A Short History of the World by J.M. Roberts
Paperback, 560 pages
Oxford University Press
July 17, 1997
Genre: Non-Fiction, World History
Source: Personal collection, text for class
“Here is a compact and affordable edition of J. M. Robert's acclaimed world history. Vividly written and beautifully illustrated, it brings the outstanding breadth of scholarship and international scope of the larger volume within the grasp of most readers. Completely up-to-date, comprehensive yet succinct, it takes readers on an amazing journey from the first appearance of Homo sapiens to recent chapters in the exploration of space. Informative, beautifully rendered maps, photographs of key archaeological finds, and stunning reproductions of important artwork (some in full color) bring the past to life as Roberts surveys the major events, developments and personalities that have shaped the civilizations of the world.”
As some of you may be aware I’m working on my Masters degree in History, and the course I am currently taking is Seminar in World History. As we just finished with one of the texts for this course, I thought I might take a few minutes to review it.
This book is an abbreviated version of Roberts’ 952 page epic History of the World and as one would expect many things had to be pared down to fit into this more concise format. He covers history of man from the earliest days of Homo sapiens up through the relative present. Overall, he does an admirable job of hitting all of the most important points and touching on some of the smaller issues. But, it is still a LOT to cover in this short space. One of the things that irritated me while reading was that he would sometimes touch on a subject but not mention the name it is known by. For example, when talking about the Cuban Missile Crisis, he mentions but never names, the Bay of Pigs incident and when discussing President Kennedy’s famous speech about the future of space travel, he just calls him, The President during 1960.
I thought that the layout for the book was fairly easy to follow, especially during the earlier chapters. Each early civilization had a section: the Greeks, Romans, Mesopotamians, etc. However when you get into the later, more global, chapters it became harder to follow because he kept bouncing around between locations, and sometimes in time. This caused a loss of cohesiveness when reading at times.
I think for a book of this breadth and scope the author does an admirable job of covering most of the necessary bases. I haven’t read his longer version, but I would probably recommend that one over this if you are really interested in the history of the world as it likely gets into more detail and probably doesn’t have the issues I pointed out above.
Roberts also has written many other non-fiction works including: A History of Europe, The Age of Revolution, and Eastern Asia and Classical Greece, among others.
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