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An Intimate History of Humanity Hardcover – 1995


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 488 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; 1st edition (1995)
  • ISBN-10: 006017160X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060171605
  • ASIN: B000UXVDTE
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 16.7 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,052,639 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By John P. Jones III TOP 500 REVIEWER on 11 April 2011
Format: Paperback
Theodore Zeldin commences his brilliant, quirky, erudite, tour-de-force of the history of all humanity with the subject quote, made by a 51 year old French domestic servant. But why start a history, any history, by looking at admittedly one of life's very minor characters, and a self-confessed failure at that? But that is precisely one of Zeldin's principal points, and it certainly draws the reader in. Alistair Horne, another superb historian, used exactly the same technique in his equally excellent history, A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962 (New York Review Books Classics) when he quotes British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan who referred to the Algerian town of Setif as "A Town of No Great Interest," and proceeds to prove exactly the opposite. So too with Zeldin, who after a brief vignette of the servant, Juliette's life, goes on to say: "My purpose is different. Behind Juliette's misfortunes, I see all those who have lived but thought of themselves as failures, or been treated as such. The worst sense of failure was to realize that one had not really lived at all, not been seen as an independent human being, never been listened to, never been asked for an opinion, regarded as a chattel, the property of another." Zeldin segues into a discussion of slavery, real and de facto, the fate of the vast majority of humanity, be it self-imposed or imposed by others: "And today, all those who prefer to do what they are told rather than think for themselves and shoulder the responsibility...Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Theodore Zeldin is a British philosopher, historian and sociologist, born in Palestine from a Jewish family in 1933 when Palestine was a British protectorate. I found this quite a fascinating book to read about social attitudes of people from different societies and cultures and through various times in our history. There were numerous pieces of information that I learned as I worked my way through this quite substantial book, but when I got to the end I was left wondering for whom the book had been written. It is very warmly written and the author describes the lives of those within with great affection and often poignancy. There are twenty-five chapter headings and several subheadings within those but I failed to find a sense of direction from the book as a whole beyond what it claims to be - a social history of humankind through the ages. If there is an underlying `message', I failed to find it. There are many references of sources at the ends of the chapters, and other books listed that could take the reader further in any one of numerous directions. There is also a quite detailed Index at the end of the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By SymphonyBlues on 12 Jun. 2014
Format: Paperback
What a maginificent book: a window to the many cultures and philosophies of the world. From how humans have lost hope and revived it, how new forms of love have been invented, to what becomes possible when soul-mates meet. An ambitious book which hit all the spots. Well done Mr Zeldin.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By D. Stephenson on 14 Jun. 2007
Format: Paperback
I endorse Cassini24's review and would add the following comments.

Zeldin tends towards sweeping statements. When he touches on subjects I know about he is sometimes (a) not quite right (b) misleading or (c) wrong. This makes me wonder whether the same applies to matters upon which I cannot make a judgment of my own. It makes me reluctant to take him on trust.

The case studies that begin each chapter often have little discernable relationship to the analysis that follows. The people appear selected to meet Zeldin's agenda. They tend to be high or low achievers (personally, work-wise or artistically) whereas a representative sample would surely have produced more middle ground.

But ultimately you don't have to agree with such conclusions as Zeldin reaches and I suspect that is not the point. There are interesting insights and from previous reviews some readers have obviously taken a lot from the book. Any book that produces food for thought can't be all bad. But I find it difficult to see how this can be a five star read.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 27 April 2002
Format: Paperback
This is one of the most unusual and interesting books I've ever read. It's not easy going - at least at first - but it certainly rewards patience. So many things in it that resonated. It alternates the particular (women's personal stories) with the general (eclectic essays), and the latter in particular had me sometimes stopping after every rich sentence to ponder some connection with my work or life.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By carol_j_paterson@hotmail.com on 30 Jan. 2002
Format: Paperback
This is a book for anyone who wants to escape above the drudgery, dream a little and open your eyes. Very interesting and thought-provoking, and full of humanity. I took away a lot from this book.
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17 of 23 people found the following review helpful By M. Torma on 15 Jun. 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I took the book off the shelf in the book shop, opened it somewhere in the middle to read a few sentences and was hooked. The wealth of his learning is amazing, the way he weaves together different disciplines, civilisations, ideas and ages is very eloquent and beautifully executed. He tells the story of History by telling a lot of little histories. It is a very unique and a very thought provoking book. The non-fiction book coming closest to Zeldin's masterpiece probably is "Guns, germs and civilizations" and in fiction the Gore Vidals "Creation"
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