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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful history book
This book was originally written in the author's native German in the 1930d, and was translated into many languages, becoming something of an international bestseller. Its English translation came much later. Its span is very large: from pre-history to the Second World War. The origins of occidental civilisation in the near-East and Egypt are well covered. We then...
Published on 27 Feb 2010 by Matthew Culley

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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Subjective
This book was written by the famous art historian E. H. Gombrich in 1936, as a childrens book for the German speaking market. It has been in print ever since and was being updated for an English market and translated by him, at the time of his death. Apparently he was to edit it to be more English focused, with more information about things like the English Civil War...
Published on 5 Dec 2008 by Mrs. K. A. Wheatley


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful history book, 27 Feb 2010
By 
Matthew Culley (England, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Little History of the World (Paperback)
This book was originally written in the author's native German in the 1930d, and was translated into many languages, becoming something of an international bestseller. Its English translation came much later. Its span is very large: from pre-history to the Second World War. The origins of occidental civilisation in the near-East and Egypt are well covered. We then move on to the Classical period and the Middle Ages. The fount of oriental civilisation in China is certainly not ignored, but it msut be said that European history is the focus of the book. The book is divided into small chapters, each with a different subject.

The book is clearly aimed at children and young people. The style is friendly and informative, and reading it will benefit a child's education. The author encourages the reader to think and also to find out more about the subject, which is a positive recommendation. Some children may need an adult to help them with the book. The book is also great for adults, as one can learn a great deal from it. Of course a book with such scope can only provide an outline, but what a great outline it is!

In conclusion, this is a pleasantly traditional history book, and it should prove an enjoying and satisfying read. Recommended.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If only...., 9 Mar 2007
...there was one book you could turn to which would take you through the entirety of human history in an entertaining as well as educational manner. Well guess what: there is, and 'A Little History..' is it. Don't be dissuaded by the fact that this is nominally a children's book. Unless you have devoted years to the study of history, you will finish this book a more knowledgeable person than when you started.

And for those who are put off by the size of the text, the audio version is available and beautifully read by the author's grandson.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully vivid history for young readers, 1 Oct 2005
By A Customer
Yale UP deserve congratulations from young and old readers alike for this beautifully produced and translated book. Written in the 1930s but only now translated into English it is vintage Gomnbrich - clear and concise and fascinating and thought aimed at younger readers will be enjoyed by adults too. And the compact size and gorgeous newly commissioned woodcuts all add to the joy that this book brings. Can't recommend it highly enough to anyone interested in Gombrich's writings or just looking for a wonderful short historical read.
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63 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For all ages, 17 Aug 2006
By 
Sydney (London, UK) - See all my reviews
I read this to see if it would be a suitable present for some friend's children, and wound up keeping it myself! You'd have to be one whiz at history not to learn a great deal from this book, it was great to have so many names that rang a vague bell finally put in context in such a concise and entertaining way. An excellent read, and one of the best-presented books in terms of binding and typography I've seen in a while.

The reviewer below who worried about the 'unrestrained paean to Marxism' clearly didn't read Gombrich's thoughtful and honest afterword, where he reviews his own opinions from over 50 years back and concludes that he was mistaken about the Soviet Union (to which he only devotes literally five lines which are not particularily opinionated) and too hard on industrialization. He also corrects his younger self on his orignal, parochial view of the Treaty of Versailles. I honour his candour in keeping the original lines in. In any case the idea that this book, with or without the afterword, is propaganda for ANY ideology is frankly absurd, and I would hate to see any reasonable person avoid the "Little History" from that mistaken impression.

Of course anyone will quarrel with the presentation of parts of history on which have an opinion-- personally I think he was rather too hard on Elizabeth I and rather too easy on the Chinese empire and the Aztecs! But that's the consequence of Gombrich's vivid storybook style, I think, and the fact that he has to deal with very complex situations in a couple of lines. I was especially impressed with the steady grace with which he handles potentially explosive religious issues. On the whole I don't think any but the most committed idealogue, left or right, would have a serious issue with their children reading this book. His view of history is probably best summed up with this:

"Now let's take a last look at these people dressed in skins, as they paddle their boats made of hollowed-out tree turnks towards their villages of huts... Do you think much has changed since then? Ther were people just like us. Often unkind to one another. Often cruel and deceitful. Sadly, so are we. But even then a mother might sacrifice her life for her child and friends might die for each other. And how could it be otherwise?"

Now to pick up another copy for those kids...
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Full of Fascinating Facts, 17 Sep 2009
By 
Kindle Customer (Edinburgh, Scotland United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Little History of the World (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This isn't a book you would read from beginning to end, but as a book to dip in and out of it's highly enjoyable. The author writes with a witty style which is both engaging and easy to read. There are short chapters on all the major historical events in (mostly western) history which despite being brief do manage to capture the essence of the period. Another attractive feature of the book is the actual paper and binding used; if you're fussy about this kind of thing then you'll be pleased that it's a nice book to handle, too!
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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Accessible history in a beautiful book, 5 Oct 2005
'Once upon a time ... ' A brilliant introduction to 'what is history' which draws you in irresistably - a great outline for adults as well as children. Although inevitably biased towards European history, it does cover the world and tells the 'story' in a way which will encourage you to find out more. Not only beautifully written, as you would expect from Gombrich, but also beautifully produced - in hardback on good-quality paper with stunning [lino-cut?] illustrations and at a very reasonable price. Order more than one - it makes a great present.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant, inspiring book but beware, 1 Oct 2010
By 
J. Taylor (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Little History of the World (Paperback)
Reading this book is somewhat like entering Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy's Total Perspective Vortex - it will make you realise how incredibly unlikely it is that you will have any significance in the grand narrative of human history, especially if you are not the warmongering dictator type. Nonetheless I found it inspiring, and not just because I wish I'd studied more history at school.

The book was originally published in German between the wars, and was a huge seller. This English edition was written much more recently and contains a new final chapter which is particularly moving and disturbing. Gombrich corrects what he earlier wrote about Germany's treatment at the end of World War I, and confesses that this inaccuracy in the original German edition may have contributed, in a small way, to the fervour that led to World War II. Reading the chapter, I was struck by the thought that if the 21st century is as violent and unstable as the 20th century, humanity will struggle to survive it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic for both little adults and big children, 25 Nov 2009
By 
Bruno - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Little History of the World (Paperback)
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This is one of those children's books that you don't need to feel embarrassed about reading on the metro. I was a little put off by the very first pages - the prose style seemed to be aimed at very small children rather than 'young people'. Nethertheless, I quickly got used to it and Gombrich rapidly begins making some extraordinarily complex, yet delightful analogies to illustrate his rather sophisticated (and very socialist) takes on history.

Being neither a child nor a young person, I can't for certain say how much these groups will get from this book. I would imagine a lot, although as said, despite the prose, it might be a little difficult for young children. I'm sure readers of every age group will love this, however. A timeless classic hidden away for far too long.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A keeper., 7 Oct 2005
By A Customer
Worth it just for the quality of paper, binding, cover and engravings alone. (First time in months I have seen a brand new hardback printed in the UK.) The quality of production and writing are superb. This is an interesting historical artifact by itself, having been written for children in 1935. That fact needs to be borne in mind during those moments when the book inevitably 'skims' over large subjects. I would recommend this just as a good read and a nicely finished book rather than look to it as an academic work.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Subjective, 5 Dec 2008
By 
Mrs. K. A. Wheatley "katywheatley" (Leicester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Little History of the World (Paperback)
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This book was written by the famous art historian E. H. Gombrich in 1936, as a childrens book for the German speaking market. It has been in print ever since and was being updated for an English market and translated by him, at the time of his death. Apparently he was to edit it to be more English focused, with more information about things like the English Civil War. The work was finished by his assistant but without the added material.

I think this is a shame. At a mere 280 pages you realise that he is never going to include everything. Nobody could, but it is very Europe focused. It also only touches very briefly on places like India and China. I couldn't help reading it thinking about everything that wasn't there.

Nevertheless, for a child who is first approaching the idea of history and what it is, and what it means, it would probably be a magical thing. It starts with the phrase once upon a time, and does its best to include all the more wondrous elements that history has included, the growth of reading and writing, the study of the stars, the great leaps forward that man has made, as well as the more bloody aspects of history.

It deals with religion in a very balanced and thoughtful way, which I was wondering about when I first started reading. So many of our wars and troubles come from disagreements about God and Gombrich's own life was shaped hugely by the First and Second World Wars, but it is an exercise in diplomacy and philosophy and works very well.

The book is attractively packaged with clear text, good maps and wonderful woodcuts which really would make this book an excellent gift for a child beginning to think about its place in the world.
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A Little History of the World
A Little History of the World by Ernst Gombrich (Paperback - 19 Aug 2008)
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