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The Lessons of History | [Will, Ariel Durant]

The Lessons of History

The authors devoted five decades to the study of world history and philosophy, culminating in the masterful 11-volume Story of Civilization. In this compact summation of their work, Will and Ariel Durant share the vital and profound lessons of our collective past. Their perspective, gained after a lifetime of thinking and writing about the history of humankind, is an invaluable resource for us today.
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Publisher's Summary

The authors devoted five decades to the study of world history and philosophy, culminating in the masterful 11-volume Story of Civilization. In this compact summation of their work, Will and Ariel Durant share the vital and profound lessons of our collective past. Their perspective, gained after a lifetime of thinking and writing about the history of humankind, is an invaluable resource for us today. The rare archival recordings of the Durants in conversation, made from 1957-1977, illuminate our present condition and offer insightful guidance for the future.

©2004 John Little, Monica Ariel Mihell, and William James Durant Easton; (P)2004 Durant archival recordings 1957-1977 used with permission of John Little, Monica Ariel Mihell, and William James Durant Easton

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  •  
    Douglas J. Wolf San Tan Valley AZ 08-16-13
    Douglas J. Wolf San Tan Valley AZ 08-16-13 Member Since 2011
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    "If you only read one book on history, this is it"

    Americans seem particularly immune to the lessons of history but also openly disdainful of the subject. Well, for those of you who are in that category but realize reading an insightful survey of history might add to your overall education, this is the best choice.

    Or, if you enjoy reading history, this recording gives you a great touchstone to the context of whatever you are reading at the time. Herodotus' Greek histories make much more sense when the aspect of the strategic importance to trade the Dardanelles played in the Greeks vs Persians.

    I have listened many times over and still glean insights that I had missed or relationships.

    The huge bonus of the live interviews of the Durants is worth the cost alone.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas Marlborough, MA, USA 06-17-05
    Thomas Marlborough, MA, USA 06-17-05
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    "Somewhat Disappointing"

    I expected much more from this book that I got. I read their Story of Philosphy many years ago and I am till in awe of those books. It is useful to look at Lessons of History in its historical context. It was published in 1968. The country was divided about the war in Vietnam. We had a hot war with communists in Asia and a cold war with communists in Europe. The youth culture was ascending. College students were protesting. Organized religions were under attack and were not considered relevant. The civil rights movement was in full swing and had scored victories. Popular culture we eclipsing high culture. I think this book is more about that time than about history in general. It is an attempt to put that time in the context of history. This is not entirely explicit in the text. You have to read between the lines. You see these themes discussed in the book: youthful rebellion, morality, war, racisim, economics, art. It seems that at some points their analysis hits the mark but in other cases it seems to reflect a personal prejudice. Particularly annoying is the dismissal of the modern art scene as a sign cultural decline. Their discussion of accumulation of wealth seems to smack of Social Darwinism but has some cogent warnings about the disparity between rich and poor. And I really did not agree with their point of view on morality and religion. Finally at the end their proposals to fix our problems seemed rather naive. I think the main flaw in this book is its grand scale. It tried to summarize in too small a space the huge span of history. However, given that, I would recommend giving it a listen. It provides much food for thought but take it all with a grain of salt.

    6 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Martin Aliso viejo, CA, United States 01-15-05
    Martin Aliso viejo, CA, United States 01-15-05 Member Since 2004
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    "Disappointing"

    I was disappointed in this book. While the Durants gave a broad overview of what they thought were the lessons of history, I found most of their insights fairly superficial. There was a horrible whinning music between each chapter which I found extremely irritating. It was also hard to understand Will Durant when he spoke and it was even more difficult to understand Ariel Durant, especially when she was interrupting her husband.

    The chapters themselves were fairly good and gave some good, broad historical perspectives, which made the book somewhat wothwhile,

    8 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Samuel Moraga, CA, United States 04-20-05
    Samuel Moraga, CA, United States 04-20-05 Member Since 2004
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    "much less than promised"

    I know the Durants were the kingpins of history during the days of Saturday Evening Post and Readers Digests. There is no denying their incredible knowledge and breadth of not only history but literature is astounding. BUT......their relevance to the current trends of history, the astounding acceleration of information, the major shifting of both economic and political power has left their predictions lacking. This is none of their fault and one should read/listen to the Durants as giants of history with some very applicable truths about civilization and mankind but their understanding of the changes in Asia, the dismantling of Communism, and the relative lessening of the immidiate threat of Nuclear warfare as the overarching concern (as opposed to the emergence of China (military/economic) and India (economic) and the growth of Islam and all its ramifications were clearly not in the crystal ball for the Durants. I hold them blamless in these issues as we would all be. But His understanding and disdain for areas where he is weak such as modern art (meaningless drippings) and modernity is noticeable. I also can't stand his ENDLESS listing of examples to impress us. As previously mentioned the inane music between each interview is enough to wish for deafness.

    8 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Walnut Creek, CA, United States 11-23-14
    Michael Walnut Creek, CA, United States 11-23-14 Member Since 2002

    I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.

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    "Impossible"

    It is not possible to summarize the lessons of history so compactly, and I would not really recommend this book on its own, but as a capstone to Durant’s massive history series it is quite nice. I enjoyed the authors ideas of what America should do to postpone, for a short while, our inevitable demise as a civilization.

    The narration of the actual book was excellent, bold and clear, with humor and feeling.

    Having read and listened to Durant’s many volume history I completely enjoyed the short interview sections between chapters with the 72 year old author and his wife, Ariel. Ariel correctly points out, one should not take the advice of an old man, nevertheless it was fun to hear the author’s voice and his opinions that have changed over the years. The audio of the interview parts is really not great and the interviewer is not very good (with repeated Ah huhs and sometimes quite silly questions).

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jason 07-27-13
    Jason 07-27-13
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    "History in a nutshell"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    The content in this book is critical to read. It distils the knowledge learned from decades of work - and that shouldn't be taken lightly - the couple who wrote this book won a Congressional Medal of Honour for their prolific series. I would definitely recommend this book to everyone, we might even get smarter voters that aren't whipsawed around by lies if everyone read this. I found this book through Ray Dalio's recommendation as one of the most important/influential books to read. I definitely was not disappointed in the content but perhaps by the delivery, the music is irritating (and frequent) and Will Durant is incomprehensible when he speaks himself - this may be due to advanced age and bad audio quality from the 70's/80's. It's still not bad enough to detract from the audiobook.


    What other book might you compare The Lessons of History to and why?

    Hard to say, this is sort of a Cole's Note or Cliff's Notes on history. It goes into more of the human condition with some historical context to support its arguments but its fundamentally a book about unchanging human nature. It's organized very well.


    What does Grover Gardner bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Decent narrator for the prose sections. I have no complaints other than the cheesy music and the 'audio-legibility' of Will Durant in the live skits sections.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I was irritated at the terrible music they would play between chapters or when they bring in Will Durant himself.


    Any additional comments?

    Ditch the music!!!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    RogerMager SCOTTSDALE, AZ, United States 11-30-12
    RogerMager SCOTTSDALE, AZ, United States 11-30-12 Member Since 2012
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    "Lessons to be learned"
    Would you listen to The Lessons of History again? Why?

    There is a lot to absorb in Durants' philosophy.
    If you ever wonder why America seems to be in decline, this book will explain well!
    It has happened time and time before. WE JUST think, we are a different time.
    I believe Social Media will expedite our decline, as the takers, will over-run the makers of our economy!


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Well it's obvious Will Durant was held in check at times by his wife Ariel


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes!


    Any additional comments?

    At first being it was written 40 years ago, I didn't think it would be relevant.
    BUT it is very relevant! As I soon discovered, the decline and decay of societies is years in the making.

    The end may seemingly consummate in a few years. But was 50 years in the making! Just like we are seeing in America!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    D. Hile Evans, GA United States 10-21-12
    D. Hile Evans, GA United States 10-21-12 Member Since 2006
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    "It takes thought to follow this one"

    It will take my several more listening a before I can get my head around the contents of this book. On the first listening I was impressed by many simple truths that take far more to comprehend than it takes to follow the words that make up the argument. History as philosophy is an intriguing thought.

    Mr Glover is a good narrator and is easy to listen to and doesn't seem to over embellish the material. Between each chapter there are interviews with the authors. This helps to "put a face" on the arguments.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MyDogBen Seattle 04-19-12
    MyDogBen Seattle 04-19-12 Member Since 2010
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    "OK, with reservations"
    Any additional comments?

    Odd that Will Durant defends religion, even though he admits (paraphrasing here) that it is made up to give poor people hope. The book itself is spliced together with an extended interview with the authors. I found myself wishing the interviewer asked harder questions. But, it wasn't a debate. The book tends to repeat themes. It feels like an essay extended to book form. However, I am glad I heard it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John United States 01-03-12
    John United States 01-03-12 Member Since 2010
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    "History continues to repeat itself"

    Straight forward conclusions and enough citations from other historians to understand the truth of it. Its a hard line, but no reason to disbelieve how the circle completes itself. While they suggest that changes can be made, they make it clear that they believe it is unlikely. History people will like this. Its fairly easy to understand how mankind continues to repeat the past.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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