|This is the first volume of a multi-volume series intended to cover the history of the world. After 40 years, the author got to the Age of Napoleon before old age stopped him.
I’ve had this set since I was a young man in the 1970’s. It has been a treasure. I know I can borrow from the library but this is one of those sets that I want with me always.
The history goes lightly over politics and wars so that it can concentrate on art, culture, and everyday life. This represents a refreshing break from standard fare.
This volume covers the Middle East, India, and the Orient. It covers the entire history of those areas down to the middle of the 20th. century when the book was written. Future volumes concentrate on Western Civilization.
Durant brings a special style to this work. From his description of the invention of writing, here’s an example:
An Egyptian legend relates that when the god Thoth revealed his discovery of the art of writing to King Thamos, the good King denounced it as an enemy of civilization. “Children and young people,” protested the monarch, “who had hitherto been forced to apply themselves diligently to learn and retain whatever was taught them, would cease to apply themselves, and would neglect to excercise their memories.”
Of course we can only guess at the origins of this wonderful toy.
Elsewhere, he conveys a sense of time by saying that as many centuries seperated Herodotus from the makers of the pyramids as seperates us from him.
I guess, the ultimate charm of his books is how he blends in the elements of civilization to bring those long-ago people to life inside our imagination. This, is the ultimate praise I can give.
In the future, I shall attempt to summarize the rest of the books in this series.