Friday, August 24, 2012

A Little History of the World: A Review

by E.H. Gombrich
August, 2012

While studying for a Western Civilization exam I decided to read this children's book for an overview.  I think sometimes children's histories tell it all better than my 1200 page textbooks do.  Because it's written for kids, it's a story with only the most important information covered.  I found that it gave me a great framework to fit all the other details into.

E.H. Gombrich is best known as an art historian.  But, as a young man he told a friend he could write a better children's history book than the one he was editing.  He found himself pressed for time in order to grab a publishing opportunity and set himself to writing a chapter per day.  He would skim through books on the time period early in the day and write about it in the afternoon and evening.   He didn't write on Sundays, but met his wife during this time and would discuss the project with her then.  

The book does a wonderful job of relating historical events to our everyday experiences.  While not from a Christian perspective, he does not neglect showing the effects of different religions on periods of history.  Written in the 1930's, the narrative ends with WWI.  However, the recent English translation added a follow-up chapter discussing WWII.  I really enjoyed reading the author's telling of 20th century history that he had personally experienced.  He even apologizes in the final chapter for previously writing a view of WWI  that he had misunderstood at that time due to Austrian propaganda.  

I found this to be a wonderful, relaxing read that taught me a few things in the process. 

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