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on 23 June 2013
This is a brilliant book chronicling the history of the world from the emergence of the first humans to the current global economic collapse. Written in a very clear, easy to understand and concise language, the chapters are short, clearly titled and can each be read in about ten minutes. The book can be read as a continuous narrative or delved into as a source of reference. It describes how human society first evolved as small clans of hunter-gatherers, roaming along the great river-banks of Africa, Europe and Asia, foraging for food, living what Karl Marx described as a "primitive communist" existence. It describes the three great transormations in human history:

(1) The agricultural revolution which gave rise to increased food surpluses as land was farmed and animals bred, leading to the growth of more permanent settlements with larger populations;

(2) The rise of social classes as a small elite was able to gain control over the surplus and use it for their own purposes to the detriment of the great majority;

(3) The industrial revolution and the rise of capitalism leading to a vast increase in productive capacity.

This is not a history focussed on a few kings, queens, emperors, generals, presidents etc. It is not a "history from above" as we are taught in school and via the media. Of a few great men and occasionally women with the rest of humanity just passive observers. This is a "history from below" focussed on how the masses have taken centre stage at key points in history and played a decisive role in transforming the world. It looks at the three engines of history and describes how they have acted to shape past events:

(1) Technological development;

(2) The struggle within and between rival ruling classes;

(3) The struggle between the ruling classes and the exploited classes.

This is an essential book for understanding how human society has evolved, how it changes, the forces that are at work (often behind the scenes) and how it can be changed in future. It is written from a Marxist perspective and was first published in serial form on the web site "Counterfire". Even if you do not consider yourself to be a Marxist, or if you have limited knowledge of what Marxism is, you will find this a fascinating and illuminating read showing how world events are often linked and describing not just what happened in history, but why.
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on 2 May 2013
Noam Chomsky : "There's a good reason why nobody studies history. It just teaches you too much". When history is taught ,the orthodox tends to be seen as being objective .When history is investigated & perceived from the heterodox view-point , this will be more readily challenged .But this paradoxically can help the student dig deeper - for the truth.Neil Faulkner reveals that what happened in the past was not predetermined.Choices were numerous & different outcomes - liberation or barbarism - were often possible.Rejecting the top-down approach to conventional history.Faulkner contends that it is mass action of ordinary people that drives events..A really fascinating read - can't recommend it too highly ! Michael E
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on 11 August 2014
I am not an historian, nor an academic of any kind. I have, however, had an interest in Marx's and Engels' writings since I studied economics for a professional exam some 50 years ago. The economics text books for the course did not, as far as I know, mention Marx, and did not, I do know, make the then and now standard view of economics make any sense. I picked up a magazine concerned with socialism (from the SPGB actually) and from there read as much as I could about Marxist economics. Suddenly I could make sense of the world.

One of the problems I have had, though, is reconciling M&E’s writings with my own lifetime's world events (since 1942), notably when arguing the toss with those less persuaded by 19th century socialists. Neil Faulkner's book has brought my views up to date, and shown me that all I had read and accepted before is still relevant. It also opened my eyes to many points that I had never appreciated. I wish its equivalent had been a required text in my school history classes. It would be frowned upon even today, though.

I read this book in seven days; I couldn't put it down, it was that gripping. But that was only a first reading; there is a huge amount of information and ideas here which could be a stimulus to finding out a bit more.

Opposed to Socialism? Read this book.
Opposed to Capitalism? Read this book.
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on 9 April 2014
What I write here is scarcely a review, just a few scrappy comments. Neil Falkner writes clearly and interestingly about the social forces shaping changes in our human society. It is real honest, understandable history, not confined to kings queens and killings, he gets behind those crazy appearances to show us what was really going on, how different ruling classes emerged and fought one another tooth and nail for the privilege of exploiting the majority of ordinary folk, It is a belting book. Read it, read it!
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on 25 August 2015
Brilliant book. Far superior to the Andrew Marr rubbish. This is history as it should be taught. No glossing over the unsavoury bits. Faulkner's narrative is concise and to the point. He highlights the hidden agenda that runs through history and exposes the process by which Humankind is manipulated.. This should be on the history syllabus of every school in the world.
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on 2 October 2014
This book did meet my expectations and more. It was certainly an eye opener, written in a easy understandable way making sense of Marxist theory intertwing with human history through the various political and economic systems that have prevailed since time unmemorable. Also, lots of clarification as to the onward drive of capitalism with its consequences for the planet and society. As a result of reading the book four members of my family have bought the book too.
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on 15 February 2016
The nobel prize winner Alexander Solzhenitsyn exposed the Marxist fraud for what it really is. One elite replaced another, the Csars for the communist elite. When Sartre read Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago he lamented 'where shall we go', 'what shall we do'. Simone De Beauvoir drew on metaphor saying that a 'whirlwind' would take her to the grave. Communism had imploded. The whirlwind was the ghosts of the tens of millions of ordinary people murdered in the name of the Marxist revolution and now rising from the grave in the most damning indictment of Marxism the world has ever seen. The model state was an apple with maggots emerging from within the core. Like Shaw and too many others, the great Marxist project of the Soviet union had been visited by tourist intelligentsia. Read what Shaw said. Then Sartre. The sixty million who died in the gulags in forced labour camps never happened. When Estonia took down the hammer and sickle flag and declared its independence, workers in Red Square held up banners saying, 'Workers of the world. We're sorry.' I am working class. Their words mean more to me than this white privileged view of a comfortable academic spouting from the safety of a chair in a university. Isn't it funny how privileged Marxists assume the right to speak for the working class? WIthout them to dictate about they have no mandate. Their mandate is forced upon them. Like the elitist rulers they criticize they decide what is good for them.

Funny how Momentum - the radical left movement in Labour - sing The Red Flag, with its lyric that the song is sung in the halls of Moscow? Shame on them. It certainly wasn't sung in the concentration camps of the gulags where people were starved, tortured, and worked to death on an industrial scale. Good old Marxism.

The Gulag Archipelago and A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich destroy the myth-making Marxism of this book, that history is created by a collective body, ennobled and envisioned by collectivism and collective concerns. The reality in Soviet Russia was a brutal dictatorship. The wounds of that failed repression and genocide are still with us and books like this fail to engage with the failure of Marxism and its ultimate betrayal in practice of the working class.
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on 29 June 2014
Very well written. Only half way through and can't wait to read the rest. I very much recommend this book.
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on 23 July 2015
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