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A History of the World Audio Download – Unabridged

4.5 out of 5 stars 198 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Audio Download
  • Listening Length: 26 hours and 34 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Macmillan Digital Audio
  • Audible.co.uk Release Date: 1 Oct. 2012
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009T9UOY0
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank:

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As Marr himself admits, no book, no matter whether it's titled A History of the World or not, can ever succeed in comprehensively covering the entirety of history. So, as he explains in his introduction, he has chosen to focus on "big man" history: well-known individuals who are often, though not always, rulers. This seems on the face of it a rather traditionalist approach to history, a throwback to decades past where historians only seemed to talk about kings and queens. That kind of history has fallen out of favour in the past 30 years, replaced by an interest in social history, gender history, world theory, and phenomenology; the heretofore "untold" stories. So why is Marr writing about powerful individuals? Marr explains that, like it or not, a small number of people throughout history had greater agency than others, the ability to act to change the circumstances around them. He sees these individuals as important because they drove the great changes of history, and although much of the human past is marked by consistency and continuation, it is the changes that have made the biggest difference in our social evolution.

Marr divides human history into defined eras and then selectively talks about a handful of key "change-makers" in each era. Naturally this type of history leaves out a lot, but the examples Marr chooses are, he feels, demonstrative of the most important changes of their era. By picking out key figures and identifying patterns that emerge in history, Marr is able to bring together the whole and explain the significance of the patterns he draws out. It's left to the reader to decide whether the conclusions Marr draws are insightful or nonsensical.

In my opinion, some of what Marr presents to us in this book is a little dubious.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase

Andrew Marr A History of the World

It is, as Andrew Marr is the first to insist, a ludicrous undertaking. Professional and amateur historians will carp endlessly over this detail, that generalisation, this conclusion and the whole tenor and methodology of the book. And they will be right. But Marr's achievement remains impressive. Forget the National Curriculum, were every teenager in Britain to read A History of the World, we'd all be living in a more enlightened place. There would certainly be a surge in the numbers opting to read History at university. And standards of written English would markedly improve.

How strong is your grasp of the history of the last twenty thousand years? If it is shaky, you could do much worse than spend a month, or several, reading and re-reading this brave attempt to bring some clarity and coherence to everything that's happened to the human race. Of course Marr has his ideological blinkers: he's a human being. His fiercest critic will have his own set of prejudices and blindspots. Any attempt to sketch the larger picture will sacrifice accuracy and balance for a sharp outline, a direction of travel.

Marr believes, all things considered, that liberal capitalism is a triumph over the dark forces, that the world is moving towards the light. He does not paint an uncritical picture of the process but, especially when it comes to the last century, the territory is so complex that in order to say anything, he is forced to simplify at the cost of plausibility and, frankly, intellectual honesty.
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Format: Hardcover
Two years ago, I read 'a history of the world in 100 objects'. I felt a huge leap in my concept of human history. At school, I learnt English history, with a little bit of Scottish history thrown in (I am Scottish). That book helped me to understand how much more there is, and whetted my appetite to learn more. Andrew Marr's book I found expanded my horizons equally, especially its attention to what for me were "new" historic civilizations, and the concept of comparative developments around the world. The book is necessarily brief on all of the specific civilizations it touches on, but is both complete in itself and provides an excellent starting point for those who want to learn more about areas covered in the book. My primary school age children loved the BBC series.
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Format: Paperback
This is a rather idiosyncratic but very useful history. If you want something much more comprehensive, try Roberts' Penguin History of the World. Marr's world history does some odd things and you will find some famous brutes like Stalin and Tamerlane only appearing where they have relevance to something else the author is interested in. Alexander, Jesus and Lenin get succinct little snapshots, likewise Caesar, Hitler and Gorbachev. However, it is this selectivity that is the making of this book: Marr is interested in explaining why things happened, cause and effect. So long as you don't mind much coverage of your own particular preoccupation (I note a lot of other critics arguing about Islam), you will be well served by this book. For a particularly remarkable chapter, I would suggest the third, 'The Sword and the Word', particularly the influence of the Jews and the realities of Caesarism.

Throughout the book, Marr keeps an eye on our troubled present. He tries hard to ensure that we do learn some historical lessons which may serve us. While not covering much of the lives of ordinary people, he does at times acknowledge their timeless efforts, especially when considering prehistorical development. While he promotes a 'great man' style of history, he is careful to place them in their context, realising that in another set of circumstances, this and that great person would be unlikely to have emerged. He does not ignore the ebb and flow of determining factors.

Some applause and brickbats. The photographs are excellent and not the usual fare. During his coverage of the Stone Age, he does get rather boring when he discusses artefacts as symbols of the level of civilisation; I got heartily sick of the litany of vases and jewellery. At times, dates and dynasties get confused, especially dealing with Chinese dynasties. At times, the proofreader seems to have fallen asleep. Interesting coverage of Deng Xiaoping.
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