©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
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.
I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.
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).
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,
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.
Will Durant had become a pedantic curmudgeon by the time this was recorded. He defends the indefensible innumerable times. However, his spunky wife Ariel was a delight, often contradicting him and arguing forcefully. Unfortunately, Will was obviously an unreconstructed sexist and often rode roughshod over her more nuanced view of world history. As a whole, I find their analysis as portrayed in the text to be painfully obvious and pedestrian. There were no great surprises here, and the usual suspects were selected for the meting out of praise or blame. Not the most educational tome.
Loved it! Experienced many emotions while listening to this audiobook. What I love most and will treasure is the author's perspective on history. Schools I attended might have engaged my interest more with that perspective.
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