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The Lessons of History Hardcover – July 1, 1997


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 117 pages
  • Publisher: Fine Communications (July 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1567310249
  • ISBN-13: 978-1567310245
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (114 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #970,991 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This series of 13 essays on the themes and underlying lessons of history was originally written as part of the authors' 11-volume The Story of Civilization (1935-75). The Durants begin by summarizing periods and trends in history. They examine morals and draw conclusions by looking into changes in economics, politics, military customs, and even geographic location. Russ Holcomb reads these essays in a clear, pleasant voice, bringing life and interest to this brief overview of 5000 years of history. For general collections.
Miriam Kahn, Columbus, Ohio
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.

Review

"The Durants' masterpiece belongs in any home library and occupies a shelf in many."
--Dana D. Kelley, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

A book to be read and appreciated several times.
Leonardo Alves
The greatest part of the book is to see our major problems of today: freedom vs. order, capitalism vs. socialism, religion vs. state repeated throughout history.
Maureen Jacobs
The book in 102 pages provided the most thoughtful and thought provoking insight into history I have ever read.
David Gregory

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

199 of 206 people found the following review helpful By George R Dekle on May 6, 2005
Format: Audio CD
In one of the interviews that serve as interludes between the chapters of his book, Will Durant says he started his career as a liberal and became more & more conservative during his fifty year career as a historian. If he was a conservative, he was a rather liberal one. Some of the ideas he voices would be anathema to conservatives. E.g. Wealth concentrated into fewer and fewer hands should be redistributed to the have nots. Liberals on the other hand, would be distressed by other of his views. E.g. Once the wealth gets redistributed, government should not attempt to prevent the talented and industrious from re-accumulating it.

The paradox is not really paradoxical at all. Obscene wealth in the hands of a very few causes unrest (and eventually revolution) among the obscenely poor. On the other hand, if industry and talent are not rewarded, culture stagnates. Durant gives the fall of the Roman Republic as an example of an obscenely rich aristocracy committing political suicide by refusing to peacefully redistribute some of their wealth to the poor. The economic stagnation of Communist East Europe serves as an example of what happens when you stop the natural flow of wealth back to the talented and industrious.

Durant makes some statements that would get him lynched in the 21st Century American media. E.g. "Only those who are below average really want equality."

Durant is probably most accurately classified as an agnostic, but he says that on balance, religion has done far more good than harm for civilization. Durant contends that civilizations and cultures decline and die when they lose their moral compass. And they lose their moral compass when they lose their religion.
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78 of 83 people found the following review helpful By reason on December 23, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Will and Ariel Durant were to history what Carl Sagan was to science: They breathed life into a subject considered lifeless by too many, and clothed the skeleton of recorded history in a garment rich in colorful detail and vast in perspective. "Lessons Of History" is, in my opinion, the finest 100 page non-fiction book ever written, and represents the capstone and encapsulating work of two authors who gave the world their ten thousand page "Story Of Civilization" over a period of 50 years.
Within this delightful book, one can view the enormous panorama of human civilization as it developed from, and was formed by, the matrices of geography, religion, science, war, and a host of other factors. The Durant's, in a writing style that should have been copyrighted, provide the reader with an engaging view of humanity that few readers will come away from without being touched and awed. To be sure, the Durant's works have had a few (very few) detractors, but they were almost entirely high-browed academics in narrow research areas who most likely envied them their commercial success. If I could give this synopsis of 100 centuries of history more than 5 stars I'd do it in a nanosecond.
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82 of 89 people found the following review helpful By Leonardo Alves on January 13, 2001
Format: Hardcover
After finishing the ten volumes of "The History of Civilization", Will and Ariel Durant went back revising and taking notes from their monumental work and produced this insightful essay.
The goal was not to summarize 3,421 years of recorded history in a hundred pages. That would have been silly. The goal was to give some thought to what means to study history; how important is to know our heritage; can we understand our nature and the relations between individuals or between groups or nations just by analysing the past; can the acumulated human experience tell us where are we heading to?
The book was first published in 1968, the worse phase of the cold war, when any perspective of future seemed rather dark and the uncertainties of the period certainly permeate the book.
The book might be considered biased and conservative but that is fair game since the authors warn us about that on the first chapter, "Hesitations". "Historian are not free from bias and prejudice", they say and "most history is guessing, and the rest is prejudice".
The book was written with great care. The sentences are powerful, elegant, concise and insightful. It brings noteworthy quotes and is itself very quotable. A book to be read and appreciated several times.
Leonardo Alves - January 2001
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60 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Steve Jackson on December 1, 2002
Format: Audio CD
Will and Ariel Durant wrote a massive eleven-volume history, The Story of Civilization. After they finished volume ten -- which was to be the last - they came out with this brief work. (In 1975 they produced the final volume in the series, The Age of Napoleon). Although this series is not considered by professional historians to be a great work of history, the Durants' love of history is evident on every page. I read most of them in high school and college, and they help inspire a life-long interest history.
The Lessons of History consists of a number of short chapters, in which the Durants summarize what their study of history revealed on various themes, such as war, morals, government, religion, etc. Although certainly not a profound work, it contains a number of insights. For example, the discussion of the lineage of communism is quite interesting. On the other hand, the Durants strike me as having been moderately left of center, and some of their arguments in favor of government regulation of the economy don't convince me. They appear somewhat more conservative on morals, and there is a good discussion on how war negatively impacts traditional morality. The discussion of religion is somewhat ambiguous, perhaps reflecting Will Durant, who studied for the priesthood, became an atheist, and died an agnostic.
This work came out in 1968, and the Durants make a couple of predictions which didn't exactly come true. They argue that by 2000 the Roman Catholic Church will be politically dominant in the US. In addition, they expressed the commonplace idea in the 60s that the Soviet Union and the United States were coming closer together and would eventually meet in the middle.
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