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The international bestseller: E. H. Gombrich’s sweeping history of the world, for the curious of all ages
“All stories begin with ‘Once upon a time.’ And that’s just what this story is all about: what happened, once upon a time.” So begins A Little History of the World, an engaging and lively book written for readers both young and old. Rather than focusing on dry facts and dates, E. H. Gombrich vividly brings the full span of human experience on Earth to life, from the stone age to the atomic age. He paints a colorful picture of wars and conquests; of grand works of art; of the advances and limitations of science; of remarkable people and remarkable events, from Confucius to Catherine the Great to Winston Churchill, and from the invention of art to the destruction of the Berlin Wall.
For adults seeking a single-volume overview of world history, for students in search of a quick refresher course, or for families to read and learn from together, Gombrich’s Little History enchants and educates.
About the Author
E. H. Gombrich (1909–2001) was the author of many works, including the international bestsellers The Story of Art and Art and Illusion. He was director of the Warburg Institute of the University of London from 1959 to 1976.
“In simple, vivid prose, Gombrich surveys the human past from pre-history to his own time. . . . Lucky children will have this book read to them. Intelligent adults will read it for themselves and regain contact with the spirit of European humanism at its best.”—Anthony Grafton, Wall Street Journal
“This ‘little history’ has aged amazingly well.”—New York Times Book Review
“A marvellous antidote to history without chronology: the whole experience of human history, from prehistory to the Second World War, compressed into a flowing narrative. . . . [Gombrich] excels in creating a sense of the continuities of history—the ways in which human nature has not budged over the millennium, and the smallness of the differences between people. A delight.”—Daily Telegraph
“Gombrich opens with the most magical definition of history I have ever read. . . . Tolerance, reason and humanity . . . suffuse every page of the Little History.”—Amanda Vickery, Guardian Review
“Gombrich knows precisely how to converse with his audience, intelligent children between nine and thirteen. He uses powerful imagery to convey the sheer length of time that separates us from the dinosaurs.”—Andrew Roberts, FT Magazine
“The book is intellectually valuable, and unusual; rather than breaking history into eras or artificial categories . . . Gombrich contextualizes them all and gives the vast unfolding of the Western world one wise, simple narrative. . . . For adults, it is full of delightful reminders as well as forgotten or never-known tidbits. As for younger readers . . . [the book] is a treasure for them.”—Katie Haegele, Philadelphia Inquirer
“What was the bestselling title this Christmas at Foyles in London? Hilary Mantel’s Man Booker Prize–winning Wolf Hall? Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? Cormac McCarthy’s The Road? Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol? No. It was E. H. Gombrich’s A Little History of the World.”—Mark Sanderson, Sunday Telegraph
“A remarkable book, written in an amiable, conversational style, effortlessly explaining, without condescension, difficult matters like the achievements of Charlemagne, the monetary system of medieval Europe and the ideas of the Enlightenment. . . . This resurrected history deserves reading for all its delights.”—Edward Rothstein, New York Times
“So sharp was Gombrich’s intelligence and so lively his pen that it can be appreciated as much as literature as history. . . . There is not one of the 39 short chapters that is not enlivened by a sharp insight or arresting image.”—Tim Blanning, Sunday Telegraph
“A Little History of the World by E. H. Gombrich is a bedtime treat to share with my two children and proof that brilliance and perspicacity needn’t be stuffy.”—Bettany Hughes, The Times
“A enduring joy. . . . We have no shortage of historians eager to tell us what was important in the past and why; but few of them dare speak straight to the imagination of young people, to open their minds and to enrich their vision in the manner that Gombrich achieves so effortlessly here.”—Peter Furtado, Times Higher Education Supplement
“I am going to buy ten copies of this book and give it to my ten favourite children. . . . This is a book which teaches what it is to be civilised by its very tone, which is one of gentleness, curiosity and erudition.”—A. N. Wilson, Times Literary Supplement
“A sophisticated narrative by the art historian which runs up to the First World War, written in language any child can understand.”—Lorna Bradbury, Daily Telegraph
"A remarkable book, written in an amiable, conversational style, effortlessly explaining, without condescension, difficult matters like the achievements of Charlemagne, the monetary system of medieval Europe and the ideas of the Enlightenment. . . . This resurrected history deserves reading for all its delights."—Edward Rothstein, New York Times
“This is an unusual work for Yale: a children’s history originally published 70 years ago. But it is a work one can quickly come to love. . . . Using vivid imagery, storytelling and sly humor, [Gombrich] brings history to life in a way that adults as well as children can appreciate. The book displays a breadth of knowledge.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“The true fairy tale of the evolution of mankind.”—Die Zeit
“A panoramic overview of history from the Stone Age to the 1990s that . . . manages to be entertaining and informative. . . . Gombrich, in other words, is a born teacher whose humanistic values are implicit in every word he wrote. . . . It has taken almost 70 years to reach English-speaking readers. It has been worth the wait: expertly translated, elegantly produced and charmingly illustrated by Clifford Harper, it will enchant any child.”—Joel Greenberg, The Australian
“This is the first English translation of a book written in 1935 in German and translated into 18 languages. Thirty years later, a second German edition was published with a new final chapter. In 40 brief chapters, Gombrich relates the history of humankind from the Stone Age through World War II. In between are historic accounts of such topics as cave people and their inventions (including speech), ancient life along the Nile and in Mesopotamia and Greece, the growth of religion, the Dark Ages, the age of chivalry, the New World, and the Thirty Years’ War. Much of this history is told through concise sketches of such figures as Confucius, Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Jesus Christ, Charlemagne, Leonardo da Vinci, Napoleon, and Columbus. Gombrich was asked to write a history geared to younger readers, so the book is filled with innumerable dates and facts, yet it is one to be read by adults. With 41 black-and-white woodcut illustrations and nine maps, it is a timeless and engaging narrative of the human race.”—Booklist
“A masterpiece of nonfiction writing for children. It is a wry and charming book, perfectly suited to the capacities of a 10-year-old, but also remarkably free of condescension. An adult can read it with pleasure. And, indeed, with instruction.”—Newsday
“A lovely, lively historical survey that takes in Neanderthals, Hohenzollerns and just about everything in between. . . . Conversational, sometimes playful. . . . A fine conception and summarizing of the world’s checkered past for young and old.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“[A] lively and involving history. . . . Superbly designed and freshly illustrated, this is a book to be savored and collected. . . . This is a text dominated not by dates and facts, but by the sweep of mankind’s experience across the centuries, a guide to humanity’s achievements and an acute witness to its frailties. The product of a generous and humane sensibility, this timeless account makes intelligible the full span of human history.”—Artdaily
“Though written for young people, E. H. Gombrich . . . writes with verve and infectious good humor. Yale packages Gombrich’s words attractively with woodcutlike illustrations by Clifford Harper.”—Fritz Lanham, Houston Chronicle
“A timeless and engaging narrative of the human race.”—Choice
“Charmingly illustrated with woodcuts and beautifully produced.”—Bookseller
“Speaks to readers of any age. Gombrich’s sensibility is both a mystery and a language.”—Mindy Aloff, New York Observer
Featured by the 2006 Association of American University Presses (AAUP) in University Press Books for Public and Secondary School Libraries
Named a Favorite Book of 2005 by the Los Angeles Times
A 2006 Book Sense Highlight
E. H. Gombrich was awarded the 1985 International Balzan Foundation Prize
“A brilliant piece of narrative, splendidly organised, told with an energy and confidence that are enormously attractive, and suffused with all the humanity and generosity of spirit that Gombrich’s thousands of admirers came to cherish during his long and richly productive life. It’s a wonderful surprise: irresistible, in fact.”—Philip Pullman
“Imagine the full story of human habitation on our planet being told in such flowing prose that you want to read it out loud. If you can’t imagine that, read A Little History of the World and experience it!"—Patricia S. Schroeder, president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers and former U.S. Representative from Colorado