From Publishers Weekly
This is an unusual work for Yale: a children's history originally published 70 years ago. But it is a work one can quickly come to love. Gombrich, later known as an art historian, wrote this primer in 1935, when he was a young man in Vienna (it was soon banned by the Nazis as too "pacifist"). Rewritten (and updated) in English mainly by Gombrich himself (who died in 2001, age 92, while working on it), the book is still aimed at children, as the language makes clear: "Then, slowly the clouds parted to reveal the starry night of the Middle Ages." But while he addresses his readers directly at times, Gombrich never talks down to them. Using vivid imagery, storytelling and sly humor, he brings history to life in a way that adults as well as children can appreciate.The book displays a breadth of knowledge, as Gombrich begins with prehistoric man and ends with the close of WWII. In the final, newly added chapter, Gombrich's tone sadly darkens as he relates the rise of Hitler and his own escape from the Holocaust—children, he writes, "must learn from history how easy it is for human beings to be transformed into inhuman beings"—and ends on a note of cautious optimism about humanity's future. (Oct. 13)
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This is the first English translation of a book written in 1935 in German and translated into 18 languages. Thirty years later, a second German edition was published with a new final chapter. In 40 brief chapters, Gombrich relates the history of humankind from the Stone Age through World War II. In between are historic accounts of such topics as cave people and their inventions (including speech), ancient life along the Nile and in Mesopotamia and Greece, the growth of religion, the Dark Ages, the age of chivalry, the New World, and the Thirty Years' War. Much of this history is told through concise sketches of such figures as Confucius, Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Jesus Christ, Charlemagne, Leonardo da Vinci, Napoleon, and Columbus. Gombrich was asked to write a history geared to younger readers, so the book is filled with innumerable dates and facts, yet it is one to be read by adults. With 41 black-and-white woodcut illustrations and nine maps, it is a timeless and engaging narrative of the human race. George CohenCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved