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A Short History of the World (Penguin Classics) Paperback – July 31, 2007

4.1 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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About the Author

H.G. Wells was a professional writer and journalist, who published more than a hundred books, including novels, histories, essays and programmes for world regeneration. Wells's prophetic imagination was first displayed in pioneering works of science fiction, but later he became an apostle of socialism, science and progress. His controversial views on sexual equality and the shape of a truly developed nation remain directly relevant to our world today. He was, in Bertrand Russell's words, 'an important liberator of thought and action'.
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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (July 31, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141441828
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141441825
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,001,633 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on April 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
If you have ever wondered about how history hangs together, then this is the book for you. From the dawn of civilization to the modern era, Wells takes you along the journey of civilization (and pre-civilization -- the first few chapters of the book cover geology and evolution). This tome, and if ever a volume merited the word this is it, carries you along the way with Alexander, Persian Kings, Khans, Crusaders, Chinese Emperors, Popes, French Citizens, Tsars, and Kaisers. The sweep of characters, times and places includes a wonderful vista of history, all together and seen in relation to its entirety.
Yes, it's dated. Yes, it's slanted. H. G. Wells is very Victorian in his ethics. His politics were Fabian Socialist so you will find a distinct undercurrent for a socialist world government driving the story along. He is as un-Eurocentric as you could expect for the time: Europe and the Middle East take up the majority of the book, China and India play the next biggest role, followed distantly by Africa, Australia and the Americas.
The flaws are few given the task, the style is immensely readable, and the man who wrote The War of the Worlds, Time Machine, The Invisible Man and the Island of Doctor Moreau knows how to tell a story. Wells had the nerve to take on the World and the world gets a ripping good yarn with Mankind as the hero. You're part of the story; why not read it?
Also if you liked this book, you might enjoy:
Guns, Germs, and Steel : The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond
Democratic Ideas and Reality by Halford J. Mackinder
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Format: Paperback
This is the book that had such a powerful impact on Malcolm X. Its easy to see why. The history of the world is vividly outlined in an erudite and readable style. (Ever since I read `The Time Machine' when I was sixteen, I have considered Wells to be the clearest writer of prose in the English language.) Wells takes us from the very beginning of life right up to the League of Nations in 1922, stopping off at most points in-between: Neolithic cavemen, Periclean Athens, Roman and Byzantium civilisations, the life of Jesus, Confucius and Lao Tse, the rise of Islam, the Dark Ages, the Renaissance, discovery of America, the Industrial Revolution, World War I, and so on. The book is breathtaking in its scope, but Wells manages to give a succinct, vivid and comprehensive view of world history. I have found myself re-reading many of the chapters and I do not doubt that I will soon be re-reading the book in its entirety. There is little to criticise in this book - maybe it is a little Euro-centric; in the last chapters he does tend to labour his point a bit; and the early chapters are a little dated as we now know so much more about the evolution of our species. These are mere quibbles. Read it and become informed. Read it and be entertained.
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Format: Paperback
This has to be one of the most remarkable books I've ever read. According to John Strachey and other contempories of Wells, it represented the first attempt in modern times to compile a complete history of mankind. Wells' writing style is essentially journalistic. It's easy to read and full of colorful facts that make you quite sad they never got round to teach world history in school.

Wells starts at the very beginning, describing the extent of scientific knowledge in 1922 regarding the formation of the earth and the planets. He then traces what was known (based on fossil records) regarding the origin of life, evolution, and the drastic climatic changes associated with successive geologic periods. He talks about the two known (at the time) pre-human species - Neanderthal and Rhodesian Man. He doesn't even try to speculate exactly where the first true man originated. However he talks about caves in France and Spain where artifacts have been found, suggesting there true men living in Europe at the time the last Ice Age receded. He moves on to talk about the beginning of cultivation 10,000 years ago and to outline the ethnic origins of the primitive tribes present in most parts of the known world at the time of the great Greek and Roman civilizations.

He then takes us through the origin of written language in Sumeria and the civilizations of Egypt, Babylon and Assyria. This was my favorite section of the book. Prior to reading A Short History of the World, my only knowledge of these cultures came from the Bible. He covers the Persian empire then, as well as the history of the Jewish people. After covering Greece, Rome and Carthage, he devotes two chapters to the history of China and two to the life of the prophet Mohammed and Arab civilization.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a review of the Kindle version of this product which does NOT have drawings, pictures, maps etc. This detracts from the book tremendously.

The writing is excellent and pretty easy to follow. The chapters are well arranged to take the reader progressively through history. His analysis of history is normally spot on. Here is an example of the author's comments on the Treaty of Versailles: "The treaty of Versailles was intended to be exemplary and vindictive; it provided tremendous penalties for the vanquished; it sought to provide compensations for the wounded and suffering victors by imposing enormous debts upon nations already bankrupt, and its attempts to reconstitute international relations by the establishment of a League of Nations against war were manifestly insincere and inadequate." (Kindle Locations 5473-5475). That is about as good an analysis of the Treaty of Versailles in one sentence as you could ever get.

Mr. Wells also lets us know when he is speculating about history. Note: "And now let us indulge in a very interesting speculation; how did it feel to be a man in those early days of the human adventure? How did men think and what did they think in those remote days of hunting and wandering four hundred centuries ago before seed time and harvest began." p.24 Kindle Edition. H.G. Wells clearly labels his comments as speculation. This is not usual for writers of history. Historians often tell us what happened in an era long before writing as if it were taken off of live film footage. Wells, at least, tells us we are guessing.

The author's discussion of Socialism, page 152 - 156, is excellent and worth the price of the book.
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