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Publisher's Summary

E. H. Gombrich's world history, an international best seller now available in English for the first time, is a text dominated not by dates and facts but by the sweep of experience across the centuries, a guide to humanity's achievements, and an acute witness to its frailties.

In 40 concise chapters, Gombrich tells the story of humanity from the Stone Age to the atomic bomb. In between emerges a colorful picture of wars and conquests, grand works of art, and the spread and limitations of science. The product of a generous and humane sensibility, this timeless account makes intelligible the full span of human history for the curious of all ages, but especially children.

Translated by Caroline Mustill.

©1985 DuMont Literatur und Kunst Verlag GmbH und Co. KG, Cologne, Germany. English translation 2005 Leonie Gombrich (P)2006 Blackstone Audio Inc.

Critic Reviews

"A lovely, lively historical survey....A fine conception and summarizing of the world's checkered past for young and old." (Kirkus Reviews)
"A remarkable book, written in an amiable, conversational style....This resurrected history deserves reading for all its delights." (The New York Times)

What listeners say about A Little History of the World

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for A.B.Oxford
  • A.B.Oxford
  • 03-06-2006

an enlightening book; very well read

This is currently my favorite audiobook (and I have dozens!). It is an excellent wee book from the author of the more famous and much longer "The Story of Art" - now in its 16th edition! If The Story of Art was written for college students, this one was originally written for school children - although it is more insightful than many adult history books I have read. It is enchanting, educational and extremely entertaining! (can you tell I like adjectives beginning with "e"?!)
It is also read superbly (by Ralph Cosham) at a pace that people of all ages can easily follow.
I therefore thoroughly recommended this book for adults and children alike.
If you want more detail, go for JM Roberts' masterpiece (History of The World) a much longer (54 hour) audiobook that is also an absolute classic - but this "Little History" is the best place to start.

51 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Tad Davis
  • 17-04-2008

Graceful story, perfect narrator

It's true, as others have said here, that this is mainly a history of the WESTERN world. There's a bit about India and China, mostly in the context of religious history (Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism); but it's mostly about the Mediterranean and western and northern Europe. But if you go into it knowing what it is, it's a gem of a book, presenting the history of those areas of the world in a lucid, engaging, and graceful manner. It's particularly useful in emphasizing aspects of European history that many other short histories of the world gloss over or rush through.

Ralph Cosham is the perfect narrator for this, so much so that I kept confusing him in my mind with the author.

A note about that religious history: in the context of an already short book, Gombrich's discussion of non-Western religious traditions is by no means skimpy: it's an outline, but a relaxed and anecdotal outline, and it shows a decidedly sympathetic and open mind.

39 people found this helpful

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  • Jefferson
  • 08-05-2011

A Humane and Engaging Introduction to History

I got this book because I love E. H. Gombrich's The Story of Art. I found A Little History to be an excellent introductory history book for children (and adults), because it is filled with Gombrich's deep humanity, curious mind, wide-ranging knowledge, disarming candor, charming humor, avuncular voice, and passionate commitment to history and learning. His writing is clear and engaging. He presents complicated situations and difficult concepts in simple terms without over-simplifying, as when he explains Buddha's enlightenment or the Protestant Reformation. He effectively tells both the positive and negative sides to the famous historical figures and cultures he describes. He also does a fine job of demonstrating the subjectivity of history by showing the different sides people have taken of the same events (as in the aftermath of World War I). He also vividly expresses the vast scale of pre-history and the small scale of human history to make readers appreciate their bracingly tiny places in the big scheme of things.

The last chapter is fascinating and moving, covering as it does Gombrich's changing awareness of the history he experienced as a Jewish citizen of Austria who had to emigrate to England, the aftermath of World War I and the horror of World War II. And the introduction by his granddaughter interestingly recounts how Gombrich came to write A Little History and The Story of Art.

This is a concise book! There are many absences! England and America and Asia are not given nearly as much coverage compared to Europe. However, it is so well-written and so engaging and so humane that reading it will make readers think more about what it means to be human and will inspire readers to become interested in history.

Ralph Cosham does his usual fine reading here: nothing fancy, just an appealing and accurate and fluid manner and voice. I easily imagined that I was a child listening to Grandfather Gombrich telling me history stories at bedtime

19 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Anna
  • 07-08-2007

A treat

Such a sweet book. The kindly, grandfatherly voice of the narrator really made you feel like you were being read to before bed. It gives a broad account of world history, though the focus is very much on Europe. Still, a great history refresher and a total pleasure to listen to.

16 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 05-02-2021

History: From a White, Christian Male.. Really??

If I could give this negative stars I would. First of all : DO NOT LET YOUR CHILDREN LISTEN TO THIS! If you want bias pro white Christian garbage, they can get that from public school all on their own. Within 3 chapters we get to the subtle " 3000 years before the coming of the TRUE God" hints. I thought, ok buckle up, it's gonna be Christian biased. Then I hit chapter 16. Which tells the listener that all the events in the Bible are fact. All the "history" is how much better all Christian converted cultures become while the evil " others" are vicious and unenlightened. Really?? Because the history of Christianity is far from free of bloodshed. Now let's get into the racism and sexism.
Apparently, women had nothing to do with the shape of our history. Nothing. Let's completely skip over all African culture ( except Egypt). Asian culture is a footnote in the expansion of Greek culture. But where I put my foot down is the direct racist comments in chapter 18. Let me quote" these were small yellow men with slanted eyes" The Huns?? One of ( if not the most) powerful conquering people's in the history of the world?? Funny I didn't get a derogatory discription of Alexander the Great or Julius Cesar.
I understand that history is told from the mouths of the " victors" but what I ( and I hope my kids understand) is that history is facts, not bias. If you want to learn about world culture, look beyond what's in your face. And definitely don't ask this " historian".

8 people found this helpful

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  • Gabriela
  • 05-09-2020

A very christian view of the history of the world

Started well, but then it became clear that it was a christian view of history. Sorry but I wasn't able to finish the book.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Fjolnir
  • 08-10-2008

One that I listen to again and again

This is a great book. The reader sounds so vise and kind. I would say that this is the perfect book to listen to when in bed on a cold winter evening. It is a gem.

12 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • WhoAmI
  • 19-06-2006

Beautiful

And captivating. History-telling at its best. I knew the great art historian's major works but what a pleasant surprise it was to find another gem of his!

12 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Teresa
  • 02-09-2008

wish it was longer

I loved this book and was sorry that it had to end.

10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Hjane
  • 16-03-2007

wonderful

This is a BEAUTIFUL book presented by the perfect narrator. What a treat. Even though it is the history of the world in a nutshell and it was written for children, I found that it filled in or solidified some of the more sketchy parts of my general knowledge. The book was written a long time ago and as a result contains a few antique view-points which, on the whole, do not detract from the delightful tone of this work.

15 people found this helpful

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