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)
poet and teacher
The standard for world history. while it is impossible to please everyone this comes closest.
As far as I could tell, the book is an excellent work. While my American ear finds most British accents quite pleasing, Davidson's accent is so thick that I found it distracting and ended up missing quite a bit. In the end, I couldn't finish the listen. One of these days I will pick up the book at the library and am certain it will be a good read.
I spread this audiobook out over many months listening to it in small pieces. It was much better than any comparable history textbooks you will find and if you want a great overview of the major historical characters and events this is a great source. I'd like to get a hardcopy just for reference and to see what charts, lists and maps I missed out on.
This is a valuable, albeit basically Eurocentric, history, that goes into sufficient detail to allow you feel familar with each epoch. So far, it has avoided any overtly political agendas and over speculation.
Had I know the reader was David Case, however, I would never have purchased it. For this book he uses a pseudonym, but his flaws remain.He is such a lazy, apparently undirected or produced - certainly uncorrected - reader that I swore never to listen to him again. Some may mistake his accent for a sign of literacy, but to call his pronunciations "non-standard" is generous, whether one looks for them in British or American usage. Further, he seems often unable to distinguish between a comma and a full stop, leaving a closely listening reader to repeat the sentence in the mind, adjusting the dependancy of clauses simply to make sense of what one has just heard.
While I recommend what Roberts has to say, I find myself irritatingly distracted by who is saying it. Buy the book, but be prepared to work far harder at listening than a competent reader would permit.
This is a good history of the world. My only complaint is that Davidson's accent is so thick that I missed too much of the text to be able to follow the flow of the book. I had to listen to it several times to understand what he is saying. I hesitate to give it a three rating because so much is lost in the narration. With another narrator, I would give the book a five rating. Maybe it is just me.
Even at the "best" file format the audio quality is mediocre. The narrator's voice is affected and annoying. The text is airy, too general and glib. But, this is the only (entire) world history I've been able to find on audio and that counts for a lot. This audiobook is probably worth the price and the listening time.
I love history and am willing to invest dozens of hours listening to good history audiobooks. It hurts my heart that I couldn't get through this one. The narrator's accent is really hard for me to listen to, so I wasn't able to engage at all with the content. I tried listening at different speeds, too, but it still didn't work for me. It frustrated me, because I LOVE history and I looked forward to listening to this audiobook. I have hard copy books by JM Roberts, so I knew what to expect content-wise. As an Audible subscriber for more than 10 years, this book was one of my biggest disappointments. I didn't return it because I thought I could give it another listen at some point in the future and perhaps I'd like it if I gave it another chance, but no dice so far.
World history, as a narrative subject, is still in its relative infancy, with attempts at it few and far between. J. M. Roberts 1976 tome was one of the first broadly published, and it was not until the wildly successful 'Guns, Germs and Steel' decades later that world history became accepted as a genuine literary pursuit (critics always claimed it was impossible to adequately capture world history in a single volume). As such, Roberts' work, although updated many times until 2002 in this recording, is very much a product of its time - a staunch defence of the validity of world history as well as a deliberately provocative narrative replete with snipes that fluctuate between sarcastic humour and outright offense towards just about everyone. Frederick Davidson's reading perfectly matches this tone - it's very entertaining and enjoyable to listen to, but the occasionally troubled pronunciations of now well-known foreign names ('Chernobyl', for example) is telling. This is definitely a world history for a bygone generation.
Roberts greatest flaw (in my opinion) is an attempt to ascribe the enlightenment (i.e., reliance on reason and evidence over intuition and superstition) to European culture and from there spreading as a 'Europeanization' of the world. As a modern reader (and a European to boot), this seems as absurd as attempts in ages past to ascribe the coming of agriculture to a particular civilisation until it was realised that it emerged independently in several places by different cultures. Why the adoption of Arabic mathematics and science wasn't similarly called an 'Arabization' of the world, or the adoption of Mongolian cavalry warfare and Chinese gunpowder wasn't called a 'Sinization' of the world I think illustrates the problem with such phrases which attempt to claim cultural credit.
Fortunately, such cultural attributions are in decline, just as racial attributions were once in vogue as a misuse of Darwinian reasoning and since discredited. I cannot, therefore, recommend this work for new readers of world history. As others have noted, it is too skewed towards prosecuting the case for a European hegemony, labouring far too heavily on this thesis at the expense of far more interesting topics within distinctive cultures. For readers interested in the 'history of world history', though, this is an excellent bookmark in the evolution of the topic - highly illuminating of the mindset and perspective of that time and in that place (Europe). As the author points out, he can only write as a white Anglo-Saxon male (which I am too!). The difference between us, though, is about 60 years in age, and as such, a more recent (and ironically 'enlightened') account of world history would probably suit younger readers ... if only there were some more to choose from!
There are excellent sections within this work, and it is best to approach it by specific chapters of interest (most of which never exceed 90 minutes). In this way, as a series of topics, it is very manageable and the useful knowledge is clearly revealed in between the opening and closing remarks which tend to stray into the provocative style already noted.
J.M. Roberts is a fantastic author and I look forward to reading everything else he has written.This is probably the best introduction you world history I have read. But contrary to Audible's description, this recording is not updated. The latest edition of Roberts' book was published in 2007, but the first 52 hours of this recording are entirely from the 1987 edition. It includes obsolete terms like USSR, and discussions of the implications of a world population of 5 billion, soon to be 6 billion. The postwar era, one of the most important in history, is analyzed without any knowledge of how it ended. Though the recording covers the end of the Cold War and September 11 by tacking the end of the 2003 edition onto the 1987 edition, this is done so poorly that you have to listen to Roberts' conclusion twice; it is repeated at the end of both the1987 edition and the 2003 edition almost word for word.
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