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Millennium Paperback – 28 Oct 1996

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 28 reviews
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Dazzling! 17 May 2000
By Michael J. Edelman - Published on
Format: Paperback
The last few years have seen a flood of millennium-related books, ranging from the prophets of Y2K doom (or astronomical doom) to those of a new Eden. Admidst the more numerous books of a hysterical nature there have been a few more serious books that have attempted to put the events and changes of the last millenium in historical perspective, and to try and show how today's world evolved from its past.
I am an amateur reader of history, and the one conceptual difficulty I always have in reading history is seeing how events in different parts of the globe relate to one another in time. This is one area where "Millenium" excels. The author's command of history, and his abilty to smoothly move the narration through place and time creates, for the reader, a unified picture of the changes of a thousand years. No small trick.
As Fernandez-Armesto says in his preface, his aim is to "see the millennium from an imaginary distence...with unifying themes" and "to savor the differences from place to place and from time to time..." And so he does, with impressive skill. The resultant book is both scholarly and fascinating; on nearly every page you can find some previously unknown gem of art or history or technology.
You may not agree with the author's pronouncements for the future (as found in the epilogue) or his moral positions regarding present-day Western democracies, or even his economic analyses, but you cannot help but be impressed by his mastery of history, and you may find yourself swayed by the historical evidence he provides. A gem of a book, not to be missed.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Controversial, intriguing - a masterpiece 31 Oct. 2003
By Avid Reader - Published on
Format: Paperback
Felipe Fernandez-Armesto is a national treasure of the British isles. He is one historian-thinker who emerges as non-partisan and straight-forward. While I thoroughly enjoy the works of Paul Johnson and have praised Daniel Boorstin to the skies, there is something magisterial about the author's works. The level of scholarship combines with his always intriguing conclusions and suppositions. What I like best about this trio is their apparent affinity for describing long arches of history which is not an easy task.
Throughout the book the author asks us to project ourselves 10,000 years in the future and imagine what a galactic museum would display as a representation of the past millenium. He eschews such names as "Industrial Revolution" or "Protestant Reformation" or "Dark Ages" because these are not truly (to him) historical events but the name given to a series of happenings.

He makes the argument that influences from one civilization to another tend to ebb and flow and it is only in hindsight that one can see the writing on the wall. He has high praise for the Chinese Empire, it's culture and traditions. He demonstrates (as does Boorstin in THE DISCOVERERS) that the emergence of Western Europe as a dominating force was something totally unforseen, particularly considering the dominance of China and the Muslim world. Although it conquered the globe, to Fernandez this was only a temporary blot in the (apparent) onward march of the Pacific Rim. What is amazing (and controversial) is his assertion that despite the overwhelming pervasiveness of the United States in almost every measurable category, the pendelum has begun to swing back. He demonstrates his thesis not through battles and politics but through the everyday lives of the people since these reflect the true cultural inputs.
The writing is beautiful - even poetic - and the illustrations that accompany the text are an added bonus. This book is a labor of love. I am not at all certain I agree with all of the author's assumptions but then what kind of historian would he be if I did?
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A Provocative and Eclectic View of the Past 1000 Years 18 April 2009
By Rick W - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is a book written for readers with a fairly good knowledge of the history of the past thousand years who like to have their viewpoints provoked. It achieves this both by bombarding the reader with unexpected snapshots of the past and by its often iconoclastic turn of phrase. If you do not fit the target audience or you dislike the method used, you may well find this book boring and pretentious.

For the rest of you, I'll give a summary of some of the good(+), bad(-), and questionable(?) aspects here:
+ Very wide ranging and well-read view of history.
+ Well illustrated - if he talks about something visual, expect a picture.
+ Some of the things he dredges up are astounding - the 1820 bird's eye view of Japan, the runaway slaves dressed as Spanish noblemen with South American Indian nose and ear ornaments, the Chinese concubine in western armour.
+ The categories he uses make you think. Not Western Civilization, but Atlantic Civilization. His stressing of the commonality of the 'White Pacific' (an implied Surfer Civilization!)
- No maps, even though some of the places mentioned are obscure.
- No footnotes in the text. You have to go to the back of the book to the notes to see whether some quote or fact has a citation.
- He seems to use a lot of obscure spellings and expressions. On a few occasions I would want to read more about a character he talks about only to have difficulty finding the name using Google or Wikipedia.
? His style is often 'poetic' but sometimes I get the feeling he could have said something a lot clearer with a few less syllables.
? Often he seems one-sided, perhaps deliberately. For instance, he emphasizes the spread of Asian food and philosophy, while ignoring the still more impressive spread of Western food and values.
? He seems out of his depth in some fields. Modern physics is not as subjective as literature, as he implies. Nor is it heavily indebted to Eastern Mysticism. Taoism makes a good metaphor, but that is all. Equally good metaphors could have been garnered from Judeo-Christian thought if it weren't for the baggage that overly familiar religions carry with them.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
fascinating & eclectic overview of 1000 years world history 7 Oct. 1998
By Willem Noe - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book was one of first books i read on history, and it got me hooked on the subject. I much appreciated the non-eurocentric approach, the broad swoop with many lively and telling details. Topics such as history of food, Chinese manufacturing techniques and ancient African empires i thought were all striking and original. As an economist, i found the discussion of economic development of 'modern' economies much less convincing. Overall, a very good, well-written, and rewarding study.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Not a book for high school students... 19 Jan. 2006
By otro lector mas - Published on
Format: Paperback
even if they are in AP history, as evidenced by the previous 3 reviewers. For anyone else who wants a comprehensive yet readable overview of world history (and this really is WORLD history), this is an excellent starting place. And this is not a dry retelling of events. There are not a lot of details and footnotes. What the author does is transmit a wisdom and worldview (for example, that at the start of the previous millennium, Europe was a mere "promontory of Asia") for which he clearly has a gift and which I had not found in most other writers. Yet he manages to enhance our perceptions of other cultures without disparaging our own. This is an illuminating history book.
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