Outline of History: Library Edition by H. G. Wells
ISBN-10: 0786187077 | AudioBook | RAR 643MB | 32Kbps mp3 | RS
Summary: A Grand View of World History
H. G. Wells set a new standard for works of history with his "Outline of History" first published in 1920. While most histories tend to focus on a relatively narrow period of time (the American Civil War, the Crusades, etc.), Mr. Wells took a much broader view. He attempted, and largely succeeded, in giving a grand overview of world history. He may have gone a little too far, beginning with the creation of the world and the development of life, the early hominids and the first Homo Sapiens. What this work may lack in depth on a particular topic or era, he more than makes up for in the sweeping view of history - it really gallops along. For me it was like the view from the top of a mountain - a great, wide panorama, allowing you to see the "lay of the land" and relate all the elements you can see. You can't see the details of the trees, lakes and fields, but you see how they all fit together.
He also consciously tried to avoid a problem common to most Western historians, that is, a Eurocentric view of the world. He attempted to give a presentation as balanced as possible, showing the contributions to history of non-European peoples (particularly Asia and Africa).
Lastly, his writing style is very readable, even today. Although he was critizied by his contemporaries for "popularizing" history, he did show that history could be interesting and enjoyable.
There are multiple editions of this work, and it has been published as a single volume and as a two-volume set. All of them are readable, although I think I can detect a change of tone in later editions, more cynical and even melancholy in outlook. Despite some obvious flaws that can be pointed out by historians, it is an excellent overview, well worth reading. It would be a very appropriate basis for a senior high school history class or lower division college history class.
Summary: The classic
Wells's classic is still a useful book. It is most out of date on the early history and archeology, which has changed substantially in recent years. One only needs to look at the great volume by Jacquetta Hawkes and Sir Leonard Wooley, Prehistory and the Beginnings of Civilization, which covers the period from the end of the Calcolithic (about 40,000 years ago) down to the founding of the earliest towns (about 10,000 years ago), to see how much that has changed since their volume was published in the early 60s. But it shows Wells's range and depth of intellect, and it's interesting to note that Wells was considered the universal intellect of his day, and before people said "As smart as Einstein," they said, "As smart as H.G. Wells." The section on Alexander the Great I found one of the best. As a serious work of pedagogy intended for the intelligent layman, it presaged by decades later similar works. But although much of the history is still valid, today the book will be of most interest to Wells fans and scholars, though, rather than as an "Outline of History."
Summary: Good timeline; poor theory
For those interested in reading about the species' history, Wells' _Outline_ is a nice supplement to new, more scholarly history books that make closer studies of power distributions and events in certain places at certain times. His timeline of Western European History is generally accurate (though by no means comprehensive) and makes for enjoyable reading.
While a well-educated reader will overlook Wells' racism (he holds the absurd belief that a monolithic culture once ranged from Ireland to China and is destined to be recreated by the superior Germanic builders of Europe) and skim for facts, a younger or less-informed reader might find it difficult to recognize the author's regular slips into a defunct worldview.
Above all, this book will gratify those readers whose memories of papal, royal, and cultural (primarily Western European) successions need to be revamped.
Summary: Wonderful book!
The earliest chapters of this remarkable book deal with the actual history of the planet we call Earth and the rudiments and development of early life. Afterward the book tells a fairly succinct story of the Dawn of Time and the lifestyles and development of early hominids leading up to and including Man. Once Wells reaches periods of written history, the story bogs down while he attempts to cover the rise of early cities, political and economic development, and early empires, which he does fairly ably though switching back and forth between the histories of individual continents is somewhat tedious. Wells speaks of the development of early religion and early communities in a very cogent, convincing and interesting way, but the disjointed concurrent treatment of ongoing empires (China, India, Rome, Egypt, Greece, etc) tends to choke and even halt the fluid style as we try to catch up on coexisting cultures around the globe. South America, Antarctica, and Australia are almost nonexistent in this book as Wells reconstructs the history of Europe, Asia and to a lesser extent, Africa. Still a very enjoyable and highly informative book.
Summary: Preoccupation with Race Ruins an Otherwise Enjoyable Read
H.G. Wells is a fine writer and 'The Outline of History' is generally enjoyable to read. However after a while one gets tired of his emphasis on race and the centrality of Aryans in history and his anti-semitism. Wells is an example of that mixture of socialism and racism that appeared at the beginning of the Twentieth Century. Other examples are Jack London and the young Adolph Hitler.
It is ironic that his general thesis that there is a progression in human history, though not a necessary or inevitable one, is a reasonable proposition and flatly contradicts his racist notions. Wells appears to be recounting from books recently read and frequently gets his facts just plain wrong. Most of his writing is conveying his personal and generally intelligent reflections on general stereotypes of various periods of history.
Were it not for its persistent emphasis on race, 'The Outline of History' would be a valuable and enjoyable book. I wish I could recommend it to the general reader, because there is a real need for a readable one volume survey of world history, but I cannot. Race has been shown over and over again to have little or no explanatory power. Wells' racist preoccupations will annoy informed readers and mislead uninformed ones.
Mirrors are welcomed!
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