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Durants' The Story of Civilization

Ambulance Chaser

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Has anyone read the 11-volume The Story of Civilization by Will and Ariel Durant? Does it provide a good, basic overview of world history? If not, what would you recommend in its stead?
 

globetrotter

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I read it a long, long time ago. I found it very informative and a good, solid basis for an education on civillization.
 

Manton

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I was way into that book in college, then I turned up my nose at it in grad school and sold my set. I suppose, to be fair, I have to admit that I learned a lot from it. But it is something to get beyond.
 

Kai

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I read it a long time ago (back when I was in high school.)

I think I learned more about world history from reading this series of books than I did in all my years of formal schooling.
 

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I've picked at a couple of volumes. It is indeed just about as beautifully written as it is informative. I highly recommend it for someone looking for a basic overview of history.
 

Full Canvas

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Originally Posted by Ambulance Chaser
Has anyone read the 11-volume The Story of Civilization by Will and Ariel Durant? Does it provide a good, basic overview of world history? If not, what would you recommend in its stead?

Many years ago I sat in on several of the late Eugen Weber's overview lectures at USC.

Those lectures were later given funding by the Annenberg Foundation and actually made into a series of 30-minute videos. The individual videos are available freely online here for repeated viewing. The series is fine basic overview of what he calls The Western Tradition. Although the title would make one think the orient and Far East Asia are not covered, the lectures do discuss those areas. Watch any of the episodes without cost and see if you find Professor Weber's view of interest.

One may purchase Weber's DVD set through the Annenberg/Learner website at a price comparable the Durant's bound set.

___
 

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The Durants' series is certainly thorough, but I didn't like the format of it: here's the section about Greek history, here's the section about Greek art, here's the section about their Greek architecture, etc...

I read all 11 volumes, but I don't know if I would recommend it somebody who's looking for a basic overview of world history just because its so long and goes beyond just a basic overview of world history with all that other stuff.

Growing up, I adored Hendrik Willem van Loon's The Story of Mankind just because van Loon was such a gifted story teller.

But, the book I'd really recommend to somebody is Larry Gonick's The Cartoon History of the Universe. In its own way, the book is simply brilliant. And, since its only been published recently, the book is using the latest sources whereas the Durants might be outdated in some areas as new information and facts have come into the light since the Durants published their books.

Don't underestimate Gonick just because his work is in a comic book format. Just take a look at the bibliography at the back and you'll appreciate how serious Gonick is about history despite all the jokes and puns in the book. If you read Gonick, you'll learn a lot about history but also laugh out loud a lot as well. With the Durants, I think its fair to say that some parts aren't as interesting to read as other parts.

Originally Posted by Full Canvas
Many years ago I sat in on several of the late Eugen Weber's overview lectures at USC.

Professor Weber was a UCLA professor and dean; when did he teach at USC?
 

Full Canvas

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Originally Posted by esquire.
Professor Weber was a UCLA professor and dean; when did he teach at USC?

Even though it was more than thirty years ago that I heard some of his lectures at UCLA, I cannot imagine why I wrote USC in my earlier post! Perhaps that is how history gets unknowingly revised.
Thanks for calling it to my attention.

___
 

eg1

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Originally Posted by esquire.
The Durants' series is certainly thorough, but I didn't like the format of it: here's the section about Greek history, here's the section about Greek art, here's the section about their Greek architecture, etc...

I read all 11 volumes, but I don't know if I would recommend it somebody who's looking for a basic overview of world history just because its so long and goes beyond just a basic overview of world history with all that other stuff.

Growing up, I adored Hendrik Willem van Loon's The Story of Mankind just because van Loon was such a gifted story teller.

But, the book I'd really recommend to somebody is Larry Gonick's The Cartoon History of the Universe. In its own way, the book is simply brilliant. And, since its only been published recently, the book is using the latest sources whereas the Durants might be outdated in some areas as new information and facts have come into the light since the Durants published their books.

Don't underestimate Gonick just because his work is in a comic book format. Just take a look at the bibliography at the back and you'll appreciate how serious Gonick is about history despite all the jokes and puns in the book. If you read Gonick, you'll learn a lot about history but also laugh out loud a lot as well. With the Durants, I think its fair to say that some parts aren't as interesting to read as other parts.



Professor Weber was a UCLA professor and dean; when did he teach at USC?


+1 on the Gonick books -- I think there are now three?

Did this monstrous Durant thing ever have an abridged version?
 

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