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on 17 October 2008
Who say's history is boring? Here we learn how past history will shape things to come...

Christopher Lloyd's book is a complete walk through of history from the big bang to the present day.

Providing history with such a holistic overview is a powerful reason to buy this book and should be a 'must have' item for every Year 7 school child in the UK studying history. It provides the reader with a true sense of history over time and space and the interrelationship with the natural environment - something that most children don't get an appreciation of in school. (I should know being an ex-teacher!)

The flexibility of the book is something that stands out - on the one hand it is an excellent reference book that will not date, on the other hand the author's easy and amusing narrative style makes this also a very easy "pick up and read when you like" coffee table book!

For me, it was a thoroughly enjoyable read from cover to cover. A gift for any occassion that will not fail to disappoint.
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on 7 November 2010
Want to understand what happened from the Big Bang onwards? This book is not only a joy to read, it is wonderfully informative and fascinating, especially to the non-scientific mind. I simply couldn't bear to part with it. Having renewed it three times at my library and read through it twice, I'll now happily invest in my own copy for future use and reference.
I'd never heard of the collision of planets Earth and Theia. Nor of a volcano that erupted for over a million years, that contributed to the Permian mass extinction; nor the crashing of the Indian plate into Asia, creating the Himalayas. Later in the book, I read about Ashoka, the Indian King, who spread the ideals of Buddhism throughout Asia; learned about Hammurabi, King of Babylon, who almost 4,000 years ago, established the legal principle that an accused is innocent until proven guilty.
I always wondered how scientists used carbon dating until this book explained it. I marvelled at the picture of what looked like a 'modern' work of art: the Venus of Willendorf, created some 24,000 years ago. How is it possible that Eratosthenes, hundreds of years before Christ, managed correctly to calculate the circumference of the earth?
I could go on, as every page contains gems of information that I wish I could fix in my mind.
Congratulations, Christopher Lloyd. Your book is a masterpiece, as far as I'm concerned.
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on 17 October 2008
This is a fabulous book ... an important book ... not just a history book but something that gives a fantastic perspective, a glimpse of how we got here. The narrative flows through key points of the story of planet, the life on the planet and critically how humans fit into this story in the extraordinarily brief moment we've been
around. It weaves together the disparate bits of knowledge you may have along with much that probably you don't know into something that connects & illuminates. The whole is even greater than the sum of the parts ... indeed it is quite a moving experience at times and certainly enormously stimulating and relevant to many of the big questions we ask; both philosphical, political and simply everyday curiousities.
The book also has user friendly lay out making it easy to use as a reference or a good read. There are top ten lists e.g. key events, people, fruits & seeds, creatures etc and time is condensed & colour coded onto a 24hr clock. Eye opening and working on a number of different levels, I can thoroughly recommend this to everyone.What on Earth Happened?: The Complete Story of the Planet, Life and People from the Big Bang to the Present Day
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on 4 October 2009
I found my opinion on this book swinging from negative to positive and back again as I read it. This is an excellent HISTORY book, but it's very weak when it comes to an understanding of science.

The first issue came with the description of how our universe came into existence. Leaving aside the fact that it crudely describes gravity as "glue", I found the presentation, several times throughout the book, of the theory that Earth collided with another planet called Theia to create our moon as if it were fact, rather than being merely one of several plausible theories, to be bordering on dishonesty.

I set this aside though as the book proceeded further into our history, because I started to appreciate that this being the 'in brief' version of this book that the author valued brevity ahead of absolute honesty in some areas. I began to thoroughly enjoy it from that point onwards and strongly admire the way it presents the history of various early civilisations in an easy to understand chronological manner, that many history books struggle to manage...often you're left with only a sketchy appreciation of what happened to who first, but this book handles this problem well, particularly in the way it will reference itself at points where overlaps occur so you can go back to an earlier page and re-read a section relevant to the section you're now at.

Unfortunately the book lets itself down again towards the end when the author starts to discuss modern problems of life. The information presented regarding CO2 levels and climate change feel as if it's been taken straight from the IPCC website, especially when it starts to mention a system of carbon trading as a way forward. This part is nonsense and immediately brought my earlier misgivings back to the surface. CO2 does not drive climate change, despite what the politically motivated officials behind the Kyoto protocol would have you believe, and unfortunately the author seems to have bought their drivel hook, line and sinker. He mentions CO2 repeatedly in the charts at the very rear of the book also, as if it were the only factor important in heating our planet...it may interest him to know that the sun has a lot more to do with it. Reliable research has shown a direct correlation between sun spots and cloud cover being the main factor in driving climate change...research which, by the way, had difficulty finding funding because it contradicts the current political orthodoxy which promotes CO2 levels over all else.

This unfortunatley tarnishes all the good work that's gone into this book because, with history not being my strongest suite, I now find myself wondering how reliable some of the other information is when he gets it so wrong in other areas...

I notice that the most popular reviews on amazon for this book are identical for both this, the brief version, and the more complete book and have managed to attract around 30 positive votes each to keep them on the front page, despite this book being puplished for only a few months now, making me wonder both about the reliability and impartiality of those reviews and also whether I should bother reading the complete version.*

To sum up...this is an enjoyable and well structured history book, but in areas of science, it's highly dubious. Bill Brysons book, A Short History of Nearly Everything approaches the same subject but more intelligently, but to give Christopher Lloyd his due, he presents the history in a better fashion. Christopher Lloyd (no relation to the actor surely;P) would do well to research climatology. The chapter on global warming in the book Scared to Death: From BSE to Global Warming - Why Scares are Costing Us the Earth would be an excellent place to start.

*Edit- I was interested to see how quickly an entirely independent review (ie. this one) could attract votes here...so far, after several days of being here... albeit not being shown on the first page which I appreciate means that perhaps no-one has even read this yet;)...not one vote, either positive or negative. I am fairly suspicious now that these reviews are easily manipulated by biased/interested parties wanting to increase sales.

*Edit: January 2012.

I'm formally retracting this review.
Having spent a long time checking up on the science behind global warming, I must confess to having changed my mind. Most of the work on the denialist side of the global warming debate can eventually be traced back to the work of just a few scientists (Willie Soon, Richard Lindzen, Fisher and Avery, Christie and Spencer, the Idso's and some others whose names escape me right now). All of their work has been thoroughly debunked, but if you check the references from any advocate against anthropegenic global warming (Bjorn Lomborg, Christopher Booker, the alleged Lord Monckton ;p etc, etc....) they all still quote the work of these few scientists, of whom only Willie Soon and his cohort ever had anything published in a peer reviewed journal, and that actually led to several resignations at that journal in protest over the failure of the peer review process in that case.

Sorry kids, it seems we are destroying the world afterall...

As such, I'm changing the star rating from a 3 to a 5...an all round good book;)
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on 6 September 2011
I have no need to add to the reviews of this fantastic book - except to warn you that it may change your life!
But I would suggest that you don't try to read it on Kindle. Firstly there are lots of page cross-references, but in this 'edition' (it's not an edition - it's just an electronic version of the paperback one) you can't 'go to' pages. Second, the plates, even zoomed up by the x2 that is possible, are illegibly small, and of course not in colour.
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on 15 October 2008
What an amazing and beautiful book! Christopher Lloyd
tells the story of the the whole of history, from the big bang until today,
in a wonderfully lively, enthralling way, with an incredible lightness of
touch - it's a real masterpiece. I'd recommend this book to absolutely
everyone.
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on 27 March 2016
A history of the world from the formation of the universe to the present day (published 2008). The last chapter is titled ‘What now?’ Big themes are laid before the reader in unpretentious form by the entertaining author Christopher Lloyd. He isn’t afraid to, or concerned not to, put his own views forward and challenge existing thinking. He covers the ground more than well enough for me.

If you are inclined to nit pick, require detailed coverage of your own special interests or likely to be violently exercised by other’s views on Islam, climate change or who invented gunpowder, this book isn’t for you. But it was ideal for me and, in my view, it will be ideal for others like me who do not have the time, inclination or ability to read Gibbons, Herodotus, Hawking et al.

For the general reader, of which I am one, great slabs of history can only be easily digested if they are lively and challenging. This can only be achieved if the author does not take himself or the subject too seriously. Lloyd introduces anecdotes, slants, interpretation and asides that bring the subject and periods to life. He canters through history at a pace guaranteed to maintain the reader’s interest.

Events are juxtaposed and brought into sharp relief - I was drawn to the contrast between the US Constitution (1787) founded on the inalienable rights of landowners and the French ‘Declaration of the Rights of Man..’, (1789) drafted to remove class based inequality. In 87 BC, when Boadicea was storming Colchester (Camulodunum) and could have done with some gunpowder, Emperor Wu ordered the Chinese civil service to hold merit based written examinations. In 1400 BC the Olmecs (Mexico) were playing a team game called Ulama, using a rubber ball in courts 80M long by 8M wide. It sounds very like basketball, losing sides were often sacrificed t the gods.

317 pages, 11 of index, 17 of the author’s chronological tables (threats to life on earth, natural events, people, fruits and seeds etc.) and 17 brilliant colour maps and charts showing mammal migrations, the silk route, the spread of Buddhism, the spread of Islam etc. A really well put together, educational, stimulating and informative book. 5 stars.
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on 15 October 2008
"What On Earth Happened" is written by Chris Lloyd, a brilliant scholar and polymath. It is BIG history with great insights into the history of the earth from the BIG BANG to the present day . . . . . a brilliant ride through the past 13.7 billion years. Hugely recommended, accessible and wonderfully quirky.
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on 7 September 2011
This is an excellent book that explains how we got to be where we are right now. Most history is taught from a single perspective (European/Chinese/American) or in chunks (world wars/colonisation) whereas this book covers global history chronologically. Each chapter went into just enough detail for me to get an understanding of how the topic is relevant to the world I currently live in. Also it gave me a more holistic view of global history and the contribution each major civilisation made to the modern world, rather than the European post industrialisation view that I had from my history class and watching television. This is a book that I will be recommending to all my friends.

I took away one star as some of the graphic are difficult to read on the kindle version and the book uses page numbers rather than hyperlinks for references.
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on 3 April 2009
"What On Earth Happened" is a brief history of the world from the beginning. It includes scientific, cultural, artistic, political, religious, ethical, philosophical and environmental perspectives - why each began, how each developed, where they fit (or don't) in today's world, and what their contribution might be to the future. If you feel you want a clearer, bigger picture of how it all fits together, presented in a very accessible format of text and illustrations, then this book is a must! Some might call it a coffee table book - but I read it from cover to cover; transfixed by the way random pieces of information stored unhelpfully in my memory were given a legitimate place in the structure of everything else. Nothing is covered in detail, which might be frustrating for some. However, this is the book I wish I had read as a teenager before encountering the world through the eyes of my own specialist area. Rather than finding yourself dangling in the midst of life with a lot of understanding about your immediate field, but little about everyone else's, read this book to put the rest in perspective,
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