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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

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (354 )
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  •  
    Marc bellefonte, PA, USA 09-23-04
    Marc bellefonte, PA, USA 09-23-04
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    "Amazing Mind"

    The interviews make this audiobook. He is a man of amazing intelligence.

    7 of 10 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
  •  
    Michael Walnut Creek, CA, United States 11-23-14
    Michael Walnut Creek, CA, United States 11-23-14 Member Since 2015

    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).

    2 of 3 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 2006
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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 2015
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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.

    9 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Samuel High Falls, NY, USA 05-23-06
    Samuel High Falls, NY, USA 05-23-06
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    "Yo Ariel!"

    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.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Doh 04-17-15
    Doh 04-17-15 Member Since 2015
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    "great"

    this is a damn good book. I will be listening to this several more times

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ryan 04-02-15
    Ryan 04-02-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Fantastic work!"

    A true philosophical take on our human history. Information in which the human race just read and understand. Thank you.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Julianna Dawson 04-01-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Excellent history lesson"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    IronSerpent 03-21-15
    IronSerpent 03-21-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Worth your time"

    great points of view and very very informative. the interviews in between chapters are a nice touch as well.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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