A lively and engaging narrative history showing the common threads in the cultures that gave birth to our own.
This is the first volume in a bold new series that tells the stories of all peoples, connecting historical events from Europe to the Middle East to the far coast of China, while still giving weight to the characteristics of each country. Susan Wise Bauer provides both sweeping scope and vivid attention to the individual lives that give flesh to abstract assertions about human history. This narrative history employs the methods of "history from beneath" - literature, epic traditions, private letters, and accounts - to connect kings and leaders with the lives of those they ruled. The result is an engrossing tapestry of human behavior from which we may draw conclusions about the direction of world events and the causes behind them.
©2007 Susan Wise Bauer (P)2013 Audible, Inc.
The people who would do anything to anyone for power
Just finished reading Ancient World by Susan Wise Bauer. If you enjoy reading about history I can recommend this book. It was an easy read that moved quickly and gave good portrayals of the people who made history. The story line runs from the beginning of recorded history to about the time of Constantine. The unvarnished truth about the greed, lust for power and the things people did to each other and family members to get it is dark and depressing. If the past is truly prolog, we as a species are doomed.
A remarkable piece of work which gives an extraordinary overview and manages give a taste of the subject matter without getting lost in the details. The last 400 years were a bit rushed but I don't think it was necessary to do that bit. The author could comfortably stopped with the effective establishment of the Roman Empire. Pace was generally speaking good - there were few places where I just wanted to get on with it. I have come away having learned a great deal and feel that an important contribution has been made to my already 67 year old education. Then also I have to say that while I found the reader's delivery irritating on occasion, his pronunciation of those middle eastern and Chinese names with I believe perfect consistency was amazing and, perhaps surprisingly, made its own independent contribution to my enjoyment of the book.
So why "almost" ? Alright, I bought into the premise that while we have little in the way of historical documentation surviving from the three or four thousand years BC we do have myths and it is possible that within those myths there may lurk the kernel of the truth so why not let's pretend that they are actual history. So when we got to talking about David and his achievements, I could not help but recall a recent BBC documentary which argued with some force that the almost total lack of archaeological evidence for David's architectural accomplishments stongly suggests that the Biblical David is a construct designed with political intentions and with little real history behind it. Not that I believe everything that is put in front of me, but The History does at some level purport to be an academic work. The uncritical acceptance of the Biblical version of David suddenly made me a whole lot less inclined to accept myth as the basis for history, even with tongue in cheek.'
Still, I doubt if there are many works around where the author demonstrates such a grasp of her subject matter, such an ability to put it into context and such a fund of well-selected material to illustrate her work..
The narrator seems to be trying to get through the text as quickly as possible, with no thought to the content of what he is reading, while trying to make it all sound "dramatic".
The content is pretty much standard ancient history, with the exception of the chapter on "Abraham" who is introduced as "the first monotheist" and followed by an uncritical rehash of the Biblical story in Genesis.
Well, that's all for now
"Entertaining and informative"
I love Susan Wise Bauer's dry sense of humour, which crops up in the most unexpected places.
The book covers ancient civilisations around the world, based on stories, histories, writings on stones and bones ... and gives a clear insightful view of what can perhaps be considered 'true' history and what can't. There are some lovely insights into people's characters - my favourite being Zimri Lim and his relationship with his younger daughter.
John Lee reads quietly and steadily, changing his voice subtly when he reads quotes.
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