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Intimate History of Humanity, An Paperback – December 1, 1995
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From Library Journal
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
The older I get, the more I'm convinced that the ancients had it right all along. And this book is a powerful antidote against chronological snobbery. Aside from being truly uplifting, it's encouraging to see how people have faced, and overcome, dilemmas similar to our own. To see the many ways they have solved those problems is fascinating and liberating.
My only regret is that this book has received far too little attention. The scope is so wide ranging, the range of fascinating tiny details so vast, that it's difficult to review, and impossible to summarize, at least with my paltry expository skills. So just read it! And spread the word!
Even though it certainly is not a chronological story of human events, it examines many of the aspects of intrapersonal and interpersonal behavior we take for granted every day. He states himself, "But this book is not a summary of history: it has deliberately limited itself to finding lock that look as though they will not open, and to showing how they can be opened." The author, Theodore Zeldin, raises the question of what freedom really is, the history of conversation, loneliness, sex, dating, religion, and much more. He has interviewed people from all over the world to find commonalities and differences in the way we lead our lives. I think this is the kind of book that everyone can relate to and must be somewhat interested in as long as one cares about the human condition.
As the author states himself, "This book has tried to show how great a difference to the conduct of daily life the ability to alter the focus of one's perceptions can make. To be hospitable to the nuances of life, it is no use treating the mind as an automatic camera; only by composing one's picture and playing with light and shadow can one hope to see something interesting." This book is in the end optimistic and Zeldin believes that humanity is merely at the beginnings of worldwide hospitality and sharing and understanding of ideas.
Personally, this is the kind of reading I particularly enjoy--a compelling work that gets you thinking, a work which raises as many questions as it answers.Read more ›
"I want to show how, today, it is possible for individuals to form a fresh view both of their own personal history and of humanity's whole record of cruelty, misunderstanding, and joy. To have a new vision of the future, it has always first been necessary to have a new vision of the past.... Instead of explaining the peculiarity of individuals by pointing to their family or childhood, I take a longer view: I show how they pay attention to--or ignore--the experience of previous, more distant generations, and how they are continuing the struggles of many other communities all over the world ... among whom they have more soul-mates than they may realize."
The 25 chapters that follow bear titles like "How humans have repeatedly lost hope, and how new encounters, and a new pair of spectacles, revive them," and "How people choose a way of life, and how it does not wholly satisfy them." Each chapter begins with a portrait of one or several people in the contemporary world--usually French women--focusing on a particular life problem, or a creative attempt at solving such a problem. Zeldin follows this portrait with a brief history of that problem, or of a clearly related phenomenon.
For instance, the first chapter opens with a portrait of Juliette, a domestic servant who feels trapped in her job, in her social class, and by the unbridgeable distance between her and potential friends. This portrait is followed by a history of slavery--not a linear history, but a selective highlighting of relevant themes and moments in the history of slavery.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I enjoyed reading the book. But probably a great deal had to do with a live interview to the author that I attended. Read morePublished 1 month ago by MARIANO MARTIN PEREZ
Theodore Zeldin is the President of the Oxford Muse Foundation, an English philosopher, sociologist, historian, writer, and public speaker. Read morePublished 17 months ago by A. P. Bullard
Zeldin does a monumental work of gleaning relevant information from vast readings and applying them to create an understanding of the origins of how humans relate. Read morePublished on March 16, 2014 by thinker
Zeldin is an accomplished social historian. He writes fluidly and forcefully. His sentences are powerful units of thought. Read morePublished on October 2, 2013 by guy gravenson
This is one of the best books I've ever read. Can't wait to read it again! Brilliant insights into the history of humanity.Published on August 22, 2013 by JB
To take history from more of a personal & sociological view brings it alive in a new and different way. It is well written.Published on April 5, 2013 by J. talcott
This type of unconventional history is a great idea, but the execution is really bad. First of all as stated each chapter starts with a personal story. Read morePublished on February 23, 2013 by BlueDog
I have no doubt that the "masterpiece" was recommended by some 'reviewers' in a fit of perverse vengeance (against innocent readers) for having been taken in by Theodore Zeldin and... Read morePublished on February 22, 2013 by Jaysonrex