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A Short History of the World Hardcover – February 11, 2002

4.3 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Blainey, who published A Shorter History of Australia in 1994, now extends his efforts to the world. Another work about Australia, The Tyranny of Distance (1966), betrays his intellectual approach, namely, organizing his explanations around a single factor in this case, the effect of distance and technology upon society. Blainey discusses the various journeys humans have taken over the last four million years, the cultural contact that has resulted, and the factors that might have delayed or speeded up contact. For example, he explores the role of the Sahara Desert in the interplay among the various cultures surrounding that enormous barrier and shows that groups like the Mongols crossed huge spaces and barriers to influence peoples far from their homeland. Blainey also discusses the distances traveled by Islam, Christianity, and secular capitalism and the manner in which cultures located on different continents were and are influenced by such forces. Readers may complain that Blainey treats Africa only in light of its contact with the West, and that is true, but he does this for all cultures. He does pay more attention to Southeast Asia and Oceania than many historians, doubtless because of his Australian roots. Recommended. Clay Williams, Hunter Coll., CUNY
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Fire, agriculture, steam engine? Which was the most extraordinary development in human history? None of the above, Blainey provocatively proposes. It was the rising sea level attendant to the end of the Ice Age, which fragmented the land and created isolation and proximity--one of Blainey's key themes in this finely readable overview of the whole of human history. It takes some gumption, in addition to breadth of knowledge, to embark on such a writing project, for many of Blainey's readers will have their own views of the past. Accordingly, each will dispute some point he makes (e.g., in explaining the arguments in favor of using the atomic bomb in 1945, Blainey sensibly characterizes them as "always more persuasive to those on the spot than to those viewing it decades later"). But Blainey has an uncanny adroitness in anticipating criticism, and the result is a broad-brush narrative that flows smoothly and often profoundly. Fits libraries like a glove. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Ivan R. Dee (February 11, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566634210
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566634212
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.5 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,151,280 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on August 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book provides a fascinating and readable account -- even, at times, an absorbing and enthralling one -- of the whole history of the world. Obviously in such an effort some sacrifices have to be made. Some of the major political upheavals of history are given short shrift. Barely mentioned are the first Persian empire, the conquests of Alexander, the Crusades, the Hundred Years War, the Thirty Years War. What Blainey gives us instead is a gradually evolving look at the way life was lived: the crops, the farming techniques, the inventions, the technology, the philosophies and religions. The general political trends are there, as a backdrop, but Blainey's considerable narrative gifts are more often on display in his descriptions of social history. (The steam engine and the telegraph, for example, get more play than Napoleon.) He has a particular genius for creating vivid word pictures and making the strange and unfamiliar seem perfectly natural.
He has gone to considerable trouble to bring in areas of the world often missing from such a "global" history: Africa, China, Japan, Indonesia, Australia, and New Zealand. In fact, one of the amazing things about the book is that it DOES include so much material, and yet it never feels rushed. You'll find yourself going from the first fragile boats crossing the Pacific to the first moon landing without breaking a sweat. Only when you look back to the beginning -- which Blainey himself does in a final reflective chapter -- will you realize with a shock how much territory you've covered.
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As Geoffrey Blainey put it himself in the introduction, this book is a sinuous long journey which had to be fast, otherwise the destination would never be reached. This is not an encyclopaedia, but a sequence of narrative images designed to catch essential historical developments. The author tried to capture the most influential technological events and evolution of skills rather than listing dates and names. Although the book has a fine literary style, Geoffrey Blainey avoids as much as possible giving interpretation to the facts, and when he does it, he usually points that out. Of course, one can have an opinion by simply selecting the convenient facts, and every history book is open to criticism produced by people with strong opposing views. This book is not about detail, but about more about analysis of trends, patterns and evolution from a historical perspective.

I liked the book because it offers a fresh perspective. This book manages to integrate quietly views that belong to many disciplines in discussing evolutionary trends that occurred over tens, hundreds or thousand of years. As an example, when Geoffrey describes Europe of 19th century he briefly flies over many wars that were fought over that period. Instead he chooses to talk about land usage, evolution of transportation, the role of wood, the impact of deforestation and the fragile balance between the cultivation of land for food and energy, the coal revolution and the nutrition value of the average meal across the continent. When you read that, you realise the environmental disaster of the wood based economy. You understand the gigantic role of oil in the modern world, and most importantly, that the change is around the corner when different form energy will transform the oil based economy.
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Format: Paperback
Geoffrey Blainey's SHORT HISTORY OF THE WORLD provides a panoramic analysis of the world's people during the last four million years; from before the human race moved out of Africa to explore other continents to modern times. Getting this lengthy history into a single volume and making it accessible to ordinary readers is no mean fete: Blainey's title provides plenty of intriguing insights into not just historical facts, but the sentiments and perceptions of those who lived the times.
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I am a great fan of Geoffrey Blainey, the Australian historian. I own several of his most readable histories including this A Short History of the World and the slightly shorter A Very Short History of the World. These histories are in no way dry, they highlight major events and personalities in world history. Blainey presents world history as if he is there with you, relating these matters to you perhaps as a brilliant friend who knows what you need to know and how you need to learn it. I also have his History of the Twentieth Century. Looks to me like it is a winner, too. Today, Geoffrey Blainey is my historian of choice, then I look at the others.
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This was well done. I liked his approach of not trying to tell everything (how could you?) but giving representative samples.

It shouldn't be the only history book you ever read, but it was a good and enjoyable one.
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This book was an absolute pleasure. The author does an excellent job of adding context to historical circumstances and events. It does an excellent job explain the "why" and the "what it must have been like" aspects of history, which makes it fascinating. I'd submit that most high school kids would get a lot more value (and enjoyment) out of their history curriculum in it involved reading this book. I liked it so much that I actually bought copies for some friends. It is a rare book that I will re-read. It makes my top 5 "must-have" books for any new reader or any history buff.
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