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on July 1, 2003
Anyone fascinated by world history will be delighted with the appearance of a new edition of John Robert's History of the World. His ill health mentioned in the preface made it hard work, and his recent death confirms his prophesy that this will be the final edition of this successful book. Overall Roberts provides a great summation of world history, supplying a sweeping overview with perceptive insights, and avoiding the temptation to become enmeshed in encyclopedic detail. The themes he follows, those of change and continuity, the impetus of history and the relationship between tradition and innovation in human history are well chosen and help to find a context for this daunting subject. Additionally he makes relevant the weight of the past to present events (including a very good job of bringing the book right up to date with post-9/11 events). His overall perspective on history has changed surprisingly little over the years, perhaps because one of his basic philosophies is durable; "the two phenomena of inertia and innovation continue to operate in all historical developments ... we shall always find what happens both more, and less, surprising than we expect". Sounds like a bet both ways, however thinking about recent events it is quite plausable.
The book, it is freely acknowledged by Roberts, comes from a white, middle class western perspecive, however every edition finds him attempting to balance his global coverage further, as well as expanding the text to include more on gender issues and the environment. The thinness of material on non-Western cultures, such as Africa and Latin America is more related to knowledge than bias. He certainly has always argued strongly for the "European Age" since the age of exploration and I think he tends to overemphasise its influence on the world's population as a whole (important as it was). A little more material on imperialism from the subjects perspective might have helped, although don't get the impression that the book is a whitewash.
His prose is enjoyable, although his sentance structure could be improved at times, and the book provides a servicable set of maps.
Anyone who reads this book will certainly gain a comprehensive and valuable overview of the forces of the past that manifestly continue to shape the world today, and a fine insight into the way human societies and cultures work.
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VINE VOICEon November 13, 2004
Years ago, I was asked to teach a survey of world history, about which - like every other instructor - my knowledge is incomplete. My roommate at the time lent me his copy of the third edition of Roberts' survey, and I was instantly captivated by it. Roberts presents a comprehensive, balanced overview of world history, written in elegant prose that constantly illuminates the past.

This, the fourth (and sadly final) edition of the text provides a useful updating of his work. In comparing it with the earlier edition, there are no major revisions or alterations (the same maps and pictures are used throughout) but throughout its pages there are signs that Roberts tweaked the text to take into account new information and revised evaluations. Best of all, he concludes with a new chapter that puts the developments of the past few years into a valuable historical context. The result is a work that continues to stand as the best survey of world history available, one that is recommended for anyone seeking to understand humanity's past within the covers of a single book.
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on September 29, 2003
This is the last edition of the book there will be. Roberts died soon after he finished this book. The original one volume "History of the World" was the best one volume world history book in existence. The update is well worth the price for it as well. I own several editions of the book.
I would compare the excellence in quality of the book to the 11 volume "Story of Civilization" series by Wil Durant. Of course, Durant's works are in many cases outdated today. Roberts updated his work in order to "fix" things where evidence has leaned one-way or-another over the last several years, as well as to bring it up-to-date with the fall of the Soviet Union and the new global supremacy of the United States.
Of course, Roberts only hits the highlights. But he doesn't ignore anything; even so-called minor issues are discussed. In many ways, he is outlining how the modern world came to be the way it is. All too much of what passes for history now a days is really little more than gossip about minor events in the relatively recent past. The grand sweep of historical events is often lost. Looking at well sells as history books today can make one cringe that somebody would read something, let alone write it.
Because people lack and true appreciation and understanding of history, they seem to be electing leaders who also lack the willingness to learn from past events. Democracy is on - at the very lest - a tenitive rise. Leaders need to know how Rome or Britain affected things in the modern political landscape. Churchill made decisions that are still being played out in the Middle East and Iraq today. Roman and even ancient Greek leaders had to deal with the issues of in the Balkans in southeast Europe over two-millennia ago. You can't fully understand the former Yugoslavia without understanding Roman province carving and its long term affects on world history.
How can leaders hope to make the best decisions if they don't understand the causes of the original problems? And since democratically elected leaders are, at least in the West, the norm now, people need to understand history in order to recognize people who understand it.
Roberts tries to restore the grand scope to the matter of human history. Something people and our political leaders seem to have very much lost sight of now. True History, the whys and wherefores need more attention.
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on October 29, 2005
I've owned the 1993 edition for many years but a recent roof leak ruined my copy so I ordered the new edition. Big mistake: the contents are excellent but the fourth edition is printed on trashy paper that you can see right through, and the illustrations and beautiful photos in the 93 edition are ALL GONE. Get the older edition for a lot less money and you'll have a much higher quality printing. If you really want to cover the last couple decades, get some other book - maybe Robert's History of the 20th century.

The book is going back on Monday....
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on May 25, 2007
I am half way through in this book (believe me if you only have time to read it after work and school, it takes a long time to finish it). In my opinion this is an excellent overview of world history. The author did a good job at controlling the level of details -- obviously he could not go into great details on every topic (that would make the book one million pages long instead of nearly 1,200), but he left enough pointers for one to look elsewhere. With the advent of Wikipedia, it is a great joy to read one chapter, then wiki some important events, names, places, etc. Although, as other reviewers pointed out, the focus seems to be on Europe and the Near East, there are separate chapters in each epoch for India, China, Meso-America, etc. to give one a sufficient overview of their histories. It is a pity that the maps in this book are small and lack details, this in my opinion its really the Achilles' heel (I would have given it 5 stars if not for the maps). Sadly Mr. Roberts passed away and there will not likely be an updated edition, but, if nothing else, a complete refreshing of all the maps will make a new edition totally worthwhile (I will buy it).
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VINE VOICEon January 18, 2005
. . .one-volume "History of the World" I've ever seen.

I'm an academic. I have many reference books -- indeed, I collect them to the nth degree, much to the frustration of my wife! Roberts' "History" stands in a class by itself for its comprehensiveness, thoughtful anaylsis, attention to detail, combined with a true historian's integrity.

If there room for only one major world history on your bookshelf, it should be this one.

Perfect for scholars and students alike.

Five Stars
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HALL OF FAMEon November 9, 2004
There is a Jewish saying that ' a very small container ' cannot truly measure a much greater one. This is the way I feel when saying a few words about ' The New History of the World' by J.M.Roberts. It is work which developed from years of study, understanding of a tremendous number of different fields and periods. Much of what is written about here I simply do not have the ' container' to measure. I do know this is a valiant effort. I cannot affirm that it is the base one- volume history of the world as many claim. I do know that it contains a tremendous amount of historical judgment which can challenge the readers to developing understanding of their own on the matter.
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on January 16, 2009
I still can't believe this, but Amazon sent me a remainder copy with the price cut out of the book jacket and in not new condition! I called customer service and got a replacement, and was sent another remainder book with the price cut out but in slightly better shape! What gives Amazon? I am tremendously disappointed with you. It's not like this was pointed out or sold at an inexpensive remainder book price!

The maps in this book are too generally too small and look like third or fourth generation xeroxes. About half of the maps are unreadable because the tone of the dark grey map areas and the black lettering are almost exactly the same.

The book itself is a terrific read and study, and I would have rated it five stars except for it's shoddy printing (it does have nice acid free paper however). I've also read J.M. Roberts "History of Europe" and greatly admire his work. This is a great one volume history of the world, and I would highly recommend it, except it would have been nice to have readable maps to support the text. Oxford usually does a nice printing job, but here they have failed miserably.
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on December 22, 2006
What a vast and intimidating undertaking that was handled gracefully. This is an overview of the history of the world; sometimes broad, sometimes more detailed. The reader must remember that this book is intended to discuss countries, peoples, and events that, in the author's mind, shaped the world. This is not a review of the history of every country. The more insular countries or peoples will not be covered in great detail as they are, by definition, less likely to have an impact on the world outside of their own.

This book really helped me to develop a broad understanding and foundation. Now I can take that and read about the countries or events that interested me the most in much greater detail. I highly recommend this book.
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on July 23, 2009
J.M. Roberts The New History of the World--or, in paperback The New Penguin History of the World (same book, different name)--is top-shelf non-fiction. Robert's single-volume history of the world soars beyond its competition and looks to have been built for longevity. The New History of the World is necessary reading for anyone who wants to understand the circumstances of the present

Roberts approach to The New History is outlined in the preface. His aim is to identify the various great forces of world history and trace them from their origins as they clash, diverge, mix, destroy and assimilate one another. Through this approach Roberts is successfully able to illuminate the situation of our present day, including how we arrived here and what direction we might be headed in.

Roberts spins a complex and voluminous history with unparalleled deftness. His narrative emphasizes the major epochs in world history that are to have the greatest influence on the future. Usually, these epochs are incredibly complex and often interrelated with one another. An example would be something like The collapse of the Roman Empire, or the formation and evolution of the western Christian church. An entire book could be written on each of these subjects alone. Robert's great strength as a writer and historian is his ability to give these great epochs meaning beyond their inscrutable historic labels; he explains the nature of these events, including their origins, impacts, and lasting legacies. Of course there are plenty of historic examples, but generalization and reflection make up an equally if not more important part of the narrative.

I recommend The New History of the World for anyone who is interested and really wants to learn about the human history. Although written for the non-specialist, reading New History can be somewhat of a challenge; this is owing mainly to its length and its scholarly emphasis. Those eagar for for knowledge are likely to find Robert's book both informative and entertaining. Others who are looking for something shorter and lighter, may want to consider something else; perhaps this:A Little History of the World

Additionally, I would put forward several disclaimers that, while not a significant detriment, the potential buyer may want to be made aware of nonetheless. One of these, as has been noted by others, is the meager quality of the hardcover edition. The binding is fairly flimsy, the maps are occasionally unintelligible and the ink on some pages is hard to read. Another problem I have with the book is that it contains no references or works cited. This is understandable given the sheer volume of the book, but it wouldn't hurt if the book gave a few recommendations for further reading.

Finally, there is the author's Euro-centric approach to world history. This fact has been pointed out by others, including the author himself. 'The New History' isn't biased,, but it interprets events through a certain point of view; namely British-European. Roberts is justified in his view; for indeed the modern world was fundamentally shaped by the history of a few Western European nations. It is on these nations that Roberts centers his focus; on their historic heritage and cultural traditions does Roberts also seem to be the most well informed.
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