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Monday, November 21, 2016

A LITTLE HISTORY of the WORLD (audiobook) by E.H. Gombrich

Published by Blackstone Audio in 2006
Translated by Caroline Mustill and E.H. Gombrich
Narrated by Ralph Cosham
Duration: 9 hours, 14 minutes

E.H. Gombrich (1909-2001)
As the title states A Little History of the World is a small history of, well, everything. Sort of.

This history was originally written in 1935. The author was an unemployed art historian and was asked to write a history of the world for children for an Austrian publisher. The first edition was written in six weeks and it sold well and has sold consistently ever since. Gombrich retained the rights and after World War II set out to keep it updated and translated it into multiple languages. He was working on translating it into English when he died in 2001 at the age of 92. The work was finished by others and no one is quite sure how exactly he was planning on ending it.

The chapter on early man is quite memorable in that it gives early men and women a lot of credit for figuring out a lot of important things like agriculture, cooking with fire, stone tools and so on. Think about it - it really is quite remarkable.

The history is told in a kid-friendly, patronizing, but not annoyingly so way. It is definitely a Eurocentric history, especially after the Mesopotamian Empires (Sumeria, Babylon, etc.) are discussed.
India is mentioned, but mostly as an introduction to Hinduism and Buddhism. China gets a lot more attention, but not much more. The Americas, including the United States are barely mentioned. The Native American civilizations (Mayas, Aztecs, Incas) are only mentioned in the context of being conquered by the Spanish and being brutalized. Africa may not have been mentioned again after Ancient Egypt.

However, keeping in mind this bias, this is a pretty solid history of Europe. The reader, Ralph Cosham, sounds like a welcoming old grandfather who is telling the story of the world as he knows it to the little ones. It is easy to imagine him in a chair on a cold winter's night with the little ones gathered around and the fireplace ablaze. And, in a way, this translation was exactly that - a 92 year old man telling the story of the world the best he could.

I  rate this audiobook 4 stars out of 5. It is a limited history and I would never make this the only history book that I handed to my child (it has some popularity among home-school parents), but it is readable and interesting. A good place to start.

This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: A Little History of the World.

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