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on September 11, 2005
Reading this book was an incredible experience for me. Roberts gives a narrative of human history starting with evolution through the end of the 20th century -- and manages to do it in 15 chapters that average a little over 30 pages apiece. The result was that I was able to absorb the broad sweep of history in a little over two weeks.

The main caveat of this book is that its title may be somewhat misleading. Roberts's focus is very much on Western history, although to be fair, in the introduction he a) acknowledges this and b) makes a case to justify it -- so I don't think he's trying to sneak anything past the reader.

So if you can accept that it is quite Western-focused, it really is a great book. I basically felt that I was able to cover all the history I should have learned in school but didn't in a little over 500 pages.
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on June 17, 2003
I never paid enough attention to history in high school and got around most history classes in college. I wanted to catch up and get a basic understanding of world history. This was just right. It literally starts at the beginning with evolution and ends with the end of the cold war. I can see no western bias or concentration on any time period. Very evenly written.
What makes this book stand out is the authors attempts to explain why history happened the way it did and not just what happened. When important, he presents all of the current outstanding theories on a particular subject, and lets the reader decide which seems most plausible.
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VINE VOICEon March 25, 2003
J.M. Roberts "A Short History of the World" covers a lot of ground in 500 pages, from the earliest hominids to the early 1990s. The book provides concise details on the major civilizations that have impacted our world, and more importantly, the lasting impact these civilizations had on their descendants and other civilizations. One can trace our current world conflicts back through thousands of years and realize there is no easy solution to the many problems that confront us.
While Roberts gave attention to Asian civilization, his writing did come off with a pro-Western, pro-British slant, especially in his description of the early Islamic movement as one of "conquest and expansion." The same could be said of Christian nations.
With such a wealth of information to process and absorb, I whittled away at this book over several months. The sections are arranged so that one can read in shorter bursts.
Also, I recommend frequent consultation with a historical atlas while reading this book, as no maps have been provided.
"A Short History of the World" is a good for exploring the big picture, and an excellent starting point to pursue other works that provide more in-depth detail of areas of further interest.
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on May 7, 1998
I didn't find this book well-written or much of a history at all. If you are more interested in how people and countries reacted to history than in history, you'll love the book. If you want to know what happened and the interactions between countries, find another book. Unfortunately, Roberts makes the assumption that you already know all the historical facts and leaves many out and just refers to them(like the French loss of Canada), or gives you one table of facts and then rambles on about sociology for 20 or so pages. There are NO illustrations, no maps and he uses old names for regions that aren't listed on current-day map (i.e. Anatolia). The sentence structure is very bizarre and hard to understand. The structure of the book is also puzzling; he writes about one region for hundreds (even thousands) of years, then jumps to another country, goes back to the beginning(or where he left off a hundred pages back) and then jumps to another region. If the jumps were caused by bringing two countries up to the same point, to compare them or present a common event, I could understand, but that is rarely the case.
It wasn't all bad or I wouldn't have finished the book, but the good stuff was only found by heavy slogging.
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on January 2, 1998
J.M. Roberts has written an excellent short and readable synopsis of the history of humanity from earliest times until most the most recent era. I have not read the longer versions of his world history (of which A Short History is a condensation), but this title contains a wealth of material. Roberts does well at trackinga story line as far as neccessary without forcing centuries of mental backtracking when switching to coverage of different areas of the globe. His presentation is very balanced and he gives equal time to all areas of the world. In addition, he adds timely comments on the role of women at various points in history, a subject somewhat neglected in the past. While perceptive and all encompassing, the story is balanced and lacks (for the better!) the revisionist bias which has often come down hard on white, male Europe. He certainly recognizes the power and influence of Europe on world history, especially since the Age of Discovery, yet he does well in analyzing the reasons for it, as well as its implications on non-Western peoples. All this he does without being biased toward any particular group. The book is a very good introduction to the currents of world history and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to engage a very sweeping narrative of how and why our world is where it is today. I detect no obvious religious persuasion on Roberts' parrt, but I am impressed with the place he assigns Christianity in Earupean history at least, and the way in which religion is fairly treatd along with science in the modern period. Admittedly, there is a glaring lack of detail in terms of specific dates, battles, people, technology, and so forth, but that seems purely due to the selectiveness he must practice in order to tell compress some 10,000 (recorded) years of human development into 500 pages. Roberts' Short History of the World is a good book and well worth anyones time to read and grab a gliimpse of undertanding into what makes the world what it is today. Perhaps, given enough time, I might enjoy reading his full treatment.
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on July 6, 2000
This is the one of the best history books I have ever read. The crowning glory of this book is that the author manages to give a whole picture of world history without going into pedantic details about dates and battles. I mean, this is not the book you should read if you want to learn by heart the names of all Roman emperors. But if you want to get an overview, a holistic picture of world history right through to the nineties, this book is a great investment. Plus, Mr. Roberts' language is excellent and his style engaging.
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on December 13, 2003
I believe that Roberts found a good balance between being detailed and yet stating the needed facts. His work is a survey of History not a detailed study. Anything less then 500 pages would be a time line and not a book. The book is a good introduction to history.
However I would like to add that Roberts sentence structure could be improved
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on February 12, 2000
This is a great book for people who do not have the time or inclination to sift through lengthy and difficult history books. The book begins with the birth of humankind and ends in the modern times. It touches all major events which created and shaped history. Excellent resource and reference.
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This is a perfect book for those who want to explore the breadth of human history without getting bog down in too much detail about any one particular time. Professor Roberts has a crisp, clean flowing approach that keeps the reader constantly involved and interested in
what is happening. For those who are starting out and want a good general view so that they
may determine the exact areas of history they would like to explore more thoroughly, a
better synopsis of world history does not exist.

Professor Roberts, although English, does not play favoritism in editorializing more favorably
his own homeland's part in world history. On the contrary, he seems to have an uncanny
ability to be evenhanded in his approach. Even where you would think the temptation would
be great to express ones own agenda the author does not succumb. The sign of a good writer
and a true passion for his own subject matter he does not let the statement of facts without
editorial comment detract from the readers interest. If you have an interest in history you will
have no problem reading all 513 pages from start to finish.
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on March 23, 2000
An excellent synopsis of world history. I'd only had two history classes in high school (avoided it in college), and now, 10 years later, decided that I wanted to learn more about the development of humanity. This book is not just names and dates - he takes you through the "how"s and "why"s of historical events. I gained many insights from reading it, plus a new perspective on the last few decades.
I would recommend this book to anyone.
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