As in his previous work, this is also a book of extraordinary ambition, clarity, and style that follows the central notion that human history is the story of change, a deliberate shaping of experience and environment. Among the elements that have made the book uniquely appealing are its powerful vision and voice.
Roberts's book is exceptional in its genuinely global and comprehensive nature, showing the development of different civilizations through the ages, from our origins on the African savannah to A.D. 2002. Like no other book, it succeeds in conveying the staggering diversity of the human experience across a vast range of circumstances and habitats.
If there is one book anyone truly interested in history should hear, this is it.
©2002 J.M. Roberts; (P)2003 Blackstone Audiobooks
"Davidson's reading of this behemoth is actually a nice match of text and reader. His voice is clear and easily understood." (AudioFile)
It's difficult to summarize a book this long because there were moments of sheer brilliance and hours of near tedium but, overall, the better parts made it worth the listen. My favorite narrator, David Case (a/k/a Frederick Davidson) recorded it with his outstanding British accent. It sounds like he also recorded the author's update shortly after 9-11-01 because his voice is nearly gone but still loveable. Shortly thereafter his vocal cords were removed from cancer, so this may be his final recording. If you want to get a comprehensive summary of world history from ancient pre-humans down to the present, this is the book for you. Just be prepared for some passages with "all you ever wanted to know and more". But hang in there and you'll consider it worth the effort, I believe.
Since starting this book the world has taken on new forms. My Canadian/British background, spanish friends, building architecture at city hall, current world events, and scientific studies, all have taken on new meaning. Contrasted to a culture that has a memory of six months, this wonderful summary of world events changes the focus of ones attention. This book should be required reading for every person. The long legacy of human history is inspiring. Our daily lives become less of a burden when it is plain to see that even the greatest of people, from the pope, to kings, thinkers, and emperors are, in the end, no more then a line of text.
In terms of the length of the book, which is notable (and has allowed me to accumulate two more credits on my account) you really need to have a daily routine where you can listen for an hour or so. I take my dogs for a walk at night time, and find the slow progress of human history perfect accompaniment. The sound quality is not spectacular, but the voice is smooth, and well paced; but this all helps to allow the mind to create its own colour.
This is one of the best overview's of world history. It is presented in an easy to follow description. It is the only audio version of a world history overview that I could find. It is a great way to get a context for the big historical picture.
This is an exceptionally good overview of world history read by one of the very best narrators. Reviewers who found the book "Euro-centric" missed the point entirely. Roberts demonstrates that European values have largely been responsible for shaping the world as it is. He doesn't claim that this is all to the good, only that it is a fact. In fact, Roberts seems to have particular admiration for the Mongol Empire and modern China. How anyone construes this as Euro-centric is beyond me. Finally, another reviewer says that Frederick Davidson's narration is "affected and annoying." Perhaps he's never heard an intelligent reader before. Davidson is outstanding here. In fact, I often search for audiobooks according to the ones he's read. "Cry the Beloved Country" is a genius of narration.
The scope of this volume borders on epic proportion, organised Chronologically and presented in an easy to understand language. Normally, attempt to write a history for all people of all times fall into pitfalls of Eurocentricism and oversimplification, this volume too, has problems over emphasised on historical patterns and neglecting localities, however, his approach is more balanced than most other historians and considering the enormity of the project, one should not be too picky over small things. Overall, I admire the scholarship and the effort very much.
I loved this listen. It was informative and entertaining. What I really liked was that it covered world history fairly completely both in terms of specific incedents in time but also tracked trends across time. There were a few points that were a bit drawn out but, on the whole, well done!
This book presents a comprehensive view of world history (albeit from a macro-perspective) in an interesting and entertaining format. Its completion, in and of itself, is impressive given the massive scope of the project. The fact that the book maintains the reader's\listener's interest is nothing short of incredible.
Perhaps it is Davidson's outstanding narration. Listeners will find themselves transported to a relaxed, scholarly lecture in which interest is maintained by his masterful timing and skilled inflection. Davidson captivates his audience, and leads them on fascinating journey through time, at the end of which, you find yourself not only more educated, but also more empathetic.
I've listened through the entire book, and I've definitely learned quite a lot from it. However, there's been a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that the book could have been just as good at about half the length. The author alternates between historical narrative (useful) and long editorial segments that ultimately don't provide much information (not so useful). Dr. Roberts appears to have a significant interest in cultural/societal trends throughout history, but commentaries on these subjects unfortunately suffer from a flair towards wordy expositions that don't offer much substance. Also, for better or for worse, the book is decidedly Eurocentric (and especially Anglocentric), which may be understandable given Dr. Roberts' background. For example, more is discussed of the British occupation of India, as of the entire history of modern Latin America.
Overall, it is worth listening to in order to achieve a greater understanding of the flow of history and the complex interactions between civilizations over time. But I almost wish I had instead chosen an abridged version. (I have the book form of his "A short history of the world", which is much more succinct, although it leaves out much of the historical narrative and leaves in too much of the editorial commentaries.)
This was a very refreshing listen for me. Well written and read. My only complaint is that the text is very euro-centric. The author is in fact making a point that the world is the way it is due to European influence. However, I would have appreciated a balanced perspective that treated, for example, India on its own merits. India had writing for quite a while and plenty of conflict, invention, etc. This is glanced over at best. What about the spread of Buddhism? I think that gets a couple of sentences when in fact it is a key topic of eastern civilizations. Overall I still recommend this one for the great content that it does offer.
Letting the rest of the world go by
The author makes history come alive and the next minute of listening is as exciting as the previous. If I had one wish, it would be to be able to memorize this book. The book is overwhelming for it does cover over 2 million years of human history in one volume.
The author writes with snark which only adds to the story telling ("the coliseum represents the greatest display of violence until the Hollywood spectacles came along").
The book has a British slant and the narrator's British accent adds to the listening pleasure.
Listening to the book today (2012) adds to the experience because you can pick up on the 1989 perspective the author writes into the modern history part. Somethings that were important in 1989 are not as important as we thought they were and so on. It just shows that even good histories are a product of their times.
The beginning of the book until the 1800s is incredibly exciting and the author's snark is hilarious and adds an attitude to the story telling. The obvious biases of the time the book was written add to the listeners understanding of the real arc of history. There's probably not a better volume on world history than this book.
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