Durant — was near 90 on publication of the 11th volume of his gargantuan history, The Story of Civilization , and he was 92 when he began a series of audiocassette lectures that were to summarize these volumes with emphasis on key figures. Most were completed and many recorded by the time of his death, and here, they make up not so much a one-volume world history as a quirky collection of essays that race through long periods, pausing at intervals for the biography of an important figure.
China occupies 12 pages, half devoted to Confucius and the poet Li Po.
Heroes of History
Nine pages cover Indian history, all but two telling of Buddha and the Ghandis. Clearly more at home in western civilization, the author devotes a generous four chapters to Rome, three to ancient Greece, and the same number to the Renaissance and Reformation. All deliver good capsule histories of these periods along with the lives.
The problem with Durant is that he is not a historian but an educator. One reads good history for pleasure, but Durant for self-improvement. In clear prose, he presents the facts, but the personal opinions he hopes to transmit are those of an educator: a deploring of vice, admiration of virtue, sympathy with the oppressed, a love of art and literature.
For a good, single-volume introduction to world history, Read J. There was a problem adding your email address.
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He gave up his dream of being an author and took a job running a school for adults in New York. One day, a man happened by the school and caught the end of a lecture Durant was giving on Plato. The man was a publisher of five-cent pamphlets on a wide range of subjects, and he proposed that Durant publish the Plato lecture as one of his pamphlets.
Durant refused at first, but eventually agreed. More pamphlets followed from Durant, until there were eleven, enough material for a book.
That book sold well, and it gave Durant the financial means to quit his job and focus on his magnum opus. Durant started writing it in and over the next forty-eight years the first volume was published in , the last in the Durants published over 4 million words and nearly 10, pages—11 massive volumes.
They would never complete the project, though; the final volume covered The Age of Napoleon. A low-flying plane over a vast landscape, with enough detail to bring out the humanity but never bogging down too long in the details of a particular era.
HEROES OF HISTORY: A Brief History of Civilization from Ancient Times to the Dawn of the Modern Age
It is excellent as a way to fill in some of the history lessons one might have slept through in school and to provide dig sites for further reading later Heroclitis, Sulla. Durant had a broadly optimistic view of history. The events are always the same. His approach is even-handed, yes, but his focus on the thoughts and philosophies that shape our world is like opening the hood to see the underlying engine of history.
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He is concerned not only with the What , but with the Why. He is most interested in the threads that link one era to the next e. You are commenting using your WordPress.
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