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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best of the best..
Will and Ariel Durant were to history what Carl Sagan was to science: They breathed life into a subject considered lifeless by too many, and clothed the skeleton of recorded history in a garment rich in colorful detail and vast in perspective. "Lessons Of History" is, in my opinion, the finest 100 page non-fiction book ever written, and represents the capstone...
Published on Dec 23 2001 by reason

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some lessons learned
Will and Ariel Durant wrote a massive eleven-volume history, The Story of Civilization. After they finished volume ten -- which was to be the last - they came out with this brief work. (In 1975 they produced the final volume in the series, The Age of Napoleon). Although this series is not considered by professional historians to be a great work of history, the Durants'...
Published on Dec 1 2002 by Steve Jackson


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best of the best.., Dec 23 2001
This review is from: The Lessons of History (Hardcover)
Will and Ariel Durant were to history what Carl Sagan was to science: They breathed life into a subject considered lifeless by too many, and clothed the skeleton of recorded history in a garment rich in colorful detail and vast in perspective. "Lessons Of History" is, in my opinion, the finest 100 page non-fiction book ever written, and represents the capstone and encapsulating work of two authors who gave the world their ten thousand page "Story Of Civilization" over a period of 50 years.
Within this delightful book, one can view the enormous panorama of human civilization as it developed from, and was formed by, the matrices of geography, religion, science, war, and a host of other factors. The Durant's, in a writing style that should have been copyrighted, provide the reader with an engaging view of humanity that few readers will come away from without being touched and awed. To be sure, the Durant's works have had a few (very few) detractors, but they were almost entirely high-browed academics in narrow research areas who most likely envied them their commercial success. If I could give this synopsis of 100 centuries of history more than 5 stars I'd do it in a nanosecond.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A once-in-a-lifetime foundation reading, get it used, Jan. 13 2004
By 
Robert David STEELE Vivas (Oakton, VA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Lessons of History (Hardcover)
This is the first book that I discuss in my national security lecture on the literature relevant to strategy & force structure. It is a once-in-a-lifetime gem of a book that sums up their much larger ten volume collection which itself is brilliant but time consuming. This is the "executive briefing."
Geography matters. Inequality is natural. Famine, pestilence, and war are Nature's way of balancing the population.
Birth control (or not) has *strategic* implications (e.g. see Catholic strategy versus US and Russian neglect of its replenishment among the higher social and economic classes).
History is color-blind. Morality is strength. Worth saying again: morality is strength.
See my various lists. This book, John Lewis Gaddis on "The Landscape of History", and Stewart Brand "The Clock of the Long Now" are among my "top ten of all time".
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sweep of History., March 9 2002
By 
Kendal B. Hunter (Provo, UT United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Lessons of History (Hardcover)
For the person in a hurry, but who is also curious about history, I would recommend this book. It is the culmination of a survey of history that Will and Ariel Durrant did in the 1960's. I realize that some of the conclusions have been dated, such as concern about the Soviet Union, but that does not destroy the value of the work. Indeed, who is to say that the Soviet Union, or some neo-Tsarist regime, could not rise again?
Moreover, this book covers other topics, all of them revolving around the "Human Predicament," which is basically a choice between freedom and security. Or better yet, actual freedom, and claimed security, since if you chose security over freedom, you will lose both freedom and security.
This book is an easy read, written on the high-school level, so there are no excuses for not understanding anything. It is an essential in anyone's collection of "Great Books," since not only is the unexamined life not worth living, the unexamined civilization is not worth preserving. And we can make a change in things.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some lessons learned, Dec 1 2002
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This review is from: Lessons Of History (Audio CD)
Will and Ariel Durant wrote a massive eleven-volume history, The Story of Civilization. After they finished volume ten -- which was to be the last - they came out with this brief work. (In 1975 they produced the final volume in the series, The Age of Napoleon). Although this series is not considered by professional historians to be a great work of history, the Durants' love of history is evident on every page. I read most of them in high school and college, and they help inspire a life-long interest history.
The Lessons of History consists of a number of short chapters, in which the Durants summarize what their study of history revealed on various themes, such as war, morals, government, religion, etc. Although certainly not a profound work, it contains a number of insights. For example, the discussion of the lineage of communism is quite interesting. On the other hand, the Durants strike me as having been moderately left of center, and some of their arguments in favor of government regulation of the economy don't convince me. They appear somewhat more conservative on morals, and there is a good discussion on how war negatively impacts traditional morality. The discussion of religion is somewhat ambiguous, perhaps reflecting Will Durant, who studied for the priesthood, became an atheist, and died an agnostic.
This work came out in 1968, and the Durants make a couple of predictions which didn't exactly come true. They argue that by 2000 the Roman Catholic Church will be politically dominant in the US. In addition, they expressed the commonplace idea in the 60s that the Soviet Union and the United States were coming closer together and would eventually meet in the middle.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, Jan. 13 2001
By 
Leonardo Alves (Houghton, Michigan USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Lessons of History (Hardcover)
After finishing the ten volumes of "The History of Civilization", Will and Ariel Durant went back revising and taking notes from their monumental work and produced this insightful essay.
The goal was not to summarize 3,421 years of recorded history in a hundred pages. That would have been silly. The goal was to give some thought to what means to study history; how important is to know our heritage; can we understand our nature and the relations between individuals or between groups or nations just by analysing the past; can the acumulated human experience tell us where are we heading to?
The book was first published in 1968, the worse phase of the cold war, when any perspective of future seemed rather dark and the uncertainties of the period certainly permeate the book.
The book might be considered biased and conservative but that is fair game since the authors warn us about that on the first chapter, "Hesitations". "Historian are not free from bias and prejudice", they say and "most history is guessing, and the rest is prejudice".
The book was written with great care. The sentences are powerful, elegant, concise and insightful. It brings noteworthy quotes and is itself very quotable. A book to be read and appreciated several times.
Leonardo Alves - January 2001
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Profound insight into the nature of man., Dec 13 1998
By A Customer
This book was assigned reading for an MBA program I took in 1983.For the first time I was presented with the ideas that described how we fit in the universe along with why we behave as we do.I was in my late 30's , an engineer by trade.I knew the historical behavior patterns of our numerous societies over the spectrum of recorded history, yet had failed to reduce these observations to a lowest common denominator.
Will and Ariel Durant segment our history and nature into basic, simple to read chapters, that explain in simple terms how societies have strived to achieve the Utopias we all dream of.
I was stunned at how history repeats itself and humbled at the fact that "the foibles of mans dreams" are the same today as they were a thousand years ago.
If your ego has convinced you that solutions to the challenges of society are within the grasp of our lives today,don't read this book!
On the other hand,if you are prepared to recognize that our species is nothing more than 4000 years of recorded history compared with 14,000,000 years of evolutionary development,sit back and enjoy!
This is not a book for individuals who have "new PC ideas as to the nature of mankind".They will find that their ideas are same-o,same-o.
Will and Ariel summerize a huge work in one volume that can be read in a day.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Provoked class Discussions and learning!, Sept. 12 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Lessons of History (Hardcover)
My teacher played us the tapes of "The Lessons of History" by Will Durant. At first my classmates and I did not enjoy listening and taking notes because we didn't completely understand it....but then mmy teacher would stop the tape and we would go over our notes and discuss it. This really made me understand what Durant was talking about and I agree with alot of the inferences that he made. Durant's essay's are a great way to provoke discussions at the begining of the year to get your class ready to share their ideas with the class all year.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I still refer to this book 30 years after first reading it., Oct. 29 1998
This review is from: The Lessons of History (Hardcover)
Will and Ariel Durant tried to bring Philosophy and an understanding of History to the common man and woman. They succeeded admirably, and some thirty years after reading this book I still turn to it in order to understand events occurring around me. This is no scholarly tome, but an invaluable manual for those seeking a better understanding of the world around us. It should be compulsory reading for all those aspiring to public office.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The first reference point for any thinker, Dec 15 1999
By 
Anatole Pang (London, Britain) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Lessons of History (Hardcover)
This book is an almost impossibly concise summary of the human condition. It covers everything, to a level of detail that tantalises the reader, enticing them to read further into the text, and more by the same author(s). It is an excellent introduction to history and the philosophy of history. An absolute must for any serious historian, or anyone with a heathly interest in the subject.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A labour of love and it shows., July 1 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: The Lessons of History (Hardcover)
The fruit of more than 50 years of labour for all of us to savour.In less than 150 pages the author has condensed lessons drawn from the entire course of human history.The language and style is typical of Mr. Durant and is a pleasure to read. Recommended for all students of history as it will deepen understanding of mankind's past and enlighten our present. A true classic.
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