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Customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars

on 11 May 2003
This is the book that had such a powerful impact on Malcolm X. Its easy to see why. The history of the world is vividly outlined in an erudite and readable style. (Ever since I read ‘The Time Machine’ when I was sixteen, I have considered Wells to be the clearest writer of prose in the English language.) Wells takes us from the very beginning of life right up to the League of Nations in 1922, stopping off at most points in-between: Neolithic cavemen, Periclean Athens, Roman and Byzantium civilisations, the life of Jesus, Confucius and Lao Tse, the rise of Islam, the Dark Ages, the Renaissance, discovery of America, the Industrial Revolution, World War I, and so on. The book is breathtaking in its scope, but Wells manages to give a succinct, vivid and comprehensive view of world history. I have found myself re-reading many of the chapters and I do not doubt that I will soon be re-reading the book in its entirety. There is little to criticise in this book – maybe it is a little Euro-centric; in the last chapters he does tend to labour his point a bit; and the early chapters are a little dated as we now know so much more about the evolution of our species. These are mere quibbles. Read it and become informed. Read it and be entertained.
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on 17 October 2017
Enlightening, HG Wells reaches back through history , and his summation of the treatment of the working class by their "superiors" is well observed. Ignore history at your peril.
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on 7 March 2005
This is a book you can read over and over again. Periods of history, Empires, their rise and fall, yet never overwhelming. It's sufficient in data with maps and chronology, but still ultimately readable, throwing in a human perspective occasionally ; what life was like. Read of Jesus and Mohammed as historical characters,
read about Alexander the Great and Attila the Hun. It's a springboard to further reading, but enough information to give you perspective. One of the most treasured books on my shelf.
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on 31 October 2016
On the face of it, this is a very brief history of the world from the creation until the end of the First World War, written by H.G. Wells. Yet there is far more subtlety to this book to make it appealing. It is the very fact that the book is written in 1922 (with footnotes detailing significant changes since then) that is the essence of this book - it shows how people regarding the history of society in the early 1920s, immediately after the First World War that really sets the scene. Clearly this means there are some inaccuracies, but don't let that put you off. I found the book to be very readable (chapters are very short) and the focus is really on organisational systems / people (eg. Greeks / Romans).

I found the reflections of the cause of the First World War particularly interesting (and relevant).
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on 28 January 2002
At first I was hesitant about this book. This final edition of the book was finished just before the author's death just after World War 2. It is therefore a dated book and a lot of scholarship has happened in that time period. Once I started reading the book, however, my doubts evapourated. Wells uses the great literary abilities he has in fiction to create one of the best written works of historiography you will ever come across. Moreover the idea of writing a complete world history from dawn to dusk actually works. It gives you an appreciation of the interconnectedness of all the events throughout history to each other throughout the world. I love both history and theology. This book enables me to contextualize both the events of history I have studied and the religions I have studied within the overall history of this planet. I have learnt more from this little book than I have from other much bigger and scholarly books. My recomendation to you is simply, READ IT!!!
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on 11 June 2011
Recounting the history of the world in a shade under 300 pages is not a task for the faint hearted! Luckily, the erudition and imagination of H G Wells is equal to the challenge.

Of course, there are sweeping generalisations, periods of history passed over in a blink of the eye and parts of the globe barely mentioned. And yes, sometimes the author's own views intrude, particularly when he is dealing with more recent periods. Moreover, and perhaps inevitably this is a largely Eurocentric version of history. In fairness, however, Wells makes a point of showing how different races and parts of the world have excelled across the epochs; and in particular he attacks the then (the book was first published in 1922) prevalent assumption that Europeans were somehow inherently superior to everyone else.

As importantly, the need for brevity forces a focus on the impact on human history of ideas, cultures and technology (and indeed, on how those three interact one with the other) and shows how they (and not the transitory excitements of politics) are drivers of change.

This broad view makes the book interesting and thought provoking; it is also remarkably prescient. For example, Wells highlights the need for European countries to combine if Europe is not to tear itself apart, and hints at the potential of a modernised China. Unfortunately there are one or two factual errors; and I cannot forbear from mentioning one of those: Adam Smith is described as an English economist - he was, of course, Scottish.

Nonetheless, although written almost 90 years ago, there is plenty in this book that is relevant today, and it is well worth a read.
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on 20 July 2007
In addition to all of the other glowing and positive reviews below, I'd like to humbly add the following......

When it came to my O'levels (GCSE's), I was given the choice of History or Geography; looking back I think it was unfortunate that I chose Geography.

I stumbled across an earlier version of this book about 30 years ago and have never looked back. For me it made the subject so interesting and accessible. The read is absolutely captivating and you really won't want to put it down once you've started.

Obviously because of the author, the book only goes up to around the time of WWII. If you enjoy this book as much I have then you may wish to expand your knowledge with dynamite read by "J.M. Roberts" called "The New Penguin History of the World".

Both of these books are classics, or certainly will be and really ought to be in pride of place in all school book library history sections if not on each student's desk during history lessons!! Essential reading and fantastic reference for any history buff.
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on 29 February 2004
The book is fantastic for when one is thinking on something which has happened in past centuries and wants a quick refresh but is not bothered to go into the detailed historical account. It is in fact a pleasure for bed time reading, something which is not very common for history books.
The detail is of course very superficial. The 'Beginning of the World' is described in just two pages!
However the sequence of events and so many years of mankind's events described and presented in so much a concise manner is the reason why one would want to put aside a few hours for this book.
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on 30 January 2011
If you are interested in History, let's face it you probably read it already. For everyone else, this is a must! Wells' writing talent are unquestionable reading through our planets history. He portraits history as the interesting and exciting part of knowledge that it is/should be. This editions' addition notes and updates on some of the more outdated remarks are very helpful as well.
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on 26 April 2000
How will our race change over the next 100 years? This review of our history not only allows us to put into context where we are today but provides some useful insight into trends that allow us to make some assumptions on how we will proceed and at what pace. This is a must read for everyone on the planet; for those still inhabiting the primordial swamps to those defining the new world
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