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Our Oriental Heritage (Story of Civilization) Hardcover – July, 1997

4.4 out of 5 stars 68 customer reviews
Book 1 of 11 in the Story of Civilization Series

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Product Details

  • Series: Story of Civilization (Book 1)
  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Fine Communications (July 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1567310125
  • ISBN-13: 978-1567310122
  • Product Dimensions: 2.2 x 7.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #218,973 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio Cassette
"A nation is born stoic, and dies epicurean." - Will Durant
*Our Oriental Heritage* is the first volume in Will and Ariel Durant's eleven-volume history of civilization from the Sumerians to the Napoleonic era - the work of a lifetime, or rather two of them, as its publication spanned no less four decades (1935-1975) and eight years were spent on these first nine hundred pages alone.
Although well integrated by Durant's systematic approach, *Our Oriental Heritage* is actually four books in one (or five, if you include the opening ninety-page essay on the nature of civilization): the first one deals with the Near East - Sumeria, Egypt, Babylonia, Assyria, Judea and Persia - from the fourth millenium to the third century B.C. (275p); the second, with India from the Vedas to Gandhi, who was then still alive and, well, maybe not kicking (245p); the third, with China from the "Age of the Philosophers" to Sun Yat Sen (190p); and the fourth, with Japan from its mythical Shinto birth to the invasion of Manchuria (105p).
The organization of the book is more thematic than chronological. Though Durant does divide the histories of the various civilizations into periods and tries to follow their evolution, he limits himself to well-chosen historical highlights, seeking rather to understand the soul of each civilization by an analysis of its major cultural achievements.
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Format: Hardcover
Imagine a man sat down to write the Story of Civilization. All civilization... its lessons, its poetry, its characters, its schemers, its action, and its wisdom. It will require a brave soul indeed. Picture that man at his desk.
We definitely do not want a cynic, a hermit with eyebrows curled tight in thoughts of literary vengeance or historical chicanery... let us shut that character down before the first dip of the pen. Instead, we fancy a skeptic, one who owns a moist twinkling eye that comes from perspective, and a slightly crooked smile of insight. We definitely want a man of confidence who has deep love for his undertaking, but maintains gentleness of speech and a crisp, discerning ear; a man with healthy complexion and moderately rounded belly that reflects the love of a caring, tender woman; a man with good humor and love for his neighbors and hometown that extends outward to embrace all of humanity.
A man that could write the following:
"It was a great moral improvement when men ceased to kill or eat their fellowmen, and merely made them slaves."
"Most history is guessing, and the rest is prejudice."
"Civilization is not something inborn or imperishable; it must be acquired anew by every generation, and any serious interruption in its financing or its transmission may bring it to an end."
You can feel the warmth of this man's breath as he reads close to your ear. You can see the proper adjustment of the spectacles; you can hear the wry grin in his voice. And passion is manifest in his full-bodied baritone.
Will Durant retrieved and dusted Voltaire's two-century old gauntlet, and found it to fit just fine. Voltaire would have approved wholesale of Durant, for he fit the wise joker's primary criteria that "only philosophers should write history".
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Format: Hardcover
Since college, I have wanted to own the ten volume The Story of Civilization by Will Durant. It simply was a purchase that a poor student or a novice pastor could afford. My father-in-law Melvin Gosser, found a set at a garage sale and purchased them for me as a Christmas present. Now, I have the daunting job of reading them. Will and Ariel Durant spent a lifetime in research and writing to complete this set, beginning with the publication of Our Oriental Heritage in 1935 and concluding in 1967 with Rousseau and Revolution. Each of these volumes are massive, between 800 and 1200 pages each.
I have to admit, I was tempted to skip over Our Oriental Heritage and begin reading where "real" history begins with ancient Greece. I am so glad I didn't. More than information, the Durants are delightfully politically incorrect. Any historian can give you the facts, a good one will do so with style, but a great historian gives himself. That is exactly what the Durants have done. As I started reading, I made myself review the first two hundred pages and began to underline delightful insights, and the beautiful prose of the authors.
Here is an example of their prose: "The scenes of your youth, like the past, are always beautiful
if we do not have to live in them again"
Example of their insights: "It is almost a law of history that the same wealth that generates a civilization announces its decay. For wealth produce ease as well as art; it softens a people to the ways of luxury and peace and invites invasion from stronger arms and hungrier mouths."
That is not to say that every chapter was spell binding, they were not. There were whole sections that I had to discipline myself to read. I won't fault the author's, however.
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