Top critical review
21 people found this helpful
on 5 December 2008
This book was written by the famous art historian E. H. Gombrich in 1936, as a childrens book for the German speaking market. It has been in print ever since and was being updated for an English market and translated by him, at the time of his death. Apparently he was to edit it to be more English focused, with more information about things like the English Civil War. The work was finished by his assistant but without the added material.
I think this is a shame. At a mere 280 pages you realise that he is never going to include everything. Nobody could, but it is very Europe focused. It also only touches very briefly on places like India and China. I couldn't help reading it thinking about everything that wasn't there.
Nevertheless, for a child who is first approaching the idea of history and what it is, and what it means, it would probably be a magical thing. It starts with the phrase once upon a time, and does its best to include all the more wondrous elements that history has included, the growth of reading and writing, the study of the stars, the great leaps forward that man has made, as well as the more bloody aspects of history.
It deals with religion in a very balanced and thoughtful way, which I was wondering about when I first started reading. So many of our wars and troubles come from disagreements about God and Gombrich's own life was shaped hugely by the First and Second World Wars, but it is an exercise in diplomacy and philosophy and works very well.
The book is attractively packaged with clear text, good maps and wonderful woodcuts which really would make this book an excellent gift for a child beginning to think about its place in the world.