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The Shortest History of Europe Paperback – 4 Sep 2012


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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Old Street Publishing (4 Sept. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 190869906X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1908699060
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 186,031 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description

Review

'Beautifully and sparely constructed, yet rich in fact, feeling and detail'
James Button

'A wise, illuminating little book'
Sydney Morning Herald

'An entertaining, learned piece of historical compression'
The Age

'Constantly thought-provoking'
The Courier Mail

'The balance of analysis and description, generalisation and specific instance, is beautifully maintained'
ABR --...

About the Author

John Hirst is a widely respected historian and social commentator. A former reader in history at La Trobe University' he wrote the official history of Australia for new citizens and took a prominent part in the History Summit convened by the prime minister in 2006. He is a member of the Film Australia Board and the National Museum council. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By J. Wickens on 6 April 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Don't be fooled by the modest appearance of this little book into thinking it is simply some vacuous stocking-filler. It is certainly fun to read, but actually packs a much bigger punch than many far weightier tomes.
I really do feel I've learned more history from this than from any other book. Not that it has introduced me to new events or personages; what it does is to rise above all these details and pull them together into a unifying whole. The huge amorphous slew of historical facts that I have absorbed over 60 years (from books, talks, films, t.v. programmes and travel) suddenly makes sense! It was, for me, an experience similar to reading about the periodic table and suddenly realising that chemistry wasn't simply a whole collection of unrelated elements...
I would also compare what John Hirst does for history with what Steven Pinker does for language: both make their points with exemplary clarity and an easy, witty style (with judicious use of diagrams). What's remarkable about this book, though, is its concision - how does he manage to pack so much into less than 150 pages?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By JohnCarr on 2 May 2014
Format: Paperback
This book is a somewhat longer version of an even shorter “Shortest History of Europe”.
This review is a somewhat longer version of my original review.
The original “Shortest History” covered only up to circa 1800AD. This version brings us up to date. I guestimate that it runs to about 65,000 words. It is a masterpiece of concision, especially as it quite intentionally returns repeatedly to certain points.
Based on a series of his lectures, it is written by an Australian professor, whom I suspect is old enough to have received a Eurocentric and/or Anglocentric education.
It contains very few names and dates instead concentrating on a few very big themes. It might more meaningfully be called, in the author's phrase, "What is it about Europe?" as its subject is what it is that makes Europe Europe? Eastern Europe - other than ancient Greece - and Scandinavia are hardly mentioned.
Hirst begins by looking at the "three elements" that, to him, formed the foundation of European civilization - Graeco-Roman culture, Christianity, the culture of the Germanic warriors who overran the Western Roman Empire and how these three elements interacted and evolved to create Latin Christendom. He then discusses the transition from medieval to modern through the influences of the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment.
These comprise the first quarter of the book.
Read more ›
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Wal on 23 Mar. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
great introduction to the subject, concise, informative, dosen't get bogged down in too much detail, ideal as a starter/overview, i read it in a day, hard to put down once you start.....
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Hamster on 19 Aug. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A superb, easy-to-follow, never boring account. I learned so much from this and everything became so much clearer to me. You could see the 'wood' without an in-depth analysis of all the 'trees'- which can be too much in some of the massive history books I've not had the courage to read.

I can't praise it high enough!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a great little book that provides an excellent overview of European history while also very convincingly explaining how and why Europe eventually turned out to be such a dynamic and powerful continent.

This book is only loosely chronological; it does move towards the modern day as it progresses, but it's not a strict chronological narrative of leaders and battles. It's really more about big ideas and big changes than it is about the details. This book starts with Europe's ancient foundations (Greek and Roman culture) and then shows how it evolved and was reshaped over time (ie Christianity, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, etc) into the continent we know today.

What this book doesn't do is swamp you in endless detailing of obscure dynastic feuds, or drown you in a never-ending list of kings and queens, or expect you to care about troop formations in insignificant medieval skirmishes. That's not to say it completely avoids talking about specific places and people - for instance, you'll meet Charlemagne, Napoleon, Cromwell, Robespierre, among others - but it's always concise and places these 'details' within a broader narrative.

This book is perfect for beginners because it requires virtually no background knowledge - even relatively well-known concepts such as the Roman Empire are introduced before they are utilised to explain some aspect of European development. It's an excellent gateway into European history, well-written and full of fascinating facts as well.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mr M C Frampton on 23 Dec. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A very readable history of Europe showing how the Roman, Christian and Germanic cultures that have come together and shaped the last 2000 years. You will probably want to read it again.
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