68 of 73 people found the following review helpful
For all ages,
This review is from: A Little History of the World(RoughCut) (Hardcover)
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...