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The New Penguin History of the World: Fifth Edition 5 Rev Upd Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0141030425
ISBN-10: 0141030429
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Editorial Reviews


"A stupendous achievement . . . Unrivalled world history for our day . . . it is unbelievable in its facts and almost incontestable in its judgements."
-A. J. P. Taylor, The Observer (London)

About the Author

J. M. Roberts was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Southampton and Master of Merton College, Oxford. He died in May 2003. Odd Arne Westad is Professor in International History at the LSE.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 1264 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; 5 Rev Upd edition (December 18, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141030429
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141030425
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5 x 2.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #336,109 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I feel that two things need to be accepted if this book is going to be appreciated.


Roberts one-way-or-another justifies the emphasis that he places on Europe (and especially Western Europe) and (later) on America in account of the fact that these areas are largely influential in the world today. In this sense, it is more a history of the modern world - and of events that brought this about - rather than of the world as it may have been at any selected time in history. Given this logic, areas like China, for example, tend to receive attention more proportional to Roberts' assumptions on their place in the world at the time of writing, rather than in respect to how powerful and influential they may once have been (or may soon become).

Accordingly, this history starts off more-or-less in the traditional way, with much emphasis being placed on the early Middle Eastern / Mediterranean civilisations (the Sumerians, the Egyptians, the Greeks, etc). It then progresses comfortably to the rise and fall of Rome (and the Greco-Roman Empire) and then to the tumultuous rise of (especially Western) Europe to world supremacy. As we know, this then passes on to America and (for a while) Russia.

All the other main players, such as Japan, China, India, and the Ottoman Empire (to name only a handful) receive their due chapters (often with much emphasis on how they affected or otherwise failed to affect Europe). Then of course such civilisations as those once belonging to the Americas get their coverage partly because we've heard of them, partly because it's important to see how Western civilisations swept them away, and partly (I venture to say) because without the Americas the book would hardly seem geographically balanced.
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Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Paperback
Not having read his older version I have no idea how it compares or how much has been changed and/or added. My first attempt at a straight through read of a book on the subject, I am confident I made a good choice in picking up this particular book.

Some have said that this book suffers from an over-abundence of euro-centrism. I would disagree. If your conception of a fair portrayl of world history is the collection of "national" (for lack of a better word) histories each given an equal amount of attention (or even an amount of attention proportinate to their achievments within their borders), then this book will certainly not satisfy you. In this book, great civilazations (such as the chinese, japanese, and native americans) that were more isolationist in ideology get compartively little attention because they contributed compartively little to the lives of those living outside their oversight. Therefore, in selecting national histories to focus on, Roberts spends a large portion of the time discussing the history of europeans because they played a large role ("for better or for worse" he acknowledges) in the histories of other people. That europeans, for better or for worse, have succeded more then any other people in spreading their idealogies and influences is less a matter of opinion and more a matter of fact.

So if you are interested in a 1200-page, slightly sophisticated introduction to world history, with a particular focus on war and economics, I would heartily recommend this book.
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