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The Penguin History of the World, by J.M. Roberts & Odd Arne Westad

I’m a passionate of history and more precisely of global history, the ensemble of the evolution of humanity on our planet, from its first steps until our time. Having a scientific background, in what is known as natural sciences, I’m strongly excited to know how a species that exists in a planet is creating social relationships, communities, civilizations, towards a bright future which may be out of this first home. Therefore, I always needed to find a good textbook in order to learn the History of the World.

One can say that this can be from a simple to a very complex task for a reader. Many works tried to summarize the world history in some pages, which can be read easily by a variety of readers, of any age, education or even general knowledge. However I really wanted to find an extensive work, which is able to explain “why” our world is made like this today, why our human civilization evolved like this and of course, “when” and “how” the most important events happened.

In this endeavor, I was really lucky when I visited the British Museum, as I was wandering once again in the bookshop. The edition of “The Penguin History of the World” was the most attractive thing I’ve ever seen in a history book. An extensive summary of the voyage of our species, from our ancestors in the family of primates, to our modern adventures. However, this was just the first contact, a good reason to give a try and start reading its more than 1200 pages.

The book is a big volume, which is composed of 8 chapters, named “Books” by the author. It starts from our past and in order to be complete it finishes with some thoughts for the future. In all this narration it explains the shape of this narrow, which represents human history. How it was created and where it is oriented.

J.M. Roberts explains really thoroughly the rise and development of civilizations and he gives enough elements to the reader in order to understand one of his most notable perceptions for human history, the dominance of western civilization. However, his narration shows no exclusivity to the European culture and it provides a lot of information for the evolution of civilizations mainly in Asia, by peoples who later adopted the western standards by obviously contributed to shape the worldwide civilization of our times.

Roberts’s (and in last editions Westad’s) work is not a fairytale of kings and princes, wars and leaders, as many history books tend to be. The professor give the elements to the reader in order to understand the evolution of every society, the reasons of the decline of every superpower, the rise of new ethics and their transformation or even brutal overthrow, as part of a constant process. It needs a good amount of time, a dedication in order to stay focused in all the provided details, but even if someone cannot restrain all the included knowledge, the most important is that the reader will be able to understand our position in the narrow of time and our culture as a result of a great adventure of our species. In addition, many information for unknown civilizations, that we don’t have the chance to examine thoroughly during our school studies, is provided, in order to complete the picture of this global evolution.

The book is currently entitled “The Penguin History of the World” and the latest edition is the 6th one. However, it is the same work as any other “History of the World”, written by J.M. Roberts. It is a book hard to finish but very easy to read, which provides the elements, not so much the explanation that one can give later to the facts, by passing the information from any personal ideological prism. A work that I find necessary for every amateur thinker to have read, as its density can give a quite strong base of knowledge in the very complex field of human history.

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