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Publisher's Summary

E. H. Gombrich's world history, an international best seller now available in English for the first time, is a text dominated not by dates and facts but by the sweep of experience across the centuries, a guide to humanity's achievements, and an acute witness to its frailties.

In 40 concise chapters, Gombrich tells the story of humanity from the Stone Age to the atomic bomb. In between emerges a colorful picture of wars and conquests, grand works of art, and the spread and limitations of science. The product of a generous and humane sensibility, this timeless account makes intelligible the full span of human history for the curious of all ages, but especially children.

Translated by Caroline Mustill.

©1985 DuMont Literatur und Kunst Verlag GmbH und Co. KG, Cologne, Germany. English translation 2005 Leonie Gombrich (P)2006 Blackstone Audio Inc.

Critic Reviews

"A lovely, lively historical survey....A fine conception and summarizing of the world's checkered past for young and old." (Kirkus Reviews)
"A remarkable book, written in an amiable, conversational style....This resurrected history deserves reading for all its delights." (The New York Times)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

an enlightening book; very well read

This is currently my favorite audiobook (and I have dozens!). It is an excellent wee book from the author of the more famous and much longer "The Story of Art" - now in its 16th edition! If The Story of Art was written for college students, this one was originally written for school children - although it is more insightful than many adult history books I have read. It is enchanting, educational and extremely entertaining! (can you tell I like adjectives beginning with "e"?!)
It is also read superbly (by Ralph Cosham) at a pace that people of all ages can easily follow.
I therefore thoroughly recommended this book for adults and children alike.
If you want more detail, go for JM Roberts' masterpiece (History of The World) a much longer (54 hour) audiobook that is also an absolute classic - but this "Little History" is the best place to start.

35 of 35 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Graceful story, perfect narrator

It's true, as others have said here, that this is mainly a history of the WESTERN world. There's a bit about India and China, mostly in the context of religious history (Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism); but it's mostly about the Mediterranean and western and northern Europe. But if you go into it knowing what it is, it's a gem of a book, presenting the history of those areas of the world in a lucid, engaging, and graceful manner. It's particularly useful in emphasizing aspects of European history that many other short histories of the world gloss over or rush through.

Ralph Cosham is the perfect narrator for this, so much so that I kept confusing him in my mind with the author.

A note about that religious history: in the context of an already short book, Gombrich's discussion of non-Western religious traditions is by no means skimpy: it's an outline, but a relaxed and anecdotal outline, and it shows a decidedly sympathetic and open mind.

27 of 27 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A Humane and Engaging Introduction to History

I got this book because I love E. H. Gombrich's The Story of Art. I found A Little History to be an excellent introductory history book for children (and adults), because it is filled with Gombrich's deep humanity, curious mind, wide-ranging knowledge, disarming candor, charming humor, avuncular voice, and passionate commitment to history and learning. His writing is clear and engaging. He presents complicated situations and difficult concepts in simple terms without over-simplifying, as when he explains Buddha's enlightenment or the Protestant Reformation. He effectively tells both the positive and negative sides to the famous historical figures and cultures he describes. He also does a fine job of demonstrating the subjectivity of history by showing the different sides people have taken of the same events (as in the aftermath of World War I). He also vividly expresses the vast scale of pre-history and the small scale of human history to make readers appreciate their bracingly tiny places in the big scheme of things.

The last chapter is fascinating and moving, covering as it does Gombrich's changing awareness of the history he experienced as a Jewish citizen of Austria who had to emigrate to England, the aftermath of World War I and the horror of World War II. And the introduction by his granddaughter interestingly recounts how Gombrich came to write A Little History and The Story of Art.

This is a concise book! There are many absences! England and America and Asia are not given nearly as much coverage compared to Europe. However, it is so well-written and so engaging and so humane that reading it will make readers think more about what it means to be human and will inspire readers to become interested in history.

Ralph Cosham does his usual fine reading here: nothing fancy, just an appealing and accurate and fluid manner and voice. I easily imagined that I was a child listening to Grandfather Gombrich telling me history stories at bedtime

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Anna
  • san francisco, CA, USA
  • 08-07-07

A treat

Such a sweet book. The kindly, grandfatherly voice of the narrator really made you feel like you were being read to before bed. It gives a broad account of world history, though the focus is very much on Europe. Still, a great history refresher and a total pleasure to listen to.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars


And captivating. History-telling at its best. I knew the great art historian's major works but what a pleasant surprise it was to find another gem of his!

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Teresa
  • Tomball, TX, United States
  • 09-02-08

wish it was longer

I loved this book and was sorry that it had to end.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Michelle
  • Mount Horeb, WI, USA
  • 09-04-06

a good introduction or review

This short history was intended for German school-aged children. It is a good introduction or review to what is covered in Western history. Yes, there are chapters which include China but this is definitely a Western view.
The tone is wonderful. In the introduction, it is explained that the author wrote each chapter and then read it aloud on Sunday to his fiance. It's such a charming notion.
The author also humbles himself in the last chapter; reminding us that writing history is a difficult task because sometimes what we think is fact can turn out to be fiction.
The narration is excellent.

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars


This is a BEAUTIFUL book presented by the perfect narrator. What a treat. Even though it is the history of the world in a nutshell and it was written for children, I found that it filled in or solidified some of the more sketchy parts of my general knowledge. The book was written a long time ago and as a result contains a few antique view-points which, on the whole, do not detract from the delightful tone of this work.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Nicholas
  • ROSEBURG, OR, United States
  • 01-11-11

I hope to re-listen soon!

After listening to this book, I felt like the world's history was opening up for me. This comes from someone who doesn't often read about history, so veterans and scholars of the subject will probably disagree due to general lack of details. This is acceptable because I bought this book not wanting to listen to 40-50 hours of historical storytelling. Ralph Cosham's narration fits well with Gombrich's storytelling flow, and made the historic events interesting enough that I hope to read more about some select topics. If the author had began writing this book more recently, I would lower this rating to a 4 star one due to the lack of non-European events. However, I forgive him since the first edition was published in 1935. I hope to re-listen again this summer but this time with a notepad.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Fjolnir
  • Isafjardarbaer, Iceland
  • 10-08-08

One that I listen to again and again

This is a great book. The reader sounds so vise and kind. I would say that this is the perfect book to listen to when in bed on a cold winter evening. It is a gem.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful