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on August 16, 2017
Rereading an old favorite.
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on May 1, 2017
Pretty good, but it often read like a translation
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on June 21, 2016
I enjoyed reading the book. But probably a great deal had to do with a live interview to the author that I attended. Having a better understanding of the man behind the book surely made the book to gain points.
In any case, a enjoyable book to read. It brings up human realities and the different shadows they project.
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on June 2, 2015
The best book i ever read !!
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on February 27, 2015
Theodore Zeldin is the President of the Oxford Muse Foundation, an English philosopher, sociologist, historian, writer, and public speaker. He has a long list of credentials, but he is most famous internationally as the author of An Intimate History of Humanity, written in 1994. This book takes readers on a journey through the personal preoccupations of people in a wide variety of different civilizations, both ancient and present. Zeldin takes the reader through different aspects of history, combining them with the curiosities and emotions of mankind. He uses specific examples to illustrate his points, whilst maintain a narrative of wit and a bit of humor.

Within An Intimate History of Humanity, Zeldin works to take our fixed assumptions about the truth of humanity and, through an intricate exposition of engaging historical examples, reveals them to be far less static than we have previously assumed. As he states:

“Nothing influences our ability to cope with the difficulties of our existence so much as the context in which we view them; the more contexts we choose between, the less do the difficulties appear to be the inevitable and insurmountable.”

That is the thesis of Zeldin’s text; he wants to provide his readers with the tools and inspiration to look beyond narrow cultural and social ideologies and imagine, instead, and entire new way of being. This includes new forms of politics, ethics, and moral code. Essentially, he presents an optimistic humanitarian viewpoint.

While the writing is remarkably engaging, An Intimate History of Humanity is quite formulaic. Introduction to outline intent precedes chapter after chapter of the same structure: Pick an overall theme, provide modern example to pave the way for discussion of said theme, and then delve into other possibilities that are supported by examples randomly – and vaguely – picked throughout history. Examples of chapter headings:

How men and women have slowly learned to have interesting conversations

How new forms of love have been invented

How respect is more desirable than power

They go on like that. Each chapter focuses on a particular emotion, and is done in a non-specific way that allows the text to be open to discussion. The concluding sections provide essential context that the introduction thoroughly lacked. They truly illuminated the value of Zeldin’s approach to showcasing his objectives, rather than making it seem simplistic and formulaic. The introduction seemed too brief, and did not hold the contextual information that should have preceded the rest of the text. The book was already engaging, but this would have served to make it even more so.

That being said, the ideas presented within An Intimate History of Humanity are anything but boring. Rather, they are intoxicating and engaging. While hardly being flawless in his execution of these ideas, the approach Zeldin takes within this book was groundbreaking for the time (1994) it was published in. I wonder how he feels about these ideas today, and whether or not his paradigm as shifted over the years.

Consequently, the text does a wonderful job of showing the ways in which emotions, relationships, inquiries, and fears have evolved over the centuries, and how things could have gone differently. This deep and philosophical read is not without its flaws, as previously mentioned, but it is something I do recommend reading and re-reading. I have kept my copy for years, and am glad I won that store “giveaway”. I give An Intimate History of Humanity 4 out of 5 stars.

Book Review by A. P. Bullard,
Triskele Reviews
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on March 16, 2014
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. A fine resource for anyone interested in human realations.
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on October 2, 2013
Zeldin is an accomplished social historian. He writes fluidly and forcefully. His sentences are powerful units of thought. And when they add up in a paragraph or two, one need to stop and process his insightful management of ideas. There is more here than can possibly be absorbed by one reading. And in fact, I advise readers to read the book in reverse, starting with the final chapters and working frontward, since the conclusion encompasses the scope of the book better than its introductory chapters.
This book was written in 1994, prior to the great explosion of the Internet and social media. It needs to be updated and brought, kicking and screaming, into the 21st Century.
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on August 22, 2013
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.
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on April 5, 2013
To take history from more of a personal & sociological view brings it alive in a new and different way. It is well written.
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on February 23, 2013
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. In many cases how this relates to the rest of the chapter is unclear. Second how stories of mostly upper middle class French women can serve as a general example is also very unclear. The second half of each chapter consists of cramming tidbits of information into several pages. By trying to be so concise he ends up distorting the material. For example he states that the Bible is against curiosity and to prove it he quotes Ecclesiastes. Firstly the Hebrew Bible is not a single block with unified themes. There are different (sometimes contradictory) themes in different books. Secondly, if you read Ecclesiastes you'll see that it is "against" almost everything. It is written by an old man looking back on his life stating how nearly everything was a vanity and essentially worthless.
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