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The Lessons of History Paperback – February 16, 2010
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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 CD edition.
"The Durants' masterpiece belongs in any home library and occupies a shelf in many."
--Dana D. Kelley, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
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Top Customer Reviews
- “Democracy is the most difficult of all forms of government, since it requires the widest spread of intelligence, and we forgot to make ourselves intelligent when we made ourselves sovereign. Education has spread, but intelligence is perpetually retarded by the fertility of the simple.”
- “[…] the Church dares not alter the doctrines that reason smiles at, for such changes would offend and disillusion the millions whose hopes have been tied to inspiring and consolatory imaginations.”
- “[…] the first condition of freedom is its limitation; make it absolute and it dies in chaos.”
- “History is so indifferently rich that a case for almost any conclusion from it can be made by a selection of instances.”
Durant's strategy for explaining the how and why of History's lessons make sense and helps readers understand to compartment their own world, yet maintain the connectedness among all the compartments.
A delightful work that reminded me of what I once loved about History and Historiography.
Very interesting to see a lifetime of dedicated history study boiled down into essential lessons learned. Lots of thought-provoking ideas, such as freedom and equality being opposing goals in a society. You may not agree with everything they say but it will all get you thinking.
This kind of book is an undertaking that modern academics would maybe never dare to try. So I'm glad for "popularizers" like the Durants who are willing to give me a straight, no-nonsense explanation and analysis of history. As other reviewers have noted, it's also wonderfully non-politically correct. They are just telling it like they see it in 1968, which is refreshing. (Yes, I think the Political Correctors on "both sides of the aisle" have some good points but I resent them imposing their narrowly-focused agendas on me.)
My favorite passage:
"A youth boiling with hormones will wonder why he should not give full freedom to his sexual desires; and if he is unchecked by custom, morals, or laws, he may ruin his life before he matures sufficiently to understand that sex is a river of fire that must be banked and cooled by a hundred restraints if it is not to consume in chaos both the individual and the group." (If Durant is correct on this point the world is currently in big trouble, I think.)
Note: Other reviewers have mentioned interviews between the chapters. My book does not have these. I bought the brand new paperback version from Amazon that is currently pictured on the website: (black cover, blue title, yellow circular illustration), Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, trade paperback edition Feb 2012, ISBN-10: 143914995X. I count 117 pages including index.
All of which is to say that this slim (109 plus pages) volume of the Durants contains a summary of some observations that the Durants derived from there master work. The book has an introductory chapter and a concluding chapter (Is Progress Real") that sandwich eleven chapters that present their observations chosen to support their conclusion in the final chapter that yes progress is real, but not assured. Many of their observations in this book are cogent and represent their years of research and study. At the very least this book provides ample material for reflection on the part of its readers.
Yet compared to their master work, it is pretty thin gruel. In some respects it suggests the work of two brilliant scholars who have exhausted themselves in producing a monumental study of Western Civilization.