I read this series years ago, then listened to them on cassette tape, and have begged for them on Audible for many years. Finally, the first two have..Show More » appeared. No history is perfect, and history written in the forties cannot help but be dated, yet the authors’ presentation, tone, and focus seem surprisingly up to date. I really like the authors’ quirky sense of humor and matter of fact tone. This series is eleven big volumes totaling something like 500 hours. This history is very easy to listen to and it is hard for me to imagine anyone who would not find a lot of it interesting. Some people dislike the somewhat thematic instead of chronological approach, but I found it engaged me more than most histories. Persians and Chinese may be rightfully chagrined at the short shrift given their influential cultures and I agree with those who argue that the authors focus on exceptional individuals and deemphasize the importance of randomness in history. Nevertheless this is a series that I would recommend to anyone over twelve that wants to learn about western history. For me this was hundreds and hundreds of hours of fun and I did a little dance when I saw these were now available on Audible. Frankly none of the narration is perfect, but Robin Field does a good job in this volume. This volume covers pre-history and the invention of language and art up to the ancient eastern influences on western civilization. Selfishly I want to encourage people to listen to these first two so Audible will get the rest of the series.
I hope many people listen to these first two in the series to encourage Audible to get the rest. This is the second of The Story of Civilization seri..Show More »es covering the history of Greece. I had read this in hardback and listened to it on cassette many years ago but enjoyed it every bit as much this third time. The narration annoyed me a bit when I started to listen, it seemed way too slow, but as the book gathered steam and ideas were flying at my head faster than I could cope, I came to appreciate the slower pace. The narration is still slightly dry for my tastes, but after an hour or so I really found the writing came through nicely.
The author’s tone is really pleasant, making the history human and approachable, ribald, and interesting. This material is perhaps a bit better known that almost every other volume in the series, but I (re)learned more on this third go through than I learn from most books. The material comes from a very western perspective and was written in the forties thus is sometime dated both in research and in political correctness. Nevertheless this is worthwhile reading for almost any adult reader. At over 32 hours this book seemed unbelievably short. This is a sit in your car in the parking lot to finish the chapter good book. After just finishing the first two at over 80 hours, one might think I would be ready for a break from history, but instead I am in a funk at having to wait for the next volume not yet in Audible format.
Some dislike the thematic instead of chronological approach to history, but I much prefer it. This story follows the trails of events and ideas and blood through time, then jumps back to another trail seeing some of the same events and characters again from another perspective.
Many might hesitate from taking on a 500+ hour series, but I would encourage any adult to give these a try. This series helps put every other book you read, and every news story you hear, in context. It shows both how little, and how much, has changed over the millennia.
Will (and Ariel) Durant’s 11 volume History of Civilization is an attempt to understand our current political, economic and social system in light of ..Show More »what came before and the progression of events that led us to where we are today. This is volume 3 of that set.
Mr Durant’s writing is bright, sprightly and full of the irony of human existence. This book covers the entire history of Rome from its founding through its fall as well as the birth and early years of Christianity. It includes a synopsis of the New Testament by summarizing the life of Jesus and the actions of the Apostles after his crucifixion and goes a good way to explain the rise and triumph of Christianity over the Pagan religions and of Rome itself. The book also includes a chapter covering the reasons for the fall of Rome to those it considered to be barbarians and the list of reasons given cannot help but give pause to anyone surveying our current politics.
The book is quite old (copyrighted 1942) and thus does not contain some information which has been found since the writing of the book, but it is still a wonderful description of the period, the people, their philosophies, religions, arts, writers, politics and history. The book is comprehensive enough to cover all relevant events during the 1000 plus years but sometimes veers off onto subjects that the reader may find to be of less interest. While I personally could have skipped some of the sections covering individual Stoic and Epicurean philosophers as well as the section of Roman music, the book is so varied and covers so much that readers will almost certainly find whatever information they may be looking for in it regardless of whether or not that particular information is normally included in other histories of Rome.
The book covers a broad range of subjects concerning ancient Rome although none are covered in extraordinary depth and the reader may want to pick up separate books covering specific areas of interest to find out more about them. As examples the Punic Wars and the Roman Civil War are covered briefly enough to understand their significance to Rome but the reader may want more information about them than is provided here.
One drawback of the Audible version of this book is that it does not include downloads of the maps and photos that are in the print version and thus the listener will be missing the ability to actually see some of the items of art that are being described. That is not a problem particular to this book but is a general problem with spoken books and I found myself taking out the print version (I have the entire set of The History of Civilization in print format) and inspecting the photos of the statues and pottery that Mr Durant describes in the book and the ability to do that was a big help.
The book is narrated by Grover Gardner and it is hard to see how a better narrator could have been selected. Mr Gardner’s voice is perfectly suited to this kind of book and it was a pleasure to listen to him. With the exception of what seemed to me to be a couple of misspoken dates during the narration Mr Gardner did a flawless job and adds immensely to the enjoyment of the book. I will be keeping my eyes open for any remaining volumes of the 11 volume history should they become available on Audible and now expect to pick up the next volume (The Age of Faith) in its Audible version.
A superb book by a superb narrator for anyone interested in the rise and fall of Rome and the rise of Christianity.
This book is my favorite book I've listened to all year. Most books I listen to are because I want to find our place in the universe and how we got w..Show More »here we are. This book does that better than any book I've listened to this year.
The author ties the pieces of the history covered together as a coherent whole. The period of time covered is from about 330 AD (Constantin's son) to about 1315 (Dante), and makes the listener understand how the events led to the making of Modern Europe and explains how we get where we are thus adding to my understanding about our place in the universe.
Most books that mention the Islamic Civilizations from 650 AD to 1300 just give comic book like characterizations. This book does not. He tells the story by first telling the story of the early Christian Church in ways which the reader can understand. I had earlier read an audible book called "Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years". I couldn't follow it, too many 'isms' unless you're an expert. Durant is expert at stepping the reader through. One thing I always like to focus on is the development of the Trinity and how it is ultimately resolved. This book shed light on that for me, for example.
I learned even more about Christianity and what they believe in and why by listening to the sections on Islam and Judaism. The author explains by comparing and contrasting between the religions (including paganism), and explaining clearly while looking within a religion.
The author has a couple of narratives that he uses to tie the book together. Perfect order leads to no liberty, tolerance of others beliefs can not exist under absolute certainty, and the part can not understand the whole.
The second half of the book covers from Charlemagne to the Italian Renaissance, which compares and contrast the progress in Western Civilization with the Islamic Civilization. The author does step away from his formula that he used in his first two Volumes. He uses a chronological approach and looks at subsets of natural entities within Europe and is less thematic than he was in his first two volumes. This allows him to be redundant and tell the same story in different places allowing the listener to relearn what he probably didn't catch the first time.
He'll spend a long time on Peter Abelard (1140 AD) which leads to a long section on Thomas Aquinas. Both allow the crack of reason into the magistracy of Faith. Once reason is permitted the relationship between man and the church will change. The Islamic civilization (at this time period) allowed theology to trump philosophy. In the end, Christian Western Europe allowed philosophy to coexist and will ultimately lead to the "Age of Reason".
As I was listening to the second half, I realized that the main character who had not been properly introduced was Dante, but he kept being mentioned. During the story, I ended up buying "Dante's Inferno", because the author would always include Dante way before he was to pop up in the story as a main character, and talks about Dante's Comedy in the final hour of the book and why it is a summary of the whole "Age of Faith". (I also bought a cheap Historical Atlas in order to follow the places better).
People, in general, avoid this period of history because it can be complex and is often thought of has not relevant to today. They are wrong, and I would strongly recommend this book.
This is the fifth book of Durant’s excellent History of Civilization series. See my review of the first volume for comments on the series as a who..Show More »le. This volume does not cover all of, or only, the Renaissance, but instead covers Italy from 1304-1576 AD. Not to worry, Volume VI covers the same period in the rest of Europe. Durant presents an integrated history, which does not focus on dates, but upon the themes of history and the totality of each period including the daily life, the arts, the crafts, the politics and the ideas. This volume covers a few well known artists and popes and other characters of the Italian Renaissance, but also much more. After a brief framing of the period, the history of each major city or region is covered along with the art and artists, politics and leaders, and people and life, then each pope of the period is covered along with the politics and art of their pontificate. Finally the transition between the Renaissance and the reformation is described.
I liked this series quite a bit, and would not recommend skipping this volume. This is not the best of the series, but is interesting never the less. I had read and listened to this volume before, yet I still learned things I had forgotten or did not previously absorb, and more importantly, I enjoyed every minute of the 37 hours.
See my review of Volume I for comments of the series. This is book seven of Durant’s The Story of Civilization. This, like the other volumes..Show More » of this series, is wonderful. It is beautifully written, integrated history of Europe over the period between 1559 and 1648. Notwithstanding the title, this only touches on the age of reason at the very end of the volume. Most of the text is dedicated to the struggles in England and the Thirty Years War. The details of war, other than the reasons for the war and the peace, are historical, but not intensely interesting (unless you are really into war). Thus, I did not enjoy this book as much as most of the others, nevertheless the sections on Shakespeare and Bacon, and the very end which covers Galileo and Descartes was fantastic and well worth the 30 years of warfare.
The integrated history attempts to cover all aspects of society in the period, living conditions, industries and commerce, crafts, arts, politics, economics, religion, fads, leaders, and spirit. There are dates, but that is not what it is about. The writing is targeted at general readers with an interest in history, and is a very easy listen.
The narration is clear and powerful and erudite.
I highly recommend this series – at least twice (separated by 10 years). This is my third time.
This is the 8th book of the 11 book excellent, integrated history, Story of Civilization series. For my review of the series as a whole see my r..Show More »eview of “Our Oriental Heritage”.
This is one of the most enjoyable and interesting books of the series. It blends art and philosophy, war and commerce, politics and finance into an enlightening whole. The author gives well balanced portrayals of many of the pivotal figures of the time. The long section on Leibniz was particularly fascinating as Leibniz is often overlooked.
This book starts and ends with the long life of Louis XIV (1643-1715), and he plays a large part in the narrative, but the action is all replayed several times viewed from France, England, Russia, Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands. This repetition of events from different points of view is one of the great things about this book and this series.
The narration is superb, projecting the material with clarity and nuance, including well representing the author’s subtle and wry humor.
This is not quite my favorite book of this series, but it is one of the best.
Definitely. I have read dozens of books on world history, and none compare to the thoroughness, insight into the nature of man via history, and philos..Show More »ophical perspectives and penmanship of Will Durant.
Upon buying this audio book I immediately had a sense of betrayal. Grover Gardner is the voice of Will Durant not some dude with a voice deeper than ..Show More »Satan's in a scary movie!
But reservation changed to enjoyment, as the narrator truly gives the same performance as Grover Gardner, albeit a slightly deeper voice (to say the least). But he gave the subject matter every bit the reverence warranted. And he knows how to narrate! After the first 1/4 of the book, I ceased being distracted and began enjoying his narration.
This book is on the time just before the French Revolution. For semi-educated folks like myself, this book is really enlightening. After listening you truly see the French enlightenment for what it was and you recognize its impact on the American revolution (much beyond mere footnotes). You see the germination of the neoliberal disaster that has ensued over the last 50 years and you hear some of the philosophe (sp?) predicting this result...(ie. concentration of wealth etc.). You come away with a deep appreciation of the history of the time period. In a way only Will Durant can pull off - you feel yourself as part of the action during this remarkable time in human history.
Oh, and he does pull you back down and remind you that the typical lot in life for the average human being stunk! You are forever reminded that you are learning about a small minority of society. For example, the Durants are quite clear, the French Revolution was the revolution of the business class, not the proletariat.
For a brief time, 45 minutes to and from work, I lived in 18th century Europe. Of course, this is true of any book authored by Will Durant. And now, it's over. I've completed them all. Will and Ariel Durant's Story of Civilization represents two years of my life commuting to and from work. Upon completing this volume I can't help but be reminded of my own mortality. A chapter of my life is completed. Consider the final two paragraphs of this book,
"Forty years of happy association in the pursuit of history have come to an end. We dreamed of the day when we should write the last word of the last volume. Now that that day has come we know that we shall miss the absorbing purpose that gave meaning and direction to our lives.
We thank the reader who has been with us these many years for part or all of the long journey. We have ever been mindful of his presence. Now we take our leave and bid him farewell."
Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Durant. You have forever changed my life. A chapter of my life has also come to a close. My understanding of what has occurred and what may occur is forever altered. In a country where the liberal arts and history no longer seem to warrant serious study by its citizens, you educated me more than you could have imagined when writing your series over a half century ago. May the next chapter of my life reflect the wisdom your spiritual gift gave me.
Just listen to the darn books already....it'll teach ya what you didn't learn about history in high-school and college.
I've just spent 20 months absorbing the entire 11 volume series during my commute to work. Every day, I could not wait to listen. When I heard the las..Show More »t sentence of the last series spoken, I felt as though my life had reached a new epoch - crossing some type of threshold summing up my understanding about the nature of man and the history of our civilization.
This work by Durant is not just a record of history tinged with philosophy, but a gift to posterity by a lifetime of research and a craft of language distilled into a masterpiece of art.
There is far too much information to retain in one reading so I've decided to start listening to the series again from the beginning.