Here we have E.H. Gombrich’s excellent A Little History of the World. This was published in English for the first time back in 2005 – it’s since shifted half a million copies. You can pick it up in two versions: basic paperback or in a glorious illustrated version. The latter is highly recommend for parents, as this is a wonderful tome to read to your kids. If you don’t have kids, read the book to your pet dog, or something.
In 1935, aged only 26, the Vienna born Gombrich went on a fact finding mission to piece together a book detailing a brief history of the world. The result is right here, a book that has grown in stature since its publication. Instantly accessible for all ages, including kids, it’s a concise take on everything in the history of ever. In one book. Quite the impressive undertaking, considering some of the subject matter involved. How do you, for instance, cover topics such as nuclear warheads and WWII on a family-friendly scale? Let’s take a look.
A Little History of the World
In a mere 40 chapters (the first few of which you can read in that handy thing above), Gombrich takes the reader from the Stone to the Atomic Age. This achievement was completed through a frenzied six week period – prior to writing the book, he was unemployed and wondering what to do with his art degree. When tasked with completing a history of the world for younger readers, he took it up.
But this isn’t the type of book kids can race through. It’s not a Harry Potter type experience – Chapter 24, for instance, is titled Emperors In the Age Of Chivalry. You’re not going to find many kids who know what that word means, eh? Consequently, the intelligent handling of major human history makes it endearing for adults, even if children may get a tad confused when they come across some big old words.
But where the book excels is in taking complex and often difficult topics and making them readable. Take the video above, for example, which takes 20 minutes to display what humans have been up to since 134,000 BCE. What Gombrich did is look at the good and the bad, select wisely, and stuff it all into a wise old tome that makes for engaging reading; a history of everything in less than 300 pages.
For adults, the work will likely inspire you to read further into new topics, and encourage you to be a pacifist in this age of excess and tumult. For children, it’s also a lesson in humanity. This is why we recommend the full quality, illustrated edition to help enthral young ones further. With this book, they can understand the world, their place in it, and how to approach the future. Yes, A Little History of the World is a grand achievement.
A Quick Catch Up
If you’d like to skip ahead and learn a few things here and now, historian David Christian provides a run through human history in less than 20 minutes above. Alternatively, it might inspire you to pick up Gombrich’s book and get to grips with the history of everything. Additionally, a fine accompaniment, for anyone looking for a more thorough scientific analysis, is Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari.