The Lessons of History Paperback – Feb 16 2010
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"The Durants' masterpiece belongs in any home library and occupies a shelf in many."
--Dana D. Kelley, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
About the Author
Will Durant (1885–1981) was awarded the Pulitzer Prize (1968) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1977). He spent more than fifty years writing his critically acclaimed eleven-volume series, The Story of Civilization (the later volumes written in conjunction with his wife, Ariel). A champion of human rights issues, such as the brotherhood of man and social reform, long before such issues were popular, Durant’s writing still educates and entertains readers around the world.
Will and Ariel Durant, after spending over fifty years completing the critically acclaimed series The Story of Civilization, were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction in 1968. In 1977, the Durants were presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Champions of human rights and social reform, the Durants continue to educate and entertain readers the world over. For more information on their work, visit www.willdurant.com.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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".
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.
The Durant team make it very clear, that the same issues that bedeviled previous generations, are the exact same set of current contentions. This is what makes the book a great read. The reader is introduced to timeless themes, that every society will sooner or later confront.
The book is written is a straight forward and easy to read format. The Durant duo provide an outstanding introduction, to the events of world history. I give this book my highest endorsement.
Most recent customer reviews
One of the best books ever on summarizing historical events in general.
Great as a starting point to find areas of interest in history.
Clear, informative and courageous attempt to summarize volumes of history in 110 pages.Published 6 months ago by History Reader
great book, but i'm left a bit confused at times since it references a whole bunch of different events in history to make their points without explaining the events in detail. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Darren Zhang
This book is well-written but one has to realize that it dates back to 1966. The philosophy behind it is interesting but I have had some misgivings about what it stated on... Read morePublished 11 months ago by Muriel Eaton
This short volume was in one of my Amazon recommendations and I purchased it because, hey, who doesn't like summation-history with life lessons clearly laid out. Boy was I wrong. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Dr. Egypt
It's a relatively short volume. I found some interesting generalizations and ideas in it. One peculiar feature of this book, is that being written awhile ago, it was not as... Read morePublished 17 months ago by Leonid Finis