on 22 May 2011
Spanning four continents and several millenia, Hart Davis delivers a concise and entertaining account of the legacies of past civilisations. Inventions and discoveries range from the practical (irrigation, writing and warfare), to the luxurious (silk, chocolate and Roman baths) and those whose utilisation did not become widespread until many centuries later (batteries and computers). Hart Davis's conversational TV style adapts well to the written word, with jargon-free text accompanied by informative diagrams.
There is at least one glaring discrepancy: the age of the Baghdad battery is cited as being "at least 2,000 years" in the text, but possibly only half that in the plates. To be fair, there is some room for doubt as to its actual age, but it is disappointing that the editors did not attempt to reconcile or at least explain the discrepancy.
The book does not attempt to provide a detailed account of each invention. Its strength is to convey the capacity of each of the great civilisations to overcome their own challenges, thereby leaving the reader speculating what legacies of the current era will endure for generations to come.