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A History of the Twentieth Century

Narrated by: John Curless
Length: 29 hrs and 53 mins
4 out of 5 stars (96 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Martin Gilbert, author of the multivolume biography of Winston Churchill and other brilliant works of history, chronicles world events year by year, from the dawn of aviation to the flourishing technology age, taking us through World War I to the inauguration of Franklin Roosevelt as president of the United States and Hider as chancellor of Germany. He continues on to document wars in South Africa, China, Ethiopia, Spain, Korea, Vietnam, and Bosnia, as well as apartheid, the arms race, the moon landing, and the beginnings of the computer age, while interspersing the influence of art, literature, music, and religion throughout this vivid work. A rich, textured look at war, celebration, suffering, life, death, and renewal in the century gone by, this volume is nothing less than extraordinary.

©2001 Martin Gilbert (P)2006 Recorded Books, LLC

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Douglas
  • Atlanta, GA, United States
  • 08-20-16

Entertaining. Worth reading.

This was an interesting book. Entertaining and it contains a lot of information that I didn't already know.

One thing that confuses me is that in the wrap up of the audio book it says that you have just finished reading "the condensed version of Martin Gilbert's 3 volume work." In the description of the book it clearly says unabridged. I don't know what condensed means if it doesn't mean shortened. Also, if the book was indeed abridged that would help explain a few mysteries which I had earlier chalked up to either an omission on the author or a case of me spacing out during portions of the book. There were a few times when it seemed like certain individuals were referenced without ever being introduced. Also the author covered the space race a lot, but then there was no mention of the moon landing.

Long story short: this is worth buying, but it's possible that you aren't getting the whole book.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Jeff
  • Sonoma, Ca, United States
  • 10-08-14

A Focus on the Facts with Minimal Commentary

What made the experience of listening to A History of the Twentieth Century the most enjoyable?

Getting a breakdown of events across the globe decade by decade gives the listener a unique perspective on major happenings (mostly catastrophes) of the century. After finishing this work, one can see how difficult it is for modern historians to sort through the sheer volume of information to find some thread of reason behind it all.

What was one of the most memorable moments of A History of the Twentieth Century?

As I lover of world history, I was surprised to find so many critical details I had previously missed. For example, other works originally led me to think that WWI was sort of everyone's fault. 'However, after listening to a blow by blow progression of events the Kaiself himself seems to deserve most of the blame. . In addition, I had no idea that so much upheval occurred in the Soviet Union during the interwar period.

What aspect of John Curless’s performance would you have changed?

He kind of grows on you after a few hours, but I initially felt that he wasn't enunciating properly. He does well with pronunciation and really deserves at least 3.5 stars.

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

No, its fairly engaging but you really should limit yourself to one decade a day. Otherwise its easy to lose focus and end up Leopold's Congo thinking that the author is still discussing Republican China.

Any additional comments?

I think this work should have been shortened to only focus on its strong points_ politics, international relations and war. The terse references to developments in science, art and popular culture also seemed somewhat out of place,One other thing I could have done without was the author's bizarre obsession with automobile-related fatalities for which he provides almost yearly statistics.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

I didn't know that.

I have always been a history buff, but this has opened my eye to a lot of 'hidden' history. I have not managed to listen to the whole book yet, but I currently live in Ukraine and have surprised some of my Ukrainian friends by knowing more of their history than they do. Also taking the history year by year puts things into proportion.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Tim Bowles
  • 1620 Kenilworth Ave., Pasadena, CA 91103
  • 03-22-19

History for the Distracted

Chrono-mini treatment of an entire 100 years on the planet. Very little perspective other than how persistent genocide was. When I heard the JFK assassination was supposedly committed by a “lone deranged gunman,” thus further indicating the lack of depth in the scholarship, I considered stopping. Yet I persisted. Valuable if one already at least moderately familiar with the period is looking for a definite timeline and random unrealized factoids along the way.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Failure to provide dates.

Interesting historical narrative, but lacking date markers. An enormous oversite. Should be added now, at least for each chapter.

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    4 out of 5 stars

An excellent précis of the 20tg Century

This was an excellent book narrated in an easy to listen to style. As someone born in 1950 it brought back memories and extended my knowledge of what went on worldwide between 1900-1999. Highly recommended, but glad I finished the whole thing.

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A History of the Twentieth Century

A History of the Twentieth Century
By Martin Gilbert

The author is the biographer of Winston Churchill. He chronicles world's events year by year from the dawn of aviation to the flourishing technology age, interpersing the influence of art, music, and religion. The 20th Century, says Churchill, is the century of the common man, who suffered much of the savages of the wars and tyranny. Inventions of new technology flourished, with man as its main beneficiary and, at the same time, as it's main victim with the inventions of atomic bombs, nuclear bombs and nuclear weapons of mass destruction. On a positive note, motorcars and airplanes brought mobility to millions of people. But the motorcars alone killed one million from 1933-1961 (in a span of 28 years) in road accidents in the US! Gramophones, submarines, zeppelins, telephones, landing in the moon, TVs, fax machines, internet, cellphones were some of the inventions and many more. It's also a century of the Refugees and natural calamities (such as earthquakes, tsunamis and other events of catastrophic proportions). Concentration camps & gulags killed many Jews and Russians. Many nations were born in this century which were part of bigger nations. Human rights were violated in many countries, resulting to many human lives lost. Famines, plagues and diseases also killed millions of people. Eradication of diseases prolonged lives. But poverty continues as we ended the 20th Century. The past, as an American historian says, is the "doormat" to the future. We have now experienced nearly the first two decades of the 21st Century and we continue to have some elements of the past. Hopefully, we don't have a Third World War if we continue to understand each other as a nation and inventions should only be used to benefit mankind!

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Wide ranging, but lacking.

Gilbert's work is far reaching and full of information, but it's really a chronicle of the 20th century rather than a work of historical analysis. As such the significance of most events is largely lost in the tide of dates and names. The book also suffers from a lack of footnotes and sources in the print and Kindle versions (I bought this with Whispersync for a class), which is all the more problematic since there are multiple inaccurate and misleading statements throughout, especially early on.

John Curless's narration was pleasant, if a bit dry, but I guess that's to be expected given the material.

All in all it's an easy read and does help give a broad, if shallow, understanding of the events of the 20th century, but inaccuracies and a lack of sources and analysis leaves a lot to be desired.

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    2 out of 5 stars

More interested in war than economic development

Very informative in terms of human rights and the balls wars and conflicts of the twentieth century. However, if you're interested in consumerism, living standards, and disposable time and income, this book is a disappointment.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Solid Review of the 20th century

I really appreciated the author's attention to detail and coverage of so many different events, figures, inventions, and countries in this very significant century.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • MR
  • 01-11-13

Factual and grim

Don't expect any light relief. This book is a chronological account of atrocities and disasters. There is very little commentary or analysis. It does, however, contain an immense amount of information and certainly identified and filled in the blanks I had. I do recommend it, but be aware of what you're letting yourself in for - it's not for the faint-hearted.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Marcus
  • 12-15-11

An extended timeline

The author decides to give us a year by year account of 20th century history.  This means that you end up with a set of very brief sketches of events.  There is no depth and little analysis.  Often there are interesting facts to be heard, but if you have a decent knowledge of 20th century history then this is little more than a revision course.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Rafi ALI
  • 01-28-19

Interesting but...

The approach is completely chronological. Interesting idea, but hard to follow. I'm used to getting my history based on particular themes (like the beginning, middle, end of a multi-year war). Not so easy to make sense if the whole world is covered entirely according to the timeline, year by year. Factually interesting though and the juxtaposition of events across the world that happened to have occurred during the same year can be revealing.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Robert
  • 11-03-11

A century of massacre and slaughter

Martin Gilbert's view of the 20th Century is the most dismal I have read or heard. Was it really like this?
This century was dominated by religious fanatics, meglomaniac dictators, tribal conflicts and human misery. Nothing good has come of it. Listen to this book and then kill yourself. Or go out and do something about it.

3 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Shane
  • 05-29-16

Strange but Well Done

The format of this book was really unique. It is continuously read almost as a news cast with no analysis or input from the author besides what was actually happening. I'm really glad I read it even if I'd probably prefer a more conventionally written book most times.