Title: A Little History of the World
Author: E. H. Gombrich
I know I haven’t issued any new reviews in since late September, and for that I humbly apologize. But that doesn’t mean I stopped my active reading list. On the contrary, it’s been going on as before, and I have some exciting new reviews, starting with this one.
Just as one can read from the title, it denotes that it presents the reader with a holistic view of our world history as we currently know it.
It starts off with something we call our prehistory, and then goes on and then jumps into the time of when the Egyptians ruled over their empire. Then it goes into the chapter of people that we don’t all necessarily know very much about, namely the Sumerians, Babylonians and Assyrians in the Mesopotamia region. And here we also get introduced to the Jews, and also the early inventors of writing with letters (the Phoenicians).
Then we jump to a people with whom we are slightly more familiar with, the Greeks and the Persians. How the Greeks conquered the Persian Empire, under the leadership of their ruler Alexander the Great. The young king who is revered for not only having been a tremendous ruler at his young reign, but also for what came of his conquests, transfer of knowledge and culture and inventions to other regions of the world.
The next great people we go to are the Romans. Growing their empire from one small village to an enormous stretch of the world, and ruling over that for many centuries to come. With this time period we also get introduced to one of religions’ iconic people, Jesus Christ.
After the Roman Empire started to collapse piece by piece, a period known as the Migrations, the Germans (not the people from Germany today, but Germanic tribes) gradually expanded more and we slowly move towards the Middle Ages. During this time small regions were becoming increasingly ruled by princes, who in turn were the subjects of one king.
Whilst all this was going on, another religious icon arose, the Prophet Muhammed, and the chapter unfolds into how he grew the religion, and with it the Arabic Empire. One significant invention known as the Arabic Numbers (ie. 1, 2, 3, 4, …) was also established through this empire from one of its vassal states.
From here, the wars that were declared and fought were significantly in the name of their own religion, mostly between Christianity and Muslim. One well-known group of people during this period were the Knights Templar, who made Crusades and fought to maintain control over Jerusalem, which was linked with their religion.
During these ages cities were swelling with more people, and guilds for trades took shape and then we gradually moved into a time known commonly as the Renaissance (re-brith), when people were looking back more and more to the historic time called the antiques (Greek culture, etc.). Though, this mainly took place in Florence, Italy.
We even come so far where Columbus made his first trip in search of a new trade route to India in order to find a cheaper alternative to the current expensive trade routes.
Jumping far into the future, we end with Napoleon from France who made France a European giant, and then end with the World War, which by now have ended 100 and +-70 years ago respectively.
Quite a mouthful, but truly, a spectacular account of world history as we know it.
What’s really remarkable is that the book notes that the Austrian author wrote the book in only six weeks.
As a side note, I believe that if schools should decide on a curricular for teaching history, it should start with this book, a holistic view, and then delve deeper into specific topics that you believe should be emphasized for you country’s history. That way, they can have something of everything.
The book is well-written, keeps good track of where in history we are currently reading. It explains the most remarkable events that happened in each era, and how it contributed to shape the world to a new place. The book provides the reader with large bits of history, but keeps it at the bare minimum to remain holistic. The book can be picked-up by any lay-person with only some history knowledge, and enrich them with much more. The book gets a well-deserved 6/5.