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58 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic
Conventional history tells us the 20th Century's most significant events were World War I, World War II and perhaps the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Francis Fukuyama famously suggested liberal democracy within global capitalism eventually triumphed. A people's history takes a refreshingly different and more intelligent approach. Popular movements and the ideas behind...
Published on 15 Jun 2008 by darrelljon

versus
4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars V good reference book
The other reviews hone in on the leftist interpretation which the author most definetly takes.
(Some feel this is the major strength and of course others the major weakness)
For me the book's strength lay in how the author succinctly explains almost all the key events in 'recent history',
and also how some major events are given much more attention than...
Published on 14 July 2011 by touchtheclouds


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58 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, 15 Jun 2008
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This review is from: A People's History of the World: From the Stone Age to the New Millennium (Paperback)
Conventional history tells us the 20th Century's most significant events were World War I, World War II and perhaps the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Francis Fukuyama famously suggested liberal democracy within global capitalism eventually triumphed. A people's history takes a refreshingly different and more intelligent approach. Popular movements and the ideas behind them (which are usually overlooked) like the Second Spanish Republic in the 1930s, Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia 1968 are given the attention they deserve. This book covers not just the 20th Century but the whole of human history (with a brief chronology at the start of every part) and is one of the best history books I have ever read. It should be compulsory reading for history students, but also an inspiration for everyone to take decisions for themselves instead of leaving power in the hands of the few.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, Sweeping Treatise and History, 15 Jun 2013
By 
R. R. Patel (Netherlands) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A People's History of the World: From the Stone Age to the New Millennium (Paperback)
One somewhat negative review of this fantastic history states that it is 'biased'. Typical of someone who cannot see the bias in the history book he/she has in their mind. History is not science. The work Chris Harman has done to produce this truly epic piece of history is admirable on its' own, it is thorough (though it was inevitable that he missed some things I would like to have heard about and some things were glossed over, but that is true of any book of this type) and well researched.

Most importantly, however, the overriding analysis of history is refreshingly cogent and consistent. Whereas some history textbooks tend to state what they hope in vain to describe merely as how things happened and then analyze each episode individually, Harman has a clear analysis of history that he constantly reaffirms throughout the text where appropriate. He gets it right as well; he doesn't cherry pick, he doesn't propagate any conspiracy theories, he states history in a way that is not very controversial and applies enough analysis to make it interesting. The rest, which is drawing our own conclusions about exploitation, etc. is left to us. And I must say, he did a very good job indeed.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alternative history, 24 Nov 2010
This review is from: A People's History of the World: From the Stone Age to the New Millennium (Paperback)
Chris Harman's "Peoples History" is a pleasure to read. A necessary alternative to most traditional history books, which often seemingly are written by the view of "the victors". The views of kings, masters and generals is not the language of Chris Harman. For which this commentator is most grateful, as it gives a much needed view "from below", from the "people", thus, also the title. Harman's background and orientation as squarely belonging to the left, socialist, marxist ,( whichever chosen ettiquette ) will put some readers off. Pity! Rather to the contrary, - one needs people like Chris Harman, he should be read with an open mind, - maybe a few barriers will be broken. Like Howard Zinn has done for Peoples history of the United States,
and the critics Eurocentrism , like A.G. Frank, K.Pomeranz and J.M.Blaut have done , they attempt to break down the traditional view of history too often dominant in the West. Hommage to the alternative mind ! So, Harman should be considered a "must" .
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28 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The way history should be taught, 20 Aug 2008
By 
Tai (London, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A People's History of the World: From the Stone Age to the New Millennium (Paperback)
I found that this book was a lucid and objective account of history, which puts the pieces of the jigsaw together and in the right context. Parents should ensure that their children read this book after reading it themselves.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic general history, 16 Dec 2012
By 
Manzil (Southampton, UK) - See all my reviews
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Chris Harman offers a very readable, general history of human societies from a Marxist perspective.

Obviously, such an account has far greater breadth than depth. However, it excels at introducing the reader to any particular region or historical period, and provides a coherent argument for explaining the development of world history.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars V good reference book, 14 July 2011
This review is from: A People's History of the World: From the Stone Age to the New Millennium (Paperback)
The other reviews hone in on the leftist interpretation which the author most definetly takes.
(Some feel this is the major strength and of course others the major weakness)
For me the book's strength lay in how the author succinctly explains almost all the key events in 'recent history',
and also how some major events are given much more attention than they do in other similar works eg the Spanish Civil war, French revolution.
However if it is an indepth understanding of major historical events you want then this book is not ideal and
this is why I describe it as a very good reference book.
Also if your looking for alot of info. on ancient history it would be best to seek out something else.
This book concentrates much more on the medieval and modern periods so the title is a little misleading.

Overall - it is a v good reference book and beats the hell out of wikepedia as a reference point
(the latter seems to be where more and more people are getting their (inaccurate) knowledge these days)
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very useful book, 17 May 2013
This review is from: A People's History of the World: From the Stone Age to the New Millennium (Paperback)
This was a very useful book for my history module as it got to the point without going into unnecessary detail. However the main chapter I needed to use was the 'Rise of Christianity', but unfortunately Chris Harman spent more time trying to disprove Jesus Christs' existence rather than talk about Christianity in the Roman Empire.
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13 of 28 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but not a standard work., 28 May 2011
By 
Paul T Horgan (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A People's History of the World: From the Stone Age to the New Millennium (Paperback)
The late Chris Harman was a professional left-winger. By this I mean that he was steeped in left-wing politics, being a member of the Central Committee (aka politburo) of the Socialist Workers Party. According to Wikipedia, his role was to be the party's theorist. What is a party theorist? Well, as far as I can determine, it is to interpret events and opinions to see how they align with the views of the party and whether the party's ideologies should adjust to new events or how the party should react to them. Example - he would determine the party's position on the fall of the Berlin Wall.

So he is in a prime position to author a work interpreting history from a left-wing standpoint. And that is what this book is. Just because others adopt a 'Whig' view of history, Harman argues in his book that this is not necessarily the best interpretation. Certainly he does not interpret it this way.

Unfortunately, he does somewhat gloss over the mass deaths caused by communist movements in the 20th century in his rush to criticise every political movement that does not agree with his views. An example of his critique is to attack Churchill, by pointing out his 'failings' before his redemption as war leader, which is again glossed over. It is a matter for debate if this is because Churchill is rather a class enemy to the left regardless of his service to the nation.

But that is actually not my major criticism of the book. If a historian wishes to state facts to support an argument, all well and good. Different interpretations are a good way of helping you make up your mind. You can't describe yourself as versed in history if all you do is read Arthur Bryant. My major criticism is that Harman states his facts, but without substantiation. Proper history books devote at the very least 10% of their space to notes stating the sources of information to back up the of facts. Harman does not do this to great extent. So any of his non-noted 'facts' are automatically suspect. In a maths exam, you only get full marks for a question by showing your working. If you just give the result, you will not get a pass. This is, then, not a serious history book because of this important failure.

This book is interesting to read as a left-wing view of history, but surely not in isolation. Its lack of sufficient notes stating information sources mean that it should really only be regarded as a selective commentary. If you are not a committed left-winger, I would suggest that this is a useful insight into the mentality of the left. If you are a committed left-winger, well you will enjoy this validation and enhancement of your opinions, but please don't look on this as gospel.
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10 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected, 30 April 2010
By 
C. L. Dixon (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A People's History of the World: From the Stone Age to the New Millennium (Paperback)
This book is very heavy-going and is, as the title suggests but doesn't fully explain, focused on PEOPLE. I believe the author was a prolific Marxist author before he died, and this book does focus on the politics more so than actual 'content', which was what I was looking for. For instance, the book makes reference to events and people, but only with reference to the larger scope of society and doesn't actually explain very well what happened and why.
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8 of 27 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Trotskyist, i.e. false, view of history, 13 Dec 2011
By 
William Podmore (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A People's History of the World: From the Stone Age to the New Millennium (Paperback)
The late Chris Harman was the editor of the Socialist Workers Party's paper. In this book, he attempted to write a Marxist history of the world.

His method was to rely on good Marxists who did the best studies of each period of history. So for the rise of class societies, he relied on V. Gordon Childe, for the ancient world, on Geoffrey De Ste Croix, for the Middle Ages, on Rodney Hilton, for the great transformation, on Christopher Hill and J. V. Polisensky, for the spread of the new order, on George Rudé, and for the world turned upside down, on Albert Soboul, Marx and Engels. Unfortunately, when it came to the 20th century, he relied only on Trotsky and Tony Cliff.

How did Harman, this self-proclaimed revolutionary, deal with the 20th century's defining revolution, the great October revolution? He wrote that in 1926 Stalin adopted `a completely new doctrine known as `socialism in one country''. This ignored Lenin's article The United States of Europe slogan, where he wrote, "Uneven economic and political development is an absolute law of capitalism. Hence the victory of socialism is possible first in several or even in one capitalist country taken separately. The victorious proletariat of that country, having expropriated the capitalists and organised its own socialist production, would stand up against the rest of the world, the capitalist world."

Harman wrote that Stalin represented a ruling group whose `chief characteristic was inertia and complacency'. Yet this inert and complacent group "did break the backbone of private capitalism in Russia, and later did the same in Eastern Europe and China." Even Harman had to acknowledge `the economic success of the USSR' in the 1930s and its `rapid industrial advance' in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Harman's account of World War Two is provably false (see Grover Furr's Khrushchev lied for details). Harman wrongly wrote that Stalin ignored the Nazi threat and the warnings of war, that the Red Army was `utterly unprepared', that Stalin `panicked' when the Nazis attacked, that he turned to `chauvinism', that he `deported whole peoples' for no good reason, and that he ordered Soviet forces to stand back from Warsaw when the Nazis crushed the rising. Harman denied that World War Two was a war between progress and reaction, between democracy and fascism, and even doubted that the Grand Alliance was anti-fascist.

His analysis of revolution is fatally flawed by his embrace of the counter-revolutionary notion of state capitalism. Capitalist classes have used the state to develop the economy, but when a working class used the state to develop the economy, the SWP denounced it as practising capitalism. Any use of the state has, apparently, to be capitalist. This dogmatic opposition to the state is anarchism, the polar opposite of Marxism.
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