a-minute overview of big ideas that have influenced human history.
Be careful: this is specifically a book for voracious skimmers, it is not an enclyclopedia or suitable reference for scholars. Nor does it offer an ongoing thread of analysis of topics to lend any continuity. There is a lot of real estate taken up with graphics and layout, so the text content is even more concise than might be inferred from the one or two pages devoted to each topic. This serves as a ready and accessible reference, mainly because the topics are extremely well chosen for both their timeless significance and their diversity, and the author does a very competent job of surveying most topics, in spite of their widely varying difficulty.
Technical scientific ideas are handled much less well than cultural and philosophical ones, so the focus of this book doesn't really reflect the modern emphasis on science and technology to the degree some might expect. It does however do a good job of placing scientific ideas into broader cultural context. For example, discussing the Uncertainty Principle, the author almost exclusively discusses the way it has been interpreted as having significance for the macroscopic world, rather than its significance for our understanding the microfabric of nature. This accurately reflects the impact of the idea for most of us, but not its significance within physics.
The blessing of this book is its brevity, and it generally offers a small reasonably good choice of sources for followup on each topic. The topics are not neccessarily treated even-handedly, since the author doesn't seem too hesitant to put his own spin on each topic, although they usually come close. It is not an overly opinionated book considering how compressed the entries are.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By L. F Sherman on June 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is a "coffee table" book of ideas to spend a few minutes with at a time rather than a book to sit and read from cover to cover. As a kid I used to read through the World Book Encyclopedia; this book provides the same kind a service and sometimes excitement for selected important ideas that have "changed the world".
Brief, concise, pointed sketches of important ideas are on target for their selection and coverage. Perhaps far from perfect, but there is nothing else nearly as good. Selected notes direct one to books to purse any idea further. Many ideas will be familiar and the short essays and photos may stimulate memories or reflection. A few will be new - or commonly misunderstood. Either way the open minded reader will learn something and be stimulated. Except for the tired cynic, most will find some intellectual entertainment and perhaps even stimulus to deeper thought.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Geert Daelemans on April 11, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This unique book illustrates how our world has become what it is today: by thinking and using imagination. The fundament of this book is that ideas are the driving force behind change and progress. Ideas are as old as mankind. Discoveries and inventions, economic systems and politic movements, our contact with people, animals and daily objects: all find their birth in an original idea. From cannibalism to Zen, from time to the unconscious, from pure logic to the chaos theory...
The `idea' behind this book is as remarkable as it is refreshing. It all starts in prehistoric times and takes the reader on a long, but exiting trip through time. One hundred ideas are briefly discussed and presented to the reader as some fast food for the mind. Not all ideas are as natural as for example the invention of writing, but put into a boarder perspective each of them shows significant influence on the course of history. As a consequence of this book's setup every idea only takes up two pages. No one can expect that this limited coverage is enough to fully communicate what each idea really signifies. This is certainly the weakest point of this anthology. It is certainly not surprising that not everyone will agree to the interpretation of certain ideas. But at least this book gives the incentive to numerous interesting discussions.
As a remedy to the compactness the author has added a `further reading' section to each idea, a gesture that is highly appreciated and that is certainly one of the main assets of this thought provoking book. A great starting point for everyone who frequently asks the question: why?
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Avid Reader on October 31, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Appearances CAN be deceiving. At first glance this appears to be an intruiguing coffee table book - large size, lavishly illustrated, extremely interesting, universally applicable to young and old. But upon closer reflection one notes the vast scholarship that went into this work which was obviously a joyous task for the esteemed author.
It is arranged chronologically, starting approximately 30,000 BC (I refuse to use that absurd "BCE"). What is noteworthy is that the most important, most far-reaching, the most elemental ideas came so early. For example, the notion of a spirit world, the idea of magic, of communicating with spirits, of matter....these are all concepts that we take for granted now since they are such a part of our evolutionary cultural psychology as humans.
Many ideas are still controversial - racial superiority, evolution, cosmology - but these have not been with us since the dawn of history. This is an exciting intellectual quest for our heritage in the world of ideas. What is especially gratifying is the inclusion with every two page article of particular works - one could say a mini-bibliography - with which one can delve deeper into the subject.
The work is amazingly non-parochial, putting the "human" ahead of the specific culture. That does not preclude him from listing some ideas that have particular meaning only to certain groups, such as jihad or anti-semitism. But even these limited application ideas affect groups outside the ones they affect directly. What is especially appealing is the ability to pick up the reading at the next idea. Since each is only two pages long, there is not much possibility of "losing one's place."
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