A History of the World

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 08 Dec 2018

Member Reviews

This was an interesting book but it felt quite shallow and could have been much bigger. The first 50% covered from the beginning of time up to 15th Century and this portion could have been an entirely separate book. This was not a bad book by any means but it could have been a much deeper and more explored than it is.
This is a good overview but does not have a direct focus.
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Jeremy Black packs a lot of information in this book and it can be a little slow to read. This is still a good book for history lovers.
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A good confused history of the world,specifically human history. From prehistory to today. Good for any beginning history fan
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I must preface this review by saying that I received a review copy of this book from NetGalley.

Jeremy Black is one of the more impressive historians on this planet.  A diplomatic historian by training, he nevertheless has written on an impressive range of topics.  As a personal anecdote, a professor in grad school referred to Black as “a machine”.  Generally, his work is top notch.  This work, however, is lacking.  A History of the World: From Prehistory to the 21st Century is a work in search of a purpose.

Humans show their capacity to adapt to their environment through competition and ever-increasing complexity of society.  It’s an obvious statement, and it the gist of Black’s argument in the book.  At the close of his introduction, he invites the reader to think about the book.  Agree or disagree, combine the words on the page with your own experiences and formulate your own response.  It’s very much an address to the young student.

This is presumably a world history textbook.  The publisher, Arcturus Publishing, lists it under children’s books.  This fits with the format of the book: short, simple chapters and lots of illustration.  Unfortunately, I have supreme doubts about its utility as a world history text at all.

We start with human evolution and the beginning of society.  Then we move on to Bronze Age civilization, after which we essentially abandon the idea of this book being a world history.  Aside from brief pre-imperial forays into Asia, Africa, and the Americas, the seat of the story is Europe.  On one hand, there is no reason you can’t prove an adaptation thesis focusing on Europe.  On the other hand, this is a world history.  Once Rome enters the picture, Black makes the reader think that hardly anything else of note occurred anywhere but Europe or the United States.  That may make a British child feel good, but it puts forward a factually incorrect and philosophically troubling implication.  Black does, however, stay on his thesis and continually comes back to it, which is refreshing in a book intended for children.

Physically, the ebook itself is a mixed bag.  The review copy I received is well illustrated and displays correctly on multiple devices.  However, I found a number of spelling errors.  And not the common “using the wrong word” mistakes which spell check cannot detect, which are becoming understandable given the realities of modern publishing, but words misspelled entirely, or runtogetherlikethis.  One could imagine a child who might not be the best reader having issues.

Altogether this book is disappointing.  Black is a tremendous historian, one who we studied in military history courses in grad school.  But this reviewer sees it as a book lacking a clear reason to exist.  It is not a world history, could be a passable set of case studies of societal adaptation.  I appreciate Black treating the reader as a person who can follow an argument, but I find it strange that he approaches world history almost exclusively as European.  In the end, I cannot recommend this book.
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Read like a textbook.  I was hoping for more engagement and maybe some humor.  The illustrations helped, but it was not what I expected.
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Received via netgalley, thanks to Arcturus for providing me with a copy to review.  

The latest book from Jeremy Black, a historian of great esteem and a man who writes so many books I don't know how he has the time. His bibliography is daunting, and it might well take a lifetime to read all of his books. Now he distills his knowledge into a concise history of the world. However, I have read quite a bit on world history, so there was little that I didn't know already. The key parts of world history are told, along with the themes and trends, without getting bogged down in excessive detail. Although they are dealt with so briefly there,  a bit extra word of explanation would have been helpful. Much of the complexity in all those historical events is lost here. One always discovers greater complexity when learning more about a subject. 

Some minor quibbles. No mention of Xia dynasty in early China. Chiang Kai-shek is referred to by that rendering once, and but other times he is called Jiang Jieshi. It could be confusing if you don't know that they are the same person, and the author should have stuck to one consistent spelling. 

I recommend this for those who don't have a view of world history, as a starting point before finding out more the topics here.
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The author managed to get a lot of information into this book without it becoming overbearing or boring.  I learned a lot while reading this.
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A History of the World by Jeremy Black is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in mid-November.

Chapters on the ancient world, prehistoric humans, classical era, Middle Ages, Renaissance, European and American revolutions, World War I and II, and the ‘modern world’ that follows. I expected a good deal more from it, although it already has a tall order to fill and could work potentially well as a middle school textbook, since it has your typical illustrations (i.e. the use of oil paintings and a kind of sonorous, David Attenborough tone to each topic, such as human development through discovery and intellectual ventures, migration, domestication of land and animals, worshiping deities, building and fortification of empires, and insets of ‘goods that changed the world’).
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