A Little History of the World

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A Little History of the World
  • E. H. Gombrich’s bestselling history of the world for young readers tells the story of mankind from the Stone Age to the atomic bomb, focusing not on small detail but on the sweep of human experience, the extent of human achievement, and the depth of its frailty. The product of a generous and humane sensibility, this timeless account makes intelligible the full span of human history. This is a text dominated not by dates and facts, but by the sweep of mankind’s experience across the centuries, a guide to humanity’s achievements and an acute witness to its frailties.
  • In 1935, with a doctorate in art history and no prospect of a job, the 26-year-old Ernst Gombrich was invited by a publisher to attempt a history of the world for younger readers. Moreover, Gombrich covers events that are especially exciting for young people, such as the history of sport and the Olympic games. He looks at how some of the events we watch today originated in Ancient Greece, and how important sporting achievements were in some civilizations. Gombrich offers children an overview of how societies can be shaped around culture and entertainment.
  •   Little History of the World contains 40 chapters, each of which focuses on a specific period in human history. Gombrich doesn’t attempt to describe any of these events in great detail, instead, he highlights the range of human accomplishments across the ages. It is designed to be read as a narrative, not as an encyclopedia. The book is not meant to replace academic texts or reference books.
  • This book reviews all major historical events that could be traced back. Such as the time of ancient Egypt, the Pharaohs, Ancient Rome etc. Where Gombrich goes into detail about their history such as in chapter six, “I C-A-N R-E-A-D,” Gombrich examines one of the most important developments in our history—that is, language and the alphabet. He considers why we started writing in the first place, the freedoms it offered us, and how much easier it is to understand ancient civilizations by reading what they wrote. Their letters, edicts, poems, and historical texts all tell a story about what mattered to them; this is very helpful for modern-day scholars and historians.
  • As this is a history of the world, Gombrich doesn’t avoid discussing war and significant battles over the ages. He covers everything from the destruction of Israel to the conquests of Alexander the Great, reflecting on the role that religion played in every conflict. He also touches upon Chinese scholars and philosophers, their influence on Western thought, and how spiritual beliefs can determine the direction of civilization.
  • Not everything in A Little History of the World focuses on war and conquest. Gombrich discusses the birth of literature, theatre, art, and culture, and he dedicates chapters to developments such as the Enlightenment, socialist revolutions, the Industrial Revolution, and human rights.
  • Gombrich concludes A Little History of the World by reflecting on what history can teach us about the present, and how we can prepare for the future. We are living history right now, and it is up to us how we shape it for later generations. Gombrich hopes that readers, upon finishing A Little History of the World, will be inspired to undertake further study in some of the areas discussed in the book.

Selected Quotes

  • “China is, in fact, the only country in the world to be ruled for hundreds of years, not by the nobility, nor by soldiers, nor even by the priesthood, but by scholars.” 
    ― E.H. Gombrich, A Little History Of The World
  • “The first man to understand the extraordinary magical power of applying mathematical calculation to things in nature was an Italian called Galileo Galilei.” 
    ― E.H. Gombrich, A Little History Of The World
  •  “It’s bad idea to try to prevent people from knowing their own history. If you want to do anything new you must first make sure you know what people have tried before.” 
    ― Ernst Hans Josef Gombrich, A Little History of the World
  •  “It’s a bad idea to try to prevent people from knowing their own history. If you want to do anything new you must first make sure you know what people have tried before.” 
    ― E.H. Gombrich, A Little History of the World: Illustrated Edition
  • “قدماء المصريين كان لديهم كتب، حتى فى ذلك الزمن البعيد. بالطبع لم تكن تلك الكتب مصنوعة من وررق مثل كتبنا، ولكن من نوع معين من القصب والذى كان ينمو على ضفاف النيل. الاسم الإغريقى لهذا القصب هو بابيرس papyrus (البردى)، والذى منه تأتى تسميتنا للورق paper.” 
    ― Ernst Hans Josef Gombrich, A Little History of the World
  • “من يتوقف عن تمنى شئ، فسيتوقف عن الشعور بالتعاسة. إذا ذهبت الشهية، فسيذهب الألم معها.” 
    ― Ernst Hans Josef Gombrich, A Little History of the World