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Dr. Will Durant and his wife Ariel have created the twentieth century's classic masterwork of history for the general reader.
The Story of Civilization is brought to life in eleven volumes: (1) Our Oriental Heritage; (2) The Life of Greece; (3) Caesar and Christ; (4) The Age of Faith; (5) The Renaissance; (6) The Reformation; (7) The Age of Reason Begins; (8) The Age of Louis XIV; (9) The Age of Voltaire; (10) Rousseau & Revolution; and (11) The Age of Napoleon.
It will take some time to read through this incredible recount of history, but it is worth it. I was fortunate to purchase the entire set at a chain national bookseller who was discounting the books by over 50%. When I opened the box I was surprised to find an additional bonus book or "twelfth" volume entitled "The Lessons of History."
For the student of history, instead of paying a fortune collecting piecemeal books that cover various historical events and eras, buy this set instead. It is the equivalent of one-stop shopping. This set is a fantastic collection and if you are looking to find an all encompassing treatise of world history, this where to start. You will not be disappointed.
Unprecedented and unparalleled! I rate it at five stars.
The Story of Civilization is an excellent history and the most complete result of the ambitious goal of writing a world history. The books are organized in such a way that they can be read as individual works or be read out of sequence with no loss to their meaning. Overall I rate them very highly and would suggest them to the interested non historian and implore the budding historian to read them since it is doubtless they will enjoy them.
Will Durant began his intellectually adventurous life attempting to be a philosopher. He was good at it but he, Like myself, saw the intertwining of history and philosophy. I believe he saw that seeing the greatness of man's record (history) was more valuable and enriching than speculating on what man might be (philosophy). His books exude his philosophical inclinations and are far more enjoyable for optimistic view of man evolving towards greatness through the ages.
Durant paints each historical character has a real human being with the complexities of character we all have. While he doesn't make excuses villains of history he makes sure he humanizes each person mentioned. This is the main constant of the Story of Civilization: Durant sees civilization as a network of real people interacting. His work presents all of recorded history not as chronology and not as a sequence of events but as a progression of people.
The style of the books is conversational and peppered with puns and overall enjoyable to read. He is amazingly concise while still making his points. That being said, he does require that the reader do some work and remember people and events. However, I surmise that it wont require heavy note taking or anything because these books are a fun read.Read more ›
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Reading the entirety of this prodigious and magnificent eleven-volume history is one of the greatest pleasures I have ever known, and one of the biggest favors I have ever done for myself. I can't recommend it highly enough. Get to work now, you will love every time you sit down with this history. I counted 9,955 pages of actual text, and every page without exception is a supreme pleasure to read. For me, time on the clock spent reading was about four years. Time on the calendar was about ten years; I took some time off a couple of times. I was reading for pleasure, of which there is huge portions, and took notes and made cross references in my library, so if you are just there to read, and go faster than I did, you could take less than my four years of actual reading. I'm not talking about any "retirement project;" I was working full time and keeping up with my compositional effort all the while.
Durant's idea was to write what he called "Integral History," which is basically the history of everything important there is to know about any given era. He explains it early on in the first volume. He wanted to do this for the whole planet's history, and at that level, his view of the world was so clear, and his perspective was accurate enough, to predict more plainly than anyone else of his time that Japan would go to war with America. For that prediction alone, made in book form and available to anyone who would read him, Will Durant belongs among the great historians. Why didn't Washington say, Durant thinks the Japanese will fight us, we'd better staff the lookout better? Karl Popper tells us that the strength of a scientific theory is measured by its predictive power.Read more ›
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History understood is history put to good use. Will Durant and his beloved wife report the course of humankind through the medium of it's greatest philosophers. In so doing they become two of the greatest themselves. Though derided as a populist by the intelligensia of the twenties when he first penned the Story of Philosophy, Will Durant's rhythmic prose; his sparkling wit and his gentle nature has been a constant source of pleasure and comfort since I was first presented with a copy of the SOP some 15 years ago. Since then I have been gradually collecting the volumes of the Story of Civilisation, the joint masterpiece of Will and Ariel . My collection is not yet complete, but I will not allow myself to die until it is. This body of work should be on the bookshelf of everyone whose pleasure is derived from the contemplation of our place in the universe; whose aspirations and inspirations spring from a belief of the ingenuity of the human mind and from the pusuit of contentment and happiness. The books not only celebrate the breadth and joy of human progress, but also delineate and analyse human cruelty and frailty with a whimsical and generous wit that enriches the soul of any reader who is fortunate enough to drink from this well of wisdom.