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In Search Of The First Civilizations Paperback – 7 Apr 2005

4.5 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: BBC Books; Mass Market Ed edition (7 April 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0563522666
  • ISBN-13: 978-0563522669
  • Product Dimensions: 12.5 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 116,782 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Michael Wood is a highly acclaimed, best-selling author and TV presenter, as well as a regular contributor to BBC History magazine. The BBC have published Michael's previous TV tie-in titles: In Search of the Dark Ages, In Search of the Trojan War, Domesday, In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great, Conquistadors and In Search of Shakespeare. Michael Wood was born in Manchester and was educated at Manchester Grammar School and Oriel College, Oxford, where he went on to do post-graduate research in Anglo-Saxon history. He has worked as a journalist, broadcaster and film-maker with over fifty documentary films to his name, the most recent of which is the acclaimed BBC television series Conquistadors and In Search of Shakespeare. Other recent films by Michael include Legacy and Saddam's Killing Fields, an account of the destruction of the Marsh Arabs of southern Iraq.

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Customer Reviews

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By Peter Uys HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 11 Nov. 2005
Format: Paperback
This interesting book was adapted from the script of a popular TV series. Ambitious in scope, it attempts to describe the first 5000 years of our known civilizations. In its six chapters, the author provides a broad historical portrait of various cultures in order to find their legacy and spirit.
Iraq: The Cradle Of Civilization, explores the fertile crescent of the Sumerians, Babylonians and others, up to modern times and including the golden age of Baghdad. The chapter India: Empire Of Spirit, includes the early cultures of the Indus and the Ganges, plus religions that originated there, like Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism. It includes the periods of Islamic and British rule in the subcontinent.
There are illuminating passages on Confucius, Taoism and the contact with the West in the chapter China: Mandate Of Heaven, whilst Egypt: Habit Of Civilization, deals with the early dynastic period, the pyramid era, the spread of Christianity, the end of Paganism and the Islamic era. The achievements of the Aztecs, Maya and Olmecs are explored in Central America: Burden Of Time.
The last chapter is titled The Barbarian West. It contains information on, amongst other, the legacy of Greece, the rise of Rome, the Dark Ages, the Enlightenment and the roots of the Modern West. Plenty of maps throughout the text place the history in geographical context and are a great asset. In addition, there are 16 pages of colour plates with impressive photographs.
The book is for the lay reader as of course, no study of 6 civilizations can go into any great depth in one short book. It nevertheless provides enjoyable reading and much food for thought. The book concludes with a bibliographic essay discussing sources by theme, and an index.
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Format: Paperback
When I first brought this book I assumed it would describe the Early Civilisations of Sumer, Egypt, India, and the Americas, perhaps in the same vein as Glyn Daniel's 'The First Civilisations: The Archaeology of their origins'. I was therefore surprised and slightly disappointed to see that this was actually a quick trip through 5,000 years of Human history, from Ancient Sumeria to Saddam Hussein. But whatever disappointment I first had with the book began to disappear as I continued to be drawn in by the author's stirring prose. Michael Wood explains the origins of these early civilisations, and how they developed and grew into the modern societies that exist today. He analyses the history of Iraq, India, China, Egypt, Central America and the 'Barbarian' West in order to capture something of the essence and spirit of these cultures, and how they defined Civilisation. He also shows how the pendulum of history swings, by explaining how the powerful ancient civilisations of Iraq, Egypt, and China were overtaken and surpassed by Western Europe, a process that didn't get fully into swing until the 16th century AD. In order to give you an idea on the breadth of this book, in the last chapter, the Barbarian West, which is around 25 pages long, it explains the history of the West from the Greeks and Romans to the Dark Ages and Medieval period, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Founding of the USA, the Industrial Revolution, right up to the 21st century. As you can imagine, you cannot do justice to 2,500 years worth of continental history in only 25 pages, but Wood does not give you chronological guide to the period, but instead shows how Western Culture, be it arts, music, or science, came to dominate the world.Read more ›
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By A Customer on 26 Jan. 2006
Format: Paperback
In the ‘barbarian west’ we seem to view other eastern and older cultures as being less-advanced, less ‘civilised’. Over the past few hundred years western society has interfered with and meddled with countless other peoples of the world with a blinkered view of supremacy, but what about the time before?
Michael Wood examines the written and archaeological remains of ancient city civilisations in Iraq, India, China, Egypt and Central America to identify the beliefs and essence of these early cultures and looks at how they have changed and evolved over time.
At the heart of this book lies deep questions regarding civilisation and belief; belief in humanity, spirituality, religion, in ancestors, culture, past and future. This is a book to engage the senses, to make you consider the belief systems of today, whether that is religious, environmental or humanist. Using a broad historical perspective Wood gives an overview of immense power, comparing the identities of these past cultures and tracing the threads of the first cultural values through subsequent incarnations up to and including today. Most illuminating and enjoyable were his descriptions of traditions which have survived the passing of time, he is right that these are the things that really make history come to life.
More than anything it opened my eyes to the vast wealth of history and culture in the world. Until recently I admit to have been largely ignorant of the richness of the 5 first civilisations, and we westerners are poorer people for not knowing and recognising the achievements and power of the distant past.
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