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Will Durant (1885 -1981) was an awardwinning American writer, historian, and philosopher. He and his wife were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction in 1968 for Rousseau and Revolution, and he was a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Durant spent over forty years writing the critically acclaimed elevenvolume 'Story of Civilization', the later volumes with the help of his wife, Ariel. He sought to revitalize history by unifying and humanizing the great body of historical knowledge, which had become voluminous and fragmented into esoteric subcategories. He also strove to bring philosophy to the common man. Durant was a champion of human rights, social reform, and the brotherhood of man long before they became wellknown issues.
--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
In this, the fourth volume in the Story of Civilization, Dr. Will & Ariel Durant have compiled thousands of details to create a smooth flowing story covering one-thousand years of Christian, Islamic, and Jewish civilization.
At nearly 1100 pages in length, the reader will see: The early Christian ascetics and martyrs such as Simeon Stylites, who sat atop a sixty-foot high pillar for thirty years, exposed to rain, sun, and snow, and rejoiced as worms ate his rotting flesh. Saint Augustine. The Great Kings such as Charlemagne, William, and Richard "the Lion-Hearted." The Popes. The Prophet Mohammed. The knights and pirates of the Crusades. The Age of Romance, Chivalry, and courtly love in literature. The Italian poet Dante, and the transition to the Renaissance. Plus more including plates and maps.
Although written to stand alone or in the series, this volume will most likely be read by more serious students of history, however, the Durants have created a prose which is very easy to read and understand. In short, this book is for everyone interested in history, both professional and layperson alike! I rate this book as five stars as the Durant's authoritative historical Magnum Opus!
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I'm not kidding, it took me almost a year read this book. It is at once, both intriguing and, how can I put this gently, boring. Before you zap me with a negative rating, let me explain. What Durant is attempting to do in writing the story of civilization is incredible. I just do not know of anyone who has come close to accomplishing what Durant (and his wife, Ariel) have done. But when one attempts to cover just a vast subject, it is difficult to communicate with clarity the sub-total of human achievement. For instance, his discussion of the rise of Islam was both interesting and difficult to read. Intriguing because we see that the conflict between Islam and the Christian west has antecedents that go back over a thousand years. I discovered that it was nip and tuck whether or not the West was going to be able to defend Europe from Moslem conquest. The current tension between radical Islam and the West is only the latest chapter in a long and bloody struggle; but our inability to grasp Arabic names, geography and history, makes this reading difficult. Another area of difficulty was his discussion on medieval architecture. Just how does one communicate form in words that does the form justice? Durant gets and A for effort, but, once again, I had to plow my way through sections like these. Is it worth the read? You bet. What we see here is the drama of human achievement. From the death and destruction that followed the fall of the Imperial Rome to the civilizing of a continent, Durant shows us the triumph of the human spirit. Durant also shows us the legacy of Roman law, language and civilization on the West.Read more ›
Will (and later) Ariel Durant were awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1968 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977, primarily for this 11-volume series, "The Story of Civilization," which is probably the last attempt we will ever see---in this age of increasing specialization---of a single historian (or couple) attempting a "universal history."
He wrote in the "To the Reader" section of this 1950 book, "This book aims to give as full and fair an account of medieval civilization from A.D. 325 to 1300, as space and prejudice will permit. Its method is integral history---the presentation of all phases of a culture or an age in one total picture and narrative."
He advises, "Nothing is lost in history; sooner or later every creative idea finds opportunity and development, and adds its color to the flame of life." (Pg. 150) He suggests, "While the poor solaced life with heaven, the rich sought heaven on earth." (Pg. 233) He observes, "Every conquest creates a new frontier, which, being exposed to danger, suggests further conquest." (Pg. 283) He proposes, "Literary prose comes later than poetry in all literatures, as intellect matures long after fancy blooms; men talk prose for centuries 'without knowing it,' before they have leisure or vanity to mold it into art." (Pg. 491)
He notes, "At the beginning of the Middle Ages the greater part of Europe's soil was untilled and unpeopled forest and waste; at their end the Continent had been won for civilization. Perhaps, in proper perspective, this was the greatest campaign, the noblest victory, the most vital achievement, of the Age of Faith." (Pg. 559-560) Later, he adds, "The Middle Ages disciplined men for ten centuries in order that modern men might for four centuries be free." (Pg.Read more ›
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Although it is obvoius that to squeeze 7 centuries of history of Europe and Asia Minor into 1 volume (although very thick) is a task for an ingenious historian, to make this volume engrossing and even fascinating - is hardly achievable. But Mr. Durant's talent is unsurpassed: the book contains summary of all important events - military and religeous, cultural and social - as well as biographies of legendary personae of the times we used to call the Dark Ages. But the language of the book and the details it provides are not just dry facts (which makes many other similar compilations boring and easily forgettable), the author makes you feel and understand the customs and rites of the epoch, its way of dressing, food, family relations..., by drawing parallels with our times. I have read quite a few books on history of that period, and by far, this book, employing a special scientific approach, is the best, although written several decades ago: it throbbs with the echo of life of centuries long past.
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