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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The 'C' word
It really didn't surprise me when, just before the television series was broadcast, I caught Richard Miles on Radio 4 being forced to defend the use of the word "civilisation". It has become a dirty word amongst modern liberals, redolent in their minds of imperialism, colonialism and every other "ism" under the sun. Miles is of course simply using the word with its actual...
Published on 22 Mar 2011 by E. L. Wisty

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A little disappointing
This is the second book of Richard's I have. Compared to the other I found this a little disappointing. While it is no doubt meant to be an overview, I found it too superficial and often at unexplained variance with other texts. The eras covered by this book (especially the late bronze age) are ones I am very interested and moderately well read on, so its possible its a...
Published on 3 Jun 2012 by Micheal Wiley


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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The 'C' word, 22 Mar 2011
By 
E. L. Wisty "World Domination League" (Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
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It really didn't surprise me when, just before the television series was broadcast, I caught Richard Miles on Radio 4 being forced to defend the use of the word "civilisation". It has become a dirty word amongst modern liberals, redolent in their minds of imperialism, colonialism and every other "ism" under the sun. Miles is of course simply using the word with its actual meaning, namely a society which lives in cities. In his introduction he notes: "In the modern West we have lost confidence in the idea of civilisation. Embarrassed by its chauvinistic and elitist connotations, we have increasingly taken refuge in less loaded terms such as 'culture' to explain our origins. [...] Our discomfort with this idea has made us consign civilisation to the museum display case, but in this book the idea of civilisation will be rescued from its enforced retirement."

The text of this book appears to be just a simple transcript of the narrative of the television series, so at times it perhaps reads slightly oddly; personally I have perhaps benefited from having seen the series beforehand, as I can hear Miles' voice and delivery in my head as I read. In covering five thousand years of civilisation beginning from the earliest Mesopotamian cities to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire it is of necessity something of a whistle-stop tour, but Miles always writes entertainingly with enthusiasm and with wit.

Overall I would probably recommend the television series over the book as I enjoyed Miles' presentation. Congratulations to the BBC for having, just for once in recent times, produced a documentary series not dumbed down and wrecked by overpowering visuals and music and condescending voice-overs but instead allowing an intelligent narrative to the fore.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent and informative introduction., 13 Jan 2011
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Glasgow Dreamer (Glasgow Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This is a lovely book; heavy, well put together, with clear and easily legible print on bright white glossy pages, and absolutely chock full of fantastic photographs, maps and other illustrations.

It's also very well written and informative, and as a companion piece to the recent BBC TV series of the same name, it is certainly a valuable reference work. As a number of ancient civilisations are covered, the individual chapters, while informative, are not overburdened with detail. This is in some ways an advantage, as a casual reader (like myself) may quickly discover that he/she does not know as much as he/she may have thought. While much of the content will be familiar, I was surprised at how much of this was new to me.

Overall, I would certainly recommend this book as an excellent introduction to a fascinating subject, whether or not you have seen the accompanying TV series.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly readable, beautiful book, 26 Jan 2012
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bomble "bomble" (Cambridge, UK) - See all my reviews
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I am so glad I have the hardback edition of this book because, despite it being well enough written to have held my interest from cover to cover, it is also totally suitable as a coffee-table book to dip into and enjoy for its fantastic photographs and illustrations. I missed the TV series but often books that accompany them can be a bit lack-lustre. This stands out in my view as a very worthy introduction to the history and geography of the ancient world and as it was a spin-off from a TV series then I shall keep an eye out for the re-runs.

I can't comment on the validity of the research or material but it all seems consistent and plausible to me. Enthusiasm leaps out of the page and you get the feeling that if all history books were this appealing we'd have a much better educated populace!

Excellent.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent primer on the growth of western civilisations..., 19 Jan 2011
By 
Christopher Meadows (York, UK) - See all my reviews
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This is a well written, accessible text covering a broad overview of ancient history in the western world, particularly focused on the growth and spread of urban centres and culture, or `civilisation'. The author approaches the subject with evident enthusiasm, presenting the reader with broad strokes covering the cultures of the earliest ancient cities and civilisations, including Tyre, Carthage, Greece, the conquests of Alexander, and the rise of Rome and its change of politics.

A large part of the text centres around different governmental styles, including coverage of the earliest `strong-man' governments, Egypt's Pharaohs, through the Greek experiments with democracy, Alexander's unique style of leadership, and the Republic and Empires of Rome; each is approached in enough detail to make it interesting, whilst not leaving the reader bogged down in minutiae.

The text is bracketed by both informative maps and wonderfully done photographs - every other page seems to contain a wonderful image of some sort, all of which are a pleasure to look at, and help provide a little more context to the surrounding text. The images also make the book a pleasure to flick through; it's fairly large, but no doubt would look good on the coffee table.

As above, the content made for a fascinating read, and as a primer for all the periods covered, it works very well; it would have been nice to have gone into the topics covered in more detail, but I suspect this would need an entire library!

As a starter on what we now call `civilisation', and its political and socio-cultural growth in the western world, this is an excellent text, and a very pleasant read, and well recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding book drawing on the TV series, 3 May 2011
By 
Dr. Paul Ell (NI, UK) - See all my reviews
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This is a delightful book based on, or perhaps rather following from, the BBC TV series presented by Richard Miles. Miles shows himself not only to be a good presenter via the TV programmes, but also shows that he has not abandoned his roots as an archeologist and professional historian. Whilst books springing from TV documentaries are often glossy and well produced, and Ancient Worlds does not fail in this respect, often the text can be disappointing. This is certainly not the case here. Whilst clearly written for the general reader it is informative and provides a great deal more information on ancient civilisations than was in the TV series. As a fan of historical fiction of the period addressed in this book I'd recommend it to readers with similar interests. It provides a factual and contextual backdrop to such fiction.

In short, and excellent book, offering more depth than the TV series, and not only being well produced but with a strong text as well.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed, cursory in some areas and needing more maps but still worthwhile being well written and beautiful, 5 Mar 2013
By 
G. Wake "gregwake" (Newcastle, UK) - See all my reviews
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The book concerns itself with a selection of events over some six millennia around the areas of modern day Iran, Israel, Egypt, Greece and Italy with limited attention being paid to anything outside the `civilisations' in question. If you were hoping for some gem on Chinese, Indian or Northern European influence on Western Civilisation then you are unlikely to find it here, but if you wonder who the Hitties were or want to understand how, say, Persia affected Greek democracy then this will point you in the right direction.

Such broad geographical and chronological periods are covered that there is little detail and `Ancient Worlds' is more a series of general impressions rather than in depth analysis of any particular topic; this results in a deal of hopping around from state to state so although six thousand years are covered each state is only the focus for a fraction of that time. Fragments of politics, art, philosophy and religious history are all included as well as the more traditional approach to history of listing kings and their dates on the throne. The result is a history that is almost linea, though fragmentary with occasional hops about the time line, and is made more interesting by leaving out the dull bits and always managing to find something interesting to report.

Not having seen the TV programme this book accompanies I cannot say how well it ties in with the other media, but considered as a stand alone book `Ancient Worlds' is rather special. It's a moderately heavy hardback, with glossy dust jacket, printed on the sort of paper that makes a noise as you turn each leaf with flawless white backgrounds, sharp text, maps and glorious photography of ancient ruins, monuments and art works on nearly every other page. The images are of a quality which shows you, clearly, what is being depicted rather than how smart the photographer (of his/her camera) is. There is an eggshell finish to the pages which prevents much reflection in direct light and it is even printed in Europe (in Germany) bucking the current trend to have picture heavy books printed in the Far East.

It is the kind of book I remember being more common during my childhood, grand and gorgeous, worth flicking through the pictures even if you don't understand all the long words or just cannot be bothered with reading. It is a joy just to hold this volume in my hands: it has the look and feel of something of quality, of something worth possessing, reading cover to cover and then flicking through during quiet moments.

`Ancient Worlds' is not an academic text, lacking the swarm of footnotes, quotations and `how clever am I' fragments of foreign languages academic writers often love to inflict upon their readers, instead including the kind of unpatronising details the uninitiated require. Which is not to say the book is without some serious faults including a shortage of maps, illustrations and photographs; often the text will refer to a particular item, artwork or place but without any picture or map to be found leaving the reader with only a vague idea where a location is or what something described in general terms looked like. This is made worse by a number of the, admittedly beautiful, photographs of artifacts and places not being greatly relevant to the adjacent text, suggesting they are there to look pretty rather than illustrate a point. What it really needs are more maps (particularly at the front and end of the book,) more relevant photographs and a simple drawn timeline to help make the relative times clearer.

Fundamentally `Ancient Worlds' is one man's view of what civilisation is, where Western Civilisation originated from and an explanation of where each `development' first started. It is largely effective and tells an entirely plausible version of events in an interesting and lively style. Be warned though, if you like this you will have to do more research to fill in the gaps and that will mean buying more books!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, just not very exciting, 28 Feb 2013
By 
Dr. J. S. Bray (UK) - See all my reviews
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I have to admit that I was a little but disappointed with the book. It's well produced, and there are lots of nice pictures, but it sort of felt rather ordinary and just a little bit pedestrian. The story of civilisation is one of the most exciting of all, and somehow it felt rather mundane. Perhaps it was just me, but I struggled a bit with it, although it covers most of what you would expect. Also, I know it's supposed to be a book about the West, but it might have been nice to have a few more nods in a more easterly direction.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A little disappointing, 3 Jun 2012
This review is from: Ancient Worlds: The Search for the Origins of Western Civilization (Paperback)
This is the second book of Richard's I have. Compared to the other I found this a little disappointing. While it is no doubt meant to be an overview, I found it too superficial and often at unexplained variance with other texts. The eras covered by this book (especially the late bronze age) are ones I am very interested and moderately well read on, so its possible its a case of me being outside the target audience.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a book in the hand is worth......., 28 Dec 2010
By 
David Spanswick (Brighton United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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After watching Richard Miles's splendid series on television it is so wonderful to have it all written down for you as I have discovered late in life that reading and watching television are two almost directly opposed occupations, the one virtually excluding the other. To read while watching television is not unlike the experience of patting your head and rubbing your tummy simultaneously

Whether you want to take up the argument culture v civilisation is obviously your own personal preference but you do have to ask yourself the bigger question : where did it all begin and can I trace my own view of "civilisation" back to a recognised origin.

This may well be an "eat and come again" kind of volume as after an initial skim I settled down to a chose section ~ influenced by the television episode ~ but I know I will have to watch another episode and return to the book's more tranquil telling

This magnificent volume is liberally scattered with the highest quality pictures to illustrate the text and is a brilliant answer to what should you buy with those tokens you were given for Christmas ~ always better than unwanted socks, hankies and home made sweaters!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Easy to read, 20 Jan 2013
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Easy to read and absorbing. On the Kindle edition the maps are not very good. A good follow up to the TV Series
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