Friday, December 18, 2009

A Little History of the World by E.H. Gombrich

For all of you who a) fell asleep in history class or b) didn't fall asleep but cannot seem to remember if the Crusades came before or after the Spanish Inquisition, this book is for you.

Gombrich's title is exactly what this book is, a little history of the world from the Dark Ages up until just after World War I. The main focus is Western history, notably that of Europe, however, Gombrich spends time flying across the world to Asia so that the reader can understand what was going on during the same time period. The chapters are short and written in a conversational format to a child. However, although this sounds like it would create a contrived tone, this book has been much beloved of adults around the world since its publication.

One of the most pleasant aspects of this book is how Gombrich handles some of the more delicate aspects of history. He doesn't shy away from speaking of the horrors that have been committed by multiple nations (both existing and not). It's difficult not to shake one's head at the things that have been done for power, religion and money. Even sadder is with this compilation of history, it's easy to see how easy history repeats itself.

The artful, story telling way in which this book is written makes it difficult to remember that this isn't a work of fiction. However, only the ardent history buffs will know everything that is presented. For everyone else, surprises abound. It's a great springboard for those who haven't been introduced to some of the turning points in history, and is written in such a way to encourage the reader to seek out more.

Whether you read it to a child, give it to your teenager, or read it yourself, this is a must for anyone wanting to understand a little history of the world.

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